Wood Molding Tips for the Do-It-Yourselfer

Wood molding can add beauty and functionality to your home while giving you an excuse to play with power tools all day, but like any home improvement project, it comes with its own unique set of challenges and mistakes to avoid. If you’re going to be doing your wood molding installation, you should know the benefits and drawbacks of the process before getting started. 

Here are some wood molding tips that will help ensure your DIY project turns out just right.

Wood Molding 101

Wood molding is one of those easy DIY projects that anyone can do. It’s an affordable addition to your home, and it also provides a subtle touch that instantly updates your decor. Wood molding goes by many names, from picture rail to baseboard to just molding—but no matter what you call it, adding wood molding to your home is a classic way to give it a new look without breaking your budget.

Here are some tips to help you get started on your next project.

The Three Main Types of Moldings

Crown molding, baseboard, and chair rail are three types of wood moldings found in most homes. Though they’re often confused, they’re pretty different in function and appearance. The crown molding is a piece of wood that runs along the upper edges of your walls. The baseboard is attached horizontally beneath them and the chair rail below. There are other kinds—like quarter round or shoe moldings—but you usually won’t find them unless you plan to replace or update your trim.

When choosing wood molding, there are several things to consider: style, material, and cost.

How to Cut Wood Moldings

Wood moldings have been used in homes since their inception. Moldings provide visual interest and enhance architectural details like chair rails, baseboards, crown molding, and wainscoting. Still, if not installed correctly, they can quickly become eyesores or, worse, fall off your walls altogether! We’ll walk you through choosing between solid wood or veneered wood and hardwood or softwood species; then, we’ll talk about getting good cuts.

Wood moldings are simple to install and a great way to add a traditional touch to any home. Knowing which type of wood molding you’re working with (laminate, melamine, hardwood) and how best to cut it. To help you get started, here are some tips on cutting common types of wood moldings.

Choosing the Wood

First and foremost, your wood molding should match your flooring. Hardwood floors pair nicely with cherry or maple wood moldings; carpeted floors look great with oak or walnut wood moldings. You can also match flooring to trim: brown walnut looks excellent with dark hardwood, while yellow pine pairs well with light hardwood. For best results, it’s a good idea to stick to one type of wood throughout your house—this makes it easier to maintain a consistent design aesthetic.

Choosing the Cut

Choosing which style of wood molding to use is a big decision—the shape, size, and cut of your molding all determine how your room will look. Generally, when it comes to wood moldings, you’ll choose between casing or baseboard. The casing is usually installed along walls around 42 inches up from floor level. In comparison, the baseboard is attached directly to floorboards (or sometimes drywall) at about 24 inches up from the floors.

Painting, Staining, or Varnishing Moldings

The easiest way to add a finishing touch to wooden moldings is with paint, stain, or varnish. These three treatments can also cover up scratches, nicks, and dents that have come about over time. When applying these products, just use a little care—the last thing you want is an uneven finish or streaks in your work!

When planning a painting, staining, or varnishing project for wooden moldings, it’s best to choose paint or stain that matches your ceiling and wall color. For example, if you have white walls and trim in your home, pick a creamy white shade of paint.

Installing Moldings on Drywall and Plaster Walls

If you’re installing moldings in an area with drywall or plaster walls, you’ll need first to use a sharp knife to cut small grooves in which to sit your moldings. This process ensures your new moldings will fit properly into these narrow grooves and not protrude beyond your wall surface, requiring more sanding. Simply score a groove using a straightedge knife to install wood molding over drywall or plaster walls.

Installing Moldings on Existing Wooden Walls

One of your greatest challenges when installing wooden moldings in your home is working with walls that already have moldings in place. To give yourself the best chance of success, work with a hammer drill and a template so you can install your new moldings flush with your existing ones. You must have both a level and straightedge (ruler) on hand as well—you’ll use these tools frequently when you’re making sure that every installation is perfect.