You can add subtle beauty to a door, window or room easily with decorative wood moldings. Moldings (also called moldings and trim) are pieces of materials with an ornamental or decorative cross-section profile. Profiles are composed of surfaces that are convex and concave, with planes and angles mixed in. These various surfaces yield different appearances from the way light is reflected off of them. They can be stained or painted to compliment or contrast adjacent surfaces. Moldings are formed from wood, composite lumber, plaster, plastic, rigid foam, medium density fiber-board (MDF), and even masonry materials.
The most readily available and least expensive mouldings are shaped from wood and wood fibers. The wood can come from softwood (coniferous) trees, such as fir, spruce, and pine, or from hardwood (deciduous) trees such as poplar, maple, and cherry. The more expensive mouldings are made from hardwoods and are usually reserved for furniture and cabinets.These moldings are more often stained rather than painted. Moldings made from medium density fiber-board (MDF) are less expensive. MDF is made from wood fibers combined with resins and placed under pressure to form material that can easily be shaped with common tools. It is important that MDF moldings should not be used where moisture problems might be present, such as in a bathroom or near a basement floor. "Finger jointed" moldings are a slightly more expensive alternative to MDF. "Finger jointed" mouldings are made from short pieces of wood that have been machined on the ends with a pattern that resembles interlaced fingers, end-glued together, then ran through a molding machine to create the finished profile. Finger joints can be seen if they are stained, so painting is clearly the best finishing option. Moldings serve many purposes. They are primarily used to make a continuous, attractive transition where different surface materials or angles meet. Moldings are considered very decorative and using them can add unique aspects to a rooms, doors, windows and mantles. They can also be used to cover or hide problem areas, and to protect softer surfaces.
Moldings are available in thousands of profiles, yet they can be classified into only a few groups, depending upon where they are used in a room: floors, doors, walls, windows and ceilings. Base moldings are usually found at the "base" of a wall where it meets the floor. Base caps sit on top of a square board, and gives the combination a more graceful look. Shoe molds are used where the base board and floor meet, helping to protect the base board and covering any unsightly gaps left between the floor and base board. Chair rails are typically applied to the wall, at about the height of a chair back's top. Although chair rails are commonly used for decoration, they got their name from protecting walls from being damaged when chairs were slid back. Chair rails can also be used to finished the tops of wainscoting, a type of paneling that covers the bottom three to four feet of a wall. Windows and doors can really stand out when they are "framed" with casing molding. Window stool can be added to the bottom of a window, and aprons underneath the stool really complete the effect. Picture molding is typically applied a few inches below the top of a wall, and got its name from when people used to hang pictures from it using picture wire and hooks. This was the best way to display pictures in older homes with plaster walls, where it was impractical to use nails. Ceiling mouldings are generally placed at the top of a wall, where the wall and ceiling meet. The mouldings you will most often find here are the crown mouldings. Crown mouldings are always "sprung", meaning that the back edges are beveled so that they may be placed where non-parallel surfaces meet. They are used to cover large angles.
There are literally hundreds of different patterns of crown, and the combinations are virtually limitless. Base boards and aprons can be used behind the top and bottom of a molded crown to make it look more massive and extend its coverage. Crowns can be "built up" from multiple patterns, and other types of molding can be added for different effects.
Moldings can be used on the exterior of homes and structures, as well as the interior. Rake moldings are used where roofs have a slant or "rake". Shingle moldings are placed below the edges of shingle roofs, creating a more pleasing visual appearance than flat boards, and helping to support the shingles that extend past the roof decking. Bed moldings are narrow, sprung or flat moldings with the same purpose as crowns. Brick moldings are used as an exterior casing for windows and doors. It is a thick, blocky molding that provides a surface for brick or other exterior veneers, such as siding, to join against. Drip caps have an angled profile that allows the molding to sit on top of a window or door casing, and carry water to the outside. It usually has a small cove on the bottom to keep water from running back toward the structure. Today, most people prefer a non-rot material for exterior moldings. PVC (polyvinyl chloride), fiber cement or composite wood made from recycled plastic and wood fibers are the materials most often preferred, because of their low maintenance and reasonable cost.
Whatever your structural project might be, moldings can be used to enhance the look of windows, doors and walls. They can be used to cover any space where building materials and lumber products do not meet completely, and they provide a uniform look where unsightly cracks might have been. Visually pleasing transitions can be formed where different angles meet and with a little thought and effort, and some inexpensive tools, moldings can add a truly beautiful look to any new construction or home improvement project.