Apr 9, 2012

Tips for using molding in your home.

Almost any home can be enriched and enhanced with the simple addition of common moldings like baseboard, casing, crown and chair rail. Baseboard is added at the floor/wall junction. It often help conceal an expansion gap when wood flooring is installed, but the right scale baseboard looks elegant and finishes a room regardless of the type of flooring. Casing is used around windows and doors (doorways too) to add depth and interest. The gorgeous woodwork at the junction of the ceiling and the wall is usually a crown molding. Chair rail, once used to protect the walls in narrow rooms from damage by the chairs, is decorative more than functional in larger rooms, but creates two wall segments that can be painted or treated in unique ways. Here a few tips on using moldings in your home.

Consider the style of your home.  You may love deep crown molding and a center medallion on the ceiling, but the style may be too ornate when your home is simple and modern. In that case, moldings with little detail are best. The scale is still determined by the height of your ceilings, and there are many elegant but simple crown and base moldings available. Traditional homes look wonderful with deep baseboards and wide casings and can handle  the detail of highly ornate moldings.

What size should you buy? Crown moldings should enrich the look of a room, not overpower it.  Select the width of crown molding based on the height of the ceiling, usually 1" of depth for each foot of ceiling height. So, a room with 10' ceilings would have 10" crown moldings. For smaller rooms and lower ceilings, that dimension might be too wide. Tape a piece of paper or cardboard up to test different sizes. Baseboard of 3-3.5 inches usually work well in rooms with 6-7' high ceilings. For 9' ceilings, I use 4-5.5" base and for 10-11' high rooms, the base can be a tall as 7.5" and not be overpowering. Chair rail placement used to be 30-32" from the floor. In homes with tall ceilings, high windows, and other details, I've installed chair rail as high as 50" for a dynamite effect. Using wainscot below also determines chair rail heights.
A more modern room looks best with simpler crown and casing,

Buy more than you think you need. Baseboards, casing, and crown moldings are sold in long pieces, from 8-16' lengths. Draw a floor and wall plan and measure carefully. For longer walls, you may to join two or more strips together. Determine the perfect lengths for your job to minimize waste. You might need 3- 12' pieces and 1- 8' piece for your space. Buy what you need, and then a little more for joints and miter corner cuts.

Let the pieces of molding "rest" where they'll be installed. Wood and MDF are vulnerable to changes in temperature and humidity, so bring the molding pieces into the room abut five days before installation. 

Prime, stain, or paint the molding strips before you install them. You'll save lots of time and effort if you paint the strips of mounding before they're installed in the room. Line the pieces up spanning sawhorses or chairs and the work will be a breeze. After cutting and installation, you'll probably have to do some light touch-ups. Be sure to prime (back prime) the underside of the molding to prevent long-term warping. Let your finish dry thoroughly before installing.

Add a special finishing glaze for extra interest. For texture and depth of color, add a glaze. Rub or brush on the molding carefully, then wipe off with an old rag in the direction of the grain or long side of the board. The glaze will fill gaps and cracks, showing off the details of the decorative molding, whether it's fancy or plain. This one sets off the rich blue wall and calls attention to the detail of the appliques.