Working with Mouldings

Western Wood Moulding and Millwork Producers

Working with Mouldings

Western Wood Moulding and Millwork Producers

Working with Wood Mouldings

In both new construction and remodeling, wood mouldings have two purposes. The first is functional- protecting the walls, covering seams of walls, ceilings, floors, etc. The second is decorative- beautifying and improving the architectural detail of your home. Working with wood mouldings is simple enough so that most do-it-yourselfers can easily accomplish professional looking results. Using the right tools, proper planning and knowing a few basic wood working techniques is all that is needed.

Moulding Tools

For most moulding wood you will need a simple mitre box so that accurate 90-degree and 45-degree angels can be cut. A power mitre box is particularly useful for large jobs. A small fine-tooth saw, a hammer, nail set and finishing nails are also necessary. A coping saw is sometimes needed to cope a joint so it will fit together tightly. Other tools include a tape measure, glue, sandpaper and wood filler.

How Much Moulding Will You Need?

You must first determine where the moulding is to be used and then estimate the quantity of each type you’ll need. Mouldings are available in 3’ to 16’ lengths. Whenever possible, try to use short pieces rather than buying a long piece for a space where several short ones would do the job as well. It is estimated that over half of a home’s interior trim consists of lengths under 8 feet.

Make a list of the specific lengths you’ll need and then round your measurements up to the next largest foot to allow for cutting and trimming.

In mitreing, allow for the width of the cut by adding the width of the mitred pieces to give you an outside dimension.

How to Mitre Wood Mouldings

This is a basic operation in working with mouldings. Most mitre joints are 45-degree angles. The moulding is either placed flat on the bottom of the mitre box or against the back, depending on how the moulding is to be used. Each of the two mitred members are trimmed at opposite 45-degree angles.

When fitted together, the two pieces will form a 90-degree right angle. For tight mitred joints, nail and glue, then countersink the nails.

Making a Jig

Many projects require “picture framing” techniques of extreme accuracy. A jig is a mold in which frames are made more rapidly and uniformly. The inside dimensions of the jig equal the outside dimensions of the frame. The jig consists of stock lumber pieces nailed to any flat surface. Blocks can be used where necessary to straighten mouldings against the side of the jig.

How to Cope Wood Mouldings

Position the piece in the mitre box as if the back of the mitre box were the wall when cutting the mitre. Trim at a 45-degree angle. The resulting cut exposes the profile of the moulding, which serves as a guide line for the coping saw.

Follow this profile with the coping saw at a right angle with the face of the moulding. This cut results in a duplication for the moulding pattern which will then fit tightly against the face of the adjoining moulding.

This coping technique is most often used in corners when butting base mouldings or ceiling mouldings.

How to Splice Wood Mouldings

Sometimes it may be necessary to splice mouldings together on a long wall. To do this, position the pieces in the mitre box as if the back of the mitre box were the wall. Mitre the joining ends at a 45-degree angle.

This will allow one piece to overlap the other, making a scarf joint. This type of joint is the least noticeable way to join two pieces.

The joint should be made where the two pieces can be nailed into a solid piece of lumber, such as a stud, top plate or bottom plate. This will give a good tight fit. Gluing the joint will assure you that the joint will stay closed.

Suggested Applications

Functional Uses- Base Mouldings

Base is a decorative trim used to cover the joining of the wall to the floor. It also protects the wall when vacuuming or sweeping and adds a finished look to the room.

The base shoe is used at the intersection of the base moulding and the floor. It gives the base a finished appearance and helps cover any possible uneven places in the floor.

Door & Window Casings

Casing is the trim that goes around most windows and doors and is used to seal gaps between the window and doorjambs and the walls. It also gives the opening a decorative finished look.

When applying the casing, a ¼” reveal should be left between the face of the jamb and the edge of the casing. Mitre the corners and attach the top casing first, then do the sides, using small finishing nails. Countersink the nails and fill with putty when finished.


Ceiling mouldings are used at the junction of the wall and the ceiling. They give the room a finished look, besides adding a pleasant transition from one surface to the other. Patterns can be used alone or in combination with others. When joining ceiling mouldings at the corner, either a mitered or a coped joint should be used.

Chair Rails

Chair rail is the most common of the wall mouldings and adds both interest and protection. It prevents chairs from marring the walls and can be used to separate two types of materials, such as paneling, wallpaper or paint. It is usually placed at chair height, between 33” and 35” from the floor.

Door and Cabinet Trim

A door with a plain flat face is easy to spruce up with a simple wood moulding facelift. Whether it’s an interior or exterior entry door, cabinet door or garage door, mouldings can give it a whole new personality.

Furniture Trim

Add a new face to that old chest of drawers or buy a new unfinished set and finish it with wood mouldings in whatever style you want. You may also want to redo your bed’s headboards to match.

Decorative Uses- Walls

The many types of mouldings that can be applied to walls provide unique decorating opportunities with the effects limited only by one’s imagination. They can add richness, depth, accept and color.


With the variety of moulding sizes and shapes available, you can easily add interest and character to your ceilings. Whether used alone or around lighting fixtures, there is no limit to the possibilities.