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What Is Trim Molding?

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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 March 2014
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Trim molding is decorative wood work that is used to adorn the floors, walls, and ceilings of homes. The purpose of the molding is generally decorative, though it may also be used to hide gaps that may occur where a floor and wall or ceiling and wall fail to meet flush. Once installed, the trim can also provide minor reinforcement to the overall structure. This decorative feature may be made from wood or other composite materials.

This type of woodwork is typically intended as decorative, however it can also benefit a home by protecting it from drafts and minor structural damage. Trim molding is initially installed as a way to hide drywall joints and improve the overall appearance of a room. A drywall joint occurs at any point where two large panels meet or overlap, as is commonly the case at intersections between walls and ceilings. These small joints are typically taped together and mudded over before sanding occurs. This work can occasionally be seen when viewing walls and ceilings at an angle.

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Trim molding is typically made from wood, though it is also available for purchase in less expensive composite materials made to resemble real wood. Polymer resin may be used in place of wood to accommodate arched architectural features of the home. They are often painted in a color that contrasts with that of the walls to match existing baseboards or other trim in a room. Real wood molding may also be stained and sealed to preserve the natural texture of the material.

This type of decorative finishing may be referred to by a variety of terms depending on where, in the room, it is placed, and its size. Trim molding that is affixed along the edge of a ceiling is called crown molding and typically presents two unfinished sides for anchoring to walls and ceiling surfaces. Molding used around the floor of a room is called a baseboard is generally flat, with only one unfinished side. Small, slightly rounded molding is called quarter round because it is a quarter of an inch (0.6 centimeters) wide and may be used in any section of the room to cover gaps where trim and floor, wall, or ceiling fail to meet. Trim is used to frame doorways and openings, and may be joined to thicker support beams to improve the transition from the framing beam to the wall.

Trim may be used to decorate the flat surfaces of walls in geometric patterns. When trim molding is installed midway between the floor and ceiling for the full length of the wall, it is called a chair rail. This small detail is common in dining rooms to prevent chairs from damaging walls when pushed back from the table. The chair rail may also be accompanied by small squares or rectangles outlined in trim work both above and below the original railing.

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