What Are the Different Cornice Mouldings?

Terrie Brockmann

Cornice mouldings are decorative architectural elements that conceal the joint where the ceiling meets the wall. Moulding is the Canadian and United Kingdom spelling of "molding," and therefore a person should research both spellings when searching for cornice moulding. The three different types of decorative cornice are roving, which is a paper-covered plaster core; machined wood; and the molded type, which is available in various materials. Mouldings are available in many styles, from classic to modern.

Woman posing
Woman posing

Designers use molded cornices on interior and exterior areas. Interior mouldings may be made of polyurethane or polystyrene, fiberglass, or reinforced gypsum (GRG). In some countries, they refer to fiberglass as "glassfibre." Some manufacturers offer wood or wood product interior mouldings. External mouldings may be made of the poly products or fiberglass and fiberglass-reinforced concrete (GFRC).

People choose to use cornice mouldings for different reasons. Many older homes have existing cornice or crown moulding, and homeowners may use the cheaper and lighter poly product mouldings to mimic the existing moulding in new rooms or to repair damaged existing moulding. One type of cornice moulding is custom-made expanded polystyrene moulding that matches existing moulding, and often renovation and restoration specialists make the moulding themselves.

A more popular type of cornice moulding is the modern foam or poly product plastic mouldings. Homeowners usually can install this moulding using a simple saw and adhesive. Many of the designs are replicas of the traditional plaster or wood mouldings found in older homes, such as Victorian era buildings. Cornice mouldings date back to ancient times and were popular in Greek, Roman, and other regional architecture. Many of the modern styles are plainer, lacking the frilly and flowery details of older mouldings.

A newer type of cornice moulding allows homeowners to hide wires in the hollow section. These wires may be for lighting, computer networking, or sound systems. Often an accredited electrician installs these systems and ensures that the moulding materials are not flammable.

Another consideration about cornice mouldings is the shape of the moulding. Generally, manufacturers offer a wide variety of shapes, such as S-curved, C-curved, or other profiles. Most manufacturers offer the mouldings in 8- to 10- foot (about 2.4- to 3-m) sections. Many of them offer special cornice moulding pieces for internal and external corner pieces. Using these pieces usually speeds up and simplifies installing the mouldings.

When considering which cornice mouldings are appropriate for a building, a person should weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each type. Soft wood mouldings are lighter and generally cheaper than hard wood mouldings, but they are often blotchy when stained and are heavier than most of the poly product mouldings. Fiberglass mouldings typically are heavier than the poly products, but may be stronger than the poly product ones. The polyurethane and polystyrene products are the lightest and are frequently easiest to install. Some of these products may be easily damaged, though, if handled roughly.

Some people prefer the newer non-traditional types of cornice mouldings because they can use them in non-traditional ways. Besides hiding wiring in the mouldings, some of the newer types of mouldings have areas where designers can add lights. Typically, this lighting offers a backlight illumination to the ceiling, giving a dramatic effect.

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