Interior Design
By: Carmen Whiting, Ryan Patzer, Vancouver, Canada

Mouldings are a material used by the architect, builder and designer to protect walls from furniture and traffic, hide imperfections and create interest and beauty to unfinished seams. Mouldings are also used in separating wall, floor and ceiling finishes and as a decorative finish to implement a design or décor scheme.

There are six main types of mouldings used in interior applications:
Chair rails
panel moulding (wainscot)
cove moulding
crown moulding

This article will include ideas and specifications on composition, sources, availability, cost estimates, finishes, installation, maintenance and possible uses and restrictions in commercial and residential interiors.

Composition & Sources
The suitability of a moulding material is dependant primarily by its function. Ceramic, plaster, MDF, polyurethane, rubber, fiberglass and various types of hard and soft wood are the main substances used to produce a moulding.

Chair Rails
Due to their exposure to heavy wear in areas their function in protecting walls from furniture and traffic, it’s imperative that they be made up of a solid, durable material, i.e.: polyurethane, hardwood and fiberglass are all good examples of appropriate substances, whereas MDF, soft woods such as pine and plaster are all too fragile or brittle for extensive wear and tear.

Baseboards, like chair rails, require the same consideration when choosing an appropriate material. They are usually exposed to equal amounts of wear and are susceptible to damage from furniture movement and foot traffic, i.e.: ceramic and hardwood are most recommended for baseboard applications because of their durability.

Panel Moulding / Wainscot
Panel mouldings are used mainly as a decorative feature rather than a functional one; as such, the use of more delicate, light weight substances is feasible, i.e.: coated polyurethane, wood, MDF and plaster are most commonly used and are light in weight.

Cove Moulding
Cove mouldings also have limited exposure to traffic and wear; therefore, a wider variety of materials can be used, i.e.: coated polyurethane, wood, MDF and plaster are most common for the same purpose as panel moulding.

Crown Moulding
Because of the height generally involved in lining the seam of wall to ceiling, durability is not a main focus, when in comes to crown mouldings. Although this opens the range of possible materials used, lightweight materials are preferred, especially when considering overhead installation, i.e.: plaster, MDF, fiberglass and polyurethane are used for their lightness in weight. Wood is also used; more often, when surface detail is less intricate and weight is not a factor.

Because casing is located around doors and windows, it is more effective to use a more durable material. Once again, durability is an issue in that these areas are often exposed to higher amounts of traffic and the elements of nature, i.e.: wood is most commonly used, although there are alternatives such as polyurethane.

Finishes and Colors
There are many different finishes you can choose from depending on the look you wish to achieve. For wood there are a few ways of altering its appearance, if you choose a higher end wood like Oak, Mahogany or Maple, you will probably choose to stain it or just add a clear finish to protect it and to allow its natural beauty to show. If the material you chose is a lower end wood like Hemlock, Fir or Pine, you still have the option of staining it or you can add a prime and paint combo (color at your discretion). If the material is polyurethane, you only really have one choice and that is to paint, the same applies to MDF.

Ceramic, Epoxy, Plaster and Clay: These materials generally comer from the manufacturer ready to install and there are not many changes you can make. Paint is an option, but is very seldom used; most people select these products based on the look in the showroom and have no intentions of changing it.

There isn’t a whole lot of maintenance required for mouldings, just the basic sanitation and air quality procedures like dusting and vacuuming; although you may come across a scuff or a nick here and there in high traffic areas. In this case, you can use paddy filler, which is available in a large assortment of wood type and stain matches.

Before you decide on the primary material you are going to use, you must first develop a plan of the room you wish to enhance and must up the total dimensions or the total space you plan to cover with mouldings. His will allow you to determine if it will suit your budget.
There are a number of methods to install mouldings, dependant on the material you have chosen and the application you plan to use it in. Here are a few common ones:

MDF, Wood, Polyurethane
On a professional level these materials are all fastened to walls using staples or nails, which are discharges from a gun using compressed air. If the product was to be painted in the finishing stages, it would be primed prior to its installation. After all pieces are mounted, you will have little holes left by the fasteners; you may then fill those with a poly fill compound, wait until dry and then sand using a fine grit sand paper. After that stage is complete, you may also choose to fill the gap between the wall and the moulding. In this case, you will use a standard painter acrylic latex caulk; this will increase maximum acoustics and will reduce vibrations.

Yes, you will need to make cuts. Cuts for these materials can be made on any standard wood cutting saw, i.e. Skill Saw, Chop Saw, Jag Saw. You will also need to create inside and outside miter cuts; for this you will need an adjustable blade or a miter box. This procedure will allow you to make clean cuts and precision fitting corners. To join two lengths of mouldings, you must take a scarf joint; this is when one piece overlaps another with a 45-degree miter cut, then stapled or nailed. This will create the illusion of one continuous piece.

Ceramic, Epoxy, Clay
These are all the stone based materials or the material that need to fire in the finishing production stages. These materials are all mounted to smooth surfaces, using glue or thin set. Thin set or glue is a creamy white substance spread on surface, using a notched towel. The pieces of moulding are then mounted with care. Dependant on the size of the grout line between pieces can range from 1/8” to ¼”, then it must be left for a few days to dry. After a few days, you may complete the finishing stages by completing the grout line.
Grout is similar to a concrete and is available in sanded and un-sanded and also comes in a large assortment of colors. If you are using a delicate glossy surface, you may want to go an un-sanded, sanded will scratch. Grout is mixed with water and spread on project with a grout float filling all joints and gaps. Then immediately washed off, using a sponge; this leaves you with flush formed joints.

Again cuts will have to be made, but this time they are done on a wet saw outfitted with a carbide or diamond blade. There will need to be inside and outside miter cuts all made by using a guide on the wet saw.

Plaster mouldings are primarily really expensive to make s there is much labor involved there fore not used very often. When they are used, they generally come pre fitted from the manufacturer and are mounted to the walls and ceiling; using screws any imperfections can be altered during the finishing stage, using water and specially tools. Counter sunk screw holes are then filled with poly fill or left over plaster.

Please note, that there are many applications that these may used in and creativity is your only governor. In many instances different materials are mixed and matched, then painted the same to fulfill different effects.

Research: Architecture
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