Trim and molding are decorative woodwork elements used to embellish the floors, walls, and ceilings of homes. They’re available in a variety of styles, finishes, and materials, and adding trim to different parts of a room can complement other stylistic elements, such as wall color and furniture, effectively setting the decorative tone of a room as well as giving it a more put-together look.
While the purpose of trim is generally decorative, it also has some functional uses, such as hiding gaps where a floor and wall or ceiling and wall meet and aren't flush. Once installed, it can also provide minor reinforcement to the overall structure. Different types can be prefabricated or custom-made and include both composite and wood construction.
Types of Trim
The different types of trim are distinct due to their locations at different points on a wall. Each type also provides different aesthetic and practical effects in a room, which can contribute to or define a design style.
Adding a regal and truly finished effect to a room, crown molding is found at the intersections of walls or cabinets with the room’s ceilings. It is typically installed at a 45-degree angle with a hollow space behind it. There are many different designs, some of which include concave and rounded finishes with different cutouts and intricate designs such as flowers, leaves, and filigree. These designs vary widely, creating a finish that can be clean and modern or detailed and classic. Crown moldings can be painted, stained, or finished to match or contrast with wall and ceiling colors, and they come in both wood and composite materials, each of which creates a unique aesthetic effect.
The cost of crown molding depends largely on the material, finish, and detail of the design you choose. Basic styles may cost as little as $2-$3 per linear foot, while custom designed and cut moldings prepared by a finish carpenter cost $8-$10 or more per linear foot.
Baseboards are perhaps the most common type of trim. Most rooms include at least a basic clamshell baseboard, which serves to define lines at the bottom of a wall. Although it’s not quite as detailed as crown molding, there is still a variety of designs to choose from in sizes that typically range from as small as 2 inches tall to 4 inches tall or higher. Choosing different baseboard cutouts can create a more streamlined or interesting wall line. Like crown molding, baseboards also come in finished and unfinished options and are easy to stain or paint to match or contrast with walls and floors. From a practical standpoint, they also serve to hide gaps between the bottoms of the walls and the flooring.
The costs of baseboard materials are generally reasonable, ranging from $0.60 per linear foot for basic styles in fiberboard to about $1.20 per linear foot for wood. It is also possible to hire a finish carpenter to design and cut custom designs.
Another common, almost unnoticeable option, casing is the trim that defines the areas around windows and door frames. These trim options are almost identical to baseboard options, and some homeowners use the same style and design for their casing as they do their baseboard. The only difference is that casing tends to be narrower, generally closer to 2 inches, because it is at eye level and not on the floor. Its pricing is the same as baseboard at about $0.60-$1.20 per linear foot depending on materials, design, and finish.
A chair rail typically sits three feet up from the floor and runs horizontally along a wall. As its name indicates, its original intent was to protect walls from chairs in dining rooms. However, today it is used more as a type of decorative element, often dividing a wall design into two colors or delineating wallpaper and paint. Chair rail styles are generally basic and narrow, although there are some different cutouts available that homeowners can match to other trim elements such as baseboards.
Like the other trims above, chair rail comes in various finishes and colors and is easy to paint to suit design needs. It generally costs between $1 and $2 per linear foot.
Similar in design and style to chair rail, the main difference of picture rail is that it sits much higher on the wall, traditionally serving the function of holding hooks for hanging pictures with wire. Used decoratively, picture rail is an attractive way to add two paint colors to a room or to add a wallpaper border to the top of a wall. Used functionally, it is a classic design element that allows homeowners to add framed art and photos to their walls without putting holes into the drywall.
Generally slimmer than chair rail, picture rail that is used to hang frames often has a lip on top to anchor wires. Its cost is dependent on design and style, but generally ranges between $1 and $2 per linear foot.
Wall Frame Molding
Wall frame molding is not as common as other trim options because it is purely decorative and generally reserved for more formally designed higher-end or historical homes. A wall frame molding consists of at least four pieces of molding, which may be picture molding, baseboard, or chair molding, that are assembled to create the look of a picture frame in the center of a wall or underneath a chair rail. Homeowners sometimes paint the interior of a wall frame in a contrasting color or hang wallpaper inside it. Premade squares of frame molding generally cost between $8 and $25 depending on their size and material.
The pricing of the trim will be affected by the type of material you choose as well as how intricate the design is. Based on over 3,300 customer reports, most homeowners spend in the range of $676 to $1,758 for an average trim installation. Most of the cost will be the labor of the removal of old trim, hauling away debris, and the installation of the new trim. The average cost for this work is around $1,158.
There is a variety of factors that impact the final cost of trim installation, including a premium charge for custom-cutting and designing. The total linear feet of the room or area trimmed also affects cost, as do the quality and finish of the material. For example, composite wood is the least-expensive material option. On the higher end, pine and oak are popular, especially for homeowners who want a natural, stained-wood finish. Removal as well as cleanup also add to the time it takes to complete installation.
The material that trim is made from can impact prices accordingly. Crown molding prices vary considerably based on how elaborate the designs are and what it’s made of. Detailed, 8-foot lengths made of MDF or PVC typically cost around $10, while similar designs made of wood or polyurethane price out at around $25 and $32, respectively.
Baseboards are typically less detailed than crown molding, so their costs are normally lower. Baseboard molding in 8-foot lengths of PVC or solid pine price out at about $10. Smaller elements such as quarter round and shoe molding may cost as little as $3-$4 per 8-foot length. Chair rail and wall frame moldings are typically a bit more ornamental than baseboards, though not as large or intricate as some crown molding. Plain wood chair rail costs under $2 for a 4-foot length, while the more intricate embossed varieties can cost upwards of $10 for the same length. MDF versions are a bit less expensive at around $6 for 4-foot panels and lengths.
By hiring a professional contractor, you can get tighter joints and smooth results when installing trim, even on bad walls. The secret to tight-fitting joints is knowing how to adjust the cuts to make them conform to your walls' different conditions. Crooked walls are a common issue, particularly in older homes that have settled or simply warped over years of use. Contractors can still fit these walls with trim, which can even help eliminate a curved appearance or square off a crooked wall. Keep in mind the extra work to fit the trim might mean extra time, which could translate into a higher final project cost.
Add interest, style, and function to any room of your home through the addition of trim. Be sure to check out some of these ideas at the DesignMine Gallery, which allows you to create style boards for rooms and provides room-by-room breakdowns of popular design trends and finished projects.