Floor Trim Moldings and Styles For Your Home
There are so many choices for baseboard, a.k.a. trim — the transition from flooring to walls. We break down your selection process.
Three Main Styles of Floor Trim
Baseboard is usually thinner than door trim, which is called casing, and at least one-third wider. This difference in thickness necessitates an offset joint where the baseboard meets the door trim. Sometimes a transitional trim piece called a plinth block (pictured above) is used here.
The options for baseboard are almost endless, but they can all be divided into three categories: mop boards, two-piece and profiled baseboards.
Read on to understand more about the three categories.
Mop Board Base Trim
Mop board, a.k.a. one-piece bases, are flat, sometimes with edge detail. This base can be as simple as a square-edge board, but usually the sharp edge will be rounded over or beveled. Craftsman or contemporary homes trend toward the cleaner lines of mop board.
DIY Friendly? Yes! Mop board base with a square or slightly rounded edge can just be painted, then installed with the inside corners butted together. This is the least challenging of the three to install.
Two-Piece Base Trim
Two-piece combines a flat bottom that’s capped with a profiled molding. This type of trim can fit well in any style of home, since variations in the cap can create a different look and feel.
A simple cap with a beveled or rebated edge creates a contemporary look, whereas a more complex mold cap will give you a more traditional-looking base. Change the overall height of two-piece base trim by adjusting the flat, bottom portion of the trim.
DIY Friendly? Yep. Sure, cutting, nailing and fitting two pieces of trim takes more time. But the flat bottom piece, which goes on first, is installed just like mop board. (It needs only a basic butt joint at the inside corners.) Choose a smaller top cap with a simple profile to make it easy to miter or cope.
Profiled Base Trim
The most traditional baseboard style, profiled, a.k.a. patterned bases, are just one piece of profiled board. Typically you’d choose the door trim first, then select your profiled base as a matching yet thinner and taller option.
Most stores offer fewer design and size options simply because they’re larger, more expensive and less versatile than other types of base; retailers only have it a certain amount of money and space to work with. Solid wood moldings often come in a bundle of mixed lengths from three feet to 16 feet because they cut out defects and imperfections, like knots.
DIY Friendly? It would be a good DIY finish carpentry challenge. Profiled base is the most challenging trim style to install because it’s one piece with a profile its entire 3-1/2- to 6-in., making joining tricky. Coped joints are preferred over mitered here because they’ll allow for some seasonal movement of wood and are easier to fit in out-of-square corners.
Additional Considerations When Selecting Floor Trim
There’s more to your baseboard choice than style. A couple more things to consider: ceiling height and baseboard material.
Ceiling height determines the height of your baseboard. Some common heights: 3-1/2- to 5-in. for 8-ft. ceilings; 5- to 7-in. for 9-ft. ceilings; and 6- to 10-in. for 10- to 12-ft. ceilings.
Material options come down to three: solid wood, finger joint (small pieces joined together) and Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF).
- Solid wood moldings are expensive, but the only option if you want stained trim. Most solid wood trim is Poplar, which also paints well, but you can special order any type of wood.
- Finger joint is a less expensive price point. It’s either Pine or Poplar interlocked together in a meshed-finger pattern, making it just as durable as solid wood. This durability means every piece can easily come in a long length, like wood, creating less waste than you might get with MDF. Premium finger-joint products come primed and are machined with a smooth profile. The cheaper version can be rough and uneven.
- MDF is your most economical option. It often comes primed and paints well. It’s not as durable as wood and can be prone to chipping and other damage during shipping and installation, making shorter pieces (and therefore more splices) necessary. Once installed, it should hold up well as long as it isn’t saturated with water, like from a leak.