What’s under your feet (or however you get around) is as important as anything when it comes to home. That’s why this fall, we collaborated with The Home Depot on an A to Z guide that’ll give you the confidence to make flooring choices you’ll love. Check out the A to Z handbook here.
While its likely not the first detail you think of when embarking on a flooring project, molding—whether for walls, floors, windows, or doors—helps a room become the most polished version of itself. Shoe molding and baseboard, two types of molding, secure the perimeter of a room and help create a clean, finished look between the floor and walls.
But there are a dizzying number of options that can cause choice paralysis if you’re not careful. So here’s a quick guide all about the role molding plays when it comes to flooring, and how to select a style that’s right for you from the collection at The Home Depot. Read up now, and you’re less likely to be stuck fretting over these final steps when the time comes.
Shoe molding: Mind the “expansion gap”
Shoe molding is the simplest (and most foundational) base molding type out there. It acts as a seam between flooring and a wall and covers the all-important “expansion gap”: a small vertical space which allows for the floor to inhale and exhale — relatively speaking — without buckling up against the wall and damaging itself. (For more information on hardwood floors, see letter H!)
Also called “base shoe” because of its position at (you guessed it!) shoe level, this functional and flexible wood trim is found in most rooms with a hard flooring surface, whether that’s laminate, hardwood, tile, or luxury vinyl.
In addition to filling in the expansion gap and providing a buffer for any furniture that might bump up into the walls, shoe molding fills in the spaces where baseboard and floor don’t quite match up. (And since baseboards can be fairly ornate and sometimes lack straight lines on the bottom, this happens more often than you might think.)
Shoe molding, which is usually nailed into a baseboard using finishing nails and never into the wall, comes in a wide range of styles, shapes, and sizes. The style that works best for you depends on your home’s overall design aesthetic. Plain and simple quarter-round base shoe (named because it looks like a quarter cut of a dowel rod) will get the job done, but more ornate forms of pre-cut shoe molding are sleeker, and can range from arts-and-crafts-style to colonial and beyond. Most importantly, base shoe is taller than it is wide which ensures it doesn’t jut out into the room too far while still filling the expansion gap. On average, it clocks in at about ¾” to 1” in height and ½” in width.
Molding material also plays a big part in the overall finished look of a room. Molding that’s made from medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is an inexpensive solid-wood alternative that comes primed, but should be painted (and not stained) to give your space a complete look. It’s extra flexible, so if there are uneven spots on your baseboard, or even the flooring itself, it could be a smart choice.
Solid wood molding typically comes in two camps: pine (a softwood), which is relatively inexpensive and can be stained or painted, and hardwood (ash, oak, or walnut are common choices), which can also be stained or painted. If you’re feeling funky, try an unexpected finish, like painting the trim to match the walls instead of painting it traditional white, or stain it to match the floors.
But whatever you choose, don’t forget to paint or stain your shoe molding (and trim of any kind) prior to installing it.
Baseboards: They bring the drama
If shoe molding is the subtle element, quietly adding a protective finishing touch to your space, baseboards are the attention-grabbers that can completely change the feel of a room. Baseboard serves a similar purpose to shoe molding (tying together the floor-meets-wall area), but it is much taller and often more decorative. Often working in tandem with shoe molding (but occasionally standing alone), baseboards not only can add character to a room but help tie it to the design identity of other parts of the house.
The most important factor to take into consideration with your baseboards is how they will feel in conjunction with other elements of the space. For example, if you have high ceilings in an older home and want to match that grandiose feel, go for an equally tall baseboard with a colonial design. Do you live in a more modern space? Flat baseboards are all the rage, adding a polished look without drawing too much attention.