Decorative trim molding can transform a room like nothing else. In a large room with high ceilings for instance, wide trim moldings can be the difference between a cold, cavernous effect and a warm, inviting feeling when you enter. Adding trim was once the norm to make these and other rooms more inviting and interesting, but that has gone by the wayside with the cost oriented approach to home building today.
Fortunately it's easy to retrofit the moldings that were omitted by the builder or create original designs of your own by stacking finish lumber and commonly available trim profiles. This page contains some ideas for building these designs and some techniques and pointers for installing them yourself.
The possibilities for trim molding designs are only limited by your imagination and the available stock of profiles at your local lumberyard. While some designs may seem complex, many are made up of two or 3 pieces and can appear quite elaborate with just these basic components. To create a stacked design of your own first decide how wide it should be, this is usually determined by the size of a room and the height of the ceiling, more about that here.
Start your design with a backer board, both as a physical anchor and an inspiration for the rest of the profile. The backer can be a one-piece board like the milled baseboard and casing samples here, or it can be a piece of 1by surfaced lumber. Next, choose some shapes that will compliment any preformed profile on the backer board and the other features of the room.
In general, you will want to combine a few basic shapes to create an appealing effect that avoids getting too busy and distracting from the rest of the room. First consider how the profile will transitions to the wall surface. If the backer board has a shape cut along the edge it can serve this purpose, otherwise, consider using a rake or stop bead to make the transition. Now consider the features you want to use to decorate the middle of the profile. A piece of half-round or panel bead can be a good choice here. Choose these shapes to decorate the broad surface of the backer board or help to transition to other components in the design. For small rooms keep the design simple and for larger rooms use as much decoration as you are comfortable with. Below are some examples of combination trim for the whole room and links to more designs, both elaborate and simple.
In this example a standard crown profile is embellished with stop bead on top and bottom. The stop bead transitions to the flat surfaces of the wall and ceiling while acting as the backer board for the design. Larger pieces like one-piece baseboard or casing would also work as the backer board here.
This is a very simple design but the finished effect is dramatic, especially when painted white against a darker wall color. This same basic design can be used to build the crown-molding-lighting project at this link. To build this profile, first install the stop bead on the wall and ceiling and then install the crown using the surface of the wall bead as the reference point for measuring and cutting. See a step-by-step demonstration of this type of installation here and more custom crown designs here.
Many door casing styles from Victorian to Craftsman can be recreated using commonly available molding profiles. In this design a piece of back band is wrapped to the edge of one-piece casing to make the transition to the wall. This technique works with one-piece baseboard profiles as well. Install this casing use 45° miters at the top, and either cut the bottom square at the floor, or use a plinth block to mate with the baseboard. You can combine the back band and the wider board with glue and nails first and then cut them at the same time, or cut the pieces and install them separately. Find more ideas for door and window casings here.
Combination chair rail designs can be built to accommodate any wall trim need from basic protection from furniture damage to a display shelf or cap for wainscot and tile.
The chair rail pictured here is built using a pre-cut backer board with stop bead and half-round decorating the middle. To install it, first nail the backer board to the wall framing along the center. Next install two pieces of stop bead so they cover the nail holes in the backer board and then install the half-round over that using wood glue and nails. See some other custom chair rails here.
Because baseboards are at floor level it doesn't make much sense to decorate them with a lot of ornate profiles. In most cases they are simple flat boards with a decorative edge on top and a bead of quarter round at the floor. But if you need to match existing trim molding or you want to create a more interesting baseboard profile yourself, it's easy to do using 1by finish lumber of various widths and some of the elaborate base caps and beads at this link.
The baseboard pictured here is built using two different size 1by boards, one stacked on top of the other. The wider board has a bevel along the top but it could also just be cut square. A piece of base cap or rake mould can then be stacked on top of each 1by and a shoe mould run along the floor. Find more stacked baseboard designs here.
The wall shelf design here is a basic one that's very common and can be used in many applications. The profile consists of a cove bead, a one-piece baseboard molding used as a backer board, and a 1by piece of lumber for the top, or shelf. This configuration can be used as a chair rail, a plate shelf or a cap for wainscoting.
To build a custom molding profile start with a design in mind and gather all the parts you'll need. Install the pieces using miter joints on all the outside corners and mitered or coped joints on the inside corners.
Begin the installation by nailing the larger, backer boards to the wall and ceiling framing first. This will provide a stable foundation for the remaining parts of the profile and, in many cases, the top pieces will hide the nail holes and sometimes the inside corner joints on the backer boards.
After all the parts of the combination profile have been assembled, putty the nail holes, caulk the seams between each piece and along the corner joints, prime and paint the finish. If you are doing a natural wood finish, caulk will distract from the effect so make sure to cut precise joints for a tight fit with no gaps. Fill the nail holes with a wood filler or colored putty.
Joining the pieces for combination molding is usually done by butting them together and then caulking to hide the seams. This is the fastest and easiest way to build a profile but it may not be the best way to get a smooth, integrated finish. When the individual pieces won't come together the way you want you can use notching to join them for a more seamless union. As in the example here, a rabbet is cut along the bottom of a large piece of base cap, it then locks over a 1x6 to blend the parts making them look like a one-piece baseboard.
Another technique to modify existing trim is to add a block or strip to a small profile piece, making a more perfect part for a combination design. For example, here a back band molding is created by adding a square strip to a piece of base cap. The improvised back band is then use in combined with a one-piece baseboard to create a custom door casing. Other small pieces would work as well such as rake, panel or stop bead.
If you can't find a profile or configuration you want for your design and you have some basic woodworking skills you can hand-cut the pieces you want from finished lumber. In this example a high-speed router is used to cut the desired profiles for a custom door casing. Router bits are available in the most common profiles and sizes as well as some exotic shapes, so if you have a router you can make just about any molding you need.
1- choose a design and cut the profile along one edge of a 1x4 or other 1by board to make a one-piece casing.
2- make the back band for the edging using a squared piece about 1 by ¾ inches. A piece like this can be found at a home store or one can be cut from finished boards.
3- cut the profile on one edge of the square, and then cut a rabbet along the other side to form the joining edge. Finish by gluing and nailing the two pieces together.