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Correct Use & Measuring for Molding/Trim

Posted: July 01, 2002


Of all the order-related questions we receive about wood and laminate flooring, the most common concern the finishing pieces. Sometimes referred to broadly as accessories, these pieces are more accurately called trim, transition strips, or moldings. Because customers can be confused by the terminologies, they often ask what type they need and how much they should order.

The following information should provide a better understanding of the various types of trim, their proper application, and how to accurately determine how much is needed. Of course, if after reading this article you still have questions, feel free to call us. We’ll be glad to help.

Before we start, please note that the illustrations in this article may not precisely match the material that you will purchase due to variations among manufacturers. However, if they are not an exact match, they will be very similar. You will also notice what is called a trim track in some of the illustrations. Trim tracks were designed as a hold-down mechanism, but most installers have had better results with an adhesives or adhesive caulks, like those produced by Liquid Nails.

Regardless of the size of the installation, one or more molding and/or transitions strips will be required to properly finish the job. Be sure to read all of this information to ensure that you, or your installer, purchase the correct type and amount.

Quarter Round and Wall Base Moldings

"Quarter round" and “wall base" moldings are used to cover the expansion gap between the flooring and the wall. If the original flooring did not have wall base installed, it could be added with or without quarter round. These molding types can be purchased unfinished from any local lumber supply and painted or stained as desired. Another option would be to purchase pre-finished molding that matches your new flooring. The illustration at the left shows the flooring and the expansion gap covered by wall base and quarter round. This is more a decorative treatment, since it is not necessary to use both. It is easy to see that the wall base alone would have covered the expansion gap.

End Cap or Square Nose Moldings

"Square nose" molding is also referred to as “end mold," “end cap," “universal edge," or “baby threshold." This is probably the most commonly used “transition molding." We say transition molding because unlike quarter round or wall base, this molding is used to transition from a wood or laminate floor to another type of flooring. But this is just one use for square nose. It is also used against sliding glass door tracks and metal thresholds of exterior doors, or to join another floor or surface that is higher than the new floor. For example, if your new flooring met the marble threshold of a bathroom doorway, and the threshold was the higher surface, then square nose would be the correct molding to use. The illustration shows square nose being used against a kitchen cabinet. While it can be used this way, quarter round molding would probably be a better choice.

Reducer Strip

A “reducer strip" is another type of transition molding. It is used when transitioning from a wood or laminate floor, to a lower flooring surface, such as a vinyl floor or painted concrete. Another application for the reducer strip is at a sliding glass door, but only if there is no lip or track protruding above the floor. In other words, if the flooring edge ended without butting up to anything, then the reducer strip would be a good choice.


“T-molding" is another common transition molding. T-molding is used to transition from one floor to another when both are at the same finished height. For example, if you installed laminate flooring in your living room and hallway, and later decided to install it in the bedrooms, then T-molding would be used to join the new laminate flooring with the previous installation. Another example would be where a new laminate or wood floor joined a ceramic tile floor at the same finished height. As you can see from the illustration, T-molding gets its name from its shape. Also note that the lip on each side of the T-molding is supported by the flooring. That is why it is important that both floors are at the same finished height. Any height variation between the two could cause the lips could snap off. Additionally, it is important to make sure there is adequate expansion space between flooring edges joined by the T-molding. The purpose of the extended lips is to cover the expansion space without interfering with the function of the space.

Stair Nose: Flush and Overlap

"Stair nose" is used to trim out the edges of step-downs and staircases covered by laminate or wood flooring. It is available in two styles: flush and overlap. The illustration at the left shows the overlap style. This style is easier to work with, especially if you do not have a lot of flooring experience. As you can see, a lip overlaps the flooring on the top or "tread" of the stair or step down. This style of stair nose is ideal for covering up any imperfect saw cuts.

The flush style of stair nose connects to the flooring through the tongue and groove configuration. If you are installing your flooring on a staircase and you can start each tread off with a full piece of flooring at the edge, then the flush stair nose will not be difficult to use. If you are installing flooring where there is a step down to a sunken living room, you will not have control over whether or not there will be a factory edge at the step down. If you cannot butt the flush stair nose up to a factory edge, there would be a lot of work involved trying to create such an edge. Obviously, this would not be recommended for the novice.

Measuring for Moldings

Trying to determine how much of each type of molding you may need might seem overwhelming at first, but it is really not that difficult. Once you know how each type of molding is used, it's a snap! The easiest type to calculate is the wall base or quarter round molding. Simply measure and write down the length of each wall then total them up. We recommend that you also add about 10% to your total to be on the safe side. After you have the total running feet you need, divide it by the sold length of the molding. For example, if you came up with a total of 960" or 80' needed, and the molding is sold in 96" or 8' lengths, you would need 10 pieces of molding. Again, adding a 10% margin for error would mean ordering one more piece for a total of 11 pieces. If your calculations don't result in an even number – and they probably won’t – it is always better to round up one piece.

When it comes to transition molding, it's a little different. You will need to write down each doorway or opening measurement, and also the type of transition molding that will be used for each one. As a rule of thumb, one piece of transition molding will usually do two doorways, as long as the doorways are less than 36". Also, if you have an opening that is wider than one piece of molding, we recommend that you use two equal length pieces of molding as opposed to one big piece and a small cut piece. You may have a little bit more waste doing it this way, but overall it will look better with the seam in the middle.