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Archive | Ask Ken

Readers ask me design, installation and painting questions.

Neil’s New Victorian Home

new victorian home

Hi Ken,

I wanted to thank you for your molding page and share what we are trying to do.

We are in the long process of building a Victorian home in San Jose, CA (10 years in the works now — it’s a long story.

We finally are about to build and I’ve established a few direct contacts of HDPU molding manufacturers in China. However my original architect (who was an expert in Victorian architecture) turned out to be very unreliable and new architect has limited to no experience with molding, so the weight of picking the molding has fallen upon my shoulders and I know nothing about molding.

My primary worry was that I could not find anyone who made baseboards that were more than 8″ tall until I found your page. Since we have 11′ 3″ ceilings in the house, we needed at least 12″ baseboard and crown.

So you cannot know how much of a relief it was to find your site and to realize that the taller baseboards could be made with a mix of shorter ones. I really liked your BASEBOARD-103 (See also How Do I Make this Large Baseboard?).

Does the lower piece have to not taper off so that there’s no bump out between the two? Or do you cover that with a bit of half round or something? One of the problems I’ll have is that I can’t physically see the pieces ’till they get here. So I have to figure it out based on their catalogs.

Thanks so much again.

— Neil

Ken’s Answer

Hi Neil,

I think you are asking if you can install a base shoe molding at the seam between the floor and the bottom of the baseboard. PM-006 is just such a molding.

And if that is what you are asking, then yes, you can install a base shoe there. Here is a picture of a similar baseboard where I used a base shoe at the bottom.

From a design standpoint, base shoes are always an option and are never mandatory. A base shoe’s primary purpose is to cover uneven gaps between the floor and the bottom of the baseboard. But if you don’t like the look of a base shoe but you have uneven floors that you want the baseboard to sit flush against, then you or your finish carpenter will have to scribe the baseboard to the floor, and that is a very time-consuming process.

How to Make a Craftsman Style Window Surround

detroit moldings & Millwork

crafstman arts and crafts style door trimBen Asks

Hi Ken,

I am currently installing in my basement my version of your BASEBOARD-100 (5 inch 3/4 mdf + 1.5 inch 1/2 mdf).

I will also do the DOOR TRIM-133 in craftsman style for the doors and windows.

Just one question concerning the windows. What to do with the bottom? I’m trying to find examples on your website but can’t find any.



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Shana’s Board & Batton Question

Hi Ken,

I am a newbie DIYer and want to do a board and batten molding project in my dining room.

I’ve looked around a lot on the web and seen lots of great projects. I really appreciate your tutorials. You give great perspective on the projects and great instructions and details.

I was reading WAINSCOTING-100, and because you talk about the different flat stocks that you’ve used here and in other tutorials, I thought you might be able to help me. I am near the end of my rope!

The Problem

I am taking out baseboard and chair rail and starting from scratch. This is my quandary: I cannot find primed mdf boards (flat stock) that are 1/2 thick anywhere.

Apparently Lowes used to carry them but doesn’t anymore. I can easily find 11/16 thickness, but the problem with those are that the boards are a tiny bit thicker than the door frames/casings (not sure of the lingo).

I don’t want to buy the huge sheet of MDF and cut it to strips because I don’t have the right equipment. I’ve heard Lowes or HD will rip it for you, but I need a ton and don’t know if they will get the width exactly right and if it will be straight.

I can’t believe I’m the only one who has the problem with the door casings. I am so surprised that the 1/2 in thick primed boards are not available anywhere.

I guess I’m wondering:

(1) Does it matter if the horizontal boards (baseboard, and top rail and a lower one) are thicker than the door frame? Seems to me it will look odd.

(2) Do you know of anywhere that I can find primed mdf boards that are 1/2 thick?

(3) What are your thoughts on whether or not I should buy the big sheets and rely on the person and equipment at the store to cut the gazillion strips I’ll need for baseboard and two other boards that will go around the room?

I am so frustrated because I’ve researched this so much and can’t get past this stumbling block. I would be so grateful to hear your thoughts or any advice you may have.

Many thanks,

Ken’s Answer

finish trim joiner carpenter kenHi Shana,

1. Yes it does matter if the flat-stock of your wainscoting is thicker than your door frame. You don’t want your wainscoting to extend beyond the door trim.

2. I do not know of any company that sells pre-primed mdf in a thickness of 1/2″. That is why I cut my own from the large 4’X8′ boards.

3. Having Home Depot or Lowes do all of your cutting could get complicated. And yes, you do run the risk of them not cutting it as straight as you’d like. Read a bit more about having your MDF board cut at a home improvement store here.

You don’t need a lot of tools to create the moldings you see here on The Joy of Moldings, but you do need some. And a decent table saw is one of the most important tools you’ll need for installing moldings.

And finally, the problems you describe are the very reasons why I recommend replacing all of the moldings in the entire room — so you can control the entire design from start to finish. This post explains why in more detail, Decorate Your Home With Moldings, One Room at a Time.

Have you considered replacing the door trim?

Hope that helps. If you have further questions, feel free to ask. Good luck!

Ken O’Brien


Wainscoting on Inside & Outside Corners

Mike in Irvine, California Asks:

I have to install wainscoting around inside and outside corners in my kitchen and dining room.

My question is this.  How do I wrap the wainscoting around the corners?  Do I put vertical stiles on both sides of each corner or do I have the panels straddle the corners?

Thanks for any help.  –Mike

Ken’s Answer

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How to Terminate Flying Crown Molding on This Vaulted Ceiling

vaulted ceiling crown molding

Where should the flying crown molding terminate on this vaulted ceiling?

[This is part of my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]

The Problem: How to Terminate the Crown Molding?

Allison recently discovered my No Crown Moldings on Vaulted Ceilings post, and is now a flying crown molding convert.

She asked if I have any suggestions for terminating the crown molding on this interior elevation.

I think I have just the thing for this, Allison — a simple, elegant solution!

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Victorian Door & Window Molding Combinations

Victorian historic home

A Victorian house in Tucson.

Joe asks:

I have  question regarding Victorian moldings.

Historically, in a room with entablatures above the doors, how were the window surrounds treated?

Did they have entablatures also?  If so, were they of equal size or smaller?  Or, not at all with only window casing treatment?  – Joe

Ken’s Answer

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What Molding Do I Use for Flying Crown Molding Lower Detail?

crown molding on cathedral ceiling

An ogee molding is an excellent companion for this style crown molding.

[This is part of my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]

Gina Asks:

My husband and I want to install a flying crown molding in our vaulted master bedroom.  We’ve already selected a 4″ crown. 

However, we’re unsure of what additional trim pieces to buy to finish the bottom part of the crown.

Will you tell us what pieces we need to purchase to complete this project?

Thanks, Gina

Ken’s Answer

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Pilaster Capital Ideas for Dave

archway in foyer living room

Dave’s questions mostly concern pilaster capitals. There are three different pilaster capital designs in this one picture.

[This is part of our How to Install Moldings series.]

Dave Asks

Q1  I noticed you took down  Any chance that you still have photos of ARCHWAY-100?

Q2  Can I use rope molding for the pilaster capital collar?

Q3  Will ARCHWAY-100’s capital look OK with a horizontal entablature?

Q4  My entablature starts at 6-8′ up, will that be enough height for a capital that detailed?

Ken’s Answers

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Crown Molding to Hide Speaker Wires. On a Budget.

Unhandy Steve from Near Baltimore Writes

how to install crown molding for entertainment center

Crown molding is a great way to hide surround sound speaker wires.

Happy 4th! (if you celebrate that)

Thanks to you both for putting up and keeping this site going.  My name is Steve and I’m near Baltimore, MD.  I found your site and did a little reading on it tonight, and though it may be a rush to judgment, it’s already my favorite molding help site on the web.

The show & tell format is perfect for me, and I’ve basically learned enough here (on top of other sources) to try asking a few questions. BTW, I found y’all when I gave up trying to research my Google hits ending up on “wood” sites and text-only articles/forums assuming too much and using lingo, and instead resorted to a Google Images search on splicing molding, which I think is going to be my big issue. I was naturally attracted to your pix with the arrows and words and stumbled upon a gem.

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Corner Blocks for Dave’s Living Room & Foyer Archways

easy to install moldings

A center panel can break up a long run of molding on wide archways.

Other Posts in Dave’s Series

  1. Dave’s Kitchen Crown Molding Challenge
  2. Dave’s Foyer Moldings
  3. Corner Blocks for Dave’s Living Room & Foyer Archways

Hi Ken,

Once again I am very grateful for your help!

Corner Blocks

Q  When using corner blocks, is it better to use casing with a symmetrical profile?

I hadn’t even thought of this until you mentioned that the rosette corner blocks installed in my living room were Victorian style.

Although I had reviewed your Door Trim Gallery several times in the past, I reviewed it again with a focus on corner blocks and  noticed that all the casings used with corner blocks were symmetrical.  I’ve also noticed the same thing on other website photos of rosette corner blocks.

I’ve attached a few photos of our favored symmetrical and tapered casing profiles that have been increased in width and depth using back band or strips of flat stock.  The thought was that we could use one of these basic profiles but vary the width depending on where we use it.

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Dave’s Foyer Moldings: An Architectural Subordination Issue

front door moldings

Some foyers that lack the space and symmetry needed to add large moldings will test your skills at creating balance and unity.

[This is a follow-up post to Dave’s Kitchen Crown Molding Challenge.]

Dave and I have been exchanging emails about upgrading the moldings in his home.  This time we’re addressing the all-important foyer.

Dave’s foyer has the same issues that many of us have; there is limited space between openings for upgrading to larger moldings,  and there is a lack of doorway symmetry in the foyer/hallway.

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Dave’s Kitchen Crown Molding Challenge

stained kitchen crown moldings

Photo 1. Dave’s kitchen. Open floor plans present challenges transitioning moldings between rooms.

[This is part of my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]

Other Posts in Dave’s Series

  1. Dave’s Kitchen Crown Molding Challenge
  2. Dave’s Foyer Moldings
  3. Corner Blocks for Dave’s Living Room & Foyer Archways


I’ve read most of your website and am grateful to both you and Jennifer for what you have shared.

I’ve completed much of the remodeling on the first level of our home, but we’re having difficulty in making decisions on moulding.

For the last 35 years we’ve had 2.25″/3″ stained pine/casing baseboard, and we now want to replace it with a variety of much larger, white-painted mouldings.

Your website helped convince us that painted white mouldings are the way to go!

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Should I Caulk Moldings Where No One Will See?

Reader Question

Just a quick question.  I have installed a chair rail.  I caulked the top part but was wondering if I should caulk the bottom part too?  You can see the bottom part when standing, though.  Need an expert advise.


Ken’s Answer

Yes, I would caulk below the chair rail.  No rule says you have to, but let personal pride in your own craftsmanship guide your actions.

The payoff will come some day when a guest in your home comments on the quality of your finish, your attention to detail — even in places people would normally never notice — and you’ll feel a great sense of pride.

Good luck with the chair rail!

Cheers, Ken

[This is part of our How to Install Moldings series]


How Do I Build a Corbel Return?

corbel large crown molding buildup

If you can cut a 45 degree miter you can build this corbel return.

Sean wants to know how I built this corbel return that I integrated into CROWN MOLDING-125.  It’s really easy, I’ll show you step by step.  I don’t have the installation pictures from this project, but I have something similar to illustrate how the moldings are stacked.

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