Top Navigation

Merry Christmas!

miniture door surround

Christmas niche at the Red Dog Cafe.

Moldings are for the people inside the home, not for the home itself.

Last week I drove through the historic farming community of Yale, Michigan, and stopped into the Red Dog Cafe (Google Map) for a bite to eat. Inside the restaurant I found this charming Christmas display carefully tucked inside a righteously red wall niche.

The welcoming little door surround and its friendly snowman, brought to mind the reason dressing up your home with moldings is important — to show the people who live inside and visit your home — that they are valued and loved.

This sentiment was the genesis for my own introduction to installing moldings.

I was married when I bought my first home, but I could only just afford it as is; there was no money to hire a craftsman to upgrade the moldings. But I wanted to surround my family with the sense of place that I felt classical moldings gave a home. And so I slowly began to teach myself the craft of designing and installing historically inspired door and window surrounds, crown molding and large baseboards.

So as you approach your 2016 molding projects, don’t think about how your upgrades will increase the value of your home, think about how what you do increases the happiness of your family.

Merry Christmas to you, dear reader, and thank you for sharing your 2015 molding projects with me. Your work has brought me great joy!


Ken O’Brien

Oh Joy! No More Ads on TJOM!


For the last couple of months I’ve been removing, one by one, the Google ads I put on the pages on The Joy of Moldings. They served their purpose for a time, but that time is now over.

The ads have given me a respectable side income for the three-plus years I’ve been running them, so their absence will be duly noted in my bank account. But it’s the right thing to do.

I’m removing the ads because I want you to have an uncluttered reading experience while you learn about moldings. Now when you come to The Joy of Moldings you’ll find a place of quite study. A place to contemplate how you’ll decorate your home with moldings without the bark of ad men yelling at you from the pages.

It will take me awhile to get rid of them all, like swatting mosquitos that buzz in your tent when camping. But with a little diligence, I’ll get every last one.



Historic DOOR TRIM-117 in Almont, Michigan

historic front door molding

Traditional Style, c. 1850

I was driving to my sister’s house in a rural part of Michigan, when I spotted this Greek Revival door surround on the front of this abandoned farmhouse.

I’ve seen this house before, but today is the day I finally stopped to take a picture. And rather than wait to get home to write a post about it, I’m writing it right here on the side of the road using my iPad. This is a first for me.

Continue Reading →

Quick Tip: The Unifying Coat of Primer

The Importance of Priming Even Pre-Primed Moldings

how to paint moldings

After applying a unifying coat of primer on our half bathroom moldings. Before and after pictures below.

[This is part of my How to Paint Moldings series.]

Even if all of the flat-stock and moldings you installed come from the factory coated in primer, you still need to apply a final, unifying coat of sandable primer before you apply your first finish coat of paint.

Here are my four reasons why:

1.  To Cover Bare Wood or MDF

This one is obvious, but you need to cover bare material before brushing on a finish coat of paint.

before and after molding pictures

Primer will: cover bare wood, bare mdf, spackling on gaps and nail holes.

2.  To Cover Spackling or Glue

The spackling you used to cover all of those nail holes, gaps and gouges, will show through your two finish coats of paint as a rough or dull spot.  So they have to be covered with primer.

how to paint large baseboard moldings

Before: A cope joint gone bad that I filled with spackling.

Likewise, any glues that seeped between your moldings or were smeared on their surface, need to be covered with primer, otherwise those spots may show through your finish coats of paint.

how to prime moldings

After: The same cope joint covered in spackling. With a little more attention, you’ll never see the filled joint after I’ve painted it.

Below  All of the nail holes you filled with spackling and then sanded will need to be covered with primer.

Rather than trying to spot-prime only the nail holes on pre-primed moldings, just cover the whole thing with a fresh coat of primer.

how to fill nail holes in moldings

Before: Spackling over nail holes will be sanded and then primed over to create a unified surface.

how to prime diy mdf moldings

After: The same nail hole after being sanded and then primed over. Can you see the hole now?

Eye-Level Flaws Need Extra Attention

The two before and after pictures below show a nail hole in the wall frames that appears right at eye level as you exit the room.  It’s hard not look at this spot.

So this nail hole and others like it should get a little extra attention.

how to prime mouldings

Before: Nail hole that has been filled and sanded.

Below  See how the nail hole is still just barely visible after I’ve covered it in primer?

It’s just possible that after sanding the primer and then applying two finish coats of paint that divot may still show through.

And I can’t take that chance.  Not when it’s right at eye level.

So I will apply a spot coat of primer here and then sand it again.  That should take care of it.

how to prepare mouldings for paint

After: The same nail hole now barely visible. It may need a little more work before it’s perfect.

3.  To Fill Small Gaps

Most seams between wall and molding or between two moldings will need at least some caulk to fill them after your primer coat is applied.  But not all of them.

how to prime mdf moldings

There was a very small gap here between wall and molding before I primed it. Now it is filled with primer.

Those really fine gaps will fill with primer, eliminating the need to caulk them.  And that can save you a lot of work.

4.  To Unify the Quality of Finish

This is the most important reason for applying a coat of primer over your entire molding installation.

Because each of your installed material surfaces will have slightly different textures to them.  And each of those textures may show differently after your two finish coats of paint have been applied.

And you don’t want that.  So you apply an even coat of primer over all of the moldings you installed.

how to prepare molding for paint

Before: The intersection where door trim, ceiling and wall moldings intersect.

how to prime bathroom moldings

After: The same molding intersection with a unifying coat of primer applied.

Note 1:  Use only Sandable Primers

You want to be able to sand your primed moldings with fine grit sandpaper, like 120 or 220 grit, for a silky-smooth surface.

Many primers are designed only to cover a surface that you don’t want bleeding through the finish coat, and so they cure with a plastic-like coating.

That’s the wrong kind of primer to use on your moldings.  Kilz2 is that kind of primer — good for covering stains but not for sanding.

Use a primer that is designed for covering bare wood and mdf.

A sandable primer leaves you with a smooth, uniform surface texture.  When dry, these primers feel chalky.  That’s the one you want.

We’ve been using a Sherwin Williams brand that we really like (details about this primer here), but Benjamin Moore and other paint companies have good primers as well.

Note 2:  A Second Coat of Primer

Sometimes you’ll find some imperfection on your moldings that requires you to sand down to bare material again.

sherwin williams wood and wall primer

Before priming: Seeing all of the moldings as separate parts.

You’ll need to cover that bare spot with primer again, but you don’t have to re-prime the entire molding pattern.  Just make sure you feather-out the primer away from the re-primed area.  You don’t want to leave a visible line of freshly applied primer.

When the re-primed area is dry, sand as usual, blending the newly primed and original primed areas together until smooth.

how to paint large baseboard moldings

After: Finally you can see your moldings as a complete pattern, and that can be very motivating!

The Primer Coat and New Motivation

A great benefit to applying the unifying coat of primer is that you’ll get to see your moldings become the thing you had envisioned.

The primer allows you to see the complete pattern as a unit, rather than as individual materials nailed to the wall.

And seeing that always breathes new life into my motivation to dive back into a long, drawn-out installation.

The Next Step

Sanding all of your primed moldings to a very fine surface is the next step after priming.

Related Posts


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.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes