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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.

Architectural Ornaments Teaser

compo appliques

I thought you might enjoy this teaser photo of some compo appliqué projects that I’m working on.

Most of these designs I’ll be using to create models of ornate corner blocks, while others will be used to create ornate center blocks, like this simple one I made years ago.

Only my new designs will be even nicer!



How High Should the Entablature or Overdoor Frieze Be?

craftsman overdoor frieze

My Craftsman/Art Deco hybrid door surround with Art Deco ornaments above the frieze.

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

Jay commented on Before & After: Will’s Bathroom and Window Trim, and asked a very simple question that I’m shamed to say I should have addressed long ago:

Can anyone tell me an easy way to find the correct proportion for the entablature?  I’ve tried to research this on the web, but it seems like most sites want to give a history lesson and I walk away not knowing anything more than when I started.

Ken’s Short Answer

About 4″.

Ken’s Long-Winded Answer

There you have it, Jay.  That’s the basic height I use for the frieze on most of my door and window entablatures, even long ones.  I may adjust up or down depending on what I want, but 4″ high is a good starting point.

Focus on the Frieze

I’m going to focus on the frieze height in this post, because the height of your entire entablature is ultimately dependent on the moldings you stack around it.

There are exact rules of scale and proportion that classical architectural historians can explain, but we want to avoid the history lesson for now and just focus on some general ideas and lots of examples that will get you going in the right direction.

After all, we’re not trying to create museum pieces here, just nice molding that don’t cost too much for our homes.

The picture below shows Will’s bathroom window trim, and it looks like he made it about 3″ tall, perhaps a little less.

overdoor frieze height

I strive on The Joy of Moldings to use the most accurate terms for moldings I can find.

For terms that I just can’t find a specific vocabulary for I make up my own, like I did with flying crown molding.

craftsman style entablature with frieze

I based the frieze height of this Craftsman entablature on a molding pattern book published in the mid-1920s.

But like you said, Jay, it can be hard to sift out the specifics when either too much information is given, not enough information, or, because this is the internet after all, just plain wrong information.

What’s that Thing Above the Door Called?

Entablature or Overdoor.

overdoor frieze with palmett appliques

One of my Greek Revival entablatures or overdoors with corbels and appliques on the frieze.

That’s what the whole buildup is called.  Classical architecture has specific words for each component that make up the entablature, and the portion you are asking about Jay is called the frieze.

You can see a more detailed breakdown of all parts of a door surround, top to bottom, here at our DOOR TRIM-114 page.

entablature french provincial decore

This is a swan’s neck entablature because of the graceful scalloped ends. I’m anxious to make more of these!

The entablature is often mistakenly called a pediment (Wikipedia link), which is a separate, unique treatment.

It is also mistakenly called a door header, which is a structural component of the framing.

How do I Calculate Frieze Height?

dining room moldings with frieze on archway

This, my favorite kind of entablature for large doorways or archways.  It sits on top of an eared architrave. The frieze is decorated with rosette, scroll and lions head woodworking appliques.

My 4″ starting point is based on what’s called the Golden Ratio (external link), also called the Golden Rectangle.

I deviate from it as I see fit, as have craftsman for the last few thousand years, but it is almost always my starting point.

Historic Molding-Watching

I know I’m being somewhat vague about how to come up with frieze dimensions.

That’s because I don’t have a formal education in any of this, so I don’t have a formal way of presenting the information.

I am an enthusiastic amateur at best, at worst just a copycat of what craftsman created in the past that we still love today.

neoclassical frieze entablature

A neoclassical entablature at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

This Neoclassical door surround at my beloved Detroit Institute of Arts partly inspired me to create the door surrounds in the picture below.

My original intent was to keep the frieze plain like the original, but we ended up making it highly ornate (See the ornaments in the final version all the way at the bottom of this post here).

how to build an overdoor or door header

A Neoclassical door surround that started out with this simple frieze, but ended up richly ornate.

Of course, this is one of the reasons I started this blog — to help sift out all of the good and bad information about decorating with moldings and distill it into something that makes sense that we can act on at home.

overdoor with no frieze

An example of an overdoor with no frieze at all.

entablature with no frieze

A simple, subordinate (dissolved) overdoor made from crown molding solved the issue of limited height avoiding bumping into the crown.

These two overdoors above and below were inspired by historic moldings I’ve seen in homes and public buildings all over the world.

crown molding over door trim

The crown molding over this door trim is wrapped around a core of 1/2″ thick mdf flat-stock.

But ultimately, I simply love the moldings in historic homes, and so have stared at them long enough that it helps me improvise when I create my molding patterns.

All of my moldings designs have to pass this test:

Does that look like it came out of a historic home?

If the answer is no, then I make an adjustment or start over.  I don’t always nail it — there are many patterns that I would never show you because I ultimately failed at what I was going for — but it is my ultimate goal.

how to install front door moldings with frieze

This design was inspired by an historic home in the charming town of Romeo, Michigan, where I used to live.

Above  This is a hooded entablature, meaning it has a soffit that projects above the frieze.  Look closely at the frieze.  Notice the molding has a convex profile?  That is called a pulvinate molding.  The center panel is painted in cameo, and the whole entablature rests on an eared architrave.

Victorian style overdoor with plain frieze

A simple Victorian entablature I installed in a new ranch house.

Victorian Friezes

A common trait of Victorian era entablatures (and other moldings in this period) is their height.  They tend to be taller than their Greek Revival or Neoclassical cousins.

Think of them as being stretched too tall.  The frieze on the Victorian style door surround I built in the picture below could have been another inch taller than this.

But I had a specific ornate applique in mind for it and so kept the frieze height lower to accommodate the rectangular rosette I eventually installed.

Victorian farmhouse overdoor with frieze

DOOR TRIM-114 is Victorian in style and very easy to make.

Below  I built this frieze with these appliques in mind, and so they had a part to play in determining the frieze height.

But don’t let the appliques completely rule, find a design that looks balanced.  Again, that’s where referring back to historic moldings helps so much.

archway moldings with ornate frieze

Since this archway was so large it could accommodate a much larger frieze.

how to install archway moldings with entablature

A corbel entablature with ornate frieze. This was a good solution given the limitations the staircase imposed.

Well there you have it Jay.  I hope this post will help you come up with a frieze height that you’re happy with.

When you’re all finished, how ’bout sending us a pic of what you came up with and we’ll add it to this post?

Good luck Jay!


The Masters and the Moldings

traditional moldings

Hi Ken,

I am both a golf fan and a molding fan. And since it is Masters weekend, I thought I’d send you this shot of the inside of Augusta National Clubhouse. Amazing moldings and a terrific group of players.

I am also finishing a closet makeover and so will be sending some pictures and the included story very soon. Just need to put on the last finishing touches.

Thanks for a great site.

Andrew LeRoy


Thanks for the great and timely picture, Andrew. I look forward to seeing your closet makover!



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