Matching moldings

Avoid a molding disaster by making sure you’re really buying the exact same moldings.

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

The problem: Exactly the Same Only Completely Different

You hand-pick a batch of moldings that you think are all exactly alike, but when you try to splice two pieces together, like when splicing two pieces of crown molding together or when matching two pieces of door trim, you discover that they do not match — that one is just slightly wider or thicker than the other — and so you can’t use them.

Batch Differences: It’s Not You, It’s the Molding

Stores have multiple suppliers for the same molding profile, and they do not all match perfectly.  In fact, two batches of moldings from the same manufacturer can be just different enough from each other to cause you headaches while installing.

Way Up High: How I Learned the Lesson

I learned this the hard way when splicing two pieces of an MDF cove crown molding together at the top of a tall staircase.  In the most difficult part of the project I discovered that two the pieces did not match at all — even through they looked identical, and came from the same batch of moldings I bought at Lowes.

The offset was unacceptable, so I had to remove all of the crown I had already installed, go find enough moldings from the same batch that actually matched each other exactly, and then start the installation all over again.

Step By Step What to Look For in MDF Moldings

  1. Color and Finish: Is the color and texture of the primer the same on all pieces in the stack?  If so, proceed to step two.
  2. It’s a Groove Thing: Flip the molding over and look at the groove pattern on the back that helps make the molding flex.  Different manufacturers usually have different groove patterns.  Select moldings that all have the same groove pattern.
  3. Overspray Patterns: With the molding flipped over, check that the primer overspray patterns are exactly the same on all your moldings.  This can help you choose moldings that even though made by the same manufacturer, were made on different machines by the same manufacturer, which can be different enough to cause you problems on installation day.

Worst Offenders: Where to Be On Guard When Buying Moldings

  1. Home Depot: Buying moldings from the big orange box is like playing Russian Roulette — you just never know what any given store is going to have in stock one day to the next.  The differences between moldings in a stack are usually so gross that you can easily spot compatibility problems.
  2. Lowes: Has the most consistent molding  inventory of the big box stores.  However, the differences between batches of the same molding may be so slight that you can be lulled into a false sense of security that all of the moldings in the stack are the same.
  3. Your Local Lumber Yard: Local lumber yards or specialty molding retailers usually have very consistent suppliers, and I’ve found them to have the most consistently matched moldings, one batch to the next.

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