how to install moldings

A quick coat of paint can help you visualize your molding proportions before installing them.

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

Fill In the Blanks With Paint

When you want to make absolutely sure you’ve got the right molding proportion — like the height of a wainscoting or the width of wall panels — but you’re still not confident enough to start nailing moldings to the wall, then grab some paint and fill in the blanks!

I’m often asked how I come up with the exact proportions for my molding treatments, and I know readers are somewhat disappointed when I can’t point to a specific formula.

My unglamorous secret is that, combined with what I know about historic homes, I just test and test and test until I like what I see.

And that’s why I use paint to help me visualize what the final molding treatment will look like.

Below  This picture shows how I’ve sketched the parts of the molding buildup first, then filled in with some test colors.

On the left you can see that I’ve even experimented with a trim color,  a sort of ivory color that I ultimately did not like.

how to install and paint moldings

Use paint to test your molding proportions, and while you’re at it, test some paint colors too!

I’m installing wall panels in our half bathroom, a design that is totally new to me.

To help me figure out the nit-picky proportions of the vertical stiles and the baseboard height, I painted the inner panels a color that we think is close to our final paint choise, and then left the remaining wall white to mimic the proposed molding width.

how to install moldings

When you’re pretty sure about your molding proportions, then test some actual moldings like I did here.

Added Benefit

If you’re not sure what your final paint colors will be while working this phase of your molding project, then use this exercise as an opportunity to test some colors you might like.  So far we’ve been though about ten different greens for this little half bathroom!


Do not paint your walls their final finish coats before you install your moldings.  For the best possible finish on your walls and moldings, paint the moldings two coats and only then can you paint your two finish coats on the wall (See links below).

It works.  Give it a try.  Let us know how your experiments work out!

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