Alt Tag
Alt Tag

Blog

TRIM DETAILS

Trim details

Improve Moldings and Increase Referrals By :Gary Katz, Back in the mid-1980s, my brother and I were growing tired of installing 1 1/2-in. clamshell casing, and 2 1/2-in. streamline baseboard. As finish contractors, that’s all we did on every job, day after day (after we had installed the doors and windows). By then we’d nailed off miles of small trim in thousands of apartments and hundreds of single-family homes. The market was starting to soften up about that time, and one of the contractors we worked for needed an edge against other spec builders in the same subdivision. We suggested upgrading the moldings in one of his homes. Not the whole house, mind you, only the first floor. We told him we’d do it for our cost, just to prove a point. We installed 3 1/4-in. casing on all the first-floor doors—the entry, dining and living room passageways, the kitchen, and powder bath doorways. And we installed 5 1/4-in. baseboard everywhere downstairs. That house stood apart from all the others and it sold quickly. On the next job, we installed some crown molding, just in the entryway. By then, realizing that moldings meant quality to his buyers, the contractor was on board. Before long we were installing crown in the living room and dining room, in the kitchen, hallway, and even the powder bath. These days, my brother’s crews install crown molding in almost every room of every home they work in, along with coffered ceilings in the dining and living rooms, wainscoting paneling from the entry through to the kitchen, elliptical crown in ceiling soffits, paneled archways, etc. Our homes are defined by moldings, from large casing, baseboard, and crown molding, to elaborate paneling and rich coffered ceilings. Upgrade the moldings in your homes and collect better referrals. Moldings make a home The simple truth is that moldings add warmth and character to a home; they provide a sense of comfort and ‘order’ to a home. In fact, all of the moldings that finish carpenters install owe their origin to the Classical Orders. What’s an order? An order is nothing more than a post and a beam, like a patio cover supported by a 6×6 post and a 6×12 beam; or a header and the studs that support it. The Classical Orders are nothing more than posts and beams designed a few thousand years ago by the Greeks (with some Egyptian influence), then borrowed and modified by the Romans. Baseboard comes from plinth molding on the base of a column; traditional basecap comes from the torus and scotia molding above a classical plinth. Carpenters with sharp eyes will notice that the plinth design in this example is unique to walls with wainscoting: the pattern originates on classical columns that are supported by pedestals. Wainscoting owes its origin to the tall, almost waist-high pedestal found on some columns, called a dado; casing stems from architrave molding—the first element found on the bottom of an entablature, just above the capital on a column; and crown molding comes from the cornice on a classical order (drawing). All of these moldings were used abundantly for centuries, right through the Victorian period and up into the early 1900s. Before the Second World War, a new wave of European architectural styles swept across America. Reacting against Victorian excess, architects in America, especially academic architects, adopted the new International Style, where moldings were not only discouraged but derided. Today the International Style continues to influence American architecture with sometimes magnificent results, but modernism isn’t for everyone. Though traditional homes have returned to ‘ordered’ design, one significant and lasting influence of the International Style has been the degradation of the moldings we use. As moldings were reintroduced between the 1950s and the 1970s, the ‘purism’ of the International Style, also called minimalism, resulted in the use of thin narrow casings, like 5/8-in. x 1 1/2-in. clamshell, and thin 2 1/2-in. streamline baseboard. After several decades of non-use and mis-use, many manufacturers, builders, and architects had lost the history of molding design and usage. Rather than use moldings to decorate a home and draw attention to structural form, moldings were thought of as a way to hide joints and seams. And they were designed to be as invisible as possible. That’s what minimalism was all about. These thin narrow profiles were made to blend in with the wall, rather than emphasize the doorways and windows, floors and ceilings they surrounded. Fortunately for finish carpenters and molding suppliers, in the last few decades moldings have experienced a re-birth. Now architects, builders, carpenters, and homeowners have a lot to re-learn. What makes one molding more dramatic than another? What combinations of moldings work and what combinations don’t? Moldings can be milled successfully if the edges are cut sharp, so the light breaks cleanly and crispy at each edge and at every point where a curved profile terminates. Crisp sharp edges create crisp sharp shadow lines. The relationship between shadow and light is what defines an attractive molding profile, one that that can be seen and enjoyed from up close or from a great distance.