When you’re new to the renovation game, there’s a need to build a working vocabulary. When you get to the finishing stage, the point where your structural elements are done, trim and moulding are one of the final steps, part structural and part decorative, like backsplash tile, for example. There’s definitely a point of aesthetic, but these are permanent parts of your home, at least until the next renovation.

But… are trims and moulding two different things? It’s easy to think of the terms as synonymous, and you’d better be ready for conversations where the words are interchanged. Technically, moulding is a type of trim, usually with elaborate detail and featuring more prominently in the visual scope of a room.

It’s perhaps easiest to distinguish what makes a trim count as moulding when you compare baseboards with crown moulding. Each features on a similar room boundary, however you’d probably never mix the two up. Baseboards lean toward simple design elements along a linear profile, while crown moulding can be complex and ornate. Baseboards are trim, crown moulding is trim moulding. Don’t worry, you won’t be busted by the home centre police if you refer to your crown moulding as “trim.” They’ll understand. We’ll use “trim” for brevity going forward in this article.


You can find trims available in a range of materials, including PVC, polyurethane, foam, and rubber, but the most common types for DIY projects are made from wood or wood products. Common home centre options include:

  • Bare wood trim, usually pine and oak
  • Primed pine, often with plenty of finger joints along its length, meant to be hidden by paint
  • Primed MDF (medium density fiberboard), a wood-based composite that’s easy to work with
  • PVC, a plastic trim that resists moisture, chips, cracks, and warping
  • Polyurethane, another plastic trim that offers similar benefits to PVC

Your choice of material may be influenced by application or by budget. If you’re after a high-end natural wood look, for example, oak trim is perhaps the go-to option, while cool and damp conditions in a finished basement may be better suited to PVC trim.

Let’s look at the types of trim commonly used in homes so you’ll know your options at the planning phase.


If you have only one trim element in a room, chances are good it will be baseboards. Running along the boundary between floor and wall, the primary function of baseboards is as a transition between the two surfaces. Visually, baseboards cover the bottoms of any wall treatment or the edges of flooring. As well as just masking potential rough edges, baseboards provide visual continuity.

Baseboards are usually installed after flooring, though sometimes it can be mounted above the subfloor before wall-to-wall carpeting installation. For the best continuity, baseboards are mitered on outside corners and coped on inside corners. It’s a good idea for any mitered or coped trim to add 10% to your measured length to account for stock lost to angled cuts.

Door and window casings

Like moulding, casings are a subset of trim used around room openings. Doors and windows are the most common uses, because casings give a finished look to the frames necessary to install these elements. There’s usually shimming to plumb and level both doors and windows for smooth operation, so the casing covers the rough work done to true the fixture.

Casings typically install on the top and both sides of doors and windows. Doors don’t usually need trim along the bottom and windows often use other elements along the bottom, typically the stool, the piece that extends out from the base of the window, and the apron, the trim components that dress the space below the stool.

Crown moulding

Ceilings aren’t always trimmed, but crown moulding adds formal elegance when added to the boundary between wall and ceiling. High rooms can handle ornate and elaborate crowns, while standard height rooms may require simple profiles and narrow widths to avoid overwhelming the transition.

Wall trim

Any trim mounted somewhere between floor and ceiling is considered wall trim. Chair rails and wainscotting are the most common types, serving as a practical way to protect walls from the damaging effects of furniture. Dining chairs, sofas, and accent chairs can each mar the paint or tear the wallpaper with everyday use. Adding a chair rail and/or wainscotting preserves vulnerable finishes and drywall.

Both of these have aesthetic value too, dividing the height of a wall into pleasing proportions. Consider a long run of bare wall, and how much more interesting it would be broken up by wall trim. Wainscotting could be simple wall frames below a chair rail, or you could choose tongue and groove or shiplap panels for a board and batten-type appearance.

Consider a specialty trim, the picture rail, as an unusual and underused wall trim. This might add a stunning focal point to a gallery wall, providing an easy surface to support seasonally rotated images.

Ceiling trim

Other trim ideas that are often at home in rooms with high ceilings and formal intentions are the tray and coffered ceilings. Tray ceilings are perhaps best described as multi-level. There are one or more “steps,” starting at the wall and climbing to the highest ceiling height. A sunken room, but in reverse.

Coffered ceilings are similar, but the trim creates structural frames throughout the ceiling. A non-formal use might be to simulate the exposed beams of timber construction, but usually you’ll find these dramatic treatments in formal living and dining spaces. Coffers also add some acoustic deadening, reducing echo in an otherwise reverberant space.

Trims, mouldings, casings, rails, or coffers, each element can add to the appearance and value of your home. Stroll or surf through the options available at your local home centre for inspiration. A trim upgrade is an easy and excellent winter project that’s as straightforward or elaborate as you want it to be.

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Source:  Realtor.ca