How to Use Trim and Molding to Freshen Up Your Home

Someone measuring wood for wall trim.
  • 2-3 hours
  • Beginner
  • 50-150
What You'll Need
Brad gun
Nails or liquid nails
Measuring tape
Miter saw
Trim and molding

In the world of home building and improvement, installing trim completes the checklist of any room. But trim does more than just finish off a space. It allows you to create unique architectural interest and bring all the components of a room together to culminate in your desired aesthetic. With some planning, a few basic tools, and some time, you can use different types of trim to update the look of any space. Here are some things you should know before installation.


Crown molding on a ceiling.

As a general category, trim is also commonly known as molding. There are different types, so they can be further identified by more specific names. For example, crown molding is the trim installed at the top of walls, pillars, and cabinets. Casing is typically used for framing windows and doors. Chair molding is the type found in the middle of the wall, sometimes in conjunction with wainscoting or other wall design. Then there is base molding for the bottom of the wall. When incorporating trim into your design, consider which of these different types could contribute to the overall look.

Types of Material

Once you’ve decided which trim you want to replace or add to the room, you’ll have to decide which materials to use. Moldings come in a variety of styles. MDF (multi-density fiberboard) is available in raw form or primed and ready to paint. This versatile product allows you to decide what color you want your trim to be and comes in a variety of patterns. You can also install real wood products that range in color, design, and finishes. Deciding which type of trim to install is a matter of personal preference as well as a financial decision. MDF is much more affordable than most other options. However, real wood is generally more durable and appealing to potential home buyers.

How to Measure

Someone using a measuring tape underneath a window.

In the planning stages, measure each wall in your space. Be sure that you are measuring from corner to corner. Boards come in a variety of lengths so you can buy appropriate selections to best fit your space. For big projects, consider purchasing a contractor's package, which is a larger quantity and better deal in price. Most home improvement stores will allow you to cut your own lengths of trim on the spot for additional savings and reduction of waste as well.

How to Install

Once you've mapped out the lengths of your boards and purchased your supplies, it's time to get started with the installation process. Keep in mind that you can paint boards before or after installation. Beginning with the longest board in the room, use your miter saw to create an open 45-degree angle on each end of the board. You will want the cut face exposed. Working your way down the wall, cut the next piece at a 45-degree angle in the opposite direction so that the cut angles fit together. For thicker and wider styles of trim, or if it's your personal preference, you can make straight cuts and have the boards meet at a 90-degree angle in the corners instead of mitering them. Never assume that a room is square, and make one cut at a time. Once the pieces have been dry-fit together, use a brad gun to nail them into place. Alternately, or just for smaller pieces, you could use Liquid Nails to mount the board to the wall.


A man painting a baseboard with white paint.

Even with all of your boards in place, your project probably still looks a little rough. The finish work is the most important and rewarding part! Start by caulking the gaps in the corners and puttying the holes left by the brad nails. Lightly sand off any nail filler and then touch up the area with your paint or stain to complete the look.

Whether you choose to add crown molding to an existing room, wainscott the walls with a chair rail, or embellish the door frame with ornate trim, adding molding to any room is a fairly inexpensive and moderately easy way to provide an entirely new look in a short period of time.