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Molding Installation Instructions

Molding Installation Instructions

Molding Installation Guide

Your Tools
A good job always begins with the proper tools. The tools described below are those that would be most likely used by the professional carpenter for the installation of architectural moldings.

The tool belt
Consistent use of a tool belt will result in a significant time savings. The tool belt is worn with the tape measure in the front. Orienting the tool belt in this manner means that the side pockets will end up in front. This means that the nails and screws that reside in the pockets will be freely accessible to your hands whenever you need them. This is particularly useful if you are standing on a ladder 20 feet in the air on one foot.

The tape measure
The tape measure should be the standard spring steel type, in a plastic or metal case, with the one inch wide blade. The width of the blade is important since the wider the blade the farther you can hold it out before it flops down like a wet noodle. The blade should be clearly marked in either metric or imperial measurements, as your project requires. You should avoid tape measures that have metric on one side and Imperial on the other since these are very hard to read. Unless you're building computer chips, you do not need a very fine scale of the beginning of the tape. The human eye is accurate enough to resolve a speck of dust on a pane of glass, learn to trust it.

The hammer
The hammer is one of the most enjoyable tools, except when applied to your thumb. The hammer can create or destroy. It can be gentle or violent. A finishing hammer should be of medium-size, have a smooth face, be well balanced, and fit nicely in your hand. A carpenter’s hammer is like a soldier's gun, keep it with you always. Handles can be made of wood, metal, or fiberglass. Buy a wood one, they are better for your elbow. The weight of the head should be 16 to 20 ounces.

The razor knife
The development of the snap off razor blade is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th-century. There are many beautiful and highly designed handles available for these wonderful blades. Personally, I like the 99 cent knives with the orange plastic handles. The great thing about these knives is that you always have something sharp. This, as a carpenter, is often convenient.

The square
A walk around a modern job site would make you wonder if squares are an endangered species. The truth is that they are readily available and rarely used." Employing this device will bring your work above the standards of many carpenters working today. The appropriate square is the kind with the handle that slides up and down the blade in an adjustable fashion. It is important that the same scale be applied to both sides of the blade. This type of square is useful in marking 90 degree angles out to about eight inches and for scribing lines by pulling a square and pencil along in an edge. A framing square is also required when working into larger pieces or when a very accurate corner is required. A framing square is basically a large L.-shaped piece of metal with marks on it.

The rasp
A rasp is essentially a file for wood. It is rough on one side and somewhat smoother on the other. The roughness is a result of many small sharp teeth protruding from the surface of the rasp. These teeth cut into the surface of the wood and, removing the top layer, and generally smoothing the surface. This action is much like that of sandpaper but much more aggressive.

The nail gun
A pneumatic finishing nail gun should be employed that shoots 18 gauge, 1 3/4 Brad nails. Nail guns come into variety of sizes and qualities. Get a good one.
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Installing Baseboards in wood-frame houses

The purpose of baseboard is to finish in the region where the wall meets the floor. It is best to select the baseboard that is proportional to the dimensions of the house. A well chosen baseboard is the base upon which the architectural finishing of the house is determined. A contemporary style of architecture would suggest cleaning, geometric lines. A more traditional house will require sweeping profiles with more lines. Using standard molding profiles, a rule of thumb would be that a house with 2 1/4 inch casing would use baseboard of either 3 1/4 inch board or 4 1/4 inches. The size of the baseboard must balance the weight of the rest of the molding. The crown serves as a balance for crown molding. A heavy crown molding would suggest a larger baseboard.

Baseboard should be purchased in the longest possible lengths. If you live in an apartment building, be sure that you can fit the molding in the elevator. Most projects use baseboard in 16 foot lengths. The idea is to minimize the number of joints when the baseboard is installed. Straight joints are the source of many imperfections on completed projects.  Baseboard is best estimated by measuring the total wall space where it is to be applied and adding 10 percent for waste.

The most efficient way to apply baseboard is to miter.  Go through each room on an entire floor and carefully measure every piece that will be required, carefully noting their length and how each end is cut. In most cases, there are only five types of cuts required for this type of molding. Forty-five degree inside mitered corners are the most common since this type is required at every inside room corner. When the baseboard lands straight into a surface, such where it lands into the casing, it is cut straight off at 90 degrees. At outside room corners the cut is a 45 degree outside miter. Much less frequently, walls are designed with 45 degree corners such as bay windows. This requires the use of 22 ½ degree cuts. Whatever the cut requires it is important that both pieces of baseboard be cut to same angle. Otherwise, it is impossible for the profile to match around a corner.

Once the measuring is completed, the cutting can proceed using a power-miter saw. Work on a table, not on the floor, with blocks on both sides of the saw to keep the work-piece level. Care must be taken to keep the pieces in order so that time will not be wasted looking for the misplaced ones. Once all of the pieces are cut they should be laid out along the walls to which they are to be fastened. Each piece should be fastened to the wall using a nail gun with 1 3/4 inch nails. As one-piece is ready to be nailed the next should be fit. Work along in the same direction until the job is complete. This process often requires trimming every fourth or fifth piece to get an exact fit.

Many carpenters prefer what are called coat corners. This is a labor-intensive way of joining inside corners and, in my opinion; it is neither economical nor required.

After the baseboard is applied to nail holes, outside corners, straight joints should be filled with a fast setting joint compound. The light-weight automotive filler works very well. Usually, two or three coats are required with standing between coats. The ruling is: if you can feel it you will be able to see it. Eighty grit sand paper should be used.  Flexible sanding sponges, available at your local paint store, are useful for sanding profiles. Medium/course blocks work the best.

Once all of the sanding is completed a fine bead of a paintable, latex caulking should be applied along the tops of the entire baseboard and at each inside corner

Your baseboards are now installed.
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Door and Windows Casing Installation

A casing is the molding that is used to trim a doorway or archway. Its design and weight must be balanced with the architecture and other moldings. A home with high ceilings and large rooms would suggest a 3 1/4 inch casing. Eight foot doors require a casing of 4" or 4 1/4 in. or larger.

Casing can be used to trim completely around each side of the doorway or they can be used in conjunction with other architectural elements such as; headers, rosettes, and plinth blocks. You must consider how ornate you would like your project to appear and how much money you are willing to spend. It should be kept in mind that the proper use of architectural moldings can dramatically improve the internal appearance of a home. A more contemporary design would generally employ casing that wraps completely around the doorway. These corners are cut at 45 degrees. A higher-end traditional home may lend itself to the use of a decorative series of molding, called headers, which dress the top of the door. In such an application casing are used only to trim along sides of the door, from the underside of the header to the floor. In some cases, an additional block is applied at the bottom of the door, known as a Plinth Block. In this application the casing stands on top of the plinth block. Rosettes are square decorative blocks that are used on the top corners of the casings and instead of the header. Rosettes can be varying in design from extremely complex floral designs to plain flat smooth blocks. The most common type of rosette is a simple series of circles inscribed into the face of the block.

The most common type of casing is called a colonial or a "356 casing". This casing is readily available, extremely inexpensive, light and easy to work with. Unfortunately, it does little towards giving your project a well finished appearance. It is better to use something with a more substantial profile on virtually any project where appearance is an issue. A wide variety of profiles are available that suit both contemporary and traditional designs.

Casings are one of the moldings that also serve a structural purpose. It aids in securing the door frame to the wall. Without this support the door would quickly wiggle free and fall out of alignment.

As you begin to install your casing you can either pre-cut all of the pieces prior to installation or you can work your way along from door-to-door.  I advocated the measure-before-you-install method for baseboards because careful measurements are taken prior to cutting. When working with casing I find it better to fit each piece individually since there can be more variables with casing than with other moldings. Casing is used to hide a large number of miter defects in framing and drywall. Walls may not be a uniform thickness, they bulge in the middle and require the casing to be inscribed into the drywall, or they may not be perfectly plumb causing the door frame to stick out from the plane of the wall. These variations are easy to deal with and considered normal. These defects and many others can be significantly moderated with the expert use of casing.

It is important to cut the long lengths that will be required first and then to move to progressively shorter pieces in such a manner that the material is used to its best economy. This is true for all moldings.

After cutting, the pieces should be placed against the wall near their desired locations and then nailed in place in one operation. A 1 ½” or longer nail should be driven along both sides of the casing. Drive one on one side into the door frame, another on the other side through the drywall and into the rough framing. The nailing should begin within about an inch of the ends of the casing. The closer the better but not so close as to risk cracking. Window casing can also be done together with door casings. Many carpenters apply an additional small nail through the top corner of the casing. This procedure is excellent if one can accomplish it without visible cracking of the casing.

Adhesive should also be used in the corners of the casing. When applying MDF casing a white glue such as that used by kindergarten children provides superior holding ability. This glue is technically called PVA, for poly vinyl products.  Yellow glue, often called Franklin, is best for natural wood.

Once the casing is installed the joints should be filled and sanded with a light-weight auto body filler or light-weight, easily sanded gypsum filler. Two or three coats is usually sufficient. Since the joints of the casing are close to eye level, it is important to take considerable care in finishing these joints.

Your casing is now installed.
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Application and Installation of MDF Moldings

  • Storage: MDF mouldings should be stored in a dry location, on blocks, off the floor. After storage, lay the Mouldings in a horizontal position for 24 hours before installation.
  • Cutting: A triple-chip carbide finishing blade produces a beautiful chip free finish. Cross cut carbide blades also produce acceptable results. Rip or steel blades are not recommended.
  • Nailing: Best results are obtained using 18 gauge pneumatic T-nails. Air pressure should be 90-110 psi. If a rim or lip of raised material is created around the nail hole (volcano effect), remove the driver from the nail gun and remove any bumps on the tip using a fine metal file. The rim is caused by bumps on the nail gun driver pulling material out of the nail hole as the driver retracts. Pre-drilling and counter sinking is recommended when using screws or hand nails.
  • Gluing: PVA adhesive (children’s’ white glue) should be used to secure joints or when laminating MDF. Yellow carpenters’ glue is not recommended.
  • Filling: White Lightning (by Bondo) or a similar light-weight sanded auto body filler is recommended for filling straight joints or casing corners. Inside corners should be caulked using any good quality, paintable latex caulking. Silicone caulking is not recommended.
  • Sanding: 80 Grit garnet paper is recommended for most sanding applications. Dynamic course/medium double-sided sanding sponges are very good for sanding profiled surfaces.
  • Top Coat: A good quality alkyd or latex finish is recommended for most architectural applications. High or semi-gloss finishes provided a more durable finish and are easy to clean.
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Polyurethane Molding Installation

Polyurethane mouldings may be installed much the same way you would install wood mouldings.

For a better fit, it is advised that a flat or “Butt Joint” is used to join longer lengths of polyurethane mouldings. Cut all pieces 1/8th of an inch longer than the required measurement, fitting the ends in place first and the middle sections last.

Always place a continuous bead of premium polyurethane adhesive along all adjoining walls and ceiling surfaces before final positioning of the Mouldings. Poly-glue is recommended when attaching one length of Mouldings to the next. A pneumatic pin nailer works well for fastening polyurethane mouldings to wall and ceiling surfaces; alternatively, trim head drywall screws or finishing nails may be used.

Corner Blocks
Corner or center blocks may be used to avoid difficult or challenging miter cuts. When using corner or adjoining center blocks, be sure to mount the blocks to the wall and ceiling prior to measuring and cutting Mouldings lengths.

Filling and Sanding
Once all of the mouldings are fixed in place, fill any joints or remaining voids with a paintable siliconized latex caulking. This same caulking may be applied sparingly along the top and bottom edges of the Mouldings where it meets the ceiling and wall. A damp cloth or silicone coving tool may be used to clear away any excess caulking to leave a clean professional look.

Any remaining nail or screw holes may be filled with sanded, paintable non-shrinking filler. Be careful not to over sand the surfaces of your polyurethane mouldings. Sanding past the protective barrier undercoating may necessitate further filling and sanding to maintain a paintable surface.

Ceiling Medallions
Place a solid bead of premium adhesive around and about the backside of the medallion. Pressing the medallion into place, it may then be secured with 4 trim head dry wall screws. Be sure to place the screws so that any holes created may be filled and sanded with minimal effort.

Wall Niches
Some surface mount wall niches may be hung temporarily using attached hardware or permanently using the same applicator procedures as for Ceiling Medallions. Other niches available come complete with their own template and installation instructions.

Custom Designed Mouldings, Millwork and Reproductions
We can help you realize your dreams. Burton Mouldings has a full design shop capable of turning your wildest ideas into unbelievable realities. Contact us if you have a designing mind and would like to take advantage of the savings and lasting quality inherent in Polyurethane Millwork.
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