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How to Install Molding and Trim

For a professional, finished look to your floor, you’ll need to consider molding, trims, and transitional pieces. And you’ll also need to know how install molding and trim, so we’ve put together this guide to assist you.

The purpose of molding is to cover edges, camouflage expansion spaces, and bridge surfaces where wood ends and other types of flooring begin, like tile or carpet. Engineered flooring often comes with matching trim, but for solid wood flooring, you’ll need to shop for these pieces. The last finishing step after the floor is completely installed is the trim. In order to avoid frustrating last-minute issues, plan for trim and molding in advance as part of the overall installation.

What Type of Trim Do I Need?

To determine what kind of trim you’ll need, consider the edges of the room and anything that meets the floor, for example installed cabinets, fireplaces, stairways, doorways, and transitions between floorings. Here is how different types of trim are used:

  • Wood to tile or wood to wood: Usually, this calls for a T-molding, so named because it has a rounded top T shape. The top of the molding is slightly rounded and the stem on the bottom fits between the ends of two types of flooring roughly equal in height.
  • Uneven levels: A reducer eliminates a raised edge if one floor surface is noticeably higher of lower than the other. Reducers can be one-sided, flush, bi-level or overlapping. Each type of reducer trim does the same thing, eases the transition between floors of different levels.
  • Threshold: Threshold trim bridges the gap between the floor and a sliding glass door. This leaves an expansion gap in place, and can also connect wood floors to carpet. End cap or square nose molding may also be used for this purpose.
  • Stairs: If your floor will end under the floating edge of stairs and require expansion room, you’ll need overlap stair nosing or bull nose trim. For stairs that end flush, use flush or square edge stair nosing.
  • Baseboards: around the walls, trim will be necessary to cover the gaps left by expansion space. You can use decorative or plain baseboards, with quarter round or shoe edge molding at the bottom to conceal additional gaps.

Ways to Install Molding and Trim

  • Baseboards and other trim may be attached to the wall every 16 inches on the studs using staples or finishing nails.
  • Transitional T-moldings are usually glued in place to the subfloor. Reducer trims have a tongue and groove edge that attach to the last floorboard and overlap the edge of the next surface.Baseboards and other trim may be attached to the wall every 16 inches on the studs using staples or finishing nails.
  • Overlap reducers and threshold transitional trims are commonly used with floating floors and with transitions to carpet. They overlap both edges and may be nailed or glued down.

General Tips for Installation

  • Unless you plan to paint trim to match the walls, select trim that is as close in grain pattern and color to your flooring as possible, and select wood strips that match the trim with little variation to go around the perimeter of the walls.
  • Like the flooring planks, moldings should be acclimated for 72 hours.
  • Pre-drilling is highly recommended to avoid splitting and splintering when fastening with nails or staples.
  • Start with the longest unbroken wall, usually the outside wall.
  • When installing shoe edge or quarter round moldings, do not drive in nails or staples at a downward angle. It may interfere with the floor expansion area.
  • Splice trim using miter cuts. For an unbroken look, the direction of the miter should be oriented with the long point away from the room’s main entryway, the same direction of your vision as you enter the room.

Special Circumstances


It’s tempting to continue flooring through a doorway, but using a transition (T-molding) is usually a better option. Creating an exact fit is difficult, and using a molding allows a little extra expansion easement. If the flooring is floated, you must use a transition molding if the doorways is less than 6 feet wide.

Pipes, Vents, Cabinets and Other Fixed Objects

A general rule of thumb is to leave a 3/8” expansion gap around any fixed object and use moldings, pipe rings, or vent covers to conceal the gaps.

Raised Hearths

Transitions around fireplaces are often awkward. The most natural looking way to handle a raised hearth is to trim out an area around the hearth itself using an undercut saw with a diamond-tipped blade. Two cuts are required and this needs to be prepared before installing the floor. The first cut goes at the vertical height level of the floor and the second flush with the subfloor. Chisel the area between the two cuts for the flooring to slide between.

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(12) Comments

  1. What kind of transition piece should be used when laminate flooring meets bottom of carpeted stairs?

  2. I’m reprinting my home (inside, a room at a time) and having new carpet installed and I want to replace and install new base boards. Where do I start? Do I first remove old base boards, then paint? Do I have carpet installed before or after I do new base boards? This is a DIY project for myself since my husband is a disabled vet. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

  3. Can I have laminate flooring installed if my sub floor is same height as my sliding glass door frame?

  4. I want to install laminate flooring but my sliding glass door is level with my sub floor. Is this a problem or will it still work

  5. Sherry Ann Johnson Parsons

    I bought a house in Missouri and when getting quotes for laminating the house except for kitchen and bathrooms I was told they don’t laminate stairs in the North. That’s only done I’m the South. But he could do it for a cost of $2000.00. The rest of the house 3 bedroom,hallway,entrance, and living room would be $5000.00.
    I want to know can stairs be laminated and are there stair kits so you don’t have to make so many cuts of the laminate. Also please tell Mr everything I need to do the stairs from padding to trim.
    I’ve seen pictures of stairs laminated even in your website.
    Thank you.

  6. I have basebord heat along one wall do I start on that wall or the opposite wall and how do I leave a spacer against the wall if I can’t reach it?

  7. Question,
    I’m a 27 year veteran high end custom cabinet maker who was the Manager of several shops, VP of a shop for 5 years before opening and being a working CEO, who built and installed thousands of cabinets in hundreds of high end homes up to about 12,000sq. ft. in the California bay area. I owned my shop for 11 years, and also owned a solid surface and Custom Granite shop ( I’ve been schooled , built and installed solid surface for 25 years, every type)
    Unfortunately I ended up wearing my body out and suffered from extensive major injuries, I had to have major surgeries on shoulders, knees, hands, etc. I have had to stop this trade per surgeons orders.
    Whenever the hardwood floor guys would install around a sliding glass door, they always ran the floor to the door so it did not stick up so high prone to breakage at threshold, and they would either make or ask me to make a piece of 3/4″ quarter round, as tall as or 1/16″ taller than the wood,aluminum or vynel threshold inside the home to carry the weight of people stepping on it while passing through the door, Especially when it was a step down, to prevent breakage of the thin inside piece at threshold of door. Even in remodels, if the door sat on the existing floor, They would usually do the same.
    I’ve owned my home for 16 years, and did the same… Never and issue. The economy and my injuries have lead me to have to reinvent my career and rent for a while. I moved into a place and the slider had what I thought was a hairline crack on that vynel piece and later broke again, I found out it had broke before, by the glue residue. This home is very old and the door was shimmed up about 1/4″ above the floor, and then the vynel stuck up about 1.5-2″, with large gap under it, to the old flooring. The piece eventualy broke again, and of course would not glue back in as clean as the existing break.
    When we moved out I was going to make a piece of trim for the threshold that would hide the break and stick up a hair above the vynel, with bullnose on top, to carry the weight and hide the break, and fix for good. The landlord told me after 3 years of being excellent tenants that we were screwing him by moving ouut at the beggining of november because no one likes to rent at that time of year, however our lease was up, and we had outgrown the home, so it seems in retaliation, he would not do a premove outwalk through, and would not sign anything on final walkthrough only telling us, everything was fine and would return our deposite, he continued to refuse to give me a list or let me in to do anything and would not let me back in the home to do this. He is now saying WE broke the old vynel slider, and has had a quote for a milguard (which I am sure the other door was a cheaper home depot door) and is trying to charge me $1,750.00 for a new door as well as a ton of other trumped up false charges. So he can get money to upgrade his 1950’s home, to charge more rent, as rents have dropped a lot.
    Can you please tell me if what I have always seen done is common, and what I have done for years for others many times is an appropriate way to deal with this issue. As not only does it look terrible untrimmed with black insulation sticking out under door at floor gap. But has no trims at all…
    Isn’t it best to trim floor back to door when installing a door on old flooring if you can? Then trim appropriatly stepping out and down onto a covered porch area. As the step down almost forces you to step on the threshold everytime.
    I really need some feedback on this as I cannot afford to pay for him to upgrade his home, due to a shoddy install on an old door, and as you know that thin piece grows fragile with time as it is.
    Is my experiance correct? and is the solution a sound way to protect that high of a threashold?
    As I have never been called back on any piece we ever installed, for breakage, and have never heard of the floor guys having problems when installing in this manner…
    Thanks very much for your time.
    Todd Evans
    Custom Woodworker, and Master Woodturner

    • H Brian,

      If installing solid hardwood, it must be over 3/4″ plywood. You will nail the flooring on the tongue and groove. This will not make the nails visible. Distance between the nails depends on the width of the boards. If up to 3 1/4″ width then you should have a 12″ distance. If over 3 1/4″ width then distance should be 8″-10.”

      As for the trims, generally speaking the easiest way to install without nails showing is to simply glue it down (use liquid glue). You can also try face nailing it (if the nails are thin) but in my opinion you would be better off gluing the trims.


  8. What would be a viable alternative to using bamboo nosing on stairs? I’m concerned about scratches.

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