Custom trim molding is a unique and valuable upgrade you can choose to incorporate into your home. This article is going to explore some basic principles to get you started in selecting your very own custom trim pieces. Let’s get started by looking at types of custom trim molding, and then go on to learn about the materials available and their pricing. I’ll include some bonus tips at the end to help finalize some decisions. For more tips or help from your local Carteret County carpenter, feel free to reach out to me!


Chair rail trim wraps around the lower third of the wall. Its original purpose was to protect the walls from furniture, and while it is still functional in that way today, it is mainly decorative. Chair rail also adds an element of dimension to the walls, making them look their full size, or perhaps even bigger.

Baseboard is the trim whose function is to create a nice transition where the bottom of the wall meets the floor. A general rule of thumb with the baseboard is that it should be at least 2 inches taller than the case molding is wide.

 Case molding, also known as a door casing or window casing, is the accent trim used to frame around windows and doors. It is functional and can be as decorative or as simple as you like.

Wainscoting refers to a wood panel trim used to cover any section of the wall. A common version of this, similar to chair rail trim, is to cover the bottom third of the wall.

Crown molding, similar toa baseboard, is the trim that functions as the transition from the top of the wall to the ceiling. Crown molding can become highly ornamental if desired.


When choosing what material to use for the custom trim molding, there are generally two directions you can go.

The first is known as MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard). It is machine-made, so the pieces of trim will come in standardized shapes and sizes. It is economical, and it is relatively easy to work with. MDF bends, so this is useful for walls that are not perfectly flat. The most important thing to understand about MDF is that it is not recommended for use in high-moisture areas, like the bathroom. It also can be damaged more easily than solid wood, so it needs a bit more care than wood during installation. It can be nicked easily as well.

Solid wood is the more natural option for your home. It is a popular choice, but a bit more costly. Solid wood can come with natural imperfections. Because of this, it can be a bit of a trick to find pieces that are uniform. Wood can split during the installation process. However, solid wood is easier to install than MDF.

Bonus Tips

You can mix it up with both MDF and solid wood pieces. Use the same material consistently in each room, but feel free to vary it up from room to room. No one will be able to tell the difference!

A tray ceiling is another type of custom molding, the ceiling’s center raised about a foot higher than the perimeter of the ceiling. This can be a neat trick for hiding ductwork while making the ceiling look more ornamental.

Be extra careful when installing chair rail trim to make it exactly one-third of the ceiling height. If you install it higher than this, it can trick the eyes into thinking the walls are shorter than they actually are.

Custom trim molding can certainly raise your home’s value, but do it for the decorative, custom look. Have fun with it!