When hardwood flooring is refinished or installed, the baseboard molding is also typically replaced. A small piece of molding is used to finish off the baseboard installation and close the gap between the floor and baseboard itself.
In general, there are two types of molding that can be used to fill this gap; shoe molding and quarter round molding. Although they appear to be almost identical and can be interchangeable in some cases, they are not exactly the same thing.
Usually when deciding on whether to use quarter round or shoe molding it comes down to personal preference. However, we’ll help you understand exactly what each of these moldings are, what makes them different and what they can be used for.
What is Shoe Molding?
Sometimes referred to as “base shoe,” shoe molding is often paired and stained to match your trim. It is essentially a small, thin piece of molding that can help finish off your room. Shoe molding also offers the potential for a decorative touch while also covering any gaps between your flooring and the bottom of the baseboard.
The concept of pairing shoe molding with baseboards started in the United States and Europe during the late 1800s. Specifically, during the Victoria era is when this type of molding became easily accessible because it was mass-produced.
The molding gets its name because of its location at “shoe level.” Shoe molding really caught on with homeowners because of its attractive appearance and the ability to seal out dirt and rodents.
What is Quarter Round?
Quarter round molding is exactly as the name describes. It is equal to one quarter of a round dowel rod. This molding features a 90-degree angle on the back end and a quarter radius on its visible side.
Available in various sizes, quarter round is versatile and can be used in a variety of situations. It’s most often used and works great in corners and to help soften 90-degree joints that exist between your trim and moldings.
What Makes Quarter Round and Shoe Molding Different?
Although these two types of finishing trim are almost identical, shoe molding does not have the same perfect quarter radius that comes with the construction of quarter round. Instead, the profile of shoe molding is more squat.
The use of shoe molding gives the installer more leeway in their end cuts. Both options provide the opportunity for hiding any floors that are un-level. Their flexibility can wind and mold with the floor to conceal any of these imperfections. However, it’s important to understand that not all baseboards are compatible with shoe molding. This is the only caveat because in order to accept the shoe molding, the bottom of the baseboard must be flat.
While quarter round can also be used along the baseboard to fill gaps, homeowners and carpenters often prefer to use shoe molding. The sleeker, taller and narrower look of shoe molding is more desirable than the curved nature of quarter round.
Though they may appear to look the same, when viewed from the side, you’ll notice that the height of shoe molding is greater. This allows it to protrude less from the wall than its counterpart. The reduced outcrop of shoe molding offers more flooring space, giving the trim a more polished look since the molding appears to hug the baseboard.
Shoe Moldings and Quarter Round
Both quarter round and shoe moldings are flexible, lengthy pieces of wood that can come in oak, pine, hemlock, MDF and polystyrene (in some cases). They also have the same origin as round dowels that are then cut and refined into their individual shapes.
You can find both of these trim materials at your local home improvement store stacked vertically and in very long lengths. The reason for such long length pieces is to have the ability to cover most walls without having to join shorter pieces together.
Quarter round and shoe moldings are very flexible and intended to conform and bend based on the flooring profile. Also, you don’t have to concern yourself with finding perfectly straight pieces as they can be easily bent into place during your install.
Installing Shoe Molding and Quarter Round
Installing both shoe molding and quarter round at the edge of your baseboards is a fairly straightforward project. Follow these steps and tips in order to achieve successful installation.
- Start with the proper tools. You’ll need a miter saw to accurately cut the quarter round and shoe molding. To create inside corners, you can use a coping saw. You’ll also need a finish nailer to physically install the molding.
- If necessary, paint or varnish the molding to match the rest of your trim. In order to help the finish trim look finished and professional before install you want it to blend nicely with rest of your trim.
- Measure and cut your molding pieces to size. Refer to our essential guide on how to cut quarter round molding with a miter saw.
- Begin in a corner and move in one direction around the room. This will make cutting the coping joints that you need for inside corners a much simpler process.
- With all your molding cut and ready, you can start nailing the pieces to the baseboard. Shoe molding and quarter round are small and can be easily damaged. Make sure you’re using a pinner or finish nailer in place of a hammer and nails.
- To prevent cracking, nail at the molding’s center line. How far apart you place your nails will depend on how secure you want it to be. As a general rule of thumb, place them every 1 to 2 feet.
- Be sure that the nails are going straight into the baseboard. You don’t want the nails going into the gap or floorboards.
- Consider counter-setting the nails. If you have a nail setter, this will help give the nails a more finished look. Placing the nail setter against the nails, you can then tap it into place with your hand to counter-sink.
- Create returns at walls or door jams. Whether you choose to create a mitered return, bull-nose return or a wraparound return, you should have a plan for where the molding ends at doors and some corners.
Should the Quarter Round/Shoe Molding Match the Trim or Floor Color?
Although this comes down to a matter of preference, shoe or quarter round molding will typically match the trim color. However, decisions like this are all up to the homeowner.
Do I Really Need a Finishing Trim?
Yes, you should install either quarter round or shoe molding in order to avoid any gap between your flooring and the trim itself. This is not only unappealing but makes it easy for debris and dirt to become trapped under the baseboard.
Wrapping It Up
When it comes to using quarter round or shoe molding as your finishing trim, it’s all a matter of preference. They are almost identical materials with just a few very slight differences when examined further.
Both offer the flexibility and versatility to mold against most flooring profiles. Also, quarter round and shoe molding will close any gaps between your baseboards and floor. However, if you’re looking for a more polished, thinner look consider going with shoe molding. Quarter round is a great finishing trim but is known to be a bit bulky.
Regardless, both will have very similar installation methods and can easily be done by most DIYers and new homeowners. For more molding tips check out, “How To Install Crown Molding On Cabinets That Go To The Ceiling.”