Shoe Molding vs. Quarter Round: Which Is Better To Fill Gaps?

shoe molding vs quarter round

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 the 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 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 is, 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 Victorian 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 the “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, the 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 the quarter round.

Though they may appear to look the same, you’ll notice that the height of shoe molding is greater when viewed from the side. 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. You don’t have to be concerned 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 a successful installation.

  • Start with the proper tools. You’ll need a miter saw to cut the quarter round and shoe molding accurately. To create inside corners, you can use a coping saw. You’ll also need a finish nailer to install the molding physically.
  • 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 the rest of your trim.
  • Measure and cut your molding pieces to size. Refer to our essential guide on how to cut the 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 centerline. 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 You Match The Quarter Round To The Floor Color?

There is no real answer to whether or not you should match the quarter round or molding to your floor color. This all really depends on your preference. Most people do match the colors; however, some decide to add a little character to their home by coordinating their molding or quarter round to the color of their floor.

For instance, instead of brown and brown, some people will do a brown floor with cream-colored molding. Or, they’ll switch it up to something that matches well. If this is something that you want to do, but you’re unsure of what colors go together, you can always hire an interior designer. The interior designer will take the time to help you choose the best colors for your home.

Related Questions

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. It also helps prevent any rodents or pests from entering your home as well.

Not to mention, the finishing trim helps keep your home warm or cool, depending on the season, as it provides insulation and keeps the cool air or hot air out.

Should I use quarter round or shoe molding?

The finishing trim comes in different forms—the two different forms of quarter round and shoe molding. Shoe molding is more narrow and taller than the quarter round and preferred by carpenters. It looks a lot sleeker and smoother than quarter round. However, the quarter round can be used for the bottom of the baseboard. But, it’s completely up to you what you want to use for your space.

What nail gun do I need for the quarter round?

If you’re only using the nail gun for quarter round or lighter molding jobs, then an 18 gauge nailer is perfectly fine. However, if you’re doing something more heavy-duty, then you’ll need something stronger and more adjustable.

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.”

Jessica Stone

Jessica considers herself a home improvement and design enthusiast. She grew up surrounded by constant home improvement projects and owes most of what she knows to helping her dad renovate her childhood home. Being a Los Angeles resident, Jessica spends a lot of her time looking for her next DIY project and sharing her love for home design.

Recently Published