For providing the rooms in your home that finished appearance, shoe molding is one of the most popular methods. For centuries, shoe molding has been used to help complete the rooms and hallways in homes and offices which create a decorative touch.
But what exactly is shoe molding? Is it the same as quarter round? And how does shoe molding compare to baseboards?
What is Shoe Molding?
Sometimes called base shoe, shoe molding is a thin strip of molding, usually made of wood, that covers the gap between the bottom of baseboards and the floor. Just as windows have trim, so too do walls have shoe molding to create a unique appearance that makes for a finished look. Admittedly, it may seem a little odd at first that a thin strip of wood completes the look of a room, but when viewed upon completion, shoe molding is quite essential in most situations.
However, shoe molding is not for all rooms. There are some types of baseboards as well as situations in which shoe molding should not be applied. But in such situations where shoe molding works, it should be present to provide that extra touch that completes the appearance of a room.
But you may be wondering if shoe molding and quarter round, which is also used to complete many rooms, are essentially the same thing?
Shoe Molding Vs Quarter Round
It should be noted that shoe molding covers two types of molding, base shoe and quarter round. To understand the differences, you should know their similarities.
Is Shoe Molding the Same as Quarter Round?
In many ways they are both the same. Both base shoe and quarter round are thin strips of wood that cover the area between the baseboard and floor. In many situations, both can be used to complete a room as they provide a similar appearance. The main use for the base shoe and quarter round is to provide an even appearance to the room by hiding any imperfections that exist between the wall and flooring.
Keep in mind that even the best of construction may still leave small gaps between the wall or baseboards and floor. This is usually a result of minor settling of the home over time. Such small shifts can create tiny, but noticeable gaps between the wall or baseboards and floor. The base shoe and quarter round both hide such gaps and create a smooth, clean appearance to the room or hallway.
However, despite their similarities, there are subtle differences between base shoe and quarter round that will help you make the best-informed decision about which one to use.
Differences between Base Shoe and Quarter Round
Quarter round is, as the name implies, a 90-degree angle that has been sliced from a dowel rod. This mean that it has a flat backside and base to attach directly to the wall and floor. While the outer portion curves downward to the floor. The quarter round comes in various sizes that can be used in different applications.
The base shoe has the same 90-degree angle on the back which is placed against the wall and floor. However, the front does not have the distinctive curve of a quarter round. Instead the appearance is square-like in nature and does not follow the same circle-like shape. This means a flatter side that faces the outside compared to the quarter round.
The difference may seem subtle at first, but it is highly noticeable when compared to the quarter round. For the most part, the base shoe is preferable because it does not stick out as much into the floor compared to the quarter round. Also, the base shoe is easier to attach because it is thinner compared to the quarter round.
However, there are some cases in which the quarter round will have a more pleasing appearance. It is up to you and your taste in what you want for your rooms. No doubt the quarter round is more noticeable, so you may want to use that when deciding on the shoe molding.
But is shoe molding necessary when you have baseboards? The answer is generally yes under most circumstances.
Baseboard Vs Shoe Molding
Although they may seem quite similar, there is a functional difference between baseboards and shoe molding. The primary difference is that baseboards are designed to protect the walls from damage that may occur from shoes or other items that hit that wall which is near the floor. Because baseboards are easy to remove and attach, a damaged one can be easily replaced.
Shoe molding also provides a small degree of protection, but its main function is an aesthetic one. The wood is not designed to take the impact of shoes or other items. If the impact is great enough, the shoe molding may come off the wall or even split. However, in such cases the shoe molding can be easily replaced if you have the right tools.
Base Shoe Installation
The first step in the installation process is the type of material you want to use for your shoe molding. There are three basic types that can be used depending on your needs.
This is the most common type and it is rather inexpensive. You can choose from different types of wood that range from oak to walnut to ash. Hardwoods are rather commonly used because of their durability. Plus, the relatively thinness of the wood makes hardwoods a better choice. Another advantage is that the wood can be painted or stained depending on your needs.
Known as Medium Density Fiberboard, this is shoe molding created from sawdust and resin. MDF has the advantage of being more flexible compared to wood. If you have several uneven gaps that wood shoe molding would be challenged to cover, then MDF is the answer. However, MDF cannot be stained like wood and many not have as desired an appearance if you are looking for natural wood. But it can be painted, so that may be the superior choice as the price is roughly the same.
3. Vinyl/Polymer Shoe Molding
About the only advantage of this material is that it is less expensive than either wood or MDF. It can also be painted, but not stained as it is not wood. The downside is that polystyrene is not very durable and tends to dent even on light impacts.
PVC Shoe Base
Polyvinyl chloride or PVC is another popular shoe molding material. It is lightweight, less expensive and easy to work with.
Once you have selected the material, you will need the right tools and supplies to install the shoe molding correctly. You will need the following.
Before you start, if you are going to stain the shoe molding, now is the time to do so. You will want to sand the molding first and the stain as per directions. Once the shoe molding is dry, it will be ready for cutting and installing.
The miter saw will be the shoe molding cutter to get the right sizes, especially when fitting corners. To create the inside corners for the shoe molding, the coping saw is the perfect choice. Finally, a finish nailer or pinner is preferred over a standard hammer and nails because of the delicacy of the shoe molding. Hammering too hard or using nails too large may damage or split the shoe molding. A finish nailer is a much better choice.
Start at the Corners
The best place to start is with the corners and getting them set, so you can then easily add more shoe molding to the flat sides of the wall in-between. Cut the coping joints to create the inside corners. A coping joint is better than a mitered joint because it does not have the gaps that are typical with mitered joined.
Create a coping joint by cutting one piece of shoe molding at a 90-degree angle and then installing it so it presses against the corner. Now, cut the next piece at a 45-degree angle. Then, using the coping saw to cut away the wood that is behind the edge of what you have cut. This will allow the new piece to fit over the fitted one without creating a gap. It’s a little complicated at first, so practice on some spare shoe molding first to get the hang of it.
Add the finish nails about every foot or 12” along the flat surface of the wall. The finish nails will need to be closely spaced for corners, but you can avoid using more than a single nail per piece of finish molding by adding a little carpenter glue to the ends. This will hold the piece in place until you can add the finish nail.
Once you have finished, everything should look straight and clean. Fill in the nail holes with a little putty and some touch-up paint if you decided to use paint instead of stain.
And you have now completed installation of the shoe molding. You can keep any extra shoe molding around to replaced damaged pieces. Just remember to paint or stain it first at the same time that you did the rest so it will match.