At Dunn Lumber, the category of interior finishes was primarily confined to moulding (also referred to as "molding") for many years. We used to buy the majority of our wood moulding by the railcar (yes, railcar), from a supplier in California. The railcar would arrive packed to the ceiling. Then, the smallest guy on the crew got to crawl on his stomach up into the boxcar and start sliding bundles one at a time down to a person on the ground, until he could create enough room to do the task in a more upright position. Wow, how things have changed.

In this post from our longtime vendor partner Metrie™ (formerly Moulding and Millwork), you’ll learn recommended cutting and sanding techniques you can put to use on your project.

Basic Tools for Working with Trim

  • Brad nailer

  • C-clamp

  • Combination square

  • Compound miter saw

  • Fine-tooth saw, with miter box

  • Glue

  • Goggles

  • Hammer

  • Level

  • Nail set

  • Tape measure

TIP: Using a compound miter saw and a compressed air brad nailer will not only make all stages of installing decorative moulding easier, but it will also speed up the process considerably.

NOTE: Always wear eye, ear, and respiratory protection when doing any home improvement project.

How to Sand Moulding

Use a fine-grit sanding sponge, or at least a 220-grit sandpaper on a sanding block. Always sand moulding with the direction of the wood grain. Coarser grits of sandpaper, or going across or against the grain will tend to leave fine gouges that may be visible through subsequent coats of paint. A very light pass over the nail area will suffice. Natural finish moulding (such as unfinished finger-joint pine) will require priming before installation. A high-quality primer is recommended, as is touch sanding with fine-grit (220 or higher) sandpaper between each coat. This light sanding will ensure a better bond between the coats, and also give a smoother final finish.

How to Miter Cut Moulding

Most moulding miter joints are at a 90˚ angle, and therefore consist of two pieces of moulding cut at opposing 45˚ angles. When fitted together, they should form a tight, right angle. For tight miter joints, nail and glue at the joints. 

Terminology: "Return"

A return describes the profile of moulding when it is carried from the front of the profile to the wall, giving the ends an appealing and finished look. This is commonly done on door and window headers, chair rails, mantels, and handrails. To do a return, measure the overall width of the header. Cut both outside edges at 45˚ angles back toward the header. Then cut your return pieces at opposite 45˚, and trim them to the correct thickness to return to the wall.