Throughout history elegant hardwood mouldings have embellished the finest homes and commercial buildings all over the world. Our hardwood moulding came from one of the industry's leaders, White River Hardwoods. By using such quality and beautiful moulding we are not only achieving a unique elegant look and feel throughout the house, but have added to the future value of the Project House.
History of Moulding
Mouldings originated as structural elements in ancient buildings. They would support different surfaces, bind them together or separate them. Moulding kept the wind and weather from blowing through cracks between walls, floors and ceilings in early structures. Plastering is one of the oldest crafts in the building industry, and is enjoying a resurgence in popularity because of the introduction of newer, less costly materials and techniques. Today plaster mouldings are essentially decorative elements with design roots in ancient Greek and Roman architecture, but they still cover the edges of drywall panels between walls, floors & ceilings. Hardwood mouldings also use terms, definitions, and style names originating from ancient times.
Today there are a wide variety of choices to choose from: Plastic and wood moulding, polyurethane blends, plaster and hardwood.
Polyurethane Moulding is made of rigid polyurethane foam. Liquid polymers are mixed at high speed in mixing/pouring machines. The mixture begins to expand within a few minutes into a rigid cellular mass with a thick surface skin. The mixture is poured into molds inside presses, which exert tremendous pressure to constrain the expansion of the polyurethane. That makes mouldings with high density, great strength, and a thick, smooth surface finish. Polyurethane is not polystyrene (coffee cup material) or poly vinyl chloride (PVC). It is much stronger and denser than the former and has none of the controversial chemical properties of the latter. Unlike polystyrene or PVC, polyurethane moulding readily accepts any latex or oil-based paint finish. Polyurethane products are designed for interior or exterior use. Polyurethane will not rot, crack, decay or be subject to insect damage. Polyurethane mouldings cut, nail, glue, and screw the same as wood. Polyurethane moulding is great because it can be used outdoors.
Gypsum Plaster products are for interior use only (if the plaster gets wet it could "melt").
Plaster is one of the oldest building materials known to mankind. The pyramids in Egypt consist of plaster made 4000 years ago that's still hard, intact and durable. Plaster's a mixture of a powdered natural mineral (usually gypsum - the same material in your drywall) and water. The mixture hardens as it dries, just like a cast for a broken arm. If it's poured into a mold, it will faithfully reproduce the most intricate detail. Plaster moulding is porous so it should be sealed before it's decorated or painted.
Plaster Moulding in the Project House
We'll see large pieces of plaster crown moulding pitted to look like natural stone. We'll also see plaster domes above the master bedroom and the dining room. The 5-foot domes weigh about 300 pounds. The 10-foot domes weigh about 600 to 800 pounds.
MDF Defined - Medium Density Fiberboard
It's made of sawdust and other waste gathered from the plywood manufacturing process. The mill mechanically refines wood fibers (just like you do when you chew on a toothpick, and the moistened fibers separate). Then they add resin and bond them together under heat and pressure. MDF is manufactured in layers (like pages in a thick phone book). MDF resists the problems common to natural wood, like warping, cracking and splitting.
In the late 1980s, when MDF was introduced as a component for interior moulding, it was coarser and cruder than the MDF made today. Now it's extremely smooth; it cuts and "works" just like natural wood, and it's got the same density as oak, so it's a great material for interior moulding.
MDF's Environmental Benefits
No trees are harvested to make MDF moulding. MDF is made of sawdust and other recycled wood waste reclaimed from the plywood manufacturing process.
White River Hardwoods features five styles: Smooth MDF, Embossed MDF, Smooth Wood, Embossed Wood and Overlaid.
Smooth MDF Moulding
Years ago, white pine was popular as a simple and economical moulding. MDF became a popular substitute when the price of white pine increased. Some MDF moulding can be stained, but since MDF has no grain, most people paint it.
Moulding MDF is embossed the same way they emboss picture frames. A metal engraved wheel is heated and pressed against the MDF (the wheels are 7 to 12 inches in diameter, and they vary in thickness and detail depending on the engraved pattern). This heat and pressure embosses the MDF with the pattern engraved on the wheel. Because MDF is such a dense, hard and layered material, the wheel cannot press too hard against the MDF during the embossing process or else the layers of MDF could separate. Since MDF is a manufactured product, long pieces can be embossed, whereas embossable wood has its limitations.
Smooth Wood Moulding
White River Hardwoods offers two woods, poplar and red oak. Both woods are paint- or stain-grade. That means you can paint them or stain them. Poplar's a good "look-alike" wood; it can stain to look like mahogany, walnut or cherry at a fraction of the cost of those woods. White River Hardwoods uses southern poplar.
Most people paint their moulding anyway. White River Hardwoods says 80% of the market is paint-grade and 20% is stain-grade.
Embossed Wood Moulding
Again, White River Hardwoods offers poplar and red oak. Natural wood is much more forgiving than MDF when embossing. Wood provides a greater depth, detail and variety than MDF. Most embossed moulding borrows details and patterns from Greek and Roman times to represent a classical architectural touch.
White River Hardwoods calls their overlay line "Mon Reale". Embossed moulding means wood is removed to create a design. Overlay means "wood putty" (made of wood fibers and a binding solvent) is added on top of the wood to create a design. This is the high-end moulding that White River Hardwoods offers. They've worked hard to create putty with the same density as the wood to which it is applied, so it stains very well. Because the overlay is an addition (and not something that's cut off of the wood), it allows for much deeper and more intricate detail in the moulding patterns. It has almost a plaster look but you can treat it like wood.
Curved Resin Moulding
Every White River Hardwoods pattern is available in "Ultraflex" (a brand name) curved resin. The resin has an overcoat that will accept a stain (but you'll have no grain). It's bendable as long as the pattern stays on the inside curve when you bend it. Resin and wood placed next to each other can look identical if they're painted or stained correctly.
The least expensive moulding starts at 25 cents a foot. MDF (smooth and embossed) and smooth hardwoods are comparable in price, starting at a dollar a foot. Embossed hardwoods cost twice as much. Overlaid moulding costs about three times the price of MDF. Curved resin moulding starts at about $4 a foot, twice to four times the cost of wood moulding, but you can save a lot of labor costs because you don't have to cut lots of little wood pieces to create a curved moulding. Polyurethane moulding starts at $3 a foot, comparable to embossed hard wood.
Cornice Moulding high on a wall, near or connected to the ceiling.
Crown or Cove, the moulding that "tops" something (a column, a door, etc.). Crowns bulge outward and Coves curl inward.
Base Moulding runs along the floor. Casing Runs around doors & windows.
Chair-rail, just what it sounds like. Originated as a chest-high rail of moulding meant to prevent chairs from damaging walls.
Freestanding moulding friezes, laurels, etc
Most moulding is glued, screwed or nailed in place. Nail and screw holes are filled in with a fine, sandable putty. The plaster moulding featured in our story is backed with hemp and additional wet plaster; the hemp adds strength. Then it's attached as described above. Moulding installation can be a fairly simple, do-it-yourself job with the right tools.