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By Crystal Hosking, Hosking Hardwood Flooring

Figuring out which molding or transition piece will be needed to complete a room has a tendency to be a bit confusing for homeowners looking to install new solid or engineered hardwood flooring in their homes. The following resource is meant as a guide, hopefully making it a little easier to understand which moldings are beneficial for specific situations.

General Molding & Trim Information

Keep in mind that real wood moldings can differ slightly from laminate or vinyl moldings. Additionally, one manufacturer may have a slight variation in their version of a molding from the next manufacturer. Moldings and transition pieces offered by flooring manufacturers are often designed to match the color of a specific floor that they offer. It's important to understand that moldings may not match floors exactly, because wood is a natural product and one piece can take a stain a little differently than another. Typically molding lengths are 78 IN., but this can differ from brand to brand in the flooring industry.

The following descriptions offer a general guideline for some of the most popular molding and transition types. Dimensions and profiles may differ slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer and the general descriptions below are meant only for general guidance.

Quarter Round

One of the most popular types of molding is called a Quarter Round. Quarter Rounds are typically 3/4 IN. by 3/4 IN. and are used to cover the necessary expansion gap between a hard surface floor and a wall. Along the same line as Quarter Rounds, some manufacturers offer a molding called a Shoe Base. Shoe Bases are typically a little thinner or a little shorter, but work in the same manner as a Quarter Round. While most manufacturers offer Quarter Round to match (as closely as possible) the color of their specific floor, it's common to see Quarter Rounds painted or stained the same color as the rest of the trim in the room (door casings, window sills).

Installation of Quarter Round is very simple and is something anyone can do. Simply nail the Quarter Round (or Shoe Base) into the baseboard or the wall using 6 penny finish nails approximately every 10 IN. When preparing a room for a new installation, it is necessary to remove existing Quarter Round prior to installing the new flooring. Quarter Round can be used alone, or it can be used in conjunction with a Wall Base (baseboard).

Wall Base

Another popular molding used to cover expansion gaps is a Wall Base. Wall Base heights differ from manufacturer to manufacturer but typically can range anywhere from 2 IN. high to 5 IN. high. Wall Bases can be plain and generic or very decorative and, like the Quarter Round, homeowners usually prefer these moldings to be painted or stained the same color as the rest of the trim in the room.

Wall Bases are installed using 8 penny finish nails, nailing approximately every 16 IN. and can be used with a Quarter Round or without.


T-Moldings are aptly named, as the profile resembles a capital T. A T-Molding is used in situations where you're transitioning from one hard surface to a second hard surface. The top part of the T-Molding overlaps both hard surfaces. It's incredibly important that these two hard surfaces are the same height, as, if one side doesn't have the appropriate support, that side of the molding will start to crack once it's being stepped on continuously. The same reasoning goes for why the T-Molding can not be used to transition to carpet, there's just not enough support on the carpeted end.

If hardwood flooring is being floated across a few rooms, it's always recommended to use T-Moldings in doorways. In larger areas, an expansion joint is also recommended if floating hardwood flooring layout is going to exceed 30 FT. in any particular room and a T-Molding would help to transition from one section of flooring to the next.

To install a T-Molding, a space needs to be left between the two hard surfaces. The transition piece is then glued down where it meets the subfloor using construction adhesive. It's recommended to place a heavy object on the newly glued T-Molding overnight, in order to ensure a tight bond. In addition to being glued down, you can also choose to face nail the T-Molding (in the middle of the T-Molding) to the subfloor using 8 penny finish nails.

Flush Reducer

When you're installing a hardwood floor using a nail, staple or glue down installation, a Flush Reducer can be used to smoothly transition the new hardwood floor down to a second flooring type, such as vinyl, tile or even low pile carpet.

Flush Reducers can be glued to the subfloor with construction adhesive and/or face nailed using 8 penny finish nails. A Flush Reducer can only be used with flooring that is secured to the subfloor (nailed, stapled or glued down) and not with a hardwood floor or laminate floor that is being floated. This is because a floating floor needs room to move and a Flush Reducer would not allow for the necessary expansion gap. For transitions from floating floors, the use of an Overlap Reducer would be necessary.

Overlap Reducer

When installing a floating floor, it's incredibly important to leave expansion gaps where the new flooring meets up with an unmovable object (walls, a second floor, cabinets, etc.). Overlap Reducers were created for the purpose of transitioning smoothly from this floating floor to a second floor (vinyl, tile, carpet, etc.). Much like a Flush Reducer, an Overlap Reducer gradually slopes down to meet the second floor, but instead of locking in flush with the hardwood, an Overlap Reducer has a small protruding piece which will overlap the floating hardwood or laminate flooring. The purpose of this overlap portion of the transition piece is to hide the expansion gap left, allowing the floating floor to move without restriction.

To install an Overlap Reducer, simply glue down to the subfloor using construction adhesive and/or you can face nail into the subfloor using 8 penny finish nails. Do not adhere the Overlap Reducer to the actual hardwood or laminate flooring at all. The overlap part of this transition piece is meant to simply rest on the floating floor.


Sometimes referred to as a Baby Threshold, Thresholds are used in situations where a hardwood or laminate floor is meeting up with a second floor of a different height. Instead of a gradual slope, like a Reducer, a Threshold has a rounded off square edge appearance. Thresholds are perfect when butting a hard surface floor up to a high pile carpet and are also often used when hardwood or laminate floors are meeting up with a sliding glass door track. A Threshold will overlap the hardwood or laminate floor and create a defined transition to this second surface.

To install a Threshold, simply glue down to the subfloor using construction adhesive and/or you can face nail to the subfloor using 8 penny finish nails. It's important to note that if you're using a Threshold with a 3/4 IN. thick solid hardwood floor, the bottom of the molding may rest at approximately 1/4 IN. above the subfloor. The Threshold can still be used. You would just need to use a heavier bead of construction adhesive or use a filler piece on the subfloor under the bottom of the molding to offer more support to the Threshold.

Square Nose Reducer (End Cap)

Square Nose Reducers (sometimes called End Caps) are very similar to Thresholds but have a more squared off edge. Typically used with floating floor, a Square Nose is perfect for butting hard surface floors up against vertical obstacles, where a Quarter Round or Wall Base would be difficult to use to cover an expansion gap (brick wall, fireplace, sliding glass door, etc.). The Square Nose Reducer overlaps the hardwood or laminate floor, hiding the expansion gap with the overlapped portion of the molding.

Installation of a Square Nose Reducer would involve using construction adhesive to glue the transition piece to the subfloor and/or face nailing the piece to the subfloor using 8 penny finish nails.

Flush Stair Nose

Stair Nose pieces are sometimes also referred to as Bull Nose pieces or Step Downs. Stair Noses are used on the front edge of a step when you're using the actual floor boards to cover stairs. The Flush Stair Nose butts right up against the floorboards and creates a seamless transition to the end of the step. Flush Stair Nose pieces can only be used in conjunction with a nail, staple or glue down install.

Stair Nose pieces are installed by gluing down to the stair subfloor using construction adhesive in addition to face nailing. When face nailing Flush Stair Noses, you should use two 8 penny face nails approximately 3 IN. in from the end of the stair on both sides and then two 8 penny face nails in the center of the Stair Nose. If your stairs are extra long, you should aim for two face nails approximately every 20 IN.

Overlap Stair Nose

Floating applications require a different kind of Stair Nose: one which can allow for the required expansion gap for floating hardwood or laminates. Overlap Stair Noses have a small protruding piece which overlaps the floating floor and hides the expansion gap, leaving room for free movement of the floating floor. As you can't float floor boards on individual stairs (boards need to be attached to the individual stair surface), Overlap Stair Nose pieces are typically only used at the top of the staircase, where it would be transitioning from a floating floor down to the first step.

Overlap Stair Nose pieces are installed a lot like Flush Stair Nose pieces. Glue the Overlap Stair Nose to the subfloor using construction adhesive, making sure to leave enough room for the required expansion gap. In addition, using two 8 penny face nails, nail down the Overlap Stair Nose approximately 3 IN. in from each end as well as in the center of the Overlap Stair Nose piece. If the stairs are extra long, make sure to face nail two 8 penny finish nails at approximately every 20 IN. of the molding. It's important, with Overlap Stair Nose pieces, that you remember to attach the molding to the subfloor and not to the floating floor you're overlapping.

Stair Treads & Stair Risers

For those who want a fast and easy option for tackling stairs, there are Stair Treads. A Stair Tread is basically a whole piece of finished stair which you simply glue and nail down and then you're done. Stair Treads negate the need for Stair Nose pieces and individual floor boards, saving a lot of install time. Also available, are Stair Risers, which are the vertical part of the stair. Most hardwood flooring and laminate flooring manufacturers don't produce Stair Treads to match their products. However, there are independent companies which specialize in Stair Treads and Risers and offer them in a variety of sizes, styles and stain colors. These companies can even closely match a floor if a sample is sent to them.

Air Vent Grilles

Most hardwood and laminate flooring manufacturers don't produce their own prefinished Air Vent Grilles, but, like the Stair Tread and Stair Risers, there are companies out there that will provide you with a custom size and style Air Vent Grill to match your new flooring. Specifics these Air Vent companies will need to know will be the actual size of your vent, what kind of frame you're looking for, whether you want a damper on the grill, wood species and/or stain.

Other Molding Types

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