Saturday, December 14, 2019

Molding & Trim Guide for Hardwood and Laminate Flooring

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 the average homeowner. 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 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 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 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 type 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. Read more about expansion gaps here. 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 close 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.


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. The same reasoning goes for why the T-Molding can not be used to transition to carpet, there’s just not enough support.

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.


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 walls or with a second floor. 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 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

Metal Reducer transitioning from hardwood to carpet

Metal Reducer transitioning from hardwood to carpet

The above molding descriptions describe some of the most popular molding and transition options. Sometimes, though, specific manufacturers will have moldings available that are exclusive to their collections. For example, QuickStep Laminate Flooring offers a 5 in 1 Multifunctional Molding. This molding, which is very specific to QuickStep, comes with a cutting tool and allows the installer to cut the molding to form one of five moldings: T-Molding, Hard Surface Reducer, Carpet Reducer, Square Nose Reducer or Flush Stair Nose. Many laminate manufacturers make their own version of this Multifunctional Molding. Versatile moldings like this are beneficial for consumers who at the time of placing an order are unsure of which specific molding they will need, but want to make sure they have something there to use when it’s time to finish the install.

Sometimes, during an installation, a homeowner will find that none of the generic moldings will suit his or her specific need. In this case, custom moldings can be made to fit any situation by an independent carpenter in your area. Additionally, moldings don’t need to necessarily match your particular flooring. As mentioned previously, many homeowners like to stain their Quarter Round and/or Wall Base to match the rest of the trim in that room. Along those same lines, metal or rubber or stone moldings are often seen in commercial settings and even in some residences.

You may also be interested in:

All About Floating Wood Floors, All About Solid Hardwood Flooring, All About Engineered Wood Flooring, How to Measure a Room for Installing a New Hardwood Floor


Tags: Engineered Hardwood Flooring, Expansion Gaps, Floating Hard Wood Floors, Installation, laminate, Moldings, Solid Hardwood Flooring, Stairs

Comments: 61

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  • Don B

    Hi Jeff,

    I’m having no success finding hardwood transitions that will fit what I plan to buy: Vintage Flooring engineered 9/16 natural maple, floating installation. The 9/16 overlap height is impossible to find. I need reducer, stair nosing, t-mould. Can you recommend any vendors? Should I pick another thickness?

    Your website and the folks at Hosking that I’ve talked to are outstanding!

  • Hi Don,

    We’re glad the site is helpful. I know Vintage makes their own t-molds and stairnose pieces to match. They do not make matching overlap reducers, however we do work with an independent molding manufacturer who can make the overlap reducers to match the 9/16 IN. maple natural. If you’re ordering through our site, you’d just place the order online for the flooring, t-molds and stair noses and then give our office a call and a sales rep can add the overlap reducer pieces that you would need.

  • Marty

    Last year when I had a laminate floor installed, I asked the installers to leave a little extra room between the floor and where it meets a brick hearth at my fireplace. They did, and only lightly glued the transition pieces in place. This so I could later remove them and feed a speaker wire through the area. I have now removed them (including slight damage to the piece).
    My question is only what type of glue to use to put them back in place. Hopefully something I can get in less than drum size.
    By the way they had never heard of my request before. Odd eh?

  • Hi Marty,

    Wood glue should do the trick. We recommend Mannington MegaGlue, which comes in a 16 oz. bottle.

  • What is the finishing solution along a patio door?

  • Hi Colleen,

    Usually, contractors will use either a baby threshold or an end cap to transition to sliding glass doors or doors with metal frames.

  • Pam

    New hardwood flooring put in existing house that has different color window moldings . Should we match floor moldings to wall paint or try to match flooring and/or existing window moldings

  • Hi Pam,

    Most homeowners will match the transition pieces (reducers, tmolds, thresholds, etc.) to the floor and will match wall base moldings or quarter rounds to the existing trim in their home (window/door frames).

  • Julie

    can a t molding for a laminate floor (the kind with a metal track ) be used for an engineered bamboo floor (solid wood t molding with no track)? essentially, are they interchangeable?

  • Hi Julie,

    As long as the two hard surfaces you’re connecting are the same height, you wouldn’t have a problem using a laminate t-molding instead of a hardwood t-molding.

  • Julie

    Thanks, Jeff!

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