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How to Install Shoe Molding or Quarter-Round and Cut a Return

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How to Install Shoe Molding or Quarter-Round and Cut a Return
Shoe Molding and Quarter Round

Shoe Molding (L) and Quarter Round (R)

© Lee Wallender; licensed to About.com

Is the installation of shoe molding and quarter-round considered "cheating?"

They both get called into action when there are gaps, usually between baseboard and flooring, but sometimes they get tacked up in all sorts of gappy places.  These moldings are a bit like the Band-Aid of home remodeling.  Cheating?  Well, I'll get to that.  First, what is it?

What Are Shoe and Quarter-Round Moldings?

In the picture, shoe molding is on the left, quarter-round is on the right.

Both are long, flexible lengths of wood (hemlock, oak, pine, etc.) or MDF or even polystyrene.  When you're at the home improvement store, they'll be stored vertically.  They seem to reach the store's ceiling because they are so long.

This length is intentional, since it covers walls and walls and usually long.  Sure, it's not so hard to scarf-join two lengths of molding to cover one wall, but why not have a single strip if you can?

Both are essentially fat, round dowels that are cut into quarters.  The main value of this molding is flexibility:  it can bend to match the profile of wavy floors.

The Last Trim...And Last Resort

If trim is the last thing you install, shoe molding and quarter-round are literally the last trim you will install.  First baseboards, then shoe molding.

As alluded to earlier, it's also a quick-and-easy fix for gappy baseboards.  Some people view this installation as "cheating."  Most flooring contractors, though, will use it.

If you have a straight baseboard atop a wavy floor--a common thing in old homes--you can cut the bottom of the baseboard to match all of the floor's troughs and peaks.  This looks fantastic, but it's hard work to make it look right.  The easier solution is to run shoe molding along the bottom, bending it to shape.  

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