Shoe Molding vs. Quarter Round – Tips for Using Edging Molding

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When it comes to interior decoration, the devil is often in the details. One of the most important details of interior decoration that is often overlooked is wall trim. There are various styles of trim for you to choose from, the most popular of which are shoe molding and quarter round, and for good reason. If you’re considering using either of these trim pieces, we thought we’d show you the difference between the two, their strengths and weaknesses, and when the best time to use either one of them.

Shoe Molding vs. Quarter-Round



Shoe Molding vs. Quarter Rounds?

Shoe molding and quarter rounds are wall trim typically found where a wall and floor meet. They serve both a functional and aesthetic function and can be made from a wide variety of materials, which is good considering that they are used in a wide variety of environments. Let’s have a look at what exactly each molding type looks like and what makes them unique in the shoe molding vs. quarter-round debate.


Shoe Molding

If you find yourself asking “What can I use instead of quarter round” the answer is shoe molding. What is shoe molding? Shoe molding is one of the most popular trim styles not just in the United States but the world over. There are many variations of this style of trim to choose from, and thanks to its simple but effective style it can be painted, stained, and even varnished to create a unique, seamless aesthetic for whatever space you choose to use it in.

Shoe molding is a trim that usually runs up to an inch up the wall’s surface. The thickness tapers towards the top of the trim in a stepping fashion until the edge sits completely flush with the surface of the wall. The section of the shoe molding in contact with the floorboards is sometimes rounded, which is how it can be confused for a quarter round.

What is shoe molding used for? Generally, shoe moldings are used as the popular choice for covering up the seam between the baseboard and wall. They’re super versatile as they can easily be blended in with any color and/or wall type or paneling design such as wainscoting. The height and texture of the shoe molding can also be altered to match the surface of your either your floor or your wall, which is yet another reason why this type of trim is so popular.

Design of Shoe Molding

Shoe molding is also most commonly used as a base shoe to those in the industry, primarily due to its shape and likely due to how it functions as the medium between the wall and the floor. Shoe molding tends to be more malleable compared to quarter-round trim, but they can often be used interchangeably when it comes to decorative choices.

  • Hides seams between baseboard and wall 
  • Keeps out dirt and insects
  • Hides cut ends
  • Capable of hiding height differences
  • Gives you more room for end cuts while installing floor
  • Can have naturally occurring imperfections
  • Baseboard needs to be flat for shoe molding to work

Shoe molding should be used if you have a discrepancy between the baseboards of your floor and the walls of your space. She moldings can be designed to hide pretty much any size of gap as long as your floorboards are perfectly flush. Other than concealing gaps, shoe moldings can be used in any application where you would like to class up the look and feel of your space.


How Do You Install Shoe Molding?

Shoe molding is relatively easy to install given that you have the right tools and the patience for the job. The first thing you need to do is measure and mark where the miter cut will be made, and how long the molding will need to be to fill the area along the base of your wall. Using a pencil, place the moldings against the surface of the wall and mark where the miter cut will be made.

Next, you will need to cut the moldings you have marked. Set your miter saw up for a 45-degree cut and cut your boards. When placing the molding in the miter box be sure to cut a little bit off the mark you made with your pencil so that if any adjustments need to be made later on you will have enough material with which to do so.

Once you have your molding cut it’s time for you to check if it fits with the rest of your moldings. This should give you a pretty good idea of whether or not the molding will work with the others or if it needs some adjustments to be made. That being said, you can adjust your cut with the miter saw and some sandpaper if need be. You can repeat this step for the second piece.

Finally, cut an end piece at a 45-degree angle and cap off any ends of your trim that does not join up with another piece. Once you’re happy with the job you’ve done, secure all of your trim pieces using drywall and/or trim nails. These can be driven conventionally using a hammer and nails or you can use a nail gun, which is far better if you have a lot of trim to secure.

What is Shoe Molding

Your nails should be driven in around every 12 inches to ensure that the shoe molding is secured equally across the trim. Feel free to drill pilot holes if you will be installing your molding using a hammer, but it won’t be necessary when using a nail gun. Finally, seal the top and bottom of the shoe molding (where the trim meets the wall and floor) using some caulk.


Quarter Round

What is a quarter round? Quarter rounds are actually described by some as being a type of shoe molding. They too add a finished look to the edges of a space where the flooring meets the wall edge while managing to conceal any gaps between the two surfaces. Like shoe moldings quarter rounds can also be stained, painted, and even varnished if need be.

What is Quarter-Round Used for

Unlike shoe molding the general height of quarter rounds are about ¾ inches in both height and width. What is the difference between shoe moldings and quarter-round trim though? Well, aside from the height of the trim the primary difference is the size style of the quarter-round trim. How is it different from shoe molding then?

What is a quarter round like visually? Quarter rounds tend to literally look like a quarter of a circle. One face is in contact with the surface of the wall while the other face is in contact with the floorboard. This creates the look of a little ramp that can be colored to match the flooring, creating a seamless transition between the surface of the floor and the wall.

What is a quarter round used for? Quarter rounds are used for pretty much the same applications as shoe moldings, but they tend not to be as versatile. However, they do offer a unique and interesting aesthetic to spaces they’re used in which makes them just as popular as their shoe molding counterparts.

  • Thicker than shoe moldings
  • Easily hides imperfections
  • Provides unique aesthetic impact
  • Can be used on most floorings
  • Easy to install
  • Doesn’t require any special tools to install
  • Will not fit the look and feel of every space
  • Generally not as tall as shoe molding
  • Used less commonly
  • More expensive than shoe molding because it is thicker

While it isn’t always the case, it is generally accepted that you should use quarter rounds in spaces where you have hardwood flooring. It fits the style and feel of the flooring while providing a clean border between said flooring and the wall. That being said, due to quarter rounds being thicker than shoe moldings you can use them in applications where there are particularly thick gaps between the wall and the floorboards.

While it isn’t always the case, it is generally accepted that you should use quarter rounds in spaces where you have hardwood flooring. It fits the style and feel of the flooring while providing a clean border between said flooring and the wall.

That being said, due to quarter rounds being thicker than shoe moldings you can use them in applications where there are particularly thick gaps between the wall and the floorboards.

Function of Quarter-Round Molding


How Do You Install Quarter Rounds?

The difference between quarter round and shoe molding is essentially their shape. The process of installing both of them is virtually identical, but just in case you skipped the shoe molding installation tutorial we thought we’d show you how to install your quarter round in an easy step-by-step process. Ensure you have all of the tools you will need and the appropriate personal protective gear before you begin.

As you did with the shoe moldings, start off by measuring the length of the trim you will need before you do anything else. Once you have established the length you will need using a measuring tape, purchase the correct amount of quarter round trip and set up your miter saw. You’re going to set up your saw to cut the edge of your quarter round at a 45-degree angle.

Once your saw is set up, you’re going to cut the edges of your quarter-round trim that will join with one another later on at 45-degree angles. Ensure that your cuts are as accurate as possible and then smooth the cut surfaces out with a fine grit sandpaper to ensure a seamless point of contact between the two pieces of trim (you can also stain, paint, or varnish your trim at this point in the process).

Next, place the trim pieces into opposition against their respective walls. Ensure that you have the correct length of trim for each wall and that the pieces join up with one another nicely. Once you’re sure that they’re all the proper dimensions, you can either secure them conventionally using some trim nails and a hammer or you can simply use a nail gun.

How to Install Quarter-Round Molding

As you can see there isn’t much of a difference between quarter round and shoe molding when it comes to installation. Once the trim has been secured using some nails, get yourself a caulk gun and seal the top and bottom of the trim where it meets the wall and floor. Remove any excess caulk using the edge of a plastic putty knife and any remaining caulk once it has had a chance to solidify.



Comparing Shoe Molding and Quarter Round

Comparing shoe molding and quarter-round is challenging as there’s no real objective superiority between the two trim types. However, their subjective application can hold advantages and disadvantages depending on what you are trying to achieve both practically and aesthetically. That being said, let’s have a look at how they stack up against one another.


Differences in Appearance

This is probably the most noticeable difference between these two trim types. While quarter round looks like a perfect quarter circle that’s been jammed between the wall and floor, shoe molding is far more angular and has a “step” shape to it. These looks can influence what type of space these trims are used in and what furniture and colors they are paired with.

How to Miter Cut Shoe Molding

Despite their difference in shape, these trim styles can both be painted, stained, and even varnished to match or contrast your floor and walls. This is part of what makes both of them so popular as they tend to be highly malleable aesthetically, allowing you to go so far as combining the two to find the perfect fit for your wall trim needs.

Keep in mind that both shoe molding and quarter round can be made of different materials, most of which will allow you to change the color and texture of the trim. While each provides a different aesthetic straight out of the box, the look and feel of your wall trim are only really limited by your imagination and how much time you’re willing to invest in its look.


Differences in Functionality

While these two trim types serve what is effectively the same purpose the day-to-day application of each can differ greatly. Why? Well, let’s start with quarter-round trim.

Quarter-round trim is generally used by contractors to hide imperfections and/or shortcomings in the installation of floorboards rather than its aesthetic appeal, although this does not mean that people dislike the look of quarter-round.

Why, though? A quarter round is generally used to cover imperfections because it covers a larger surface area. Generally, quarter-round is wider and taller than shoe molding, particularly in the United States. This means that if there has been an error in the length of the floorboard and wall, you can easily install a chunk of quarter round and nicely hide that away.

Wood Flooring with Quarter-Round Molding

Shoe molding on the other hand does not have a particular functionality aside from livening up the look of a space. Shoe moldings can have incredibly unique, angular designs that instantly catch the viewer’s eye due to the intricate patterns they possess.

If a space feels too empty and you’re not up for having chunky pieces of quarter-round in your space, shoe molding is a great option.

Some crafters feel that because shoe molding isn’t inherently as wide as quarter-round that it cannot be used to effectively cover up gaps between a floor and wall. However, just like quarter round can be found in smaller, thinner variations, shoe molding can be found in thicker, taller versions too! That being said, shoe molding is primarily used for aesthetic purposes.


Which One to Choose Based on Your Needs

When most individuals are introduced to trim for the first time, one of the most commonly asked questions is where it is appropriate to use each type of trim. After all, shoe molding and quarter round provide vastly different looks to a space, so it’s natural to ask which style and function to pair with which space. That being said, here’s what you should keep in mind.

The keyword to keep in mind when considering quarter-round is surface area. The quarter round is chunky and is good when covering up gaps between the flooring and wall. If you are going to be removing carpet from a space and installing hardwood flooring for the first time you should consider using a quarter round to conceal any hiccups in between the wall and flooring.

Quarter-round molding can be used for more than hardwood flooring too. If you’ve installed new wooden countertops and don’t want the harsh transition between wood and wall, you can install a composite quarter-round molding between the two surfaces. Thin quarter-round moldings do exist for this exact application, and provide a unique look and feel to countertop spaces.

Uses for Quarter-Round Molding

Shoe molding is generally best used for aesthetic applications where you need to spruce up the look and feel of a space. They’re usually paired with hardwood flooring in large spaces where some finer detail is needed for a greater visual impact. While they aren’t quite as thick as quarter rounds they can be used in conjunction with baseboards for covering up gaps too.

They don’t just have to be used in rooms and flooring either. This type of trim can be used on staircases, entryways, and even ceilings if that’s what you need. If you’re looking for a way to spruce up the look of your walls without spending an awful lot of money, time, and energy, shoe moldings are a great choice.


Now that you know what both shoe moldings and quarter rounds are, what they are used for, how to install them, and what their intended purposes are, it’s time for you to get out there and put your newfound knowledge to the test. Remember to always wear the appropriate personal protective gear when working with wood and nails!




Frequently Asked Questions


What Can I Use Instead of Quarter Round?

Have you found yourself asking what you can use instead of quarter-round recently? Well, the obvious choice is to go with shoe moldings, but there are various types of quarter-round for you to choose from, and various types of shoe molding too!


Can I Use Quarter Round for Flooring?

If you find yourself wondering this, the answer is yes. You can use quarter-round for flooring, as quarter-round trim is actually great for covering the gaps between flooring board and walls, especially if you have newly installed hardwood floors.


Are There Different Types of Quarter Round?

Yes! Quarter-round trim is available in various materials. Different types of quarter round include, but are not limited to, MDF, PVC, and even plain old wood. Different materials have various advantages and disadvantages depending on their application.