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Shoe Molding vs. Quarter Round: What’s the Difference?

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Shoe molding vs. quarter round, which one should you use? Shoe molding and quarter round are often confused with one another because they look so similar, but they have subtle differences. These subtle differences can really change the look and feel of a room.

two photos, one of shoe molding and one of quarter round both painted in white.

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Shoe Molding vs. Quarter Round

Quarter Round

Quarter Round is essentially what the name means, it’s one-quarter of a circle. If you can picture a pie and you cut it into four equal pieces, one of those pieces is what a quarter round looks like.

It has a 90-degree angle and typically comes in 3/4 inch by 3/4 inch.

this shows white quarter round at the base of white painted baseboards agains my wood floors.

{Wow, this photo blown up shows how my mop is not getting clean the floors right up against the molding. YUCK!}

Shoe Molding

Shoe molding looks a lot like quarter round but it is not one-fourth of a circle. Typically it comes 3/4 inch on one side and 1/2 inch on the other. So it is 50% taller than it is wide.

It still has that 90-degree angle like quarter round. So it looks a lot like it, just skinnier, and is installed in the same way as quarter round is.

Shoe molding can also come in other shapes. It can be more decorative but the dimensions will still be the same, taller rather than wider.

Shoe molding agains the baseboards in my basement up agains the stained concrete floors

I have this type of shoe molding in my basement family room. When I removed the carpet there was a large gap between the baseboards and the stained concrete. I used shoe molding to hide that gap.

An image of a drawing of quarter round and two different types of shoe molding.

What is better quarter round vs. shoe molding?

This is truly personal preference. What it comes down to is the size of your home and the space you will be using it in.

If you have a large room with tall baseboards then you might want to go with the chunkier quarter round. It will look better in proportion to the tall baseboards to have that extra depth.

If you have a narrower hallway or room, or shorter baseboards then shoe molding is the way to go. Not only will this give you more floor space, yes I know it’s only about half an inch, but it makes a difference. And when looking at it in a smaller space the thinner depth will look better to the eye.

Is base shoe the same as quarter round?

No, they are not the same. Base shoe is another name for shoe molding. So base shoe and shoe molding are the same but quarter round is different.

What is the purpose of shoe molding?

Shoe molding is used to hide the inconsistencies in the level of the flooring. Baseboards are installed level around a room but floors are rarely perfectly level. Shoe molding and quarter round are used to hide those gaps between the floors and baseboards.

This shows the gap between the baseboard and the stained concrete floors.

Shoe molding and quarter round are very flexible and can ebb and flow with the fluctuations in the floor making it easy to hide the gaps. Baseboards don’t have this flexibility.

Materials

Wood

Historically this is what shoe molding and quarter round were made of. You can get them in paint grade or stain grade. You will find the paint grade to be considerably cheaper than the stain grade.

MDF

MDF is short for medium density fiberboard. It’s basically wood shavings that have been glued and compressed together to create a wood look. You cannot stain MDF so this type of molding would only be good if you wanted it painted.

MDF is free of knots and wood grains so when you prime and paint it you will have a smoother finish. It cuts easily and is installed just like wood.

Polystyrene

Polystyrene is made from recycled materials and is moisture, mold, mildew, and insect resistant. They come in a natural wood look and are easy to install.

PVC

PVC is a great product for quarter round or shoe molding. It’s durable and won’t split or crack. It cuts like wood but is moisture and termite proof.

PVC installs just like wood with nails or glue. You will mostly find PVC as a painted molding vs. stained.

Vinyl

Vinyl is made for both indoor and outdoor installation. It is bright white but can be stained or painted. It resists moisture, rot, and termites as well.

How to Install Shoe Molding vs. Quarter Round

The first thing you need to do is measure the space you will be installing the product. Typically you will be doing a whole room and you will need to make 45-degree angle cuts at the corners of the room.

If your length is longer than your shoe molding or quarter round then you will need to put two pieces together. You can butt the ends up against each other but professionals will actually angle each piece at a 45-degree angle and connect them together that way.

Use a nail gun with brad nails to install against the baseboards. If you don’t have a nail gun you can hammer brad nails in and use a punch to recess the nails.

Once it’s all nailed up (and if you are painting the molding) you need to hide the nail holes with wood putty or caulk and caulk the areas where the shoe molding (or quarter round) meets the baseboards. Also, caulk the corners of the room and anywhere the wood joins together.

If you are staining the molding then you won’t want to use stain. Just use stainable wood putty to fill the nail holes.

Alternate Uses for Shoe Molding and Quarter Round

Quarter round and shoe molding are most often used for flooring but that’s not the only place they can be used. They also can be used around the edges of doors, windows, and staircases.

If you have leftovers a great way to use them up is by letting the kids use them for crafts, such as a picture frame or little furniture for dolls.

Where to buy Shoe Molding and Quarter Round

Any big box store will have quarter round and shoe molding. You will find it in the lumbar section in the aisle of molding. They are stored vertically and come in various lengths.

Sometimes they are sold by the linear foot or in predetermined lengths, it just depends on the store. If it is sold by the linear foot then you will need to cut the wood down to the length you prefer. Unless you want to buy the whole piece, but sometimes that can be as long as 12 feet.

In the middle of the aisle, there is usually a cart where you can cut the piece with a couple of hand saws. They also have a tape measure there so you don’t need to bring your own. Always use caution when sawing the wood.

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As a licensed Real Estate Agent and an avid home decorator, I strive to give my clients the very best I can when it comes to staging, selling, and decorating their homes. I have lots of experience with paint color choices and love to DIY my home so I can have everything just the way I want it. I share my ideas and projects with the world in the hopes that I can help others have their homes just the way they want as well.

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