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Moulding Materials Glossary

picture moulding

Moulding adds interest to almost any room. Learn more about the various materials and wood types most commonly used to make moulding.

Moulding Species

Here are some common and not-so-common moulding species and materials. Colors and selection may vary by market.

MDF: Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is an engineered wood product formed by breaking down hardwood or softwood into wood fibers, combining it with wax and a resin binder and forming moulding by applying high temperature and pressure. MDF is primed with no joints; no raised grains; doesn’t split, crack or warp; and is less expensive than primed finger joint moulding. MDF cuts well and has a smooth surface that’s ideal for painting.

Prepainted MDF: Prepainted MDF has been professionally painted with 100% acrylic latex paint. This provides a smooth, consistent and durable surface that’s easy to clean and maintain. The prepainted surface allows you to transform a room in a short period of time without the hassle and mess of painting it yourself, saving both time and money. Prepainted MDF moulding is very market-specific. Try polystyrene moulding in Crystal White or primed MDF moulding paired with a similar paint, 100% acrylic latex for an alternative.

PFJ: Primed finger joint (PFJ) moulding consists of small pieces of wood that are recycled and jointed together to create longer lengths. PFJ has sharper details than MDF. Its workability and ease of nailing are a personal preference over MDF. PFJ moulding is receptive to paint, saving time and money.

Pine: Solid pine is beautifully grained, easy to work with and allows many options for finishing. Pine can simply be clear-coated to show its natural beauty, stained in a variety of colors or painted to match any décor. Pine moulding has been a preferred choice for generations.

Oak: Red Oak is one of the most commonly used species in the hardwood family. Its beautiful grain and incredible warmth can simply be clear-coated to show its natural beauty, stained in a variety of colors or painted to match any décor. The grain of oak has unmatched beauty, which is enhanced when stain is applied. Its durability will make oak a popular choice for many years to come. Oak moulding is market-specific. Try one of the woodgrains of the polystyrene moulding line or solid pine moulding in a stain of your choice to achieve a similar look.

Prestained oak: Prestained oak moulding has been professionally stained and sealed, providing a smooth, durable surface. The prefinished surface allows you to transform your space in a short period of time without the hassle and mess of finishing it yourself, saving both time and money. This moulding is very market-specific. Check out the oak woodgrain selections in polystyrene moulding for a similar look and durability.

PVC: PVC (polyvinyl chloride) moulding is made with custom-blended resins uniquely formulated to minimize expansion and contraction. PVC moulding is moisture- and termite-proof, it doesn’t promote mold or mildew and it’s superior when gluing and nailing without splitting or cracking. PVC moulding has a factory-applied finish or can be repainted with latex or oil. Painting with dark colors (dark green, black, dark crimson red) isn’t recommended.

Polystyrene: Polystyrene moulding is created using polymer-based substrates that resist warping, twisting, splitting, mold and mildew. It’s prefinished and ready to install in a variety of woodgrains, colors and profiles. It’s a great alternative and value to traditional wood moulding.

White hardwood: White Hardwood (WHW) is manufactured from ash, which is a great all-around wood, readily available in the marketplace. It’s typically very white in color and very fine-grained, which makes it a great wood for both paint and stain. It’s easy to work with when sanding, cutting, shaping, moulding and embossing patterns because of its soft fiber nature. This species is available in all Lowe’s stores but selection may differ.

Decorative polyurethane: Decorative polyurethane is made from technologically advanced, high-density polyurethane that won’t warp, rot or split. This product will create detailed patterns without the expense of wood. It’s lightweight for easy handling, saws like wood and comes preprimed and ready to paint.

Poplar: Poplar is a great choice for moulding because it’s a close-grained wood that machines and sands well. Poplar is harder than pine and contains several color variations, including light, dark and green. Poplar is known for its smoothness, which makes it a great choice for painting or staining. Poplar is typically found in the construction of stair parts.

Hemlock: Hemlock has a light color, texture and grain pattern that easily accepts any paint, stain or natural finish. Its uniform color allows you to have a consistent finish throughout your home without having to take the time to match each piece. Hemlock hardens with age, making it a great choice that will last for years to come. Hemlock is typically available in the Northwest. Consider pine as an alternate species, as it’s similar in appearance and more available.

Knotty alder: Alder is a medium-density hardwood that’s softer than oak, cherry and walnut. Alder has a straight grain and even texture. Its reddish-brown color often looks similar to cherry. Its softer nature is receptive to a variety of stain finishes. Knotty alder may contain pin knots, open and closed knots of various sizes. Knotty alder has a rustic appearance that adds a distinctive look to any room. This species of moulding isn’t available in all areas and not easily mimicked by other species or finish methods.

Maple: Maple is a medium-density hardwood that’s light in color. It has a clean, smooth finish with a tight grain, suitable for any application. Maple is straight-grained and can easily be stained to enhance its appearance or clear-coated for a more natural look. Maple moulding complements the increasingly popular maple flooring and cabinetry. Maple moulding isn’t available in all stores. WHW in a maple stain is an alternative.

Mahogany: Mahogany is one of the hardest of the hardwoods. It’s straight grain and has a medium-coarse texture that will vary slightly in color from a light, reddish-brown to a medium red. Mahogany absorbs stains and finishes extremely well with minimal work. When finished, mahogany adds a luxurious look to any room. Check with your local store for availability of this species. Try one of the woodgrains in the polystyrene moulding line for a similar look.

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