How to Install Shoe Molding for the Perfect Finishing Touch

Cover gaps between hard flooring and baseboards and provide the perfect finishing touch to your room remodel with our tutorial on how to install shoe molding.

finished white trim
Photo: Jacob Fox
Project Overview
  • Total Time: 6 hours
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

The first thing to know about installing shoe molding is that it teams up with baseboards in most homes to add a finished look to trim. You'll find shoe molding in rooms with hard flooring surfaces such as tile, stone, sheet vinyl, hardwood, and laminate. For years, quarter-round molding (a name based on its end view) was considered the primary base shoe option. The only real question was whether you chose 1/2- or 3/4-inch quarter-round trim. But there's actually a wide range of shoe molding profiles, and you can even make your own base molding.

The small scale and simple lines of most base shoe molding make it easy to cope the inside corners. After cutting the copes in a roomful of baseboard, it will seem like a quick and easy job. The flexibility of base shoe molding lets you bend it to conform with wavy floors that are almost universal in older homes and still quite common in new construction.

The most important thing to know about shoe molding is that you always nail it into the wall, never the floor. Once you've gathered your tools and materials, follow our step-by-step instructions for how to install shoe molding.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Pencil
  • 1 Miter saw
  • 1 Stain marker
  • 1 Pneumatic brad nailer
  • 1 Wood block
  • 1 Coping saw

Materials

  • 1 Wood glue
  • 1 Nails
  • 1 Base shoe molding

Instructions

  1. Choose Shoe Molding

    There's a wide range of commercially available base shoe molding profiles. Quarter round trim ranges from a dainty 1/4-inch size to a massive 1-1/16-inch dimension. A true base shoe is taller than it is wide, enabling it to conceal a large vertical gap without appearing chunky. With a table saw and router, you can also make custom baseboard and shoe molding profiles.

  2. Mark Shoe Molding Measurements

    Marking Shoe Molding Measurement
    Craig Anderson

    To make shoe molding that dives into the casing, cut the strip to length, then butt it against the casing. Angle your pencil to get a line as close to the casing as possible and draw a vertical mark. Before committing to your finished molding, practice this step and the next on a few scrap pieces of molding to get the exact fit you want.

  3. Cut Shoe Molding

    miter saw shoe molding
    Craig Anderson

    Set your miter saw to make a 45-degree cut, then remove the tiny nick of wood that ends at the pencil line. If you're working with stained molding that has a clear finish, a stain marker will take away the raw-wood look in a hurry.

  4. Attach Shoe Molding to Baseboard

    stapling white trim in place
    Jacob Fox

    Pushing down on thin base shoe molding makes it conform to a wavy floor for a no-gap fit. A pneumatic brad nailer makes driving fasteners a one-handed task and eliminates the tedious job of burying each head with a nail set. A wood block keeps your hand safely back from the nail gun.

    Related: How to Safely Use a Nail Gun

  5. Cope Inside-Corner Trim Pieces

    Cope Inside-Corner Trim
    Craig Anderson

    Cope inside corners for tight-fitting joints that look great even if the corner is out of square. (And the corner is almost always out of square.) Coping most base shoe molding is a simple matter of following a smooth line.

    Related: How to Use a Coping Saw Like a Pro

  6. Place Outside-Corner Pieces

    Place Outside-Corner Pieces
    Craig Anderson

    Outside corners of base shoe molding are mitered, like the baseboard itself. Adding a touch of glue is inexpensive insurance that the joint will stay closed. To avoid splitting this small-scale lumber, resist the urge to drive nails too close to the end.

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