Before choosing specific patterns for your casing, base, and crown, the three most prominent moldings, decide whether or not you are painting, or going with a wood that is stained or clear-coated.


What woods are best for painting?
A painted molding is the least expensive type of trim. We use almost exclusively yellow poplar, a hard, smooth wood that is relatively stable and inexpensive.


How do you select a species for stained moldings?
With a stained molding, consider what color and darkness you are trying to achieve. Staining will darken and reduce the variation of the wood’s natural color.

First, which wood specie are not recommended for stain?

♦ Hard and soft maple- results are often blotchy
♦ Yellow birch- better results than maple, but not much better
♦ Pine- mediocre for stain, but time and effort are better spent on a wood   that will take on richer look.

Hard maple is best clear-coated and provides an even blond color.

Woods that stain well are:




Which woods are best for a clear finish?


Can you buy woods sorted for color?

♦ Oak
♦ Ash (still may show significant color variation through the stain)
♦ Hickory (still may show significant color variation through the stain)
♦ Alder
♦ Cherry
♦ Lyptus
♦ Mahogany
♦ Softwoods such as douglas fir and cedar also stain well.


How do you select a species for clear finish?

First, which wood specie are not recommended for clear finish?

The following woods are excellent when you want contrasting colors due to the presence of dark heart grain and light sap grain, but if you are looking for more consistent color, avoid these woods in a clear finish:

♦ Hickory (sometimes available selected for white)
♦ Soft maple
♦ Poplar (usually sold as a paint grade, so may have frequent green and sticker stain)
♦ Ash (sometimes available selected for white)


Listed from lightest to darkest, those woods that are most color consistent in selects grades and take a clear-coat well are:

♦ Hard Maple- white-cream w/ light grain White ash/selected for white- cream w/heavy grain
♦ Yellow Birch selected for white- light yellow orange w/light grain
♦ Alder-light reddish brown w/ light grain
♦ Lyptus- light salmon pink w/medium grain
♦ Fir- light orange brown with medium grain
♦ Cherry- orangish red w/light to medium grain
♦ Red oak-salmon pink w/ heavy grain
♦ Cedar – light brown w/ light grain
♦ White oak -honey brown w/ medium grain
♦ Honduras mahogany- deep red-brown w/ medium to heavy grain
♦ Walnut- chocolate brown w/ medium grain


Some woods are commercially available sorted for white color on request:

♦ Hard Maple (usually sorted automatically for white)
♦ Yellow birch
♦ Hickory
♦ Ash

All woods have some color and grain variation. With any finish,  whether clear or stained, it is a good idea to prepare several samples using the darkest and lightest boards for side by side comparison.  Once the finish is selected and applied to the moldings, you can minimize the impact of color variation by doing some sorting of your molding pieces for similar color and grain for installation in the same areas.

The above descriptions give guidance on color, grain, and stain-ability, but other considerations are cost, dimensional stability, hardness, and availability of lengths.  As these considerations are interrelated and many,  we are happy to discuss these features directly with you.