You are wondering if the baseboard should be the same thickness as your casing. Both of these interior trim types help form the finished look and feel of a house, so proper installation is critical. We have done our research to answer your question here thoroughly.
Generally, the casing should be about 1/8 of an inch thicker than your baseboard. This small difference in thickness allows for intentional, consistent joints throughout the home. For this reason, a slightly thicker casing has become the standard in modern home construction.
Read the rest of this post to learn the reasonings for the above rule of thumb. We will also discuss the preference that some carpenters have of using baseboard and casing of the same thickness. Finally, we will provide the answers to some pertinent related questions.
Why Casing is Usually Thicker than Baseboard
This section delves into how builders decided casing and baseboard thicknesses.
The old-school reasoning
When modern home building standards were developing, it was common to use lathe and plaster to finish interior walls. This technique made it very difficult to get consistent wall thickness. Therefore, it was quite common to have a relatively wavy wall.
This waviness created difficulty for the finishing carpenter in charge of trim. How can you make an appealing looking baseboard-casing joint when the wall behind them isn't even flat? Milling and using a slightly thicker casing became the solution.
By intentionally choosing one type of trim to stand up to 1/4 of an inch or more, the uneven joints became a feature instead of an issue. Even though the walls behind the trim were wavy, the casing would stand proudly no matter what. The small variations in how proud the casing was, was never large enough to be an eye-catching problem.
The casing is the thicker of the two trim types for a couple of reasons. First, it is more aesthetically attractive to have the vertical piece of wood stand proud of the horizontal piece of wood. Second, since casing trims the already prominent features of doors and windows, it made sense to stay consistent.
The modern reasoning
Today, most builders use some type of drywall to finish interior walls. The use of this pre-fabricated material has significantly decreased the degree of wall waviness. So, why do we still use casing that is thicker than baseboard?
There are a few reasons for this. The main reason is that despite modern building materials, walls are never perfectly flat. Using thicker casing means much more consistent, good-looking joints. In essence, it is still much easier to purposely use the trim with different thicknesses than to take the time and headache to get casing and baseboard to match up perfectly.
The second reason falls to tradition. The carpenters that developed thicker casing have handed down their craft to younger carpenters, and so on, through the years. It became the standard for high-end homes to have a thicker casing than baseboard, so it remains today.
Using Baseboard and Casing of the Same Thickness
Some modern builders prefer to use baseboard and casing of the same thickness. They argue that it is not worth the hassle of having two different trim thicknesses because of modern building techniques.
This school of thought believes with little extra effort, it is no longer difficult to match the baseboard-casing joint neatly. In fact, for the uncritical eye, the joint between the baseboard and casing is only moderately noticeable in the first place.
So if you prefer, or if that is the only material available to you, using baseboard and casing of the same thickness can still produce a finished look worthy of a high-quality home. Just be ready to spend a little more time ensuring a neat look in this area.
Do baseboards and casings have to match?
The short answer is no. Baseboards and casing do not have to match. Using baseboard of one material or look and casing of another material or look can, in fact, be quite attractive if done with a careful eye. If you have baseboard and casing that do not match lying around, installing that can be a great economical choice. But remember, the standard is to use matching trim throughout a home.
A deviation from this standard means that more people will carefully look at the baseboard and casing area if the two trims do not match. This inevitable increase in scrutiny makes the application of careful carpentry even more important. In short, using mismatched baseboard and casing can be a bold design choice or can lead to a hokey looking finish.
Increase your chances of a good looking finished product through these two ways. First, employ careful carpentry. And second, choose your miss-matched baseboard and casing with a careful eye towards the finished look. It might even be worth it to test out a few joints before investing in the complete amount of trim you need.
Should I choose baseboard or casing first?
When selecting trim for a new home or remodel, there is no rule of thumb about choosing baseboard or casing first. In fact, most trim manufacturers produce a trim set that includes both baseboard and casing. This means it is easiest to choose a trim style you prefer and then to buy both casing and baseboard from the same set.
If you would rather choose baseboard or casing individually, you can choose either first. If there is a baseboard you particularly like, choose that and then find casing to match. If there is a casing you particularly like, do the same.
Is casing the same as trim?
The casing is a type of trim. The casing goes around windows and doors to cover the joint between these openings and the wall covering.
What size baseboard molding should I use?
Baseboard molding comes in a wide variety of sizes - use the size you think will look the best. In terms of height, baseboard molding ranges from about 3- to 12-inches. The width ranges from about 1/2- to 1-inches. Generally speaking, using heavier taller molding will lend the finished product a fancier look.
Most carpenters use baseboard molding of 3- to 5-inches for 8-foot ceilings and molding of 5- to 12-inches for taller ceilings. Using 1/2-inch, or close to 1/2-inch, thick baseboard molding is the most common thickness to use for most applications. This gives the molding a sleeker, less obtrusive look. Use thicker baseboard for a more classical formal look.
Most carpenters prefer to install casing that is about 1/8 of an inch thicker than the baseboard. While this discrepancy in size makes installation easier and the final product more aesthetically pleasing, installing baseboard and molding of the same thickness is possible. Good luck!
If you have more questions about interior trim, these posts might interest you:
Should You Paint Crown Molding Before Installation?