The Evolution of Modern Moulding

Editor's Note: This is the third in a five-part series about mouldings, taken from a whitepaper by Fair Lawn, N.J.-based Kuiken Brothers Co. Inc. titled "Using Moulding to Enhance the Beauty and Elegance of a Space and Create New Revenue Streams."

Almost all mouldings are replicated from unique/original and custom designs from products craftsmen created more than 200+ years ago. Many of these original craftsmen studied and understood proper scale and proportion and the ancient orders of Greek and Roman architecture.

Throughout time, the designs were subtly distorted. An easy way to reproduce these elegant design elements was to take a moulding off of a wall, trace it on a piece of paper, fax it to a mill, and ask the mill to replicate it.

When mouldings go through these phases of reproduction, they inevitably lose the original crispness that was once handcrafted. Edges are rounded off, beads are no longer perfectly round, beaded planes are filled in and not as deep. One must also factor in the layers of paint that may be on top of the original moulding. Layers of paint can impact the original shape and character/ lines of the moulding once it is traced by the replicator.

Faxing these designs also creates reproduction problems. The fax machine invariably makes adjustments and contorts the profile. There are errors in scale and clarity. The mill replicates the profile as best as possible and faxes it back to the customer for approval. The customer signs off on the job and the mill goes to work.

When lumberyards want to offer their own moulding profiles, they often reference other millwork examples and may perpetuate historically-inaccurate and corrupted profiles. There are many ways mouldings become distorted from their original designs because of the good intentions of a lumberyard. Eventually, the skewed mouldings enter the market and become nearly impossible to remove.

Keep in mind, a lumber mill can run 10,000 feet at a time and often sells the mouldings to many different lumberyards across the country. Once a builder installs the moulding, if he wants to do another room or runs out before finishing a room, he has to go back to the lumberyard and get that same exact moulding. He needs the ends of the profiles to match up perfectly otherwise there may be an unsightly seam or a lot of unnecessary and time-consuming work in order to achieve a seamless appearance. Homeowners pay for perfection, and they want builders to get it right the first time.