Millwork and moulding are making a serious comeback lately, asking board and batten to step aside. It’s a not to classic design and an easy way to elevate any space to designer level. The only problem is, it can be pricey.
Although the pretty little trim pieces are often priced at $2 or less, it’s misleading because that price is per linear foot. And when you start running trim all around your room in a variety of boxes and chair railing, it adds up big time. But not to worry, I’ve found a way to make it not only easier to try out this trend, but also WAY more affordable.
The answer? PVC moulding!
Often used for screen or exterior moulding, PVC moulding is priced per 8′ and 12′ pieces, and can save you hundreds of dollars on your moulding project.
Pros of Using PVC Moulding:
- Very cost effective, usually ranging $2.50-6 per 8 foot piece
- Flexible – making it easy to work with, fit to wonky walls, and level as you go
- Lightweight – doesn’t need glue to install, 2″ finish nails do the job perfectly
- Easily cut with miter shears – saves you from having to run to the saw for every cut, which saves so much time and hassle!
- Not stainable
- Slightly harder to paint – I find spraying works the best to get a flawless, brush/roller stroke-free finish
I used a flat, modern style PVC screen moulding in my daughters room to create a fun accent wall you can see here. Most recently I used the ply cap style PVC moulding on every wall in our bedroom which took it from blah to uber classy. It’s amazing how some trim work can bring big, boring, blank walls to life.
Step 1: Determine Your Spacing + Box Size
Measure the width of your wall, and divide by how many boxes you think you would like to have. Account for the space between each box, and between the boxes and the wall or window or door casing.
- I find a space of 3.5-6″ between boxes is visually appealing
- I tend to use more of a 4-6″ space between the boxes and the wall or door or window casing.
For our bedroom I used 35″ boxes around the room, and did 3.5″ spaces between the boxes, and 4.5″ between the boxes and the walls and door/window casings. I used a 1×4 and a 1×5 as my spacers to make the work much quicker.
Chances are not all of your walls will work out perfectly using the exact same size boxes and spacing. In this case you have a couple of options. One is to slightly adjust your box size so they remain a visually similar size and look consistent around the room (so doing 34″ or 36″ instead of 35″ in reference to my box size). The other option is to think about what furniture or art will be placed on that wall and change your boxes to frame those pieces.
For my bedside wall and my dresser side wall, I chose to do one larger box in the middle (for the bed wall the bigger box was still the 35″ size), flanked by smaller boxes on the sides. For the dresser wall I did a large box that framed our dresser and TV, then two of the 35″ boxes, and then two 18′ boxes (which was a size I used on a small wall beside the bathroom).
For the bathroom side wall I had to reduce the box sizes down to around 34″ inches.
In general, try to keep your boxes as consistently sized around the room as possible. If you use smaller boxes, try to use that same size smaller box throughout. Visually consistency is key.
Step 2: Install
After determining your spacing and box size and number, you will need to determine how far from the ceiling and baseboards you want to start and end your boxes. I tend to take the placement of our window treatments into account for this. I ended up starting my boxes 8″ down from the ceiling, and 5″ up from the baseboards. You can also choose to center your boxes on the wall.
I used 2″ finish nails and my Ryobi brad nailer to install the moulding, and usually advise starting with the top of your boxes, then doing the sides, and lastly measuring and cutting your bottom piece.
Things like bumps and curves in your wall, the floor or ceiling not being level, and a variety of other factors can cause your boxes to not be perfectly square. I have found you can precut your top and side pieces, but it’s wise to always measure as you go with the bottom pieces because they are usually +/- a little compared to your top pieces.
I use miter shears to cut this kind of moulding. They make it easy to do miter cuts without having to run to your saw for every cut. The PVC moulding cuts like butter, and this majorly speeds up the process. To use miter sheers, brace your trim piece against the metal lip at the back, line you mark up with the line down the middle of the shears, then cut like you would with scissors.
Once your top piece is in and level, use a 2 foot level and work your way across and down your moulding, making sure everything is level and plumb as you go. I typically put a nail in every length of the level or so. I recommend starting at the top corner first, make sure your joints are nice and tight, and then start leveling down. The PVC is flexible so you will be able to bend it as needed to re-level the piece once your corner is tight. You can fill gaps, but it looks much better and saves you a lot of work if you are able to eliminate the gap to start with.
When moving to the next box, use your spacer and your level to make sure you top piece is level with the neighboring box, and spaced appropriately.
In dealing with outlets and light switches, you have three options. One is to slightly adjust your boxes so you are able to work around them. The second is to run your trim flush to them. The third is to use your moulding or other trim to frame them out. The third option is probably the most professional, but I tend to go with the flush cutoff option.
Step 3: Fill Holes + Gaps and Caulk
Next step is the finishing touches and prepping for paint. I like to use a non-shrinking spackle to fill the nail holes and any gaps in the mitered corners.
Once your holes and gaps are filled its time to caulk all of the seams. This is anywhere your moulding meets the walls. Even if your moulding is tight to the wall, caulking will create a more professional finish, and also help eliminate and gaps in your paint. Make sure to use a paintable caulk.
I find using baby wipes to wipe down the moulding and wall also helps create a cleaner finish that will accept paint better.
Step 4: Paint
It IS possible to use a brush and roller to paint this moulding, however I find using a sprayer will give you the most smooth and professional finish.
If you are using a brush and roller you will most likely need to alternate your brush stroke direction with each coat in order to get full coverage. Start with painting the moulding and cutting in a the ceiling and baseboards, and then roll the wall spaces between.
If you are spraying, tape off your space and cover what is not being painted with plastic, then use your sprayer in consistent back and forth motions to cover your wall, then make quick sweeps up and down along your moulding to make sure the moulding and the seams are covered. It typically takes me two coats to get a good coverage.
For paint, using and eggshell, matte or flat sheen will help with adhesion to the PVC. The more flat you go with your sheen the better the paint will hide imperfections on your wall. I love flat paint for this reason. Flat paint also photographs better.
This was one of the last steps in our bedroom refresh. I can’t wait to show you the fully finished room! This color is Urbane Bronze, the Sherwin Williams color of the year for 2021. I love it so much I wanted it everywhere in our house!