This week’s Ask the Craftsman question comes from Jeffrey.
“What’s the difference between quarter round and shoe molding? Aren’t they the same?”
Jeffrey, quarter round and shoe molding are like kissing cousins. They’re are almost identical. They can be used interchangeably in some cases, but they have their own specific uses as well.
Quarter round is exactly as its name implies, one quarter of a round dowel. A 90° angel on the backside with a perfect quarter radius on the showing side. It works great to fill corners or soften any 90° joint between trim and moldings.
Quarter round also comes in various sizes which makes it even more versatile for a range of applications.
Shoe molding is much the same as quarter round, having the same 90° angle on the backside but instead of being a perfect quarter radius, its profile is a bit more squat. The main use for shoe molding is to run along the intersection of the baseboard and floor.
Using shoe molding gives the floor installer more latitude in their end cuts and also allows the trim carpenter to hide un-level floors. Since the shoe molding is such a small and flexible piece of trim, it can meander up and down with the floor, hiding the unevenness with much less work than with just a baseboard.
Can you use quarter round in place of shoe molding? Sure, but it tends to give an appearance to the baseboard that is a bit too fat in most cases. In the end, it’s up to personal preference, but at least you know there is a difference now.