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Question from Nikko

Hi Debra,

I am looking for baseboard, chair rail moulding (White). MDF is supposed to have formaldehyde in it …not sure if they have done without. What is the best to use with little to no off gassing?

Thanks.

Debra’s Answer

I’ve purchased a fair amount of baseboard and crown moulding in my life and am about to purchase more.

I’ve always purchased wood moulding at places like Lowe’s and Home Depot.

Here’s a little summary of materials used to make moulding I borrowed from Lowes

  • MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) is a high-grade, composite material. Moulding products tend to come primed, making it easy to paint.
  • Primed Finger Joint Products are available in Pine and Poplar wood. This engineered moulding is made by fitting smaller pieces together to create one long board. Finger Joint moulding looks best when painted.
  • Poplar is a favored material by design professionals. The crisp grain lines and rich wood tones accept paint and stain, making it a perfect wood type for any room.
  • Pine adds a distinct character to a room. The lines from the grain and occasional knots can create interest and texture.
  • Fir offers two distinct grain patterns. Mixed Grain (MG) offers coarse, wide, and light to dark patterns. Vertical Grain (VG) has a more consistent and tighter grain pattern and less color variation. This wood should be stained to bring out its natural beauty.
  • Oak moulding is typically milled from Red or White Oak, which are among the hardest and most durable wood species. Both have great grain appeal and are easy to sand, cut and finish. Your choice of stain color can really enhance the character of this material for a style that is all yours.
  • Aspen is a light, soft wood that is typically used for more ornate moulding profiles. It has a straight grain and fine uniform texture.
  • Polyurethane moulding is made from high-density polyurethane that won’t warp, rot or split. This product will create detailed patterns without the expense of wood. It’s lightweight for easy handling, saws like wood and comes preprimed and ready to paint.
  • Polystyrene prefinished moulding is lightweight and simple to cut using conventional saws, making installation a one-person job. These mouldings can be installed with construction adhesive or finishing nails and are slightly flexible, making them perfect for walls that aren’t true. They’re also moisture resistant—an ideal solution for kitchens and bathrooms.
  • PVC gives you the look of wood with moisture protection, inside or out. Strong and durable, PVC moulding is easy to cut and installs without chipping, splitting or cracking.

Of these, I would say yes to the woods poplar, pine, fir, oak, and aspen.

I would say no to MDF, finger joint, polystyrene, and PVC.

Polyurethane is not particularly toxic in this use, but it is a petroleum product, if you are avoiding petroleum.

You should be able to find actual solid wood moulding anywhere moulding is sold.

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