Archive for December 10th, 2009

I should add at this point hat there are highly ornamented moldings that are made of wood. See below. These are not made in a molder (at least not the final product). They are hand carved – typically overseas. And therefore they are quite expensive. Which brings us to the last comparison that I will discuss.



Polyurethane moldings are quite a bit less expensive than wood moldings. This is more true as the moldings become more wider. The difference is more pronounced too if the comparison is made with hand carved wood moldings. An 8 ft piece of hand carved wooden crown (see above) would go for about 300.00 on the retail market. A similar size in polyurethane would cost around $50.00.

One last obvious difference that I should mention is finishing. Wood is certainly more suitable to staining than polyurethane. Polyurethane can be stained but the grain pattern must be simulated during the finishing process. As good as your finisher might be it is doubtful that he will be able to make a stained piece of polyurethane molding look as nice as a stained wooden one. Of course, if you are going to paint anyway this is a moot point.

Installation of wood and polyurethane moldings is very similar except the latter is usually installed with construction adhesive and a few finish nails. Caulking, painting and puttying is the same for both.

And so what are the differences? A high degree of ornamentation is possible in polyurethane moldings that are not possible with wood moldings because of the the fact the the polyurethane is poured into a mold. However, because of the physical constraints of the polyurethane molds, shorter length moldings are the norm. Polyurethane moldings can be had at most 8 – 12 feet in length, whereas sixteen foot wood moldings are not uncommon. On the other hand, where wood moldings can be purchased at longer lengths, polyurethane moldings can be had in wider widths.

This is due in part to the fact that wood molders are typically not capable of molding wood wider than about 9″. Wood moldings become much less stable in those widths anyway (probably why molders are not made any wider). Wood has a tendency to cup, warp, twist and check. The wider the wooden piece, the more apt is wood to do so. Polyurethane, on the other hand, is much more stable and so widths of over sixteen inches are possible. It is less likely that polyurethane moldings will “move” after installation. Wood moldings can – especially wider pieces.

16" wide polyurethane crown molding

16 inch wide polyurethane crown molding

So in summary at this point:

  • Wood moldings are typically longer than polyurethane moldings.
  • Polyurethane moldings can be wider than wood moldings.
  • polyurethane moldings can have deep ornamentation – wood moldings do not.
  • polyurethane moldings are more stable – less prone to cupping, warping, etc.

polyurethane crown molding

Since I sell both ornamental wood moldings and polyurethane moldings on one of my e commerce sites, I thought I should write a comparison review of them. If you are considering purchasing one or the other perhaps this will help you in making a decision.

Wood has been the material of choice for moldings and other building products for centuries and really millennium. Wood has been plentiful, durable and easily shaped. In agrarian societies it has been the material of choice for these reasons. With the advent of industrial societies and technological innovations, however, other materials have presented themselves to capitalist as an alternative to wood. This has been the case in particular for polyurethane moldings used in residential applications.

The distinct advantages and disadvantages of wood and polyurethane becomes clearer by understanding the respective manufacturing processes for each.

The process for making wood moldings begins with a “blank” length of wood typically square on all sides. This blank is fed into a molder (apply named) which is simply a series of cutting “heads” that cut the blank into the final shape. The cutting heads have the final shape of the molding ground into them cutting head knives.

Polyurethane moldings, however, begin with a liquid composite being poured INTO a mold. And so the manufacturing process dictates the basic differences of both types of molding.