Archive for the ‘ architecture ’ Category

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.

This set of Sapele exterior balusters went to a custom in Colorado Springs, CO. I thought they were somewhat unique. The original balusters were turned probably in the 20’s and these were designed to match the existing balusters (the white one). Ultimately they wound up on an exterior balcony in downtown Colorado Springs. They are only about 20 inches high by 3 1/2″ in diameter.

Sapele, by the way, is a import form Africa that looks much like mahogany but not as expensive. I weathers well out side. That is, it is rot resistant.

Sapele exterior Balusters

Sapele exterior Balusters

These are exterior balusters for a home in Atlanta. They measure 3 1/2″ X 30″ 170 pcs. They were designed by the architect, Laura Depree. The wood is Sapele, an African import that is very similar to mahogany. It holds up quite well outdoors and does not have a tendency to bleed through the paint as does Spanish Cedar.

Sapele Balusters 3 1/2" X 30"

Sapele Balusters 3 1/2\

This is my third post regarding homes from the Natchez, MS area. My wife and I went up for the day and though the weather was blustery we enjoyed visiting a few antebellum homes in the Natchez area. We went first to the Auburn House and secondly to Melrose plantation. If you love old architecture Natchez is a wonderful place to visit.

Melrose from the front

Melrose from the front

Melrose from the South side

Melrose;side and rear

Melrose out building

Melrose out building

Melrose plantation front entry

Melrose plantation front entry

Melrose; my wife in front of a monstrous live oak

Melrose; my wife in front of a monstrous live oak

Melrose plantation;a magnolia in full bloom about 8 inches across

Melrose plantation;a magnolia in full bloom about 8 inches across

Auburn Plantation; Natchez, MS

Auburn Plantation; Natchez, MS

I thought I would post some more pictures of some of the beautiful homes in Natchez, MS. These particular homes are near the Stanton Hall home.

Stanton Hall

Stanton Hall from the West.

Stanton Hall

Stanton Hall from the East

nice pickets - nice wife

This lovely fence is in front of the an old estate built in the mid 1800’s – the Choctaw. The lovely girl is my wife.

mahogany door

So many of these homes have mahogany doors for the main entrance. This door is awesome.

White Oak entry
This white oak door is the main entry for Stanton Hall. You can’t really see it but the applied molding is an egg an dart motif.

neat tapered columns

I liked the tapered columns on this small home.

old home

lovely columns

Really neat bowed porch columns.

inverted "v" rail

I often have to describe to my customer how the bottom rail of a balustrade should be designed to shed water to reduce rot. This is an excellent example of how they did it in the old days.

cat in front of balustrade

The cat was practically asking us to take her picture. Many of the old top rails were round or oval in their cross section. This railing has an oval profile.

This is my next installment on Rendering my tapered newels. I have added a fluting to one of the newels. This is supposed to be Mahogany. Thanks to the Vectorworks community for their help.


This home is actually not in Natchez but one driving North to Natchez from Baton Rouge. It is closest to St Francisville, LA. The live oaks frame the home better than any picture frame could.



My Wife and I had an opportunity to go to Natchez, MS this Spring and view some of the wonderful old homes there. Natchez sits atop a 200 foot bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. Following are a few samples of what we saw. We have not had a chance to see some of the more famous homes in the area. So if you are from Natchez viewing this – no angry letters please – we hope to add them later.

If you get a chance to go to Natchez you at least have to go here. The front yards of these homes directly overlook the Mississippi River from about 100 feet up. The residents access their homes from an alley behind their homes.





The home above is a Bed and Breakfast