Molding ideas for archways

Written by shawn mcclain
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Molding ideas for archways
The decorative keystone and panels make this archway beautiful. (Melbourne GPO image by Rosemary Robenn from

To be considered an archway, an opening must fall into one of three categories: elliptical, which is a curve that blends two or more radii; segment, which is a small portion of a circle; or round top, which is half of a circle. Moulding around the archway will do everything from beautify the archway to cover up imperfections in the construction. While most archway moulding may look the same, there are a few differences that you will have to choose from when you are deciding on a moulding type.


Keystones played an important part in early archway architecture, as they stabilised the arch by absorbing the pressure from both sides. While modern home arches no longer need a keystone, you can have one in your archway moulding for purely aesthetic reasons. The keystone generally extends about an inch forward and above the moulding, calling your attention to it and breaking up the straight lines of the moulding. Since these keystones are installed over the moulding, you can even have two or three spaced however you want above the archway.


In order to look proper, archway moulding tends to run all the way to the floor on both sides of the archway. Instead of just having a line of moulding running down the side of the arch, use moulding to create the look of columns. This moulding will include a plinth, which is a block at the bottom of the column, and a capital, which is a decorative piece at the top of the column just below where the arch starts to curve. For areas that have enough wall space, you can even move the sides of the archway out a little bit and install actual columns directly under the curve of the arch.


Moulding generally refers to the trim around the outside of the arch, but for archways that are more than a few inches deep, the inside of the arch is just as important. Use panels to make the inside of the arch every bit as decorative as the outside. Run the panels up the wall and then continue with the same panel design on the curve above your head. There is no limit to the intricacy of the design of these panels, so design them to fit whatever motif your house has.


While some archway mouldings may be made of wood, most of the ones that you see will be painted white to show off a classical appearance. In certain situations, however, a well-stained wood archway is a better choice. The wood blends the classical features of the archway with a rustic feeling that only wood can give. Create any shape that you want out of wood, which means that you don't have to give up any features if you choose a wood archway moulding.

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