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Coping Base and/or Cap Trim

Base trim (molding) is the molding that goes down between the wall and the floor.  Occasionally, it is made from a hardwood and finished clear which adds a nice touch.  Inside joints for the shoe (base) and cap molding are normally "coped."  This includes cutting the trim to fit the profile of the trim on the adjacent wall.  This process is as an art so practice on a scrap piece first.  Please note that this particular process is not appropriate for coping ceiling trim.

Miter box and molding

Items needed:
Coping saw
Back saw
Miter box
File (optional)

Safety Suggestions and Tips
Measure twice, cut once
Use new sharp backsaw
Do not freehand cut miter

Level of difficulty

Time Required: 4 hour


Miter box cut on 45 degree angle

Step 1:

Cut the molding to proper length.  Carefully mark the trim and place it in the miter box.  Place the mark you made in front of the 45 degree slot and, using a back saw in the 45 degree slot, cut the molding to length. (More complex moldings must go into the miter box upside down and backwards.)  This type of cut will expose the profile of the molding so that you may cut it with a coping saw.  

Cut along the profile with coping saw

Step 2:

Secure the molding on a table or other stable surface and, holding the coping saw perpendicular to the work, begin to cut along the profile of the molding.

Follow with blade held straight up

Step 3:

Work the saw easily as it has a thin blade.  This will enable you to slip this cut up tight against the existing trim.  

Check fit holding at 90 degree angle

Step 4:

Take the piece of trim and test-fit it into place.  Unless you have a lot of practice or are lucky, there will be gaps

Use a file to correct the gap

Step 5:

Lightly mark the molding where the gaps are and "adjust" the profile.  A file, sandpaper or utility knife may be used to do this.

Finished coping

Step 6:

The amount of fine-tuning required depends on how the molding is to be finished.  If the trim is to be painted, you may cope the molding, fill the gaps with painters caulk or putty and then touch up the exposed areas.  If clear finish is to be used then you must adjust your cuts carefully as heavily-puttied joints will show like a sore thumb.


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