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I'm about to install shoe molding all over my house. I'm deciding between composite (I think it's PVC) and wood. They are quite similar in price. How do these 2 materials compare in terms of:

  • durability
  • paintability
  • cutability
  • prone to splitting by nails
  • anything else I'm overlooking
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up vote 3 down vote accepted

I would go with the wood. It will paint & caulk better. Some of the PVC stuff doesn't cut well on a chop box, has a tendency to break and may crack with larger nails. PVC just looks cheap when its up, you can tell its plastic.

If the composite is MDF, I would buy that over wood. MDF is cheaper, and usualy straighter pieces. It also paints nicely. The only time I might choose wood over MDF is if I were staining the molding.

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I agree, PVC is fine for exterior or wet applications but inside the house either use paint grade MDF composite or stain grade wood (depending on your finished look). – auujay May 21 '12 at 14:44

I recently used white PVC 1/4-round nailed to the (white-painted) wooden baseboard of an interior room, to cover the expansion gap of some newly-installed floating engineered flooring. Thus, I can't speak to PVC's paint-ability or long-term durability. As for cutting & nailing...

I cut it at a 45-degree angle on a power-mitre (chop) saw, with no problems. There was some very occasional fraying at the cut, easily trimmed with a utility knife.

The PVC feels softer / more pliable than the oak 1/4-round I used in another room. I had no fears at all about nails splitting the PVC; it seems like you'd have to use absurdly over-sized nails to cause it to split.

Overall, I would go with wood if I had to paint or stain it to match. However, I've been very happy with the look and performance of the white PVC along my white baseboard.

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