You've probably seen dentil molding on historic buildings but never knew what it was called. The easy way to remember is dentil sounds like dental, because both words come from the same Latin word dens, which means tooth. So it's no surprise that this decorative trim looks a lot like teeth.
This molding is made up of small, rectangular blocks used in a repeating pattern. It's most commonly found in Greek and Roman architecture, although many later styles include this popular exterior trim. The White House is one of most famous buildings in the US to use dentil molding.
According to Wikipedia, the depth of dental molding is equal to the width of the trim. These equal measurements make the blocks appear square … although looking at the photo here, the molding looks more rectangular.
Decorating Your Home's Exterior
Dentil molding is used more often to decorate the exterior of buildings. It typically follows the roof line of a building, providing a decorative band that adds dimension to a house. You might think this molding has to follow a straight line but here's a photo (below) showing a historic Nantucket house with the trim adapted for a sloped/curved roof line.
This trim is strictly decorative, serving no function in the building's structure. That means it can be used for different house styles and works with different types of siding, e.g. check out Mid-America's gallery to see dentil molding on a brick house.
Where Dentil Molding is Used Indoors
You won't find as much dentil molding used indoors today. That's because the cost of custom millwork has increased significantly, both it's manufacture and labor to install it. The uses I can think of (let me know below if you've seen others) are:
- Dential molding integrated into crown molding, which similar to roofs is installed just below the ceiling.
- Fireplace mantels, where the dentil trim is just below the edge of the top shelf to create more architectural interest.
- Furniture pieces like tables and bookcases, use dentil trim for decorative purposes.
There are lots of ways to buy this type of trim, so a few words of caution. Do your research online and then locate the nearest retailer for the product you want to buy, so you can see and touch it in person (or order sample). Consider where you're going to install the trim and if outdoors, a Urethan product will mean cleaning but no painting required. Indoors where your trim, you'll want to buy longer pieces for fewer seams.