“Millwork” is a term used to describe ready-made carpentry products designed for installation within buildings. In the past, millwork was crafted exclusively from wood. The majority of millwork is still wood-based, but some millwork products are now fabricated using plastics and composite elements. Buyers often purchase millwork unfinished, and customize it via painting or staining. Certain firms do specialize in custom finished millwork, however. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with “casework,” although casework typically refers to finished cabinetry.

Variations of millwork are practically limitless, and are designated by a multitude of industry-specific labels. With so many types of millwork, occasionally confusing one carpentry term for another becomes likely, if not inevitable. Below is a short glossary to help keep things straight.

  • Astragal - Material that covers the gap between a pair of doors to prevent them from swinging back through the open space. Can also be installed on shelf edges for decorative reasons.
  • Bracket - A wall mounted projection inserted between vertical and horizontal members for ornamentation, or to provide structural support.

  • Capital - Decorative fixture placed at the top of a column.

  • Chair Rail - Wall moulding installed at chair height. Typically applied to prevent chairs from scuffing walls.

  • Corbel - A piece of solid material that protrudes from a wall to provide support.

  • Cornice - Decorative moulding situated around the top of a wall, building or piece of furniture.

  • Crown Moulding - Moulding installed at the intersection of walls and ceilings.

  • Dentil molding - Blocks spaced evenly along the underside of a cornice.

  • Header - A horizontal support spanning the opening of a window or door.

  • Louver - A slatted window blind or shutter used to ensure ventilation.

  • Medallion - An embellished accent attached at a ceiling’s central point.

  • Moulding - Strips of material applied for ornamental purposes, or to cover transitions between surfaces.

  • Pediment - A triangular fixture located on the upper-front portion of a building, window, or door; common in classical architecture.

  • Pilaster - A decorative rectangular feature that projects slightly from a wall, imitating a column.  

  • Plate rail -  A narrow shelf attached to the upper area of a wall. Used to display plates, pictures, or other ornaments.

  • Portico - A porch equipped with a supported roof, and leading up to a building’s entrance.

  • Quoins - Rectangular masonry pieces extending up a building’s corner. Applied to create the impression of structural reinforcement.

  • Rosette - A round, stylized miniature medallion common in antiquity. Can be employed to accent architecture and furniture.

  • Wall Niche - A recessed portion of a wall in which vases and other decorative pieces are displayed.

For an extended glossary of millwork terms, visit this page.

- Sim Fern, Founder, Upbeat Designs