What do Eastside house flippers have against molding?

In defense of molding | Kendyl Young/Flickr-C.C. 2.0

In defense of molding | Kendyl Young/Flickr-C.C. 2.0

For lovers of old homes, the flipper is often a foe when it comes to preserving a building’s historic charm and character. In addition to ripping out original built-in cabinets and tile, one of the most common old house features to wind up in the dumpster is molding – the decorative wood or plaster trim found around doorways and at the top and bottom of walls. Now, urban homesteader and Root Simple blogger Erik Knutzen of Silver Lake wants flippers to think twice before they rip out that molding.

In a blog post titled In Defense of Molding, Knutzen writes:

Molding is both functional and ornamental. Functionally, it serves to hide the inevitably imperfect intersections between walls, ceilings, doorways and floors. Conceptually, it creates a hierarchy between rooms (the living room should have larger molding than the bedroom, for instance) and it serves to mark a transition between spaces. It feels different to walk through an ornamented door than it does through what is merely a hole punched through a wall.

Many people view molding as a fussy, dust-collecting artifact that is out-of-place in homes and apartments inspired by Dwell magazine. But Knutzen says that most flippers don’t remove molding over aesthetics. “Rather it’s simple cheapness and, perhaps, a lack of skill.”


  1. Yes!! Thank goodness there are others out there who understand and appreciate all that are trim and molding.

    • Flippers understand the “goodness” too. They know they can sell salvaged old trim for $$$ and they know that ripping it out and painting over drywall is a lot cheaper than restoring vintage trim. The Flipper only cares about 1 thing…his own bank account.

      • Martin Arredondo

        And displacing losers like Jim,Mando and Proper Dos. Thank god for the flippers.

      • Seems like you care an awful lot about their bank account as well.

      • To be fair, plenty of non-flipping homeowners are guilty of removing elements that preservationists may deem worthy of saving. When I worked in real estate, my first listing – an 1899 home in Lincoln Heights – had been stuccoed over by the long-time owner (an elderly Latino man). When I returned to the house a year or two later, once the new owners decided to sell, I noticed that they had tiled over the wood floors throughout the house.

        Regarding molding, I imagine that flippers may think it’s too much work to carefully remove all the molding, sand and repaint/restain it, then reinstall it. That kind of work borders on fine carpentry, and I’m guessing that most flippers aren’t hiring skilled carpenters to rehab the properties they purchase.

    • THANK YOU!!!!!! Why do people think the cheapest crud from Home Depot looks nicer than something that actual skilled craftsman created 100 years ago!

  2. Wow, eastsider has really gone downhill.

  3. It breaks my heart every time I see a house being “renovated” with the old stuff ripped out — moulding, doors, windows, etc. I have to admit though, I’ve scored some good stuff from those dumpsters including door knobs, light fixtures, and Batchelder Tile.

    • Breaks my heart too. If you want new and modern with clean lines, why buy an old richly detailed home and rip it apart? There are plenty of 1950’s onward homes available to fix up, but for people who appreciate pre-midcentury, and there are many of us, finding homes that haven’t been already ruined is uncommon. It’s pretty simple, if you want modern, buy modern.

  4. Oh yes, always rip the molding out, first thing. Don’t forget the horizontal wood fence, sans serif street number and red door. Bonus points for recessed lights, a cheesy backsplash. Tile over that old growth wood and rip out those annoying built-ins that you can’t even move.

  5. I find too much molding oppressive. Those drawers in the hutches are always useless, The coffered ceiling is too heavy. It darkens and weighs down a house. Not every one wants to go retro. I ripped it all out of my craftsman (that I didn’t flip). Also all the old layouts don’t work for the way we want to live today. Lots of little rooms with tons of molding. Closed in kitchens, little mud rooms and pantrys. The old lay outs don’t orient to the back yard. There is one little back door with one little window off of some mud room and the indoor outhouse bathrooms. Sorry, it doesn’t work. I like molding. I installed base bored and door casing and all that, just not 6″ around every damn door, wall, window, ceiling and floor. I’m not into stained glass either. It is not a crime. I know, I know, the hipsters are evil! The flippers are evil! Whatever. I don’t drive a Model T either. But one of those new fangled cars that gets decent gas mileage. So there! And my ice box…. No Ice! I have electricity and every thing. Evil, I know….

    • I left the exterior pretty much intact…. you know, to keep the flavor….and I like it. Porch and pilars and multi light windows. A nice mix of old and new. I might ever peal off the stucco at some point and go back to the shingles.

      • Oh and you are gonna love this…. I tore out the fireplace! What a waste of space. It was right in the middle of the house. If it had at least been on an outside wall I might have kept it.

        • At least YOU made those decisions after you bought your place. It sounds like you know what you like and you went for it. I agree, we don’t all like the same things in our houses. But I hate that flipper/investor types aren’t really leaving those choices to the buyer.

        • Why buy an old house that you hate then try to remake it into something it’s not? Sounds like you’ve flushed a lot of time and money down the toilet.

          • I didn’t hate it before. I like it more now, though. Plus when you are house shopping you rarely get all the things you want. Some people seem to think you make a list of all the things you want and the amount you want to spend then you just go and buy it….. doesn’t work like that. There are always a ton of trade-offs. Mostly, i’m just tired of the flipper bashing. They are catering to the market, plain and simple. They are making what people want to buy. Blame yourself.

        • I have a friend with a brownstone and she’s about to do the same thing. And she has good taste. It’s just in her way. Idk. To me it just seems like we convince ourselves that our alterations do more for us that we think. I don’t have enough confidence in my whims to be so radical.

    • By all means get rid of any inanimate object that makes you feel oppressed. If someone feels oppressed by your alterations, they can just reverse them. It should cost about the same to reverse your changes, right? 🙂

    • Exactly. This article is basically “Here’s the headline. Now gloss over the article and argue your personal preferences in the comment section!” With that ever underlying antigentrification motive that is in every eastsider article now

  6. Fuck trim and molding. You know what I’d like? To have something like a book shelf flush against the wall, instead of a half inch away from it.

  7. How exactly do we know that house flippers hate molding?
    Is this based on any sort of facts or just a good headline?
    I’ve been through a few flipped houses in silverlake/los feliz that were actually full of molding and built-ins.
    It’s actually cheaper to keep it all and paint it rather than rip it out.
    I have a nearly original 1920s Spanish. It has no little-to-no molding or built-ins and it never did. So I guess you are specifically talking about craftsman houses?
    There are certainly a ton of terrible flips out there, but I really don’t get the connection between house flippers and molding.

  8. I personally replaced the moldings in our rental units. All of which have been restored to their c. 1950s/1960s appearance, which was simple and relatively inexpensive by just relying on old family pix from that era. Even the interior colors are authentic and I was able to find 90% of all the materials at the local Home Depot. The result is a warm and comforting environment to enjoy family meals and Sunday naps. In fact, admiring my work from under the shade of a lemon tree (which I’ve planted in each property) is one of the most relaxing things to do in these parts. Like my own personal time machine to a simpler and previous century.

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