Interior trim doesn’t occupy a lot of space in a home, yet no other element speaks with more clarity about a home’s quality of craftsmanship. Because of that qual-ity, installing wood trim ranks high on the list of satis-fying do-it-yourself endeavors. In the next few pages, you’ll learn the tips and secrets the pros use to get great-looking results time after time. Today, a huge variety of trim choices are available. Make your choice based on what will blend with or complement your home’s other trim styles.
The engine that drives a perfect trim project is a 10- or 12-in. power miter saw with a 40- to 60-tooth thin-kerf carbide blade. With a power miter saw, you can change angles in seconds and nibble off the tiniest amount for a truly accurate fit and cut. A pneumatic fin-ish nailer, while not essential, is certainly a huge plus, especially for smaller trim. You’ll also need a coping saw and a nail set.
Apply the finish to the trim before you install it. For stained trim, apply the stain and one or two coats of clear finish. For painted trim, apply primer and at least one coat of paint. In both cases, apply final coat after installation. To save footsteps, set up the miter saw in the center of the room where you plan to work.
- Always cut pieces slightly overlong and test-fit before making the final cut.
- To pre-drill holes, cut the head off a same-size finish nail and use it as a drill bit.
- Where possible, install nails in a dark grain portion of wood to better hide the nail.
- Use a tape measure only when you have to. Instead, set the workpiece in place and mark the cut to improve accuracy.
Molding falls into two basic categories: paint-grade and stain-grade. Paint-grade trim has a smooth, paint-friendly surface. For painted trim, the preprimed solid wood, poplar, polystyrene or finger-jointed pieces. For trim that will only be stained or finished, use solid pine, no finger joints, hardwood or hardwood veneer. Most home cen-ters carry a wide variety of each type; unfortu-nately, their hardwood selections are often lim-ited to red oak or maple unless you special order. This vast selection of moldings means you can experiment with many combinations to create your own trim style with two, even three pieces. Single-piece baseboard varies greatly in width. Use a single piece for carpeted rooms and where the style matches the win-dow and door trim. Add quarter-round or base shoe in rooms with hard-surface flooring so it can conform to floor dips and uneven areas. The base cap on three-piece moldings conforms to uneven wall surfaces and helps hide gaps.
Protect the floor with a tarp and set up your work-station in the room’s center. Locate the studs and mark their locations with painter’s tape. Install door trim before working on baseboard.
Rough-cut all baseboard pieces about 5 cm overlong and lay them in place. Starting with the longest wall, cut the first piece to length and install it. Continue around the room using butt joints on inside corners; To splice two baseboards, use beveled cuts over a stud location. Select pieces with similar grain color and pattern so the joint is less visible. Cut a 30° angle on each piece.
Form the inside corner joints by making a simple square cut on one piece and a coped cut on the other. Floors that are out of level, though, can cause even perfectly coped inside corners to look lousy. Check each joint’s fit before you make the final cuts and nail either piece. If a coped joint has a gap at the bottom, shim a square-cut piece using the tech-nique shown at bottom. For a gap at the top, adjust the coped cut on a miter saw.
- Cut a 45° bevel on baseboard pieces to be coped. Then turn each board upside down in a miter saw and carefully back-cut the straight portion until reaching the profiled section.
- Saw out remaining profiled section with coping saw. Tilt saw at least 30° to create a back bevel for a tighter joint on the exposed face.
Getting outside corners to fit is trickier than it looks. Start by making accurate marks with the baseboard in place rather than relying on measurements. Use test pieces to gauge the corner’s angle. Adjusting for the actual wall angle, cut each piece a little long. Avoid gaps on outside corners by cutting slightly steeper, about 46 degrees, angles on each piece.
- Mark outside corners with utility knife about 3 mm overlong. Repeat mark-ing process on opposite baseboard.
- Hold boards in place to check fit. If miter is open to front, increase the back-cut angle gradually until a tight joint is achieved.
Better Looking Trim
Filling nail holes. For painted trim, fill nail holes with latex putty before the final coat of paint. After it dries, remove excess putty with stiff, damp sponge. For stained or clear-finish trim, fill holes with colored putty to match wood color. To get a good color match, mix two putty colors. Oil-based putties should be applied only after the first coat of clear finish has been applied.
- Check outside corners using test pieces. True 90° corners are rare. Adjust your miter saw to compensate.
- If baseboard “kicks in” because of a gap between drywall and floor, put drywall screws below drywall edge, even with its surface.
- Cut base shoe at 22.5° where it meets door casing. Cope all base shoe inside corner joints and nail it to baseboard, not to the floor.