Creators Syndicate

Dear James: The cats and kids have scratched all the trim around the doors and windows, and I would like to spruce things up with new trim. Is this a job I can tackle myself with standard hand tools? — Tracy F.

Dear Tracy: Installing new window and door trim can make a tremendous improvement in the appearance of a room. There are many new styles and profiles of trim stock available, so you should have no problem finding one to complement your room’s decor. Most home center stores have an extensive selection.

Installing new window and door trim yourself is not a difficult job, even with only hand tools. It just requires painstaking care so the finished job looks right. Many homes have poor fitting trim because some builders and carpenters do not invest the time necessary to fit all the joints properly. They rely on filling gaps with caulk, which eventually becomes apparent.

There are several types of composite trim materials available and they look very nice. Since you are obviously new to fitting trim, it is probably best to stick with wood. You may have to do some final filing, sanding or carving for that perfect joint and wood is generally the easiest material to work with.

After you select the trim profile that you want, carefully check each piece of trim that you buy, especially the profile at the ends. When lumberyards and home centers get deliveries of trim stock, it may have come from two or three different runs at the lumber mill. Measure the thickness and compare the end profiles for pieces with the most uniformity.

The greatest problem that you will have is a window or doorjamb that extends out just a slight amount from the wall. When the trim rests against this projection and the wall, it will be tilted slightly. Just a slight tilt is enough to cause a joint gaps even with perfect 45-degree miter cuts on the ends.

If you are going to paint the trim, slip a thin shim (the thickness of the jamb projection) between the trim and the wall to make it level. If you are going to just stain the trim, the shim would show. The best method for this situation is to cut or sand off the jamb projection.

Another, less technically perfect solution is to miter cut the trim piece as usual. Using a sharp utility knife (and heavy work gloves for safety), shave off the backside of the mitered edge. Make sure not to cut into the visible profile surface. This will allow the visible surfaces to meet flush without a gap.

To get a clean crisp edge, lay a straight edge along the profile surface and cut the 45-degree line with a sharp utility knife before sawing. This will keep any of the wood fibers from tearing when the saw teeth start to cut through the surface from the back.

Nail the trim to the wall with finishing nails. Choose a nail that will penetrate the lumber beneath the drywall to about a one-inch depth. Drive them in, letting the nail head project just a little. Use a nail set to countersink the nail head and then fill it with wood filler.

Send your questions to Here’s How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit