I love working with wood. I don’t know if it’s my manstincts kicking in (*New Word Alert: Manstincts – Man and instincts put together), but cutting and shaping wood brings me to a primal state that often makes me raise my head and caveman grunt like Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor. Uh-Uh-Uh-UH-UH-UGGH! Let’s move on from that Tim Allen 90s catchphrase crap before that annoying grunting noise gets stuck in your head. Suffice it to say, I’m in love with woodworking and I really love to share my love with everyone. Ok, that came out wrong. I love to share my knowledge of woodworking with DIYer’s who want to beautify their own home with trim, baseboard and molding, but are too scared to try it because they’re afraid of screwing it up. If that describes you (or you want to pick up a trick or two), read on for tips to help you tackle any trim.
While it does take an initial investment to get set up with the right tools (less if you rent the tools, even less if you steal them) and materials, once you learn a few simple tips and tricks, you can start installing your own trim work right away. So, get yourself a compound miter saw, an assortment of hand saws and a few basic hand tools — then use these tips and tricks for installing your own trim like a pro.
Get to Know Your Tools
One of the most important parts of stepping up from a DIY weekend warrior and becoming a novice woodworker is getting familiar with your woodworking tools. Build stuff! Use your miter saw, break out the coping saw and install some new trim in your home. The more you practice—the better you get — that’s a no-brainer. But once you become more familiar with using them, don’t neglect to use them safely. There’s a difference between knowing-it-all on a miter saw and a know-it-all on a miter saw: and it’s often the tip of a finger.
Stick to the Plan
Trim around doors, openings and windows first, move to the walls and flooring next and finish with the baseboard and molding last. Work from the right side of the room to the left so all of your cuts are on the right hand side of the saw — go in the opposite direction if you’re a left-handed freak of nature (no offense).
Cutting inside corners on baseboard can be tricky for the uninitiated. Getting the angle just right takes a bit of work with a test block (see below). Unless you’re cutting stained or clear coated trim, you don’t need to waste your time cutting 45 degree angles for the inside corners of your baseboard. Instead, use a coping saw to cut out the “face” of the baseboard. Starting from the right side of the door and working your way around to the left of the room, attach a piece of baseboard to the wall that’s square cut on each end-wall to wall. Measure and cut the next piece wall to wall but cut the right end of the baseboard on a 45 degree angle with the long part of the angle on the back of the baseboard. Cut out the face of the 45 degree angle cut, using the trim face as the guideline. The newly cut piece should fit tightly together against the square cut piece.
Test FittingWhen you reach outside or inside corners, use a pair of test blocks to get an accurate cut. Test blocks are 1’ baseboard cutoffs (scraps work best) at a 45 degree angle. Place the two pieces of baseboard together at the outside corner of your wall and “test fit” the two corners. If the corners are tight — great; go play the lottery! You can cut the two large pieces at a true 45 degree angle (yeah right!). Most outside corners end up needing some tweaking, so you’ll have to adjust the cut (on the test piece) to find the right angle on your miter saw before you cut the final outside corner on the real pieces. Insider Tip: When cutting clear finished trim — I cut my test pieces with both inside and outside corners so I can test fit any angle easily before cutting the real baseboard angle.
Glue the Corners
Corners that are glued together – stay together. Wood shrinks and expands in any climate. People use Gorilla Glue, Tite Bond, or Elmer’s: it’s really a choice best left up to your preference and particular application. Use clear-drying glue for clear trim and painters caulk when you’re painting your pieces.
Cutting Crown Molding
There are two ways to cut crown molding: diagonally nested and lying flat. Diagonally nested is the easiest way, but it can create kickback on the saw. Diagonally Cut: Set the crown in the saw with the bottom face of the crown resting against the fence and the top of the crown face down on the table; then cut it on the 45 degree angle. Cut on a left 45 for the right hand side of the crown corner and make a right 45 cut on the miter to cut the left hand corner of the crown. It’s opposite because the crown is upside down in the saw. Flat Cut: This method takes much more skill, but creates a neater cut less likely to tear out. Check out this DeWalt video on cutting crown molding to get a better idea on how to trim out your house! If you’re interested in crown, we have a more detailed Crown Molding article headed your way soon.
Let us know how your projects work out in the comments below!