Holding trim in place to mark it for length is faster and more accurate than measuring. But that's not easy to do with long pieces of trim. When you're cutting miters and need to hold the end of a long piece of casing in place while you mark the far end, just pin it with your brad nailer. It doesn't take much. If you're putting up 3/8-in.-thick trim, just tack it with a 1-in. brad. After marking, pull the molding loose. You'll have to pull the nail and fill one extra nail hole in the trim. But that sure beats hiring a gum-chewing helper.
If you're coping baseboards or other moldings that have a relatively long straight section, cut the straight section with the miter saw instead of your coping saw. You'll get a straighter cut and save time. After cutting the first 45-degree, swing the miter saw to 30 degrees and cut along the straight section of the cope. Be careful to lift the blade before releasing the trigger. If you're careful and have a steady hand, with a little practice you can even rough out curvy sections of copes with the miter saw. Then it only takes seconds to fine-tune the cope with a file.
Simplify door installations by shimming the hinge side of the rough opening before you set the prehung door. Mark the hinge locations first, right behind the hinges if you’re adding long screws into the framing for heavy solid-core doors, or just above or below the hinges for lightweight hollowcores. Use a long level or tape a shorter level to a 6-ft.-long straight board. Make sure the shims extend equally from both sides so the jamb won’t get twisted. Shim the top and bottom first until the level reads plumb. Then use the level as a straightedge to set the center shims. Tack the shims into place with your brad gun. Aim for about a 1/4-in. gap between the level and the stud.
Hot-melt glue has always been handy for temporary holding tasks, but industrial-strength polyurethane hot-melt adhesive is strong enough to make permanent connections. It’s especially handy for those small pieces of molding that are sure to break if you try to nail them. It’s also good for hard-to-attach items like handrail returns.
We bought a kit from a woodworking supply store that contained a glue gun and three sticks of hot-melt glue. Search online for “polyurethane hot melt glue” to find more information and a buying source.
Transition blocks can solve all kinds of challenging molding problems. One of the most common uses for blocks is in old houses where door casing and base meet. But here are several other situations where transition blocks are an elegant solution:
- The top and bottom of stairs where the skirt board meets the baseboard.
- A stair landing where the skirt board turns the corner.
- Where the floor level changes and the baseboard continues, such as where tile meets carpeting.
- Where crown or chair rail moldings that run at angles must turn corners, such as up a stairway.
When you're nailing baseboard, you can avoid finding and marking every stud. The key is to find the exact center of a stud that's on a 16-in. (or 24-in.) layout. Do this by looking for drywall screws along the bottom of the wall or probing the area on either side of and below an outlet. Make a series of nail holes into the wall where it will be covered with the baseboard, stopping when you find both edges of the stud.
Finding and marking wall studs and ceiling joists for crown molding installation is tedious. And even after locating framing members, you’re limited to fastening only at these spots. It may take a little more work initially, but installing a continuous backer will speed up crown molding installation and result in a better job. You don’t even have to locate studs.
Make a template by aligning a small piece of crown molding with the edges of a sheet of paper. Let one edge of the paper represent the wall and one edge the ceiling. Trace along the back of the molding to make a pattern. Adjust the pattern to leave 1/4 in. between the back of the molding and the blocking to allow for variations in the wall and ceiling. Use the template to set your table saw to the correct angle and rip 2x4s for backing. Attach the backing with screws driven into the top plate.
When you install crown moldings, don't nail within 2 ft. of the inside corner on the end of the straight-cut pieces. Leaving the end loose allows you to shift the molding slightly to align perfectly with the intersecting coped molding. Since the end is trapped by the coped piece, it doesn't require nails to stay in place.
Sometimes you'll need to cope both ends of a molding. But getting a good fit is tricky, and if you mess up, you have to start over. Avoid the hassle by cutting the molding about 1/4 to 1/2 in. too long. Then cut it into two pieces. Cut at a 30-degree bevel at a position that will locate the joint over a stud or other nailer. Now fit the copes one at a time. When both are perfect, nail up half of the molding. Then trim the 30-degree bevel on the other until you get a perfect joint.