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Buying Guide: Interior Wood Trim

To get a pleasing result with wood, you need to carefully select the individual pieces of lumber at the store, paying attention to grain and color.

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Interior trim can add definition and refinement to a room, and wood remains a good choice for material. Today, synthetic trims can sometimes be a better option. Here are a few tips to help you no matter which material you choose.

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Combine smaller molding to create large profiles

Combine smaller molding to create large profiles

You can save yourself money and hassles by buying separate pieces of trim and assembling them yourself rather than buying elaborate pre-milled moldings. Cutting, coping and fitting wide trim is tricky. If you mess up, you’ll be wasting trim that can cost several dollars per foot. If possible, try to replicate the profile you’re after by assembling the correct individual pieces yourself.

Buy primed trim if you’re painting

Buy primed trim if you’re painting

This is a no-brainer. Primed trim speeds up the finishing process. It’s easier to spot defects and nail holes on primed trim, so you can fill them before the final coats of paint. It’s even simpler to cope primed trim because the contrast between the raw wood and the painted surface gives you a crisp profile line to follow. So don’t buy raw wood if you’re going to paint.

Get the longest pieces you can handle

Get the longest pieces you can handle

Even if you need mostly short pieces, it’s wise to buy the longest trim you can fit into your vehicle. Here’s why:

  • You’ll have fewer splices and more one-piece trim lengths, which look much better than any splice ever would.
  • You’ll be able to pick and choose to closely match grains so they blend together.
  • You’ll have plenty of short lengths left over for smaller projects.

You can order rare moldings

You can order rare moldings

No lumberyard or home center carries every molding profile made. Some styles are rare, especially in an older home. Even so, most are still made and available by special order. Take a short length of trim with you to the store and ask to see the profile chart. Any store that sells trim will have one. Match it to your sample and ask whether it can be ordered. It may be expensive, but you’ll get the molding you want.

Avoid using MDF trim in moist places

Avoid using MDF trim in moist places

MDF (medium-density fiberboard) is inexpensive and a great material for painted trim, but only if you’re installing it in a permanently dry place. Installing it near the floor or near windows where water or condensation sometimes collects is a recipe for disaster. The MDF will soak it up like a sponge, expand and shed paint in very short order. So avoid using MDF anywhere at risk for getting wet.

Match the grain

Match the grain

Occasionally you’ll need to splice trim pieces. If you’re trimming with natural wood, that splice will stick out like a sore thumb if you’re not careful. If you need to splice trim on long walls, spend extra time choosing those pieces to make sure the grain patterns match and the wood tones are similar. When the pieces are joined, the splice will be nearly invisible.