How to Make Fancy Moldings and Trim

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

Well, it's traveling time again and I'm headed for Brunswick, Maine to visit Steve and Mercy Norman. Good morning, Mercy.
MERCY NORMAN:
Good morning, Ron.
RON HAZELTON:
Hey, Steve.
STEVE NORMAN:
Good morning.
RON HAZELTON:
Boy, I had a wonderful night's sleep.
MERCY NORMAN:
Oh, good.
RON HAZELTON:
And this coffee cake is fantastic.
MERCY NORMAN:
Oh, I'm glad you're enjoying it.
RON HAZELTON:
So what are we going to do today?
MERCY NORMAN:
Well, today, we're going to head up —
RON HAZELTON:
Mercy and Steve explained that most of the interior woodwork at the inn is quite detailed, reflecting the elegance and style typical of the larger 19th-century homes in town. But one room, most likely the housekeeper's quarters in earlier times, has trim that is painfully plain by comparison.

Instead of replacing it, Mercy and Steve have come up with another idea.

STEVE NORMAN:
The idea, I think, is to try to not tear off, not to remove the existing, but to build upon that using these standard pieces and just adding to it and that, that little bit of detail —
RON HAZELTON:
Makes a big difference, yeah, yeah. Okay, listen, why don't we do this, why don't we put some of this on a baseboard and around the door casings and just see how that looks and where we want to go from there.

STEVE NORMAN:
Sounds good.
RON HAZELTON:
Perhaps the most important part of any molding job is accurate measuring. Two important tips here — 1) make sure you're at eye level when reading the tape measure.
MERCY NORMAN:
Fifteen sixteenths.
RON HAZELTON:
And 2) it's always better to be a little long, than short. You can always cut a bit more off.
[SOT]
Well, we set up shop in a nearby room that was, until recently, their son's bedroom.

Now, Steve, you know this but Mercy, this is — let me just go over what a miter cut is. It actually is an angle cut, usually on the end of a piece of wood, and most of the miters that we're going to be cutting today will form an angle of 90 degrees.

This is the kind of miter that we're going to be working with today. So let's start by taking one piece, one long piece of molding right here, and cutting a 45 degree miter on one end. There you go. Okay. Okay, Mercy, you want to do this.

Just press that down onto the table back toward the fence with the left hand. Go ahead and make your cut. [SAWING] Good. Now this piece of molding is going to have a miter cut on both ends of it. Whenever that's the case, you want to cut the miter on one end first and then measure from that to the location of the second miter.

Here's a tip — for a more exact measurement, instead of using the hook at the end of the tape measure, try placing the one-inch mark at the edge of the wood. Just make sure to add that inch back again at the other end.

Our measurement is 79 and 7/16ths, you want to make it —
MERCY NORMAN:
Make it 80 —
RON HAZELTON:
— 80 and 7/16ths.

With the power miter saw set to 45 degrees, Steve cuts the molding to length.

There, Steve. How does it fit, bud?
STEVE NORMAN:
Well, I think — it came out pretty good.
RON HAZELTON:
There's nothing like a nail gun for installing molding quickly and easily, especially in an old home like this where pounding on a wall with a hammer can cause cracking and damage fragile plaster.

Although with proper eye protection, a nail gun is perfectly safe, there is a back blast of air, and sometimes it can be a surprise.
MERCY NORMAN:
Oooh —
RON HAZELTON:
A few more nails, and Mercy uses the gun like a champ.

Well, this looks good. What do you guys think?
MERCY NORMAN:
It gives it more depth.
RON HAZELTON:
Is that enough?
MERCY NORMAN:
Well —
STEVE NORMAN:
I think it needs something. I think — I think if we — if we added another piece of trim on the face of the flat part here, came down, that would start to give it that buildup effect that we're looking for.
RON HAZELTON:
Okay, a little more thickness, a little more detail. So then that would run where, all the way down to the carpet?
MERCY NORMAN:
But I don't think it should end at the floor. It seems like it should stop before that.
STEVE NORMAN:
She's right. Normally this would, would stop on a block down here.
RON HAZELTON:
Sure — like a plinth block, the kind you use on a, on a mantel or something like that.
[BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
STEVE NORMAN:
Right, exactly.
RON HAZELTON:
A plinth block is a decorative piece of woodwork that can simulate the base of a column when it's used at the bottom of a door or as part of a fireplace surround.

That looks good, that looks good.

I'm just wondering though if we couldn't maybe put some kind of detail on the face of this, maybe make it up with some, some of the molding that we've got.
MERCY NORMAN:
Be a little creative.
RON HAZELTON:
Would you like that?
MERCY NORMAN:
Yeah. It would be good.
RON HAZELTON:
All right, let's try it, let's try it.

Now here's our chance to be creative. Steve pulls out some leftover half round which we cut into short pieces with miters on both ends. Applied to the face of the block, these will form a sort of raised panel look. It's a simple touch, but one that adds a nice detail.

There you go, Steve. Got a coat of primer on that.
STEVE NORMAN:
Okay.
RON HAZELTON:
With the plinth blocks in place at the bottom and corners, it's time to add the finishing touch, a piece of decorative molding to the face of the door casing. This will create not only more detail, but the appearance of greater thickness.
STEVE NORMAN:
Now this is the final piece I had in mind.
RON HAZELTON:
A piece of shoe molding.
STEVE NORMAN:
Right.
RON HAZELTON:
Ah, I like that.

RON HAZELTON:
Well, it balances off this piece that we put up on up here, very nicely and I like the way that it finishes off into the plinth block here. Okay, let's nail it on.
STEVE NORMAN:
Good.
[BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
RON HAZELTON:
Applying caulk to the seams or any place there's a gap, will give this or any molding job, an absolutely professional look. A coat of semi-gloss enamel and this molding now lives up to the heritage of this 1890s home.  Transformed from servants' quarters to guest quarters, the Brunswick Bed and Breakfast has an elegant vacancy just waiting to be filled.
Well, I had a wonderful stay. I loved the project. Thank you guys, so much.
MERCY NORMAN:
Well, you're welcome. It's great to have you here.
RON HAZELTON:
Thanks, Steve.
STEVE NORMAN:
Thank you, Ron.
MERCY NORMAN:
And Ron, for the trip.
RON HAZELTON:
Thank you very much.
MERCY NORMAN:
More coffee cake.
RON HAZELTON:
More coffee cake for the road.
[BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
MERCY NORMAN:
More coffee cake —
RON HAZELTON:
Just what I wanted.
MERCY NORMAN:
That's right.

Install Additional Trim to Flat Casings to Give Depth and Detail

If your room, or even your entire house, is in need of some decorative details, consider adding some depth to your door casings and baseboards with these simple techniques. Flat casings and moldings can leave a room feeling none dimensional, but by installing shoe moldings, plinth blocks, corner blocks and other decorative details, you can pull out the full decorative potential of your home.

Measure Carefully
Step 1

Measure Carefully

Accurate measurements are vitally important when installing molding and trim. Gaps and mis-cuts can deter from the appearance of the final product. Remember to always read the tape measure from eye level, so that you can see exactly where the true measurement begins and ends. Another key piece of advice here is to always measure/cut the pieces just a little bit long. It's a lot easier, and less expensive, to cut a little bit more off than to have to start with a whole new piece if your first cut was too short.

Cut the Mitered Joints
Step 2

Cut the Mitered Joints

You may find it helpful to start your measurement from the 1" mark. The hook at the end of the tape is usually not rigid, and can fluctuate as much as 1/8" as you pull on it. Just remember to add an inch to you final measurement when you are marking the piece to be cut. The joints for this project are 90 degree miters, so each piece will be cut at a 45 degree angle. When the two 45 degree cuts are pieced together, it makes a 90 degree, square, corner.

Install the Molding
Step 3

Install the Molding

The fastest way to install trim and molding is with a nail gun. The nail gun allows you to quickly and effectively hang the trim and sink the nail heads without using a hammer. In older homes, the plaster can be brittle and using a hammer can cause the plaster to crack, crumble or fall into the wall cavity behind the trim. Make sure you wear safety goggles when using a nail gun. They have plenty of safety features, but they do create a back blast of air that can puff into your face. The goggles may help keep you from flinching.

Customize Plinth and Corner Blocks
Step 4

Customize Plinth and Corner Blocks

Plinth and corner blocks give the impression that your door casing is part of a decorative column. These pieces can be easily installed over your existing flat casing. This is a chance for you to really be creative, as the flat surface of the blocks that you cut can then be enhanced with other pieces of trim to create whatever appearance you want. In this case, Ron is using a half round for the corner blocks.

Install the Final Pieces of Trim
Step 5

Install the Final Pieces of Trim

Once the corner and plinth blocks are in place, install a final, top layer of trim to tie them together. This last piece will give the multi-dimensional depth to your casing that really makes it stand out. A piece of shoe molding or quarter round along the baseboard will help tie the baseboard into the plinth block that you've nailed to the casing as well, thus leaving all of the room's trim at the same depth.

Caulk and Paint
Step 6

Caulk and Paint

Spend a little time with a caulk gun in your hand to fill all of the gaps and seams in your work. This step will guarantee a professional appearance. Once the caulk has dried, prime any bare wood and then coat the entire project area with a semi-gloss enamel paint. The semi-gloss will give the perfect sheen to your new trim work, and it creates a hard enough surface to help protect it from nicks and dings better than a flat paint.