How To Perfect Your Window Trim Installation Process
A long-time carpenter Travis Larson explains how he installs window trim. Check out these simple step-by-step instructions.
How to Install Window Trim
Like most veteran carpenters, I’ve trimmed hundreds—maybe even thousands—of windows. So trimming out a window is second nature to me. But when I see windows that were trimmed by a rookie or watched rookies trim a window, I realize it’s not quite as easy for others.
The truth is, I rarely even use a tape measure. Nope, it’s all done by eye, using a sharp pencil, a miter saw and an 18-gauge nailer. I’ll show you how to pull off a window trim job that’ll look every bit as good as a vets—without hours of frustration. We’re working with standard trim, between 3/8 and1/2 inch thick.
How to Mark the Length
Cut a 45-degree angle on one end of the trim and hold it so the short end of the angle overhangs halfway, or 3/8 in., onto the jamb. Then mark the other end flush with the inside of the jamb. That’ll give you a 3/16-in. reveal.
Get the Spacing Right
Hold the trim 3/16-inch away from the jamb at both ends and along the base of the trim. Nail the trim to the jamb with 1-inch brads spaced about every 6 inches. Nail the thick part of the trim to the framing with 2-inch brads.
Check the Fit, Then Cut to Length
Cut a 45-degree miter on one end of the trim board. Adjust the miter as needed for a perfect fit. Then scribe the cut length 3/16-inch past the bottom of the jamb. Nail the trim onto the jamb first and then to the framing, as you did with the top piece.
Do You Need to Glue and Pin?
Glue and pin together the miter from both directions with 1-inch. brads. Wipe the glue squeeze-out with a damp rag right away.
Trim the Other Side
Repeat all the same steps on the other side of the window, fitting first the top miter, and then marking and cutting the bottom one. Nail the trim into place.
How to Fit the First Bottom Miter
Cut an overly long piece of trim and cut a miter on one end. Overlap the far end to check the fit. Mark and recut the miter as needed for a perfect fit.
How To Fit the Opposite Miter
Cut a test miter on the other end and check the fit. Adjust the miter as necessary until you’re satisfied with the joint.
Why You Should Scribe For Length
With the saw still set for the previous miter, flip the trim over and scribe the length for the end that has that miter. Transfer the mark to the front side and make the cut.
How to Deal With Problematic Drywall
If you have drywall that’s “proud” (sticking out past the jamb) or recessed behind the jamb, you have to deal with it before trimming or the trim won’t lie flat. Here’s what to do:
If the drywall projects more than 1/8 in. crush in the drywall with a hammer. Just be sure the crushed area will be covered by trim. In this situation, your miters won’t be 45 degrees. You may need to go as low as 44 degrees to get a tight miter.
How to Deal With Drywall That Projects Too Far
If the drywall projects past the jamb 1/8 in. or less and is close to the window jamb, just chamfer the edge with a utility knife. Check to see if you’ve pared off enough drywall by holding a chunk of trim against the drywall and jamb. If it rocks and won’t sit flush against both surfaces, carve out some more.
How to Trim Around Recessed Drywall
If the drywall is recessed behind the jamb, don’t nail the trim to the framing at first. Only nail it to the jamb and pin the mitered corners together. After the window is trimmed, slide shims behind each nail location to hold out the trim while nailing, then cut off the shims. Caulk the perimeter of the trim to eliminate gaps before painting.