Interior Trim: Framing Your Home Renovation Project

Interior house trim can be easily compared to the frame around a valuable wall painting. Just as the frame is considered an integral part of a beautiful painting so too is the interior house trim an integral part of a home’s décor.

Framing artwork is a form of visual communication intended to emphasize a particular object and present the final product in the best possible setting. Interior house trim is also a form of visual communication intended to emphasize the rest of your home’s décor including your ceiling finishes, wall finishes and flooring.

Artists put significant effort into selecting the right frame. The frame should match the style of the painting enhancing the piece of art without distracting from it. Similarly, interior house trim needs to match the style of the home enhancing the home’s features and décor without stealing the show.

Some beautiful works of art are best presented with little or no frame, while others are best presented in a thicker, elaborately detailed frame. Some modern homes are best presented with little or no trim while other more traditional homes are best presented with elaborate trim work.

Moldings add warmth and elegance to a living space by adding relief to the walls and ceilings. The deeper the cut profiles, the more detail and shadow lines it creates. Molding designs are based on classic rules of balance and proportion.

Interior doors and interior trim tend to be very closely related. As mentioned in our previous article Selecting Interior Doors for Your Home, you can’t select interior doors without considering the interior trim. Therefore, you also can’t select interior trim without carefully considering your interior door.

Traditionally, interior trim has been consistent throughout an entire house; however, more recently, designers have started individualizing certain rooms or areas of the home but changing the style, colour or material used for the interior trim and interior doors. While this can have amazing results, it requires significant planning and skill to effectively transition these changes.

Interior trim comes in a variety of materials. If you are painting your trim, MDF, PVC or finger joint pine are the most common options, with finger joint pine being the better quality and higher priced of the three. If you are staining your trim, clear pine or oak are the two options usually offered by the box stores. However, if you are dealing with a trim specialty shop, you will have a wide variety of options, including cedar, poplar, walnut, cherry, and maple among others.

Interior trim is available in many different styles and profiles. For many home renovations, standard baseboard, casing and crown molding is most commonly used. For more elaborate homes, the various molding styles and profiles can be combined to achieve a variety of elaborately detailed architectural styles.

Whether you are sprucing up a fireplace, installing crown molding, replacing your window and door trim, installing wainscoting or doing a major renovation, upgrading your interior trim is a subtle yet very effective way to enhance and alter the look and feel of your home.

Changing your molding is also a great time to personalize your home’s décor to truly reflect your unique style and taste. For more ideas on personalizing your home décor, read our article Creating Home Décor That is Unique and Personal.


While the main function of trim is to hide construction imperfections, imperfections in our trim work tend to be quite noticeable. I am sure we have all been in homes where certain areas of the trim work was less than perfect.

In most cases, upgrading interior moldings is not difficult. However, doing trim well does require:

  • ​The right tools
  • A sharp eye when cutting
  • Attention to detail
  • Patience and pride

Helpful Hints and Suggestions for Doing Trim:


1. Paint or stain your full lengths of trim prior to cutting and installing it. This will result in a nicer finish and reduce the need for taping.

2. Use a good dual bevel mitre saw. Check your saw to ensure it is cutting straight, square and true. Adjust if needed.

3. Ensure you are using the right blade for cutting trim. The more teeth, the smoother your cut (60 – 80 teeth for a 10” blade / 72 -100 teeth for a 12” blade). Ensure the blade is sharp and no teeth are missing.

Window / Door Casing:

1. Window and door casings should be the first trim installed in a room.

2. Ensure your casing always has a deeper profile than your baseboards and/or wainscoting profiles.

3. Before selecting your casing, carefully measure the distances to corners, bulkheads, other windows or doors, electrical fixtures or switches, cabinets or any other wall obstacles. Try to select casing that avoids the need for cutting or notching it to fit or leaves gaps that are too tight to paint.

4. Consider your desired window treatments when selecting your casing.

5. While window and door casing within a room or area usually come from the same family of trim profiles, they do not necessarily need to match. Some examples of when varying the casing may be beneficial are:

  • to distinguish “feature” windows and doors, or draw attention away from less important things like closet doors
  • if the tops of windows and doors are at different heights, selecting different top casing could make the differences less noticeable
  • to avoid existing obstacles like bulkheads, light fixtures, shading systems, etc.

1. Usually the taller the baseboard trim, the thicker it is. The baseboard trim should always have a narrower profile then the casing profile.

2. In situations where the floor is not level, quarter round trim or “shoe mould” is used to conceal gaps between the baseboard and the floor. The taller and thicker the baseboard, the less it will bend to follow the flooring.

3. Cut and install your baseboards starting with the longest walls. This will help reduce your material wastage. On longer walls requiring two pieces of baseboard, try to locate the seams in the least visible spot. Seaming your baseboards using 45 degree cuts will make the seam less visible.

4. All walls are framed with a horizontal 2x running along the floor, so nailing along the bottom of your baseboard will ensure it is securely fastened. However, taller baseboards may require additional nailing along the top. This will require using a stud finder to locate the studs.

Crown Mold:

1. The corners are the most visible part of crown mold and need to fit perfectly. Some suggestions for getting perfect corners are:

  • · Use a good 10” or 12” dual bevel mitre saw. Check your saw to ensure it is cutting straight, square and true. Adjust if needed.
  • · When cutting your crown mold, place it in the saw upside down – the saw fence is the wall and the saw table is the ceiling. The detail is usually on the bottom of crown mold.
  • · Ensure your crown mold is properly sitting in your saw. You can do this by:
    1. installing a crown stop on your saw
    2. cutting setting blocks or jigs from a piece of wood
    3. place guide lines on each end of your saw table using a piece of tape and a pencil
  • · Cut away from your length of crown for inside corners and towards your length of crown for outside corners. For 90 degree corners, set your saw to 45 degrees. For 45 degree corners, set your saw to 22.5 degrees.

2. Before installing your crown mold, use a stud finder to locate all studs and mark all your studs with a pencil so you know where to nail your crown mold. At the same time, measure down from the ceiling and mark where the bottom of your crown mold will sit. Your stud markings should be below these height markings.

3. Cutting perfect corners on both ends of a piece of crown mold while achieving the perfect length of trim can be difficult. Less experienced DIY renovators might want to cut two pieces of crown and seam them in the middle of the wall. Try to locate your seams on a stud to ensure each piece of trim is properly nailed.

4. If you are installing crown mold in a room with a popcorn stucco ceiling, the edge or entire ceiling should be scraped or sanded prior to installing crown mold. For more information on removing popcorn stucco, read the quinju article, Ceiling Finished: Creative Modern Ideas, More Than Just Scraping That Ugly Popcorn Ceiling.

5. Cutting crown mold requires patience. If you find that you are getting frustrated, take a break.


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