Trim and moulding are crucial in adding character to a home, and the style you choose sets the tone for everything else. In my first home (a very basic 1980s colonial) we replaced all the window and door trim and it was a lot of bang for the buck. It elevated the entire house, and was well worth the cost of wood!
It can be time consuming though. So I’m here to share a little shortcut. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have already seen this. When we first moved in, I changed out all the downstairs trim using this method. Now that I’m working on the primary bathroom for the ORC, I’m at it again!
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Here was the downstairs trim before. I wanted to add height and width. However, we had so many projects to finish, I needed a shortcut. Could we just replace the top? I was unsure because the existing trim came together at 45 degree angles. Ripping off the top would leave some behind!
Could we cut along the edge? My husband, so often the naysayer, said there was no way to cut it clean while still on the wall. I respectfully disagreed and gave the oscillating saw a try while he was at work. It worked great. I said “I told you so” and then decided to do the same upstairs!
Materials you’ll need if you want to give this a try:
- Utility knife
- Level (optional)
- Oscillating saw (I used this plug-in one)
- Measuring tape
- New header trim (I always just grab something from Lowes/ Home Depot)
- Saw to cut your wood – Mitre / chop saw (or just a hand saw if you are into it!)
- Paint to match existing trim
- Caulk + caulk gun
- Nail gun (or if you don’t want to attempt this, liquid nails can work)
Step-By-Step Window Trim Tutorial
Step 1: Using your utility knife, score under and above the header trim and anywhere else it there may be caulk or paint between it and the wall. When it comes off you don’t want it to take wall paint with it!
Step 2: Using a level, or just eyeballing it, draw a line where you plan on separating the top from the side trim.
Step 3: Here’s where the oscillating saw comes in. It’s a pretty simple tool – it does the work for you. You basically just hold it steady. It’s all about keeping your hand steady. Aim above your line if you aren’t confident you’ll get it just right on the first go.
Step 4: Once they are separated, use a hammer and crowbar (or just a hammer) to pry the header trim off. If you scored and sawed it right, it will come off clean and easy.
Step 5: Measure and determine how long across you want the new header. I aim for about an inch over on each side. Chop the header down to size. Mitre it at 45 degree angles if you are going for mitered edges. If this is too advanced, I recommend sticking with a craftsman header style (see “header styles” below)
Step 6: Nail it up! Nail the header to the studs and then some. I always use my nail gun, but if you don’t have one and are ok with this header being reallllly stuck on, you can use liquid nails. (If doing mitered edges, use liquid nails to glue the end pieces on so the nail gun doesn’t break them (it happens!)
Step 7: Caulk and paint! I advise painting all the trim to make it exactly the same color and so it all looks fresh and new!
Of course this short-cut is only relevant if you choose a trim style with a separate header. There are some beautiful modern trims with 45 degree angles that cannot be done with the oscillating saw trick! Here are some ideas that will work:
This is what I did downstairs. It allows for taller trim, but requires more pieces to purchase. We have oddly low windows down here so I opted for the height!
Below is a great image from Cottonwood Shanty that really breaks down the anatomy of craftsman trim. As you can see, it’s easy to choose your height and how many pieces you want to bring the look together. For example, replace the 1×4 for a 1×6 if you want!
This is the style I installed upstairs. I would keep it consistent throughout the home, but the builder already had this type on some of the door trim (and some not, it’s weird). The header came as one piece but because of the detail, it wouldn’t look quite right chopped straight, hence the mitered edge. That’s why I recommend the first style for beginners.
There you have it. My shortcut for a quicker window trim upgrade. Have you tried something similar? I’d love to know how it turned out! Always feel free to message me or leave a comment below!