this is a “How-To” post — how to redo the floor trim in a room. I just did this, along with repainting. I learned a few things that can save you all some time and money.
The process is pretty straight forward:
1. Remove old trim.
2. Buy new trim.
3. Prepare new trim for install.
4. Install new trim.
Here’s a few tips for each step:
Removing old trim.
Removing old trim should be done with pry bars, and not hammers or crowbars. Use an old paint stirring stick with the pry bar to avoid damaging the wall. Put the stick behind the pry bar when prying out the trim. Use a 5-in-1 paint scraper to feel along the wall after the trim is removed to find any nails you missed. Pull these out with a claw hammer, again using the paint stirring stick behind the hammer to avoid wall damage.
Buy new trim:
Go to a lumber store, not home Depot, to buy new trim. Most old houses have stained wood trim, and new houses have painted MDF trim. Buy your trim pieces 2 inches ( or 50mm ) longer than the wall. You’ll need the extra to cut inside and outside corners in, as well as tension the new trim against the wall. Painted MDF is a lot cheaper and easier to work with than genuine wood trim. I had existing wood trim on the doors that I needed to match, so I used hemlock trim. Old houses used some sort of Pine that had been heavily stained. Hemlock is cheap, easy to get, and accepts stain. It does give you a lot of grain, so you get the “1980 wood panel” look when you stain it. I went to Dunn Lumber to get my trim. Watch out for warped trim, and more importantly, for large splinters. Real wood has areas where it “delaminates” — where a large splinter is pulling off the surface. You can’t see it with your eyes — you have to feel for it with your hands. These areas will stain differently than the rest of the trim — try and find pieces without any of these defects. Warping is OK on long pieces, but not on short ones. A long piece is weak enough that the nails will undo the warp. A short piece will pull the nails out of the wall if it’s warped.
Prepare new trim for install:
This is the hardest part of trim work. The steps are:
Hemlock does not cut well with a coping saw or any hand-tools. I spent 4 hours on a single cut! A power saw is the way to go. Professionals use a Mitre saw — you can buy one for around $80 is you really look. I used a harbor freight multi-saw, and 3d printed a jig to get the 45 degree inside corner angle. I highly recommend this saw, as it’s very useful for drywall work — and it’s only $20. It costs $30 to rent a Mitre saw from Home Depot — or you can get the Harbor freight multi-saw for $20, buy extra blades for $10, and keep the saw. With the right jigs, it works very well. I went from 4-hours/cut by hand to less than 30 seconds with the saw in trim. I also could plunge cut into drywall and easily cut out sections to replace large holes.
You’ll want to make a large number of test cuts before you do your real cuts. It takes about 5-10 test cuts to understand how your saw will cut the trim piece. If you cut too fast, you’ll splinter the ends. If you cut too slow, you’ll burn the wood. You’ll also need to learn how to cut to size — you need to make the cut 3mm longer than the wall measurement — most people can’t cut to that accuracy the first time…
After you cut the wood, sand the ends with a power sander. The Harbor freight multi-saw has a sanding attachment, so you can use that to sand the edges. I used a Ryobi power sander that my wife bought for cabinet work. You’ll also need a rough grit sanding sponge( say 100 grit ) and a fine grit sanding spone( saw 300 grit ). Use the rough grit prior to staining, and the fine grit between clear-coats.
After you’ve cut and sanded the edges of the trim, pre-install it without nails. If your cuts are right, it’ll snap in and hold together without any nails. Power sanding removes a lot of material — you can easily power sand 10-12mm ( 1/2 inch ) off the ends without meaning to… So, cut and power-sand prior to staining.
When you stain the wood, go to an interior design store and get a wood-matching stain. I tried the off-the-shelf stain that Home Depot sells — not even close to the right color. A professional interior design store that has stain matching services is the right call here. Daly’s paint in Seattle is a good example of this kind of store.
Stain 24 hours prior to install. Otherwise, your stain will leech into your carpet. 3 coats of clear-coat the next day. Each coat needs 2 hours to dry. Use the fine grit sanding sponge between coats of the clear-coat.
If you’ve done the prep right, this is fast and easy.
Ace hardware has a hand-held brad nailer for $7. Buy it. You don’t need a power nailer here — the hand tool, a hammer, and a center punch are all you need. #2 finish nails are the right size. Make sure you have color-matched putty to cover the nails, and color-matched caulk for any wall gaps. New walls are 1/2″ thick, and old walls are 3/8. I had to patch a large hole from a built-in book-case, and built-up a mound for the difference. This means caulk…
You don’t hammer a brad nailer — you push it into the trim, then the wall. It leaves nails sticking out 1/4″. You can use a hammer with the tool when you hit a hard stud. You can even use it as a punch to tap in the finish nail, but you’ll leave a small mark if you do this.
Remember to use a spirit level to check that the new trim is level. You should do this prior to installing any nails. Some people use a trim glue instead of nails. I used nails.
I learned quite a few lessons doing this — the biggest ones being that you should cut and sand prior to staining ( I stained, cut, and sanded — which meant I had to re-stain a lot of spots, and it’s not as even… ). The second biggest is that a 3d printer is a useful tool for this kind of work — because it lets you repurpose existing, cheaper, multi-use tools to do the same job as more expensive and single-purpose tools. I truly believe that harbor freight’s multi-saws are the bees-knees when combined with 3d-printed guides. They make drywall and trim work orders of magnitude easier.
The down-side of this process is the time — stain takes a day to dry, and clear coats take 2 hours per coat. You’d be better off if you could place an order with an interior design store to select, cut, sand, and stain the wood for you. It would make the project go from a two-weekend affair ( 1 weekend of prep and 1 weekend of install ) to maybe a 4 hour job. I’d open a trim store in a heartbeat if I had a robot that could give me an accurate room map and color profile — I don’t trust home-owners to do this.