Finish carpentry is one of the projects more and more people are doing on their own. A few reasons for this are because of money or the lack of money, or because of the availability of all the information that is accessible. Some times even with all the information through books, videos, or the web people still have trouble with finish carpentry. Some reasons for this is because it is a type of craft that requires actually doing it and learning the different variables and problems involved with for example, hanging doors or just every time a stick of trim wood goes up. Some of these variables may include crooked floors, crooked walls, crooked framing or maybe even something like extra wide jambs. Here I am going to give some advice and tips to help explain some of these variables and problems you might encounter while doing your own finish carpentry.
I have found that casing my doors on one side before installing the doors makes it much quicker and easier in most cases. This of course does not hold true every time but for the most part it does. Be sure to case the side which goes to the inside of the room. To make it even quicker some times you can order or buy these doors precased on one side straight from the factory, store or lumber yard.
Casing doors or windows
One common problem when applying casing to a door or window is the jamb does not come out flush with the sheetrock of the interior wall. This is particularly true on outside doors or garage doors. One way to remedy this is to take your hammer and hammer down or crunch the sheetrock down next to the jamb. Be careful as to not damage the sheetrock out past what your trim will cover. If you do, it can be fixed with a little spackle or sheetrock mud but try to avoid this. The idea here is to get the casing as flat against the wall as possible so it is not tipped in toward the jamb. The more it is tipped the harder it is to get nice mitered corners.
For casing windows for the first time
With windows sometimes curtains or window dressings will cover up the trim. Start in the bedrooms or back rooms first or where you think there may be curtains. Casing windows does take a little practice and patience so take your time with the miters. Try to keep your reveal as uniform as possible but if you do need to fudge it a little to tighten up a miter that is OK as long as its just a tiny adjustment. The reveal is not as eye catching as a loose miter. If you look at trim work in restaurants and businesses and other homes you will see a huge variety of the quality of work. Some of the quality is really nice and some is so bad you wonder how it passed. I can almost guarantee yours won’t be absolutely perfect every time so know your tolerances and what your expectations are that you will except from yourself. A good trimmer knows his tolerances well.
When using hardwoods such as oak or maple or whatever stay away from knots in the wood when nailing. If you shoot a nail in near a knot you risk splitting the wood. These hardwoods will undoubtedly split on you at one point or another. If the wood splits it can be filled with wood filler if it’s not split to bad and would look just fine. If by chance a piece ends up splitting right off it can be glued and clamped back together without to much trouble and again would look ok. If possible use this piece in an area that is not noticeable such as inside a closet or back side of a bedroom door or some where it wouldn’t be highly noticeable. Keep in mind almost everything can be fixed.
Match your Wood
Let’s say for example oak. The wood grains and color of oak can vary quite a bit so match your trim wood ahead of time for a good uniform look in your work. For the pieces that don’t match use them in closets and less conspicuous places or places only you will see like the laundry room, again just not in highly visible places. This applies to all other varieties of wood also not just oak.
In finish carpentry to obtain those perfect measurements, set the wood in place and mark the wood. It’s quicker and much more accurate then using a tape measure for the precise cuts at joints and miters. I only use my tape when it is necessary. This is particularly true when applying casing. Very precise cuts are necessary and essential at times.
By using some of these suggestions your trim work will undoubtedly be more professional looking and at the same time may save you some aggravation. A few things to keep in mind while you are working on your project, nothing is absolutely perfect. Wood filler can and will fix some of the problems encountered. Know what your tolerances are, in other words know what is acceptable of yourself.
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