Saturday, April 23, 2011

Trim Work Tutorial

Matt is Back!!! Busy season is over and I have my husband home on weekends again, yeah! I put him to work almost immediately on the boys bedroom (I'm sure he's thrilled to back too!). So we are doing a focal wall with mdf boards in a grid pattern and I thought I would explain in this post how basic trim work is done. If you already know, or don't care - sorry this is going to be a long and boring post. Here we go.

First I always start with an inspiration photo. You can find great pictures in Pottery barn or Restoration hardware magazines, or online you can find pictures too - has a lot.

Next comes the fun part - math to figure out where all the boards will go! For this grid wall I first figured out I would probably want about 5 boards laying horizontally up the wall. So I took the entire length of the wall (114" not counting the baseboard) then subtracted out the amount that would be taken up by mdf boards (they are 2 and 1/2" wide). So 114 - 5(2.5) gives me wall space of 101.5. Now I want that wall space do be divided up equally so I divide that by 5 (since there will be 5 wall spaces between each board - by the way my last or 5th board is all the way against the ceiling that is why there aren't 6 spaces between the 5 boards). So 101.5/5 = 20.3. So I knew my boards needed to be spaced 20" apart going horizontally up the wall. If your doing a grid wall repeat this process the other way across your wall.

After the Math is done I usually draw it out on the wall using a large level and a pencil to make sure it visually looks right and that there are no problems that you run into (cold-air returns, light switches, etc.). Usually there are problems so you have to adjust things a little but I just keep erasing and drawing lines until it all works out. If one of your spaces is 21" or 22" and the rest are 20" no one will notice a small difference like that.

Now figure out how many mdf boards you will need and go pick them up! Be sure to also pick up one of the small wood pieces from Lowe's pictured below - it is the only one that is not blue. It is a flat wood piece about 1/2 an inch wide. I painted it the same white color as my baseboards.

If you are putting vertical mdf boards on your walls you will have a problem where it meets the base molding (as pictured - it overhangs and isn't flush with the base board).

When this wood piece is attached to the top of your base boards it solves that problem.

Now the vertical mdf board sits flush with the baseboard and the additional piece looks like a part of the baseboard.

You can paint all the mdf boards after they are hung or before - I find that before is a little easier. You could use a sprayer or I lay them all out on a table with a plastic sheet underneath then roll paint on them with a foam roller (4th picture above). If you are wanting a white trim wall then paint your boards to match your existing white wall color (many of the walls in my home are still white because they are waiting for white trim work to go on top). In my boys room I wanted blue so after writing down my final measurements I painted the whole wall blue and all the boards. I then re-drew the lines so that my husband would have a guide for where the boards would go.

That is usually where my part ends and my husband takes over with the cutting and nailing. He uses a miter saw for the cuts and a nail gun to put it up (please do not ever do a project like this with a hand saw and hammer and nails - you will want to die and it doesn't have to be that hard!). For this grid wall we used solid boards to run the horizontal length and cut the vertical boards in pieces to go between the horizontals. The reason for this is your vertical boards rarely fall on a stud so nailing up a long (and heavy) vertical piece into drywall is not the best - better that those were our short pieces. The long solid pieces will run across the studs in the wall when laid horizontally. If you are doing a vertical trim work project and worried about no studs to nail into you can use "Liquid Nails" to glue them in place - then nail a few nails to hold it in place until the glue dries.

Finally once the boards are hung you will need to caulk in the nail holes, seams, and cracks. For this we use a caulk gun (so it's easier to run the length of the boards), the excess caulk that inevitably oozes out can be used to fill in the nail holes. The caulk we use is - "Painters All-Purpose Acrylic Latex Caulk. Use a wet paper towel to wipe away excess and make the caulk lines smooth. You CAN'T sand this stuff once it dries - you must get it looking perfect while wet! You can use a sand-able caulk but we have found that it tends to crack over time and needs to be redone. Once it's dry you will use some touch-up paint over the caulked areas. This particular trim project cost about $60. So paint is still the cheapest way to make over a room - but I consider trim work to be the next step up in cost and impact.
I'll post the final transformation soon!


  1. I came across this on pinterest hand I LOVE how you solved the problem of it not sitting flush with the baseboards, GREAT idea!

  2. Do you know what the little piece is called or by chance do you know the thickness?

    1. There is not a name for this particular piece of wood, the width on it is just short of an inch.

  3. Just discovered your blog from Pinterest and want to say I love your taste! I love all the trim work you and your husband have done; it truely has transformed the house. Thanks for sharing and in doing so inspiring me to fix up my house!

  4. Love this so much I'm doing it my boys room! We already have the grid up and everything is caulked. I'll be painting next weekend. Thanks for the inspiration!