Trim: Craftsman Update to Interior Door Openings

In our master bedroom closets, the existing bifold doors were installed into drywall-wrapped jambs with no trims.  This is a pretty common installation in our area (and many others), however, as part of the house remodel, the objective was to improve the vernacular of the interior design by using Craftsman-style trim detailing.  One area of focus has been to install matching trims at all window and door openings, and using the same Craftsman vernacular in trim detailing elsewhere.  My approach, outlined below, involved a custom refit of the door jambs and straightforward biscuit joinery to bring out a Craftsman update to an older home.

New Trims – Old (and Variable) Openings

The original 1/2″ drywall was installed with a very heavy plaster and orange peel spray finish coating, adding anywhere from 1/8″ to 3/8″ to the thickness of the drywall, making for a very odd width door jamb for the master bedroom closets. The problem of installing new doors in the old openings was complicated by the fact that the original framing rough opening was slightly undersized, meaning you had to slightly bind the doors to close them in the opening. Once I ripped off the drywall, it became clear that I had to choose one of several options to make the rough opening the correct size for new doors – 1) reframe the opening (too much mess involving demo and wiring), 2) cut down the new doors to fit (okay, but it meant refinishing the doors), or, 3) making custom door jambs to a thickness that would bring the finished opening to spec.

New Custom Door Jambs

After installing the new linen closet door in a newly framed doorway, we found that the pre-finished door was a close match to the existing trim color, and would not look any better with a brushed on topcoat. I made the decision to go with option 3. But, there is no trim stock available in the appropriate thickness.  I found 1/2″ X 3 1/4″ finger joint base trim at HD. If I edge glued two pieces it would give me the appropriate sized stock I needed to cut the custom 5 3/8″ wide, 1/2″ jambs to size.

Biscuits to the Rescue

Attached are photos of the steps taken to make the finished board stock using biscuit joinery. Setup for the biscuit cuts was a little tricky since the biscuit joiner mouth is not capable of adjustment for thin stock.  I set the boards on top of thin plywood and clamped the entire setup with a strong back (clear 2 X 4 used to mount my outriggers for the miter saw).

Board Clamp Setup for trim

Board Clamp Setup

Board biscuits

Board biscuits

Biscuit cut

Biscuit cut

Biscuit Joiner

Biscuit Joiner

Board setup

Board setup

Scribing Stair Skirt Boards

In the below pics, the left-hand skirt board was my first attempt.  After making the floor cut for this skirt, I started second guessing, and measured before cutting out for the treads and risers. Hmmm, got some gaps that aren’t too nice. Good thing I did this intending to fit the risers and treads to the skirt, rather than skirt OVER the treads and risers.  It will be okay.

Skirt Base Transition

Skirt Base Transition

Scribing Gauge

Scribing Gauge

Right Skirt Base

Right Skirt Base

The right hand skirt base (looking from bottom to top of stairs) is my second attempt. NO measurements were taken.   I found that making my scribe gauge out of longer stock allowed me to use the same piece of stock and keep it reasonably plumb more easily. I used a scrap piece of poplar. I simply scribed for treads and risers exactly as explained. Worked like a charm!  I don’t need a zero tolerance fit because I intend to fit treads and risers after the skirt is on, but this is darned good without any touch up sanding.  Very good recap of this technique provided here.


Wainscot Installation

Following up on the previous posts from this week, I finished the installation of a Craftsman-style wainscot in a small bathroom.  

The top cap on the wainscot is a 3/4″ full bull-nose.  Fortunately, the 1/2″  filet that you will see in the door top trim is available in stock at our Home Depot,  I discovered that after I’d already made about 24 feet of it. It is part of a series of trims that are carried locally.  Most Craftsman trim is NOT bull-nosed. I like the look and have it running throughout.  Note-Colors don’t reproduce well on my camera.  The top half of the wall is a light green. It is the accent color throughout the house. The trim color is mannequin cream. The wall panel color is Kansas grain.

Backside of finished, unpainted wainscot

Backside of finished, unpainted wainscot for the kitchen

installed wainscot

Finished bathroom wainscot

Electrical Junction Box Extension

What do you do when an electrical junction box is set deeply into a wall and you plan to remodel a wall, as we did, by adding wainscot, paneling, or trim?  This requires the installation of a junction box extension.

Any exposure to flammable material by spliced wiring is not allowed by NEC. It needs to be fully protected by the J-Box – with no gaps allowed.  For this, you need to extend the junction box with an electrical box extension.  

With an existing J-box than cannot be moved without demo of the wall, you can add a J-box extender.  There are several different types, and I’ve used three of them

Carlon box extender for most residential wiring

Metal box extender for condo wiring or exposed conduit wiring

Arlington BE 1-5 below is carried by Home Depot

For new construction, or remodel where you can install a new J-box, I really like the Carlon adjustable box. I used these for all planned wainscot installation locations.  

Regardless of which one you use, always choose the best product that will do the job, not the least expensive.  Carlon sells tons Zip Box Blue, thin wall plastic J-boxes that meet NEC, if installed correctly. Problem is, they flex, and for DIY it is all too easy to push the box out of shape.  Pass over the Zip Box Blue thin wall boxes, and pay the extra money for the Carlon SuperBlue Hard Shell Boxes. They are easier to install, and you get more capacity, and no worries about fire. 

Again, consult the NEC and your local building code.

5 Steps to Trim a Door Bottom

Five steps to trim the bottom of a wood exterior door in order to get it to the right length.  With the door resting on sawhorses:

1. Accurately measure up from the bottom of the door with a metal ruler, preferably a carpenters’ square, not a measuring tape. Tape ends move. Do it again. Measure twice at least. This measurement will identify where you need to do step 2.

2. Fully mask the area of the cut line with blue tape. Include the area that your saw base will travel over (or tape the cut line area, and separately tape the saw base to prevent it from marring the door). The tape on the cut line is to help prevent splintering, particularly at the door stile sides where you will crosscut, not rip. While most saw blade blowout will occur at the exit side of the cut, I like to tape both sides of the door for good measure.

Note: Depending on the type of threshold, it may be necessary to bevel the cut. Usually a slight bevel, with the outside of the door lower than the inside is helpful to keeping the weather out and makes for a tight fit against the threshold seal strip. 3-5 degree bevel is sufficient.

3. Repeat step 1 – marking the masked tape. Using a metal or otherwise crisp straightedge and a utility knife, score the cutline once it is marked out on the taped door. Using a utility knife to mark the cut line will assist with minimizing the splintering by relieving the surface tension of wood fibers.

4. Clamp a straightedge to use as a guide for the saw at the appropriate offset from the saw blade cut line. It is usually about 5.5”, but check against your circular saw. Make certain you have allowed for the saw kerf width to the correct side of the cut line. I like to use 60 tooth blade for door cuts, but depending on the door finish, 40 tooth or 80 tooth may be fine/needed. Rockler has a saw blade 101 to review blade types.

5. Once setup, pucker up, goggle up, and make the cut……. Sand all edges to finish and breathe…..

Good luck! Hope all goes well……