DIY Tips: Install Trim Like a Professional

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DIY Tips: Install Trim Like a Professional

If you want to install trim properly, it will take a particular set of skills , tools and a good eye for details. In historic trims and moldings that were considered the best of the best, a seamless method called “coping” was used. Coping conceals joints and at the same time allows the house to move and settle as the decade goes by. We are going to teach you how to archive a coped joint, it is a very important part of the installation. We’ll also help you to install your trim perfectly,and so we’ll give you extra tips.


It is important that you have the right materials from the start or else your effort will be frustrating. Make sure you acquire the best material that your budget can pay for. Wood is the material I recommend because of its workability and strength. Compared to MDF (medium density fiberboard), wood trim is much more resistant to moisture and water issues. If you go to your local lumber yard or big box store you will find pre-primed trim and molding , but if a 1x lumber is what you need, it is also available.

The best choice of wood trim preferred by most carpenters is poplar. The reason is because it is not expensive and has a strong ability to hold paint. I also use another good option that is not popular but inexpensive and it is Select Pine. Any option you take, ensure that it is a relatively clear-grained wood.


One of the tools you will be needing is a Coping Saw. To make all the tight little turns required for coping, you will be needing this little inexpensive saw that is highly flexible. Also to fit around the trim that you are working on, it has a unique D-shape. Before you begin you will need to have one.


If the corner of the Trim you have is outside, you have to cut the two pieces at 45 degrees with your miter saw. You then put the two piece up and nail them in place if your floors are level and your walls are square. When it comes to the inner corner, you might think doing the same thing the other way round (in reverse) might work. Not at all!

Without using a coped joint, it is particularly hard to get a clean joint on the inside corners. In no time your trim work will become faster with less noticeable joints once you learn how to do this.

  1. Have the Room Laid Out. Having a coped joint hidden as much as possible is your primary goal. If you want to achieve this, your layout needs to be arranged based on the angle the occupant is going to be looking at the room.There are two sides in each coped joint – a side that is cut flush and another side that is coped to fit over the un-coped piece. The best place you want the un-coped piece to be on is the wall that will be viewed straight. Although this is not the ultimate step, but it is one of the steps professionals take and too much effort is not required to understand this.
  2. Start by Installing the Un-coped Side. This piece should be installed first after cutting it straight. Make sure the cut on both ends are straight and placed end-to-end in contact with the wall on opposite sides.
  3. Cut the Cope Reveal. Cut a 45 degrees miter on the face of the Trim that is going to be coped after taking it to the piece you just installed. Doing this will reveal the profile that you need to cope.
  4. Cut the Cope. Trim along the profile you just revealed with your coping saw. Ensure that the cope cuts-back approximately 45 degrees. Doing this will ensure that the piece of Trim fits neatly on top of it’s duplicate. This might be either difficult or easy but it largely depends on how intricate the profile is on your Trim. A few distinct cut from a variety of angles may be needed to get everything trimmed off. I made one cut for the top of this window stop in this example , i then proceeded to finish the Cope from the bottom.
  5. Cleaning the Cope. There is a possibility that you might have or have not done a perfect trimming. Leaving a bit of more material than you need is considered best practice. This enables you to return later with a file or rasp and clean up the remaining material.
  6. Fitting the Cope. After cutting and cleaning your cope, you have to inspect it to know if you did a good job. This is done by fitting it into the un-coped piece and checking for areas that may require some more trimming so that you can achieve a clean fit. It has to be noted that removing less material is easier than removing too much. It is not really possible to put wood back together, is it?
  7. Nail it Up. As soon as you finish cleaning it up, the other side of the piece should then be cut to length and nailed into place. The other side might need to be cut straight to serve as the un-coped portion of the next joint or it may also be coped, but all this depends on the room layout you chose. All you have to do is to note which on it is so that you can cut it to the right length.
  8. The Right Way to Finish.  The difficult part of this process is done once the trim is up. But before you start showing it off, there a few additional things that need to be done.

Look for all nail heads that are not properly buried below the surface and countersink them.

Use painters putty to fill nail holes and joints.

All bare wood should be primed with an oil base primer.

You then have to sand it smooth after the primer has dried up.

Use two coats of quality enamel paint to paint it

It is done : a joint that will stay hidden for decades because it is perfectly coped. This is a feature that you will definitely want to have on your trim because it is the very revealing sign of a professional job.

As a custom builder of luxury homes, Tanen Homes has a reputation built upon the smallest of details,  including home trim. Contact us for additional information on a custom home design.  Tanen Homes builds luxury homes in West Palm Beach, Wellington, Vero Beach, Royal Palm Beach Florida and surrounding areas.