Replacing trim - another way to finish your room

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Nov. 8, 2012
- Contributed Photo

There are so many things you can do to a room to beautify it and give it a new look. Painting and wallpapering are the most common, along with new window treatments. Often overlooked, though, is the trim around windows and doors, and the baseboards that finish walls where they meet the floors.

You might decide to paint wood that is already stained, or stain wood that has been painted. In many cases, it might be easier to just work with new trim, and paint or stain to suit your taste and new décor. This not only gives you a new finish on new materials, it also provides an opportunity to change trim that has been in place for years with something markedly different.

Most homebuilders install something generic, especially if the house is being built "on spec." If you bought your home from someone who had it built for themselves, the trim is just one of those bland features that you accept and live with. If you are renovating a room, adding to a home or expanding an area, don't overlook changing out the trim to add a little character.

Your first step is to get excited about what the possibilities are. Visit your home store and review the variety of options. Browse the pages (or web pages) of a good home, decorator or DIY magazine such as “Fine Homebuilding” or “The Family Handyman” to get some ideas from their projects. What's in your house now? You may want to complement the look of other rooms. But you may want to distinguish one room from the others on the same floor.

Your tour around the big home store will present enough options. There are not only basic and select unfinished woods to choose from, you will also find plastic alternatives that give you the "look of wood" right out of the store. And there are pre-finished wood products that help you move right past the chore of choosing and applying your own stain and finish.

Whatever you select, bear in mind the adjoining components that you might not want to replace. Different woods may not look so different before they are stained. But mismatching wood types might surprise you when the decorating metamorphosis is already under way, forcing you to change one or the other. I have seen run-of-the-mill Lauan paneled doors fitted with pine trim that, when stained with the same product, just do not look good together. To prevent this, get scraps of molding, trim and other dimensional woods from the store with which to stain and experiment before you make the final commitment.

Matching trim in an existing room or home should be fairly easy, if that's the direction your project takes. You will want to select a trim that is exactly like the one used in your home, or, if not available, select one that is as close as possible. You may even find trim molding that has already been finished to match that which is used in your existing room.

There is a dizzying array of options for staining bare wood. Not only will you find oil- and water-based products, there is also a gel stain line that many people like. As long as you can manage the barely readable print on the containers, you will find adequate directions to engage in the staining process. Don't try to short cut the process. Soft woods in particular (as contrasted with hardwoods such as oak) will not accept a stain uniformly. And the end grain of the wood will absorb stain at a greater rate than the side grain will. You are well advised to apply a "washcoating" to the bare wood to seal (at least partially) the wood's pores, preventing the stain from penetrating deep and unevenly into the raw wood fibers. These products are commonly labeled “pre-stain” or “wood conditioner.”

Once you have chosen, prepared and stained your trim, you should finish it to suit your needs. Options for finishing include the very commonly used polyurethane, shellac and varnish. The important thing to remember is which finish you use on the wood, in case you need to repair, add to or refinish the trim in the future.

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