Window Trim

I can’t believe I never wrote a post about all of our window trim. It is a relatively simple way to elevate how your windows look. In my opinion of course. There’s the super ornate trim that looks beautiful in historic homes and the simple trim that just makes all of the windows look complete. I know a lot of people like how trimless windows look. I think it can look super modern, and when done right, can look very chic. But for me, trimmed windows will always win.

Such a beautiful job!
This trimless window is so pretty and simple! From Bereco

This is all assuming that you have replaced your windows. If you already have windows you are happy with, you can pretty much just add the moulding, which is described all the way at the end. Yay for you! Adding trim will be super easy!

If, however, you’ve replaced all of your windows and didn’t replace any type of trim (wood or sheetrock), you should be familiar with the gaps between your framing and your actual window. Step one, take off any temporary bandaids you had put on. When we replaced the windows, we sprayed in some Great Stuff to seal any gaps. A little goes a long way with this. It expands so fast! I remember having to cut off excess with an exacto knife, which was not very fun.

The Great Stuff was sprayed into those gaps all the way around the window.

To hide all of that, we used an adhesive weather strip type thing (which of course I can’t find the exact one, but this is very similar). It sticks to the window’s fins and extends to the wall. It looks surprisingly good, but I really love framed windows so we knew it wouldn’t be forever. So I ripped all of that off and took off our blinds. I also took out the window sill using a crowbar and a hammer. It should be pretty easy to take off if you want. You definitely don’t have to if you like yours though.

The adhesive strips are taped all the way around the window. That window sill was original…

Once you have everything cleared, you measure all of your opening dimensions. Cut 1×3 boards (or whatever width/depth you need to reach from the window to the front edge of your walls) to fit inside the opening. Since the corners will be hidden by moulding and caulk, you don’t need to worry about how the boards overlap. You might have to use a type of spacer between the 1×3 boards and the wall framing so that your boards extend past the window gaps. You don’t need a board along the bottom of you window. That will be covered by your window sill. You can attach your boards to your window framing using nails or screws. Personally, I like to use screws because I can inset them into the boards and then fill in the space with wood filler. I wouldn’t use a nail gun, though. You want your boards to be strong, especially the top board if you plan on installing blinds.

This window only needed minor shims, but a few of my windows had gaps around 1 1/2 inches

After your initial boards are in place, you can install you window sill. The total depth of the sill should be about 1 inch deeper than your 1×3 boards. That way the sill juts off the wall a bit. It should also extend 7 inches longer than the total width of your opening. Use a jig-saw to cut the outer edges. I extend my window sills 3 and a half inches beyond the opening. Once you put the moulding on, it doesn’t look so awkward, I promise! You will probably have to use some type of spacers again to get your window sill to reach the edge of the window. Attach your sill using whatever you like. Again, I like to use screws, but that is just me. They are way easier to work with than nails, in my opinion.

With the sill in place, you can start attaching the moulding. You can go crazy with whatever type of moulding you want, but I really like the simplicity of this option. Attach your top moulding first. It is way easier to fill in the sides than it is to adjust the top, trust me! On each edge of the moulding, cut at a 45 degree angle. If you have a miter saw, great. I use my table saw and it works great too. If you are cutting with anything that isn’t able to old the 45 degree angle perfectly, make sure you draw a line where to cut. You want this to be as perfect as possible. Mark the shorter edge of your moulding for where to start your cut. You want it to extend about 1/8 to 1/4 inch past each side of your 1x3s. This doesn’t have to be exactly perfect. But you definitely don’t want it shorter. Using a nail gun, nail your moulding along the top of the window. Place it so that it is centered on the window and about 1/8 to 1/4 inch above the edge of your 1×3. This will give a nice layered effect for your trim.

*If you aren’t using a window sill, you will want to measure, cut, and place your moulding one at a time. Either clockwise or counterclockwise. For example, this window in our bedroom doesn’t have a sill.

The last piece of moulding to attach is the decorative moulding under the sill. Super simple. I like to extend my lower moulding to the same width as the outer edges of the side moulding. You just use straight cuts and use a nail gun to attach it. See, easy!

Then comes the caulking. So. much. caulking. Some things I’ve learned over the years:

  • Don’t buy any silicone-type caulk. It will be super sticky and doesn’t paint well. No good.
  • Buy a caulk that says “paintable” on the tube.
  • If you can find a caulk that is paintable and has some stretch to it, you are winning. I used Dap Elastomeric for the office and so far so good. We will see how it holds up as the weather changes.
  • When opening the caulk, cut as small of a hole as possible. You want the caulk to come out easily, but you don’t want huge globs pouring out. That just means you have to clean more.
  • Cut your opening at an angle. Just tried this and it made everything so much smoother.
  • Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. You will be using your finger to smooth everything out. And it might get everywhere.

You will want to caulk every single time there is a transition. Between the window and the first 1×3, the 1×3’s and the moulding, and the moulding and the wall. To be honest, I go back and forth on that last one. I will caulk if there is a bigger gap for some reason or if you can see the transition. But I hardly ever caulk along the top edge of the moulding because, realistically, nobody will ever see it. And I know that our windows are 100% sealed, so I’m not worried about drafts or bugs.

Run your caulk gun along each edge. Immediately after, run your finger along that seam. This will make the caulk nice and smooth along the seam. A lot of people say to wet your finger right before, but I don’t. I haven’t found it to make much of a difference. I could definitely be doing something wrong though. But it turns out great in the end, so maybe not? Keep going until all of your transitions are caulked. You can also use the caulk to fill in any holes, like any indents from the nail gun or screws (although, I like to use wood filler for the screws). And then really let it dry. Seriously, do not touch it for at least a few hours.

Last up is to paint! And you can use any color you want. I’ve seen some really gorgeous dark moulding that contrasts with light walls. Or moulding that is painted the same color as the walls. For our house, I like the traditional white moulding. I like when it pops from the walls. And it makes the windows look really crisp.

All in all, I have gotten it down to installing all of the moulding on one window in an afternoon. Not including painting, although I probably could have. But Game of Thrones was on, so all project were stopped for the night. It helps to have the right tools, but I know not everyone has access to nail guns and table saws. If you can find someone to borrow things from, definitely do it! But you could get all of your windows trimmed out using a good ol’ hacksaw or cross cut saw and a hammer. Good luck!


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