January 20, 2018

Those blah builder finishes

As you may recall from this post, some of the builder grade finishes in our house were not working for us. From the start, we knew we didn’t like the trim and baseboards. They were cheap and boring. We weren’t willing to pay thousands more for the upgrade and just settled on replacing it at some point. The shiplap in the master bedroom was the perfect excuse to rip out all of the trim and replace it with a Craftsman look.

Traditional to Craftsman

The current trim was terrible. The photo below isn’t the master bedroom, but it gives you an idea of our current trim. It’s certainly nothing special, that’s for sure.

Builder trim and baseboards

Your standard builder grade trim and baseboards.

Our vision has been to incorporate a Craftsman style to the house. We really like how things tend to be really simple, but crisp. It makes everything look so much richer. From what we read, the easiest way to make the biggest impact is swapping out the trim. We scoured blogs, looked at high-end new construction and ultimately landed on something like this:

We recommend buying a few boards to see how your idea plays out. Our initial idea was a 1×4 head casing with a 1×2 cap.


Mock-up of vertical door casing and baseboard

Much like the photo above, we were thinking we’d use a 1×4 casing with a 1×4 baseboard. Simple and clean, which is what we were going for.

Choosing materials

We looked at many variations of trim before deciding on what material made the most sense to us. Notice how I said, to us. You can easily go down the rabbit hole of options, but it’s important to know what you want, what your budget is and the look you are going for.

We considered saving time with pre-primed options, MDF for a smooth finish and the need for relief cuts on walls that may not be totally flat. There are pros and cons to every option out there. Pre-primed is expensive, but saves time. MDF isn’t good in places with moisture, but paints well. Select pine and poplar don’t have relief cuts, but it’s real wood that’s easy to paint.

Select pine or poplar

We ultimately found ourselves trying to decide between select pine and poplar in hopes that it could withstand our DIY projects and the dogs. At first glance, we were thinking poplar. It’s highly recommended by the lumberyards and it’s available in long lengths. While classified as a hardwood, it can actually be softer than pine. Knowing that, we decided to go with select pine for convenience. It’s a bit more expensive, but the room was small enough that we didn’t feel like it was going to break the bank.

As you saw above, we were thinking 1×4 casing with a 1×2 cap on the windows and doors. It looked too flat and boring. We went back to researching and decided on:

  • Window and door casing: 1×4
  • Window and door head casing: 5/4
  • Cap: 1×2
  • Baseboards: 1×6

The windows and doors would look something like this:

Wood selections for window and door treatment.

The initial concept lacked dimension. We decided to beef up the head casing to create a more layered look.

As I mentioned above, we chose select pine for convenience. Menards carries all of these boards. While it may be more expensive than a lumberyard, we needed the convenience of being able to run to the store multiple times. As two full-time workers, it’s hard to get to lumberyards during business hours. This saved us having to take PTO and offered the flexibility to pick things up on the weekend. Plus, we could hand-pick each piece of lumber to make sure it met our specifications.

Choosing paint

After deciding on materials, we needed to choose the finish. We knew wanted to match our current trim color to avoid having to swap or paint the doors anytime soon. Sherwin-Williams didn’t have a bright enough white to match our existing trim, which led us to Home Depot. We chatted with the guys at the paint counter and got a perfect match with a Behr white. While I was there, I asked them about priming the boards. They said if we wanted to do it the right way, we’d use an oil-based primer. It’s pretty stinky stuff, but I do believe it was the right choice.

We went with Kilz Original primer and a Behr Marquee in semi-gloss enamel.

To spray or roll

It’s winter in Minnesota, which makes it hard to do anything in the garage. Knowing how messy spraying can be, we decided to roll on the primer and paint.  I set up a workstation downstairs with a drop cloth, sawhorses and T.V. with the plan to prime and paint all of the boards before we cut and installed. We started out sanding all of the boards, but made sure to retain the squareness of the edges. While you want to rub sandpaper along the edge to help the paint stick, you don’t want to accidentally round it. Once you’ve sanded, use a foam roller and small paint tray to apply both the primer and paint. The key is to roll on light layers to avoid drips and achieve a nice smooth finish. In the end, I rolled on two coats of primer and three coats of paint. The end product looked like this:

Paint applied with foam roller

This is extremely zoomed in. The texture feels and appears smooth. You really don’t need to spray on paint for a quality finish. Paint slowly rolled on with a foam roller can create a nice, even finish.

Time to install

Once the boards were ready, we installed the trim around the windows and doors. After that, we installed the baseboards. For the sake of keeping this brief, I’ll outline each one of those steps in their own post.




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