Easy DIY Craftsman Door Trim

How To Guide

Installation is Easy

The details make all the difference.

Craftsman Casing

Craftsman style door casing, or door trim, is defined by simple profiles in flat stock, built up with stepped reveals and overhangs. There are an infinite number of sizes and combinations and are all available in pre-finished and paint grade. Get the proportions right, and it’s a classic look that never goes out of style. We’re going to cover the process I use to install craftsman style casing, which in many ways is harder to pull off than traditional miters.

Start with The Layout

Start off by marking the jamb for a 1/4″ reveal. Top, bottom and middle on the legs and one at each end of the top.

Gauge Blocks

If you spend a few minutes making a couple of gauge blocks, you’ll fly through the marking step. A simple 1/4″ rabbit on two sides makes it easy mark the tops and sides of the jamb.

Or a Combination Square

A combination square works almost as well as a gauge block for marking.

Mark the Legs

Mark the legs in place. It’s quicker and always more accurate than measuring. Set the leg directly on finished flooring like tile or hardwood. If carpet and pad is going to be installed, use a 1/2″ thick scrap as a spacer. Here I’m using a 1 x 4 that measures 3/4″ thick and 3 1/2″ wide for the legs.

Check the Wall

Now is a good time to check how the leg is going to sit on the wall. Sometimes the drywall will be slightly out in front of the jamb in places because either the stud might be warped, or the door jamb had to be cheated slightly to make the door hit the door stop evenly. We also need to make the leg sit reasonably square to the world so our reveal to the header is even. When working with paint grade material, you can get away with a little bit of a gap, as all the joints will end up being caulked, but there is no room for error when using pre-finished material. If you encounter a gap between the trim and the jamb, there are two basic ways to deal with it…

Hammer Time

Sometimes all it takes is some hammer blows to the corner of the drywall that sits a little proud of the jamb. Crushing the corner of the drywall will give you enough space to let the casing sit flat. Take care to not hammer outside of the width of the casing.

Cut Out The Rock

In extreme casing like this one, cutting the paper off of the drywall and removing it will do the trick. Draw a line just inside of where the leg is going to sit to make sure you don’t damage any of the wall that will show.

Relieve the Trim

The other option that works well is to remove some of the material on the backside of the trim. Either a tablesaw equipped with a dado blade, a router, or a power planer will work to get the job done.

Power Planer

A power planer is the easiest way to relieve the backside of the material. Its spinning blades make quick work of hogging out the material, and you don’t have to spend any time setting up. Just freehand a few passes and then check the fit. Make sure to leave both edges of the material intact.

Apply The Legs

Once you are satisfied with the fit, apply the legs with 18 gauge 1 1/2″ long nails into the jamb, and then switch to 2″ nails into the studs.

The Header

A lot of people might just apply the 5/4 x 6 header at this point and be done with it. While not an entirely bad look, you would need to spend some time to make sure the header meets the jamb perfectly across the top (see steps above), and also that the ends hit the wall evenly. It is however a super simple look and we can dress it up a little while at the same time making our life a little easier.

The Parting Bead

We’re going to run a 7/16″ by 1 1/2″ parting bead between the legs and the header. Using the parting bead gives us a couple of advantages. It’s much easier to work the thin piece of wood to make sure it hits the jamb perfectly, and it hides any imperfections between the header and the legs. And on top of that, it really makes it look more complicated that it really is. Here is what the parting bead and header look like with their returns.

The Parting Bead and Returns

Cut the parting bead length 2′ longer than the distance of the outside edge of each leg so we’ll end up with a 1″ overhang on each side. Cut each end to a 45° outside miter. A miter saw is indispensable for any kind of serious trim work.

The Returns

The return is the other side of the 45° miter that returns to the wall. I like to cut a few returns of slightly different sizes (a few that are cut perfect an a few that are just a sliver long) all at once and then pick the winner after the parting bead is installed. Take care when cutting the returns as they sometimes have a tendency to fly off the saw. Let the blade come to a complete stop before lifting it back up.

Apply the Parting Bead

Make sure that the parting bead aligns nicely with the jamb and then drive a couple of 1″ nails down into each leg.

Install the Returns

After selecting the best fitting returns that meet the wall perfectly, apply some yellow glue and install. A 1″ long 23 gauge micro pin does a great job a tacking the piece in place until the glue dries.

The Return

A properly installed return looks like a million bucks.

The Header and Returns

Cut the header 1″ longer than the distance of the outside edges of the legs so we will end up with the header stepping back 1/2″ from the ends of the parting bead. Just like we did with the parting bead, cut each end in a 45° outside miter.

The Returns

Same story when cutting the header returns except with these, I don’t need to cut multiples in different sizes. Cut them all a whisker long.

Installing the Returns

Glue and micro pin the returns before installing the header. If you don’t already own a 23 gauge micro pin nailer, now is the time to purchase one. It’s by far and away the best tool for detailed trim work like this.

Leave them Long

Cutting the return a little long makes sure that each end will hit the wall perfectly. It also would hide any of our work relieving the backside (like shown above). No one will ever see the small gap at the bottom because it is hidden by the parting bead.

Apply the Header

Drive a few 2″ long, 18 gauge nails into the framing and we’re almost done.

Tack the Parting Bead

Back to the micro pin nailer to secure the parting bead to the header.

Craftsman Door Trim

Classic proportions look good in any room.

All Done

It’s ready for caulking, spackle and paint.

A Note About Safety

Safety is important. I can’t say it any better than my all-time favorite woodworker/ TV host, Norm Abram, so I’ll just leave you with his famous quote:

“Be sure to read, understand, and follow all the safety rules that come with your power tools. Knowing how to use your power tools properly will greatly reduce the risk of personal injury. And remember this: there is no more important safety rule than to wear these (Norm points to his glasses) — safety glasses.”

-Norm Abram, New Yankee Workshop

Steve Wright

Steve Wright is a general contractor who over the last 30 plus years has built hundreds of new homes, ranging from first time affordable homes to multi-million dollar custom homes and everything in between.

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