Trim Carpentry

When Should the Finish Carpenters be Scheduled?

After drywall is complete, the house is mucked out. The trim carpentry can begin. The owner builder has been keeping a close eye and has contacted the trim company two weeks prior. The two week rule is a pretty good general rule for a heads up. If the trade contractor has indicated something different, that should be noted and followed. Each company has a unique operations process, helping them helps you.


The Trim Package

The trim package should include the interior doors, base, casing and the exterior doors. Exterior door jambs should already be installed during the framing stage. Having at least, temporary exterior doors is critical to ensure the house can be locked. Remember, at this point items like paint, fixtures, cabinets, etc begin to arrive on site. These are high dollar items that have a tendency to “walk away” if unsecured. If you are waiting on a special order front door, either install a lockable temporary or have your carpenter board the entrance over securely. Be sure to have exterior locks available for the crew to install. It is best to include bolt locks for the garage and front. DO NOT install the permanent knobs or locks at this time. There is a lot of construction left and they will just get damaged. Purchase some inexpensive hardware at the local Home Depot, Lowes or Ace. If you aren’t going to be on the site each morning, you will have to provide “builder’s” keys to your trade contractors so they can enter the home and work.


Scheduling is critical at this time. If you don’t receive your doors and cannot secure your house, it is not wise to have $15,000.00 worth of cabinets sitting loose in your home. If trim installation is late you will either have to postpone interior paint or pay your paint contractor for return trips and extra taping to protect the walls as they spray your base and casing. Each time scheduling is delayed, it means an extra cost somewhere.

Call your trim package provider every couple of days to update them about the progress of your home and the status of your delivery date. Good communication helps them adjust schedules if necessary AND lets them know you’re serious about on time delivery of your product.

If the supplier is local and is quoting a delayed delivery, see if you can pick up the material. The advantage of having a local supplier is that sometimes you are able to pick up their slack.

Scheduling Impacts All Areas of Construction

Scheduling is important not only for trim carpentry but for all aspects of the owner builder project.
Trim installation can take between 1-3 days. If you have crown molding or chair rail going in it can take a bit longer. Don’t let a trim carpenter drag out the job. Incomplete trim carpentry holds up paint, cabinets and flooring. Most interior doors are delivered prehung and go in very quickly. A prehung door is built, mortised and hinged in a door shop. A good trim carpenter can set probably 3-4 interior doors an hour and finish all your doors inside and out on day one.

The day your trim carpentry package arrives, you should contact your painter and your flooring installer. The painter should already be informed and be expecting the trim drop. This is just a confirmation that yes, trim is underway and the house will be ready for prep in 3-4 days. That means the tile setter can expect to enter the home in 7-10 business days and tile delivery should be locked.

Should I Base the House Before or After Flooring?

I’ve done it both ways and there are pro’s and con’s on each side.

The advantages to completing the entire trim carpentry at once are obvious. One trip means less cost. The trim company does not have to keep paying crews to come out and finish up tasks. It also means the painter can do his or her entire interior paint in one fell swoop. It costs to send out crews again and to do additional taping on the base. And it saves you, the owner builder, the hassle of tracking down these particular trades and convincing them that, yes, they need to come back and finish their work. What are the disadvantages? Primarily, it doesn’t look as nice to have flooring butting up to base. The base looks shorter than it really is AND there is usually an ugly gap that continuously needs caulk. In addition, If tile doesn’t extend all the way to drywall, there is a little channel all along the walls for bugs to flourish. Nothing eliminates that completely but tile and grout all the way to the drywall helps.

What are the advantages of holding off and basing after tile? It looks better, cleaner and sharper. The base is at it’s full height and can be set tight to the floor. It can then be sealed with a thin strip of silicone caulking along the bottom. Also, as mentioned above, flooring can be extended all the way to the drywall and be sealed with grout or sealant along the wall, further preventing insect infestations. Basing after tile also allows cabinets to go in flush to the wall without involving the cabinet installer with recutting and fitting of base around cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom.

What does Owner Builder Online Suggest?

I think that the advantages of basing after tile are worth the hassles. Remember, It’s your home you are building, your castle. Your castle is worth the hassle. That’s the way I see it. Discuss with your trim and paint contractors during the bid phase what you expect. Get a commitment that they won’t throw extra costs at you later on because of the additional trips. Then be certain you stay on top of your schedule so you make it as easy as humanly possible for subcontractor crews to get in and finish.

Crown Moulding

Crown moulding is a popular and attractive element of trim carpentry. There are a variety of different styles that an owner builder can use to enhance the lid line of their home.

It is important that the contractor you hire to install crown moulding specializes in it's installation to a certain degree. Again, insist on evaluating a current or prior project and see the workmanship. It is also advised to look at a portfolio of trim carpentry work if they have one.


Trim carpentry doesn't end at door and base installation. After the initial trim carpentry is complete,you can expect to have the crews back in your house at least once. One of the very last things to complete is the final hardware. It is done very late in construction to prevent damage and theft. Hardware can easily scratch and is very simple to remove. Most interior door knobs can be placed in any door and so are attractive as an upgrade for an unscrupulous trade worker that wants to make their own home a little nicer.

Be sure that the strike plates are flush after installation and that doors open and close smoothly without dragging. Check to ensure that they latch properly and privacy doors lock. These checks can be completed in 30 minutes. A great trim carpentry job can be ruined if the hardware isn't put on correctly. If there are issues after you inspect, call your contractor and let them know immediately. If you wait, it will be more difficult to get a prompt correction.

When Selecting a Trim Company…

Ask them first and foremost: Are they licensed and insured?

Look at their current or recent trim carpentry work. How tight are their mitered corners? Is their base installation straight or wavy? Are their doors plumb and square? How are their reveals? Do they show the ability to hide imperfections in construction?( an important skill, no construction is perfect) Is their shelving cut tight or are there large gaps requiring caulking? Is their jobsite clean?

What do customers/clients say about them? Are they timely,flexible and able to do change orders? How is their overall performance?

Be sure to ask what they expect from the owner builder as the general contractor? How long will trim carpentry take on your project? Are they a supplier as well as an installer? Are there any other subcontractors they consider top-notch? No one know subs like other contractors and subs.