New Video: How to Install Shadow Box Trim

Posted by John on August 28th, 2015

In today’s post, you’ll learn
– How to Install Shadow Box Trim

It’s been a while since we’ve finished any home improvement projects and although, this latest one is pretty quick and simple, it feels great to wrap up another project nonetheless.  Lisa and I had been planning on adding some sort of decor or charm to our front entry for some time now and we settled on shadow box trim since it looks great and won’t break the bank.  Between paint and trim (both chair rail and base cap molding), we probably spend around $150.

shadow box trim pinterest

To make this tutorial even easier, I put together a video for you to help demonstrate the process.  Check it out:

(Click here if you don’t see the video to be redirected to YouTube)

Here’s what tools you’ll need for this shadow box molding project:

– Base Cap Molding
Miter Saw
– Tape Measure
Brad Nailer
– Adhesive Caulk
– Nail Sets
– Painter’s Caulk
– Wood Filler

I wrote a how-to post for eHow.com, which explains this whole process in written form along with an explanation for the angle cuts on the stairs.  You can read that post here.

There are a couple things to keep in mind when you are thinking about installing shadow box trim.  For starters, when you are trying to plan the layout and figure out how many boxes and how big each one should be, smaller walls should only get one box.  Longer walls can get more than one, but try to get an odd number as odd numbers tend to look better, although we weren’t able to squeeze in odd numbers on our walls.

You’re also going to need some sort of top cap like a chair rail molding before you install the shadow box trim.  Luckily, we have a post and a video on how to install chair rail, which you can check out first.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me or leave a comment on this post OR on the YouTube video.

If you think my shadow box trim looks good, do me a favor and share this post.


This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Home Decor. Tagged in ,, , ,

New Video: How to Install Chair Rail Molding

Posted by John on May 16th, 2015

In this video and post, you’ll learn
– How to install chair rail molding
– How to install molding on a stairway
– How to add end caps to your trim work
– How to use two basic tools to figure out what angle to cut your trim pieces to


Happy weekend everybody!

This past week I was able to get some more house work done in the form of chair rail molding.  This is the second time we’ve added chair rail to our place.  The first time was back a few years ago.  You can read about that experience here (photos were pre-DSLR).  This time around it went MUCH quicker.  Funny how a little bit of experience will do that.

This time around, I snapped a chalk line in the areas where the chair rail was to be installed.  I also used my patented* no-tape-measure approach to trim installation, which was more fully explained in my baseboard installation video.

Anyway, why don’t you watch the video and let me know if you have any questions…

(If you don’t see the video, please click here to be redirected to YouTube)

The key takeaways from this video are:
– Use construction adhesive and a chalk line to align your trim
– Use a finish nailer for trim that is thicker than 1/2″ or so. Keep in mind that the nail needs to go through a 1/2″ thick piece of drywall plus the trim. Most brad nailers only shoot nails up to 1-1/4″ long.
– Use a t-bevel and your miter saw to figure out what angle your molding should be cut to.
– If you want an end cap or a “return”, just cut the end of the trim to a 45 degree angle. Then using a piece of scrap trim, cut a 45 degree angle on the opposite side you intend to install it and then just lop it off with a straight cut.

I hope this video helps you with your chair rail installation or any similar type of work.

Any questions??


Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Trim. Tagged in ,, , , ,

How to Install Baseboard Molding

Posted by John on April 29th, 2015

In this video, you’ll learn:
– How to remove baseboard molding
– How to install new baseboard molding
– How to work without a tape measure

Well, we finally started our latest home improvement project.  As we mentioned a few weeks ago, we’re working towards adding some character in our vestibule with taller baseboard molding, additional chair rail trim and shadow boxes.

How to Install Baseboard Molding 2

The first item on this to do list is the baseboard molding.  Rather than write a few hundred words on how to rip out short molding and install taller trim, it’s easier and more educational to simply film it and narrate the work.

Here’s a super quick video on how to install baseboard molding.  By the way, super quick for me is around 5 minutes!

(If you don’t see the video, you can click this link to be redirected to YouTube)

I hope you find this video helpful.  Adding taller trim can give your home a more high end look since shorter trim is very common.  The visual effect of the taller baseboards gives the wall a more defined contrast with the wall.

Again, I’d like to emphasize that you don’t always need to work with a tape measure.  Sometimes you do, no doubt.  However, I find that if I’m able to employ the process I used in this video, I make less mistakes. When I first started out installing molding years ago, I used a tape measure.  I can’t tell you how many cuts I messed up.  When you use a tape measure, you’re adding potential pitfalls.  You measure the wall then you measure the molding.  If you make tiny mistakes on each of those steps you can make a noticeable mistake at the miter saw and cut the board too short or too long.

You can see another example of where I was able to avoid using a tape measure when I installed quarter round molding in our family room a couple years ago.

In our next video, I’ll show you how I use a t-bevel to make trim installation on angled walls easier.

Are you in need of new trim in your home?  What molding work are you considering? 

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Trim,Videos. Tagged in ,, , ,

How to Add Trim to Cabinets

Posted by John on May 5th, 2013

Hey all! Hope everyone is doing well. Had another productive weekend around here. We got a huge jump on our Pinterest Challenge project. Stay tuned for that! We posted a couple hint photos on our Instagram account.

Last week, we wrapped up our sitting room built-in. I also promised a quick post on how to add trim to cabinets to make them look more “built-in” and less free standing cabinet. The process is pretty simple and can be used on any type of cabinet. There are a number of blog posts out there about turning ikea bookshelves or stock kitchen cabinets into built-ins. Adding trim can really add some depth to their look.

Here’s how to add trim to cabinets..

We start with the baseboard molding. When I installed the cabinets, I removed the baseboard molding on the wall where the cabinet was being installed. Made things easier.

baseboard trim on a cabinet

Before I add the new piece though, I’m going to add a couple thin strips of wood to the side of the cabinet. The cabinet front overhangs the sides by about 1/4″ and if I try to install the baseboard molding without a shim, it won’t look right. Adding a strip to the top and bottom help keep the molding solid against the cabinet.

shim on cabinet

The molding on the wall is cut square on the cabinet side and just butts up into the cabinet. The molding that goes on the cabinet has a coped joint on the left side and a miter joint where it meets the front. After it was installed, I caulked and painted the molding. To make this job easier, it helps to pre-paint all the trim then all you need to do is some touch-ups after it’s installed. Last thing you want to be doing is painting that close to carpet.

baseboard trim on cabinet

built-in molding 2

Now for the crown molding..

There are a couple ways to approach crown molding on cabinets. You could do option A, like John and Sherry did in their kitchen, which is to add a strip of wood on top of your cabinets. This method is perfect for already existing cabinets that don’t have a lot of width up top to accommodate the 1/2″ or so of crown molding that will need to make contact with wood.

Option B, let’s call it, is to skip the extra piece of wood and nail the crown molding right into the face frame of the cabinet.  This option works if you DO have a lot of space near the top of the cabinet.  In the case of our built-in, we’re going with option B.  Actually, I designed the top cabinet to have that extra 1/2″ space.. another benefit of building your own stuff.

To get started, I measured about 1/2″ down from the top of the cabinet and made some pencil marks.  I’m also adding a shim up here as well.  Oh and if you look closely at the next picture, you can see some splintering at the edge of the plywood.  That’s from using a saw blade that wasn’t as sharp as it should have been.  It’s okay though, because it’s getting hidden by a shim and crown molding.

crown molding on cabinet

shimming crown molding

Now, how to cut crown molding… It helps if you use a special crown molding jig, which you can pick up from Amazon or Lowes.  The jig keeps the molding at the right angle for cutting.  What’s the right angle?  Well, crown molding has two flat surfaces that are 90 degrees from one another.  Both of those surfaces need to be 90 degrees on the miter saw when you cut them.  Crown molding jigs help to lock the molding in that position.

how to cut crown molding

You also need to cut them upside down.  That can be tricky.  It helps if you think about the molding and the piece you are installing it on as being upside down too.  For real, find some crown molding that already installed somewhere and look at it if you were standing on the ceiling.  It would look just like normal baseboard molding if you look at it from that perspective.  The challenge is thinking about it like that when you are standing in front of your miter saw.  It’s tricky.  I’ve installed a lot of it and it still throws me for a loop.  I had to buy 3 pieces of crown molding for this project because I messed up the cuts twice.  It happens.  Crown molding takes practice.

I’ll probably do a more intensive how-to video or a dedicated post on it as some point, but for this post I just wanted to show you the basics of adding trim to cabinets.  Crown molding on walls is roughly the same, but requires a little extra work.

But seriously though, think about it upside down.

crown molding miter saw

crown molding on cabinet 2

When marking the crown molding for the cuts, I like to leave the first piece long and mark it for length right on the cabinet instead of measuring it with a measuring tape.  Just make a mark where it meets the front edge.  Your crown molding should just touch the 1/2″ marks you made earlier, which will ensure that your molding is level… as long as your cabinet is level that is.  I used a brad nailer with a 3/4″ nail for all of this work and I skipped the glue.

crown molding on built-in

So that’s crown molding and baseboards on cabinets.  Not too hard and it makes a world of difference.

Later this week I have a final exam and then I’m done grad school for the summer!  That means a summer blog theme face lift and more outdoor projects!  Only one more course in the fall too.  Can’t wait. 

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, , , ,

Paneling Under a Window

Posted by John on May 15th, 2012

After a fairly relaxing weekend with our wonderful moms and my beautiful wife, I was able to spend some free time on our dining room paneling project late Sunday afternoon.  So far we’ve removed the old chair rail molding, added an outlet and repaired the wall damage from the wiring.  Now we’re finally ready to start adding wood to our wall!!  We’re going to kick it off with adding paneling under a window.

Last month we discussed some of our options for the overall look and layout of the paneling.  We never filled you in on our decision.  We decided to go with a combination of sorts.  The wainscoting will have a high baseboard as opposed to the short baseboard molding throughout our house.

Kinda like this….

And it will have a bolection molding and a sharp raised panel profile like this…

We picked these features for two reasons: it was the easiest to do in my opinion and Lisa and I both really liked the look of the added molding and the sharp lines.  The downside is the applied bolection molding is an added cost and it had to be ordered and shipped to us.  Oh well!!  Still cheaper than paying someone to do it!

The construction method for this type of paneling isn’t too complicated and if I could find around 6-8 hours, I could probably finish the hardwood portion altogether.  But, since I will be doing this project in dribs and drabs, it will take a while.  The basic strategy is to install a hardwood frame, much like a cabinet door and then glue and nail them into the wall.  The panel section is left open and an MDF center with a raised panel profile is added later.  A piece of molding will bridge the hardwood to the MDF and tie it all together.  If I lost you there, I promise that you’ll get it if you stick around.

The hardest part of this project is the planning.  Deciding how wide, tall and how many panels on each wall to build is the hardest part.  To help me out, I used A LOT of Microsoft Excel.  I’ll also show you how to do that as well in another post.

Let’s get to the paneling… I started on the window wall.  It’s actually the only wall I’ve got the frame up on.

I pre-assembled each frame section in the basement from poplar using pocket screws.  Poplar is my choice du jour for any wood that will be painted.  It’s a quality hardwood that doesn’t work very well for staining so it’s generally priced lower than cherry, oak or maple.  The frame is resting on 1/2″ thick blocks until I nail it to the wall.  I’m lifting it to give me some height on the wall.  I was afraid it might be a tad too short, so better safe than sorry.

Here’s a less than sharp photo of the first section.  You can see how the top and the bottom pieces run the width of the section and the sides run between them.  I only had to add pocket screws from the sides into the top and bottom.

The other side of the window got the same treatment.

For the middle area under the window, we took a slightly different approach.  We bumped out the wall by 3/4″ then added our panel.  This will give that wall some more interest.  First I glued and nailed a couple filler pieces.

Then I built the panel section…

Since this middle piece will be sticking out from the wall, I wanted to make sure the sides looked sharp.  Normally, in carpentry projects, you try to avoid having any end grain showing.  The top and the bottom pieces of this section have end grain showing that can be better dressed.  To take care of that end grain, I mitered the ends of the panel section to a 45 degree angle.  I did this to the individual pieces before I assembled it.

Then I added a long piece cut at the same angle.

That little angle piece isn’t perfect, but it should look great when it’s caulked and painted!

Once the center section was added, I was done with this wall until I go back and add the MDF center, which won’t be for a couple more weeks!!

Oh, and I’ll have to replace that window sill, since i ripped it out too!  I’m definitely planning on showing a complete panel build from start to finish too.

Anyone else taking their sweet time with a project??

Posted in Carpentry,Home Decor. Tagged in ,, , ,

Add Trim without the Tape Measure

Posted by John on January 11th, 2012

Lisa and I are still basking in the awesomeness that is our new hardwood floors. They’re so shiny and clean that I almost don’t want to walk on them… almost. Lots of sliding in socks going on around here. On Monday morning, I took a brake from basking and sliding and I started installing the shoe molding, aka the quarter rounds. Bruce makes a matching shoe molding, so we just picked up a couple boxes of those when we ordered our floors. Now, I’ve already done a post on molding installation, but I thought this post would make a nice little tutorial on how to make your molding installations faster. Having trouble figuring out which angle your wall is at? Read this tutorial.

Obviously, speed isn’t the name of the game when it comes to home projects. Quality and safety are number one. However, it doesn’t hurt to learn a few tricks now and then to reduce your work time AND get a more accurate result with fewer errors. Our family room is around 400 square feet or so and I managed to install all the shoe molding in under 30 minutes using this trick.


First thing’s first. You generally don’t need to use a tape measure to make accurate measurements. I just use the piece of molding I’m going to install and I mark that piece. In the photo above, you can see that I’ve already got a section of shoe molding installed to the left. I cut the end of that piece at a 45 degree angle (the pieces are only 6′ long so I need a few of them in a row to cover the wall). My next piece will start with a matching 45 degree angle. In this example, I need to determine how long this last piece will be in order for it to meet the end of the wall.IMG_2718-1024x682


To get that measurement, there’s two ways.

1. Use a measuring tape and try to get the distance from the end of the last shoe molding to the corner of the wall. The only problem with that method is that it’s more prone to errors because you’re resting your tape measure on a piece of molding that’s been cut to an angle. So which part of the slice do you measure?

2. Use the molding itself. I cut the next piece of molding to match the one already installed and I lay it on the floor like I’m going to install it. That way the 45 degree cuts lap together nicely. Then I mark the piece where it meets the corner with a pen or a pencil.IMG_2720-1024x682


For outside corners like the one above, I can even mark the backside of the molding by running my pen along the baseboard molding, creating a perfect line on the back that marks the edge of the wall exactly.

For inside corners, I usually make my cut for the inside angle ahead of time on the molding and jam the molding into the inside corner of the wall first and try to mark the other side of the piece. This method essentially makes all your inside corners into outside corners. You’re just working in the other direction. Get it? If this verbiage is confusing, let me know and I’ll add some additional pictures to clarify. Maybe I’ll make another video to show how to do this throughout an entire room.

The speed of this method is best realized by allowing the molding to lay past whatever you’re measuring it against. For the examples above, this is done against an outside corner, but it could easily be against another piece of molding.

Hope that helps. If employed properly, you could really move through a molding job. I started using this a while back when I kept mis-measuring my cuts with a tape measure. I’d be off by about 1/8″ and it was driving me nuts!!

Have any additional tips for making molding fly besides throwing it?

Posted in Flooring,Home Decor,Trim. Tagged in ,, ,

How to Make Your Crown Molding Look Bigger

Posted by John on December 6th, 2011

Part of our “Grand Plan” is to improve the look of our crown molding.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s no problem with our current trim whatsoever!  When we were selecting the options for our home build, there were some upgrades we passed on because we thought it would be a better value if we just did it ourselves at a later date.  You know, things we could live without if it meant investing the money into something we REALLY wanted.  Another one of those savings came by skipping out on granite countertops.

So, what kind of crown molding improvement am I talking about?  A very basic upgrade.  Let me show you what I’m talking about…

Can you see it?  I added a small trim about 2″ below the crown molding.  Now, it’s not caulked or painted yet because we’re still working on it.  When it’s all done, even the space between the crown molding and the bottom trim will be painted semi-gloss.  It gives an effect as if the crown molding is much larger.  Should be pretty sweet!

Here’s how to make your crown molding look bigger:

1.  I selected my trim.  I used a very inexpensive pre-primed piece.  In the photo below, you can see the profile of the trim.  I bought it at Lowes.

2.  Next, I measured 2″ down from the bottom of the crown molding and marked the wall with a pencil.  You could use whatever distance you’d like.  Our builder used 4″-5″ for this space.  We thought 2″ looked the best for us.  In this application, you don’t need to use a level, since we want the new trim to track the crown molding.  Any variation in the distance between the crown and the new piece will make it look uneven.

3.  Next I cut my trim.  I followed the same basic procedure that I used to install my chair rail molding.  So, I left my right side edge flat and butted it against the wall.  Since my trim pieces are 8′ long, much shorter than the length of the wall, I had to join two pieces of trim.  The left side of the first trim piece was cut on a 45 degree angle.  You can see the end of that first piece in the photo below.  I glued the piece and installed it with my nail gun.

4.  My next piece had the same cut as the first piece so they would overlap, see the photo below.  The other end I just butted into the wall.  The first cut on the next wall will need a coped joint, which I also discussed in the chair rail install post.

So that’s basically it.  You just continue this around the room.  We still have a couple rooms to finish yet, but we can’t wait to see what this looks like painted.

Do you have any cheap tricks to improve the look of molding? 

Posted in DIY Projects,Home Decor. Tagged in ,, ,

Our Grand Plans

Posted by John on December 5th, 2011

This holiday season, between over eating and last minute gift shopping, Lisa and I are doing some pretty major upgrades around here.  A couple of them we’ve already posted about and you’ve probably already seen, but we thought we should clue you in on the big picture.  Here’s a list of everything we’re planning…

1.  Add chair rail molding to vestibule (how-to post here and odd angles post here)
2.  Enhancing our crown molding (this week)
3.  Caulking and filling nail holes
4.  Painting, painting, painting
5.  Adding hardwood floors to our living room and family room

We’re looking to do these projects to increase the value of our home, to improve the general look of the interior and because we really just have always wanted to do these upgrades since we moved in.  Among all these projects, of course, we’ll be showing you our holiday decorations and whatever else comes up

Most of the molding projects are nearly done, we’ll be showing the crown molding upgrade tomorrow.

The floors will be particularly challenging.  We have hardwood in the rooms adjoining the living room and the family room already and we want to tie the new floor into the old to make it look like it was always there.  That means ripping out some of the old hardwood.  Not sure what I’m talking about?  Well, you’ll see soon enough.

Here’s a before view of our family room as of a couple weeks ago (it’s now in full Christmas mode…

and our living room…

So stick around and follow us via email (that box on the left) so you don’t miss a thing! 

Oh, and don’t mind those non functional tabs there on the left, we’re working on some functional upgrades.

Are you planning on any upgrades this holiday season?

Posted in Home Decor,Staining and Painting. Tagged in ,, , ,

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