Friday, January 14, 2011

Advice column

I received a letter!

Dear Fugly to Fabulous,

I need some advice on finishing door frame trim. We had to shim our
door frame when we put it back in - you see, we ripped out our
bathroom to the studs and when we re-hung the drywall, we discovered
that most everything was off by 1/2 inch - since studs from 1951 are
actually 2 inches by 4 inches, and not 1.5 x 3.5 inches. So, we
shimmed the door frame, but now that we're to the finishing stage, I'm
realizing that we're going to have to take drastic measures if we want
the shimmed piece to look nice and smooth along with the rest of the

We've tried caulking, which helped some, but the wood is so rough and
it's not EXACTLY even everywhere with the rest of the frame. Should I
plane it down and then use wood filler to make a smooth seam?

Any suggestions would be helpful. I would prefer to do minimal sanding
since the original frame (on the left in these pictures) most likely
has lead-based paint on it.

Yours truly,

Shimmed in Austin

Hey Austin, do you want props or would you like to remain anonymous?

Ok, I see three different ways of dealing with this problem.

One, caulk it real good and insist to all visitors that it adds character and charm. It'll still be there. You can't hide it with caulk, as you've found out. The problem with this solution is that it's pretty ugly.

Two, like you thought, plane it down and fill it with really good wood filler. I am not a connoisseur of wood filler products, but something like Dap Plastic Wood or Minwax High Performance would probably dry hard enough. But here's the problem with wood filler: it doesn't expand and contract like wood does. Places like Austin have significant humidity changes throughout the year, and the wood filler will probably break at some point.

Three, take the whole door jamb off and replace that piece. Here's how I'd do it:

Pull the trim again, on both sides of the doorway. Measure (at several points) the width of the old jamb + shimming. Get out your Sawzall and cut the nails holding the jamb to the wall - that's the fastest and by far the easiest way to get the casing out. Put in new jambs - it might be a weird size, in which case you'll need to rip down a larger board. Do you have a table saw? It's probably a good excuse to get one, but they are pretty dangerous, so get a book too. Or just clamp a 1x6 to your saw table and carefully, slowly rip it down (with a new blade!) with your trusty circular saw. Then it'll be easy to nail the new jamb and door stop pieces back in. You might as well get rid of the old door stop trim if it's got lead paint on it. Prime, caulk, paint.

Sorry I don't have a magical easy solution to this one. :( Ahh, the joys of homeownership!

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