Home Improvement: Trimming a Window (replacing the sill & apron, adding side/top molding)

When we moved into our new house back in April, I had a list of must-do items that I wanted to do to help “improve” the house.  And make it more OUR home.  In my brain, I figured, “hmmm, these few projects should only take a month or so…….maaaaaybe 2 months”. 

 

Ha!  That was the clueless Ashley talking.  You know, the girl who has no-idea-what-she’s-talking-about-because-she’s-never-purchased-a-home-before……or-renovated-one-for-that-matter.  Silly.  Just, plain silly. :)

 

I have learned that when one project is underway……17 more projects suddenly appear.  Like, when we began laying new hardwood floors, we realized that we’d better buy those new baseboards we had been eying.  But before the baseboards could be nailed in, we needed to trim out all the doors.  But that’s funny…..because you have to replace the doors first (with the ones you want) before you can trim them out.  But hey, don’t forget that painting the walls would be easier if you did it before installing your brand new doors.  Oh yeah, but don’t go installing those new doors when painting them first would save you a lot of grief.  Can you see the rookie thought process in all this? 

 

Yeah…..we’re learning.

 

And have made lots of progress.

 

But I can’t wait to actually lay around and enjoy all this work.  Go on……..someone please lie to me and tell me that this day will come! ;)

 

 

Until then…….our latest love.  Trimming out windows!!!

 

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**Nope, baseboards still aren’t up.  Just pretend they are. ;)

 

 

 

 

Trimming out these windows (and our doors) has been magical.  All of the sudden, our boring ol’ windows are turning into stunning little focal points.

window trimming

 

 

 

 

A piece of wood here and there, a few little pieces of molding……done.  We are loving how it’s all turning out.

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And we love that our windows are no longer nekked!

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We’re kinda cheater-pants because we’re not trimming out the interior edges of the windows.  We’re just painting the interior edges of the windows the same color as the trim.  A little deception is okay in this scenario. :)

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And because I love seeing a good BEFORE/AFTER shot……I went digging in my old photos.  But turns out, I didn’t really focus much on this particular window and its surroundings.  But here’s a picture where you can see it in the background.  You know, just to get an idea of how that window used to look in the living room.

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See ya later sucker!

 

Because here she is NOW!

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 I keep sneaking into the rooms that are mostly done, and I just stare.  Watching these projects actually turn out……..is THRILLING! :)

 

More to come soon…

 

 

But would you like to see how we trimmed out our windows?

 

 

 

 

Most likely, your window is a little bare.  It probably has a window sill and a measly little apron down below.  Very common window construction.

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Let’s fix that.  Pronto. :)

 

 

 

**Wood sizes and trim styles are totally variable.  I will show you the process we used and the material we used…….but keep in mind, but you’ll have to decide what wood widths and trim styles look best in your home.

 

Here are the wood types we purchased and used.

 

  • 7.5 inch wide MDF (along the top and for the sill)
  • 2.5 inch wide MDF (for the sides and the apron….which is below the sill)
  • 1 1/2 inch MDF molding piece for upper trimming
  • 1/4 x 1/2 inch wood piece for upper trimming

 

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And then, here are a few more supplies you’ll need:

 

  • Nail gun (you could also do this by hand…..but a nail gun will save you some time)
  • Liquid Nails (construction adhesive)
  • Paintable Caulk
  • Miter Saw (or a miter box to cut molding pieces at a 45 degree angle by hand)
  • Utility Knife
  • Crowbar
  • Paint Scraper

 

 

 

Okay……let’s do this!

 

First, use a utility knife to cut the old caulk seams…

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And then pry up the old wood with a crow bar of some sort.

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Scrape off all the old caulk and any other debris that’s hanging around.

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Now, measure the opening of your window base.  Write that number down.  (Ours is 28 inches wide.)

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Then, decide how wide you want your window sill to come out.  For our windows, we use 2.5 inch wide pieces along the vertical sides of the window.  But we like the sill to come out an inch beyond that.  So, we measured out 3.5 inches at both sides and added both of those measurements to the window width measurement.  (So……28 + 3.5 + 3.5 = 35 inches)

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Then measure the depth of the window.  Write that number down.

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Then, decide how deep you need your sill piece to be.  Our window was a little over 5 inches deep……so we decided to use 7.5 inch wide MDF for the sill.  We have other windows that are only 3.5 inches deep…….so a piece of 5.5 inch wide MDF works great for those.  It just depends, so measure and decide what will look the best.

 

Now, grab the board you are using for your window sill and cut it down to the length you need it.  In our case, 35 inches long.  Then, use those measurements that you wrote down and draw them right onto your board.

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Be sure to measure both sides and mark them separately…..because most likely, they are a little different.  Yeah, no one’s house is perfect.

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Then, use your saw of choice and cut those pieces out of your board.

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Then, place the board in the window opening.  If it’s slightly off, make adjustments until it fits.

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Now, nail the board into place, securing it to the stud pieces underneath.

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Now, it’s time for the top piece.  Cut it to the width you need.  In our case, it was the window width plus 2.5 inches on both side for the vertical pieces that will be added next.  (You can add the vertical pieces first but we needed our top piece in place first, because it’s slightly hiding some of the blinds behind it.  And it was hard to measure where that top board would sit, without having it in place first.)  Use a level to be sure that the top board is sitting evenly.

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And then nail it in place.

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Next, measure how long your side pieces need to be and nail them in place as well.  (Measure them independently.  Most likely, they will be different lengths.)

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Now, measure for your apron piece.  Measure from one side piece to the other…….because you’ll want it to be the exact same width so that everything looks even.

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Then, nail that apron right in place.

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Now, for everything up until now, we used 2 inch brad nails.  But for the trim pieces, you want something much smaller.  We used little half inch brad nails.

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For the upper trim piece, we decided on a 1.5 inch wide simple molding (another close-up picture above).  I have seen much bigger and more ornate molding pieces used…..but I prefer a simple molding for the window. 

 

Just measure the width of your board that’s in place, grab your molding piece and miter the two ends at a 45 degree angle to meet the length measurement you need.

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And then nail it in place, using those smaller nails.

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And because I need a close-up of everything, here’s that 45 degree angle.

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Oh, and line up the top of the molding evenly with the top of the board piece.

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Then, cut a “return” piece, that is mitered (at a 45 degree angle) at one end and then a straight 90 degrees at the other, to sit against the flat wall.  Nail it in place.  (And don’t worry if it’s not perfect……we’ll fill in the cracks later.)

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If you get into a tight spot and can’t fit a nail gun or hammer, construction adhesive works great and dries really fast.  (Just don’t get it on your skin.  It’s awful to get off!)

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We like liquid nails.  And use it for many things.

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Next, nail the skinny trim piece in place.

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Keep the trim piece even with the bottom edge of the board behind it. 

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And because this trim piece is flat (unlike the curvy molding piece), you can just butt up the corner pieces to each other.  (Don’t worry, we’ll fill in those cracks later.)

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Now, time for all the finishing work (…which always turns out to be my job!)

 

Use wood filler and fill in all those nail holes.

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 Once it’s dry, sand it down evenly.  And while you’re at it, smooth out any other wonky edges or rough corners.  (The MDF we used has a slight curve to it along its edges.  So, any edges that we cut, we tried to match the same curved edge look.  You may want to do the same.)

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Once you’re done sanding, vacuum up as much as possible.  Then wipe with a damp cloth to get all of that dust off and then let dry.  However, if you don’t want to wait for the wood to dry (after wiping it with a damp cloth), using denatured alcohol on a cloth will make the cloth damp enough to attract the dust but dries instantly.

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Now, time for the fun.  Caulking.  Begin caulking all your cracks and gaps, hiding any imperfections.  I’m serious……this stuff is magic! :)  (Just be sure you’re using paintable caulk.)

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But here’s my secret.  A bowl with a bit of water and some wet paper towels.  ALWAYS keep your fingers wet when working with caulk because it keeps it smooth and easier to work with.

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Then, smooth out those lines with your wet finger.  (There are caulking tools to smooth out those lines…..but I prefer my finger.)  Then re-wet your finger, and repeat.  After every swipe, I wipe my fingers on the wet paper towels and continue on.  If your caulk is looking bumpy……just really wet those fingers and smooth it out.  Just be quick about it all, because caulk starts drying pretty quickly.

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But just to give you an idea of the magic of using caulk…….here’s the before, after adding caulk, and then after the final paint job.  See?  It’s magic!  You can’t even tell there used to be cracks anywhere!!!!

caulk window trim

 

 

 

Once all your caulk is dry………paint everything!  Then your trimming will all melt into each other. 

 

Then, sit back and let your socks be blown off.  Pretty, right? :)

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Whew……only about 17 more windows to go.  We’ll just pace ourselves.  It’s so worth it! :)

 

Good luck!

Ashley

 

 

 

 

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Comments

68 Responses to “Home Improvement: Trimming a Window (replacing the sill & apron, adding side/top molding)”
  1. 1
    Christine says:

    Ah, that is absolutely beautiful. We are ‘trimming’ our windows and doorways and this is exactly what we are going to do. Thank you for the tutorial; I’ll be sure to show it to my husband. :)

  2. 2
    The Mrs. says:

    Looks fabulous! You’re doing a great job and I know it takes a lot of time, but you get so many little triumphs along the way like finishing a window that keep you going until the final reveal. Looks like you’ve got a great partner too! Are you going to try and tackle that big curved window over the front door too?!

    • 2.1
      Ashley says:

      Thanks…..and true, the little triumphs are what keeps me excited! And no……we’re going to leave that curved window alone. It’s a tricky curve, but even more than that, it’s so high up and Steve and I are both afraid of heights. Ack! :)

  3. 3
    Hilary says:

    I totally understand what you mean about projects snowballing out of control. All you want is to add a pretty little touch like a window frame and before you know it you’re 20 hours and $1000 into a total overhaul project. It’s all worth it though! Love your blog!

  4. 4
    Anna says:

    I so wish you had posted this earlier, though my window project was much messier. If I had known how easy it would have been to just rip out the apron/shelf of the window and replace it, I’d totally have done that instead of spending hand bruising days scraping 80 years worth of paint from my windows, sanding the mess down and repainting. Your window looks beautiful! Thank you for sharing your process, I’ll definitely keep it in mind for the next time I’m crazy enough to tackle a window project by myself :D

  5. 5
    Marcia G says:

    Your tutorial was flawless. What an impression you have made with mdf, DIY skills, time & diligence. Your window is not only beautiful, but inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

  6. 6
    Annie says:

    We did this too but we paid someone to do it. What a difference it made! We had tile window sills and they were so ugly. But once we got the mdf up and had it all caulked and painted, it looked so good. Our trim for our windows was a simpler design but we didn’t want it to compete with our door trim. I’m so excited for all these home improvements posts because I hope it will give me some motivations to work on my own house as well!

  7. 7
    Lisa says:

    You’re so right about the 17 projects that come up in the process. My husband understands all this, but I rarely do. We ended up not having base on for a couple of months while all the other things were happening… But it does end! I’m a little better about asking ALL that the project entails before jumping in now. :)

    • 7.1
      Ashley says:

      Haha……it’s always the baseboards that are left undone. And it doesn’t matter what it is, I always undershoot the time commitment. Painting, sewing, making dinner, etc. I just get this idea in my head of everything I’m going to be able to fit into my day…..and it’s usually way off. Ack!

      • 7.1.1
        Lisa says:

        Ahh, making dinner…that’s a beast in and of itself and it has to happen every day!

      • 7.1.2
        Shelly says:

        Oh, that is so me. I ALWAYS underestimate the amount of time things will take. At least my hubby knows now to compensate for it. He knows that when I say something will take 15 minutes, it’ll be at least 30. ;)

  8. 8
    Sue says:

    Can you tell me what color gray you used to paint your walls

    • 8.1
      Ashley says:

      It’s called Miner’s Dust by Dunn Edwards. But I just went to Home Depot and had them color match it with their Behr brand. We really like it!

  9. 9
    Rita Marsh says:

    There may be a flaw in your design. You even mentioned it. “our top piece…, because it’s slightly hiding some of the blinds behind it.” If your blinds are like most, to replace them, you must slide them forward, out of their bracket. Your main top piece is now blocking that from happening. You may have to remove that piece if you were ever to need to replace your blinds. Hope your blinds aren’t like mine. :)

    • 9.1
      Ashley says:

      Ha…..how funny that you noticed that Rita! So, we went back and forth, back and forth, trying to decide if we cover the top edge of the blinds or not. There was a gap above the blinds that was an eye sore and distracted from all the trimming. So we had to decide if it was worth it to cover it and then risk making it awkward to get under there to replace the blinds. If something happens, we can get under there and unscrew the whole bracket and take them down that way. Hopefully we won’t…..but it’s an option. We decided we were willing to take that risk. :)

      • 9.1.1
        Guy says:

        I resolved this issue by simply swapping the bracket for the blinds left to right. You then install the blinds in from the window side rather than the room side, it’s tight but it worked!

  10. 10
    Stephanie says:

    Ditto Sue’s question: what is the name of that lovely gray on the walls?

    • 10.1
      Ashley says:

      It’s called Miner’s Dust by Dunn Edwards. But I just went to Home Depot and had them color match it with their Behr brand. It’s a great pale grey…….on the warmer side.

  11. 11
    Ann says:

    I have to add a comment on the lovely shade of grey you used in the room! I have struggled with finding “just -the-right-shade” of grey for 2 rooms in my home, so congrats on getting your right! Might I ask what color it is and who makes it? Thanks a bunch!!

    • 11.1
      Ann says:

      Ps- Don’t fear, the projects WILL subside! It might seem overwhelming, but even now is a wonderful time to sit back with a cold glass of lemonade and admire your progress :-)

  12. 12

    Your windows look so good! I never knew you could just put trim around a window and get such a stunning effect! It gives your room a very neat and stylish look. Great job! Now I want to do my window too! LOL Thanks so much for sharing this with us!

  13. 13
    Andrea says:

    so awesome, we need to do this to our windows! pinning.

  14. 14
    Ashlee wright says:

    Ashley ( love your name lol)
    I have wanted to trim my windows forever, but thought it would cost too much. I know it all depends on the size of window and how many you do…. But do you know how much those supplies cost for the one window? They look ANAZING!! I love all your amazing tutorials so thank you!!

    ❤Ashlee

  15. 15
    Michelle says:

    FYI, I use ‘Windex’ on my fingers when using silicone to stop the silicone sticking to my fingers. I wonder if it works with caulking too???? Excellent window conversion

  16. 16
    Leslie says:

    Thank you for the amazing tutorial and making me feel like I could actually do this project. I am hoping some day I can inspire my husband enough to work on it with me!

  17. 17
    Cassie Singley Gadd says:

    You forgot to put all of the stuff about climbing up the ladder to get to the top of the window. :) Looks great. Love you!

  18. 18
    Janeen G says:

    Looks great, Ashley! Way to go!

  19. 19
  20. 20
    Brian Cox says:

    That is one good example of excellent work in home improvement and renovation .

  21. 21
    Anna says:

    Oh my, what a difference that makes! I now have something new on my DIY to-do list. :) Our windows all have old tile sills that I just hate. I never knew putting trim up like this was so easy!

  22. 22
    Kristina Noall says:

    What a difference some trimming can make! That is one lovely window!
    Hoping that I’ll be able to buy a house and need this tutorial before I’m fifty… ;)

  23. 23
    Emily Bucher says:

    very nice! My mom says the most dangerous words a homeowner can say is “while we are at it…” :)

  24. 24
    CJ says:

    Your windows look amazing! When we moved into our house 9 years ago, none of the windows were trimmed. It looked odd to me, but most of the homes we looked at, were that way. After living in the house for all these years, I can see the difference it makes. I love the way your windows came out. My husband will be overjoyed with the new project I present to him- haha! Thanks for sharing.

  25. 25

    This small change really makes a big difference. Very nice article and great tips.

  26. 26
    Betsy says:

    I was just wondering what kind of finish you use on your trim…gloss, semi-gloss, satin?? Thanks

  27. 27
    ira lee says:

    this looks so pretty!!!! sounds like a bit of work but WOW!!! looks amazing!!!

  28. 28
    Michelle says:

    You guys are amazing! Luckily, we bought an old house that already has nice trim, but I’m pinning this in case we ever decide to move.

  29. 29
    Kiersten says:

    I need to do this! I don’t even have the little sill with the measly little apron. We just have window openings with about 2 inches that the blinds barely fit inside. So I can skip the first step! But I’m pretty sure I need to get the new windows first, and finish the other 17 projects that are still looming.

  30. 30
    Sandy says:

    About how much did you spend for one window? Looks great!!!

  31. 31
    Kristi says:

    I totally get how one project turns into 17. The exact same thing happened to us . . . and now we too have new flooring, new doors, new trim, new moldings, new paint . . . . You’ll get there eventually, but by the time you do, you will think of a hundred new projects!

    Love the home improvement posts. Keep them coming!

  32. 32
    Alissa says:

    I am impressed! What a professional job. You did I great job on your tutorial (as usual). When we get to buy our house someday I will use all of these home improvement tutorials!

  33. 33
    Tamara Michel says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been wanting to do this to my windows for over a year now and have not been able to find any tutorials on how to to it. You made it really simple and I am so excited to get started.

  34. 34
    Joanne says:

    Hi Ashley, love what you have done with your windows. Of course, I had to add this project to my husband’s Honey-do list! Can you tell me where you bought the MDF trim, etc.? I’ve looked in the local hardware store and only found the large sheets of MDF, no trim. (or else I’m just not looking right??) Thanks for the great idea!

    • 34.1
      Ashley says:

      I found the long pieces of MDF trim next to the other types of long pieces of wood. Like, long pieces of un-painted and painted pine and poplar, etc. It’s not with the regular large sheets of MDF, but more the 2×4′s and 1×4′s and 2×6′s, etc. Hope that helps! I’ve seen them at Home Depot and Lowe’s both….if that helps! :)

  35. 35
    Andrew says:

    Very nice article. I have some window trim to replace right now and found myself on this site.

    We have the same story about not knowing what we were getting into. We bought a house that had the carpets removed. The baseboards needed shoe molding that was either not there with the carpet or removed with it. After cutting and dry fitting some shoe molding we started thinking “Gee we should really install the prehung doors we want in the hall first and trim all the base molding to match.

    Then of course the paining begins which requires spackle. We haven’t had trim in our hallway for 2 months :)

  36. 36
    karen says:

    looks great i like the more simple look i cant seem to find the 1 1/2 mdf primed moulding for the crown did you get it from home depot

  37. 37
    Hannah says:

    This was the best tutorial I have seen for adding trim to windows. Thank you! I have one question about how you painted the trim white without getting one speck of it on the pretty grey walls. I have trouble painting trim.

  38. 38
    Lauren says:

    I am soooo glad my husband and I aren’t the only first time homeowners out there that underestimated their projects! We left ourselves 2 weeks between closing and move-in, and we VERY NAIVELY thought we could re-do the master bedroom (carpet/paint/window treatments), the living room (removing old paneling & carpeting, putting texture on the walls/priming/painting, laying laminate ourselves, and installing baseboards/window trim) and the foyer/hallway (wallpaper removal, paint, lay laminate, baseboards) in those TWO WEEKS! It’s been almost 3 months since closing and we have yet to lay the foyer/hallway flooring and all the baseboards. The amount of prep work and steps it takes in order to actually complete one part of the project is astounding to me.

    Good luck with the rest of your projects and thanks for the tutorial!

  39. 39
    Johanna says:

    What style of doors, and baseboards did you choose to go with this style of window trim? Your window style is one we’ve liked for its simplicity (and ease of construction) but there are such a bewildering array of options available, and we would love to have everything compliment each other. What is this style of trim called? We just bought a cottage which needs a lot of love, and was previously stripped of all it’s architectural elements, so we have a blank pallet to work with. Suggestions?

  40. 40
    Trilby says:

    That’s a beautiful window frame you designed. So simple and tasteful. I’m looking at my crap window frames now and see that they’re ALL WRONG (I didn’t do them, they’re old). Yeah, they’re like picture frames, the same ugly moulding mitered all the way around. Yuck! Must fix!

    I have one question for you. You’re wide top board overhangs some of the top of your blind. Now that the beautiful moulding is in place, can you ever remove the blind without ruining the mounlding, if you need to?

  41. 41
    Kyle says:

    Have you had any condensation or other water in contact with MDF stool you installed here? If so, is it holding up to the moisture OK? I heard that material is not good for water contact. i planned to use MDF for the sides and top but not the stool.

  42. 42
    Louisa Sadiq says:

    Hi there

    This is awesome, I have been delaying myself from tackiling this project as I didnt quite know what I wanted to do. I love this.

    I wanted to ask, what are your walls made out of is it wood or brick or concrete. We have plaste/concrete brick walls.
    So wanted to know would the nailgun hold in the walls or would you suggest drillling wall screws for the support instead because of the underlying brick.

    Also how did you decide on the sizes of the trimming you use, was it a personal choice or a calculation per window size.

    Thank you so much for your advice, it means a lot.

    Regards,
    Louisa

  43. 43
    dan says:

    where do you find that 1 1/12″ MDF moulding? For some reason I cannot find anything like that at Depot or Lowes.

  44. 44
    Charles says:

    I really like the design. After a recent flood in a vacation condo, I decided to install all new trim on the doors and windows. To get a more craftsman look I simply put a 1″ x 2″ that was 3/4″ longer that the trim piece on both the top and bottom of the top 1″ x 6″. Worked out great. I could assemble the entire piece and put it in place first then work from there to the bottom sill and beyond. Great look.

  45. 45
    Charles says:

    Oh, I almost forgot, the windows had 2:\” blinds previously installed. I hated the top trim pieces showing, so I lowered the top trim over the blinds and used 5 screws with decorative screw caps to install the top trim piece. When it is necessary (once a year or so) to remove the blinds and clean, I will just remove the screws and the blind will be exposed. The screw caps are simply small plastic caps that cover the screw heads. They are painted and barely noticeable.

  46. 46
    Mary says:

    Thank you, Ashley, for sharing these wonderful tips and pictures of your window framing project. It is so helpful!

  47. 47
    Mary Ann says:

    Wow!! Perfect! Exactly what we r going to do thanks to ur great tutorial!

Notes and Comments