Subscribe or Renew Membership Subscribe Renew

Pros and Cons of window/trim finishing

DoRight's picture

Ok, new construction.  

Wood windows and trim to be stain finished.

1.  Do you / Can you / should you, finish the windows while installed, finish trim on racks then cut and install.

2  Do you / Can you / Should you, install trim and finish all at once.

Why one of the other?

I am sure one reason is that "that is the way it is always done" .   Ok that one is out of the why, but ...

I would guess one reason is that the trim carpenter is not the finisher and therefore, one job "needs" to be done before the other so the finisher can come in and finish.   I will be doing both takes so that is not my issue.

It seems like a pretty nice deal to paint your walls and then install finished trim so there is no cutting in when painting.

I suppose cutting finished trim could result in some tearout and thus need touch up and of course there is the filling of nails holes (but those wax pencils work pretty nicely)

So what are teh pros and cons and thoughts of those in teh buz?

Thank you as always



Hey DoRight,      What (post #214833, reply #1 of 7)

Hey DoRight,

     What we usually do with stained casing is cut and fit kits for the windows.  Sand, stain, poly (1 coat) and screw the kits togther with pocket screws.  These kits are usually stool, apron, 2 legs, and a head.  This whole assembly can be assembled with no visible fasteners.  Then we install the kits with a nice consistent nail pattern, fill the holes with a color matched putty, and poly the final coat in place.  As for the sashes, if the weather allows it is nice to remove them and stain and poly them on horses, then reinstall.  For stain and poly I have started using Saman brand.  It is water based and really nice looking.  You can stain and apply poly in about 1-2 hours.  I will never use a Minwax product ever again.  Good luck. 

Question (post #214833, reply #3 of 7)

Hey finefinish, thank you so much for your reply!

Just to be clear, you assemble your frames and then stain, not stain long boards-cut-and then assemble?

What do you like about Saman and what don't you like about Minwax.  I have used Minwax and don't have enough experience to know why or what else to chose.  I have had issue with Minwax but blame myself and technque.


No problem DoRight,     (post #214833, reply #6 of 7)

No problem DoRight,

       Sorry that wasn't clear...  we cut all the trim to final length, sand, stain, and poly one coat, then assemble.  The only peice that needs really careful fitting is the stool usually.  If you get a bunch of stock, sand, stain, and poly THEN cut it to length you will have to touch up tear out etc.  It certainly can be done that way, but our method also limits the handling of finished stock before it goes on the wall, which means less chance of dings too.  If you pre-finish then cut to length, you also have to be careful of pencil marks along with the tearout.  Also there are many times you will have end grain that is exposed, so cutting to length after staining on a window head for example means sanding and staining end grain after the fact.    

I have seen it done several (post #214833, reply #7 of 7)

I have seen it done several ways.  A lot depends on how much "improvisation" may be required, and also what sort of finish is being used.

If you have 100 identical windows to be trimmed, with no anticipated variations, it makes sense to pre-cut the trim (WARNING:  Trial-fit a few pieces before you cut all 100 sets!), finish, then install.  Follow up with a final coat/touch-up as needed.

If you have a lot of odd sizes it's much more convenient (especially with dark stain that takes some skill to keep uniform) to stain/paint the uncut pieces and then cut to fit as needed.  The disadvantage, of course, is that the cut ends (plus any minor chipping from the saw blade) will show up white and so considerable touch-up is manditory.  (When staining, it's generally best to stain the cut ends before installation.  With paint you can instead follow up with a second coat after the install.)

The third option is to install the trim unfinished and then apply the finish.  This is generally only practical if adjacent surfaces have not been finished yet, as otherwise considerable masking and tarping is likely required.  (Yes, you can carefully do one window without spilling or getting an "oops" on the adjacent wall, but can you do 10 windows in 5 rooms?)  There's also the issue, with stain, of getting an even coat near the ends of the pieces.

If painting vs staining it's a little more practical to finish after installation, or at least do a complete second coat after.  With paint it's nice to have the paint span/hide joints in in the wood.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

hobbyist here (post #214833, reply #2 of 7)

I've done a number of whole house renovations for myself and family. Mostly done Craftsman style trim, using douglas fir or pine (carefully selected turns out nicely). I've always done drywall/air-sealing, etc. and painted walls clean and separately done the trim  staining and poly work outside. Honestly, hats off to painters who can stain trim in place. I couldn't without turning my walls the same color. I also get a coat of poly (Ben Moore water-based) on the backside of the trim--helps to stabilize the trim from seasonal changes in my experience. Very little touch-up needed at joints, if any. I am using a Kapex with a good finish blade; prior to last year, had my trusty Delta compound miter with an 80 tooth blade and that also cut cleanly. Next addition is going to be a monster and I think I'm going to hire a painter to do all the trim staning and poly--will negotiate with them about their preference for in-place or finishing prior to my install. 

Thank you too Mike (post #214833, reply #4 of 7)


I guess the board is a live and sort of well


Hats off to you FHB forum (post #214833, reply #5 of 7)

Hats off to you FHB forum folk. Pocket screws and back painting are definitely best practices. I've used biscuits from time to time. I've seen guys use construction adhesive to glue trim to the drywall  which helps to stabilize the joints. 90% of the tradesmen out there will just shoot the trim in place and hope for the best and most times it will be okay.

You all are doing fine work!