How We’re Matching Old Trim to New

One of the first things we tackled in The Scary Room was the removal of the existing trimwork, in an effort to properly repair the drywall before reinstalling. It was in sad shape (well, it still is), and from the beginning, I told Scott that I would spend days – weeks, if I had to! – nursing it back to health. It’s the only trim in our home that’s original, but even that comes with a small asterisk, as we quickly learned that the baseboards were not as original as we once thought. In this video, you can see that the baseboards were cobbled together over the years, and they were installed haphazardly in varying heights throughout the room. Never mind that the closet wall (and the closet interior) didn’t have baseboards at all. We ultimately decided that the baseboards would get scrapped altogether, but we would do our best to replicate the one teeny section that we think to be original.

And the window trim? The window trim is pocked and chipped, it’s glooped in thick paint, and the sills are soaked with water damage. Even still, I feel really, really good about salvaging them! We’ll probably need to replace the sills (and likely the aprons), but the trim itself is absolutely repairable – I say with a smile on my face and a worry in my voice. But because I’m going to take as much time as I need to get them looking pretty and polished, we agreed that we’ll use the window trim as our jumping off point to re-create the missing trim throughout the rest of the room. As a reminder, here’s where we were two months ago, with the trim that we’ll be looking to match:

Several trips to the bigger box hardware stores proved to be a challenge in trim-matching, so we made a date to drive out to a few specialty millwork shops. Most of these stores are open for limited hours during the week, but some internet sleuthing showed promise in both Maher and Owl Lumber, as they were both open on Saturdays. We gathered up the woodwork which would act as our guide for the rest of the room, I tucked these into a tote bag, and we were off!

Above, clockwise from top left: A cabinet door from our upper closet storage (more on that here), a piece of panel mould that sits atop our baseboards, a rosette from our windows, and a piece of window trim.

A few weeks ago, I sketched a rough drawing of The Scary Room, making note of every last bit of trim that we would need. I measured each length of wall, and I hunkered down to create a complete shopping list that included closet trim, door trim, baseboards, and decorative trim for our bi-folds that would closely resemble our RTA cabinet doors. With this list in hand, we popped in and out of Maher and Owl, although we had the best luck at Maher, which is where the rest of the photos from this post were taken. Side note: The first photo in this post was from Owl, and we have every intention of going back for any future woodworking products. That place is a dream.

The quickest decision we made was for the decorative trim that we would use to recreate the look of our cabinets on our bi-folds. Below, you can see the option labeled 2024 is a near identical profile to the cove molding on our cabinet door:

Luck struck again when we found a 1×2 panel mold (the one labeled 3264PR) that matched the molding from our baseboards. This small piece will rest on top of common board, giving the illusion of a beefier baseboard:

Our hope was to find or stack trim that would mimic the look of our window trim, and in turn, we would use this around our closet and door. The biggest challenge was the hefty width of our 5 1/2″ window trim. Finding something that was a good match in one piece wasn’t happening, but at the last minute, we spotted a 4 1/2″ chair rail with a similar profile to our trim! When sandwiched between two pieces of 3/4″ cove molding, we got really close! Done.

The only item we weren’t able to check off our list was a comparable rosette, but Maher did offer 5 1/2″ wide plinths, which is the perfect transitional piece at the base of the door and closet trim.

Because the window trim tapers down on both edges, as will the door and closet trim, we need a plinth so that our baseboards have a place to land. Speaking of baseboards, here’s how that 1×2 panel mold sits on top of a common board:

And here’s how a plinth + baseboard combo will look once they’re side-by-side: (By the way, thank you to everyone who weighed in on our Instastory! Option #3, below, was the winner by a landslide!)

Finally, we got started on the bi-fold trim! To this point, we’ve added 1x3s to create a framework around the doors, and you can see where we tucked that smaller decorative molding inside. You guys, we could not be happier with how much of a difference these made to a plain bi-fold door, and we’re looking forward to sharing that process with you! Our closet is looking like a closet for the first time in, well, ever.

We’re still waiting on a few pieces of the trim to arrive from the warehouse, but fingers crossed we’ll have everything we need by the weekend! To be honest, I’m a little nervous about all my big talk to restore the window trim, but at this point, I have to make it work. I can do this. Let’s do this!

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  • Rebecca - March 8, 2017 - 6:34 AM

    My husband is almost finished restoring all the trim in our 1925 3-flat in Bridgeport and has been to Owl many times! It’s a cool place!ReplyCancel

  • Stacy G. - March 8, 2017 - 7:28 AM

    I am so happy that you are committed to keeping as much of the original trim as possible. I feel confident that you will feel a lot of pride in a job well done when the scary room is complete.

    When we gutted the kitchen last summer, we switched out the “updated” 1960s trim and moulding to more closely match the rest of the original woodwork from our house which was built in the early 1880s. We ended up doing our baseboards the same way that you are doing yours. We cobbled the rosettes, plinth blocks, moulding and baseboards together with products from Home Depot and a custom millwork shop.

    We need a length of crown moulding for the exterior of our house. I found a woodworker who will replicate the piece on a small scale. (12-foot length) If you ever need something really specialized like this, I recommend a woodworker. The custom millwork shop charged a hefty per run fee to set up the blades in addition to the actual work. The woodworker I found only charges per piece. YMMV, but it may be an idea worth keeping in your back pocket.

    Sorry! I am rambling. I really get into this sort of thing. :) Don’t even get me started on repairing original windows. Ha!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - March 9, 2017 - 8:00 AM

      Rambling is my favorite. Keep it coming! :)ReplyCancel

  • Steph M - March 8, 2017 - 9:13 AM

    Such a puzzle! It’s going to look so good. I’m actually strangely excited to see your bifold door. We are currently turning a back entry closet into a mudroom and it has a bifold door. I’ve thought about replacing it with a full door, but the bifold does make the entry stay open. Yours definitely look so much better!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - March 9, 2017 - 8:01 AM

      We can’t wait to share! The first door was a bit of a puzzle, but the second set took no time at all.ReplyCancel

      • Jennifer M - March 10, 2017 - 8:44 PM

        Yes, please give step by steps for us amateur diy-ers. This is a project I’m eager to try.ReplyCancel

  • Josh @ The Kentucky Gent - March 8, 2017 - 11:30 AM

    You can do it! Can’t wait to see the progress you guys make during the weekend.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - March 8, 2017 - 1:12 PM

    Those millwork shops look so dreamy! Way to go for trying to save/replicate original trim. Can’t wait to see it all come together.ReplyCancel

  • Ashley - March 8, 2017 - 11:19 PM

    Love your commitment to staying as true to original as possible. Option 3 is a true winner – it’s going to look so slick once it’s painted.
    Maher looks like a place where dreams are made. I was hunting for replacement picture rail molding and settled on a profile that didn’t totally match. It isn’t installed yet, so I can change my mind. Perhaps a visit to Maher is in order. What better an excuse for a vacation to Chicago than millwork?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - March 9, 2017 - 8:02 AM

      Shopping for millwork is a perfect excuse to visit any city… but you gotta come to Chicago no matter what. The best.ReplyCancel

  • Life On Hill Street - March 9, 2017 - 8:16 AM

    First of all, I wish we had a place like that in our city (jealous!). Second, I commend you guys on working so hard to match the trim. We had to do that on our last project and it’s no easy task. Lost of people would have just ripped it out and started new. So, high five! I can’t wait to see how this room turns out!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - March 9, 2017 - 10:00 AM

      I’m sure you do! We started by calling Owl Lumber (because Scott had passed it a few times), and then we just asked them for recommendations on other Chicago area millwork shops. As we called each of them, we asked THEM for more suggestions, and we finally landed on Owl and Maher, mostly because they had Saturday hours. :)ReplyCancel

  • Alison Palmer - March 9, 2017 - 8:47 AM

    I give you props for being so focused on restoring this room. The final space will be awesome!ReplyCancel

  • Haley - March 10, 2017 - 7:57 AM

    I have two potential post requests:

    1. Could you do a big picture post of what is left for you on your project list (I think the downstairs bath may be one, etc…)

    2. How do you juggle all these projects happening all the time with the regular care of your house (ie cleaning the bathroom)? My husband and I are just working on a handful of things in our tiny apartment, but it takes all of our after work time and other stuff slides.

    Aside, I saw a dark painted house the other day, almost a navy/black and I thought of you guys immediately, I know you mentioned that at one point as a down the road possibility. It was absolutely stunning.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - March 10, 2017 - 10:06 AM

      Hi, Haley! We get these questions quite a bit… thanks for the suggestions! I’d be happy to put these into a post, so stay tuned.

      And you’re right about the house! We’re currently obsessed with dark houses, as our phones are quickly filling up with inspirational homes that we pass by. Can’t wait for the day we can make that transformation!ReplyCancel

  • Régine from The 256 Project - March 11, 2017 - 9:30 AM

    I have no doubt that you will succeed in your mission with this trim work! Question: why must the plinth be so much taller than the baseboard in that combo picture above? Is that how such a design would normally look?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - March 11, 2017 - 10:44 AM

      We chose this plinth because it’s the same width of our door and closet trim, which was tricky to find so wide (5.5″)! We could always cut down the plinth to be the same height as the baseboards, but we prefer this look. Just a personal preference!ReplyCancel

  • Mark Stone - March 14, 2017 - 8:16 AM

    It will really help me to decorate my 103 years old home in London.ReplyCancel

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