Your Complete Guide To Renovating Exterior Trim

Exterior Trim

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Exterior trim can seem like a small detail but it really makes a difference when it comes to the curb appeal of your home. Replacing or painting old trim is a simple project that you can complete in a day’s time. Find out how to add charm and character to your home without breaking the bank!

Removing Old Trim

It is possible to apply a new coat of paint over trim and molding if there are no signs of damages. However, removing old trim and replacing it is a simple home improvement project you can complete on a small budget. If there are signs of rot, peeling paint, or if you notice that the trim is changing shape, it is time to replace it.

You are going to need a few simple tools to remove exterior trim:

  • Utility knife
  • Screwdriver
  • Crowbar
  • Pliers

You might also need a stepladder to access the trim that is above your entry door. Note that you can reuse old trim as long as there are no signs of rot, but you will need to remove it carefully.

Follow these steps to remove old trim:

  • Use the utility knife to cut through the layers of paint connecting the trim to the wall.
  • Pry the trim or molding away from the door or window with the screwdriver for small pieces and the crowbar for larger pieces.
  • Remove any remaining nails with the pliers. Remove the nails from the old pieces of trim if you plan on reusing them.

Removing old trim and molding should only take a few minutes, but be careful not to damage the jamb the molding is attached to.

Installing New Trim

You can install new door or window trim yourself with a few tools and supplies. The hardest part of this project is probably to cut the trim at a 45-degree angle.

Choosing The New Trim

Wood is a gorgeous material that adds character to a home. However, wood can rot and requires maintenance. There are other materials to explore if you want to replace your exterior trim:

  • PVC trim is a little more expensive than wood but it won’t rot. The main downside of PVC is that you cannot paint this material in a dark color.
  • Fiber-cement is a dense material that resists well to humidity. The downside is that cutting this material can be challenging.
  • Exterior vinyl window trim is an interesting alternative to wood since it imitates the grain of this material but won’t rot.

If you decide to use or reuse wood trim for your door or window, insulate the surface on which you will nail the trim to keep humidity out of your wall panels if the trim ends up rotting. Think about using pressure-treated pine since this material is primed and will resist mold and mildew.

Installing New Trim On Your Windows

You are going to need a few tools to install new exterior window trim:

  • Tape measure
  • Drill and screws or hammer and nails if you are installing wood trim
  • Construction adhesive for PVC trim
  • Circular saw
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Caulk. Make sure you use UV-resistant caulk meant for outdoor use.

Replacing the trim or molding around your windows is the perfect occasion to upgrade your insulation. You might want to invest in a spray foam and in some asphalt flashing.

These are the steps you should follow to install new trim around a window:

  • Remove the old trim and clean the area as much as possible.
  • If the insulation around the window is old, remove it with a paint scraper. Use the spray foam to apply a new layer.
  • Once the spray foam has had enough time to expand and dry, apply the asphalt flashing around the window frame.
  • You can now start installing the new trim. Measure each side of the window and use the circular saw to cut four window trim pieces.
  • You need to cut these pieces at a 45-degree angle so they will fit around the window. Use the carpenter’s square to cut the window trim pieces properly.
  • Use the hammer and nails or the drill and screws to attach the pieces of trim around the window.
  • If you decided to install PVC trim, you will need to apply construction adhesive to the trim before gluing them around the window.
  • Seal the trim with the caulk. You should apply caulk around the trim, and on the nails or screws you used to attach the trim.

Upgrade Your Door With New Trim

Installing new trim around your front door will make a huge difference for the curb appeal of your home. You can opt for wood trim or for a material that resembles wood for a rustic look or simply replace old and damaged trim with a durable option like PVC or vinyl trim.

These are the tools you will need to install exterior door trim:

  • Tape measure
  • Hammer and nails or a drill for wood trim
  • Construction adhesive for PVC trim
  • Caulk
  • Circular saw
  • Carpenter’s block
  • Paint scraper
  • Stepladder

Once you have removed the old trim around your door, you can follow these steps to install new trim or moldings:

  • Use the paint scraper to remove paint and residues from the jambs.
  • If you notice that the jambs are damaged, use the caulk to fill small holes and cracks. Let the caulk dry.
  • Measure the door frame so you can cut three pieces of molding. You can cut the pieces at a 45-degree angle and have them connect diagonally, or simply have the top piece rest on top of the two other pieces.
  • Use the carpenter’s block and the circular saw to cut the trim or molding. If you opted for a 45-degree angle, make sure the pieces will connect before nailing them around the door and make adjustments to the angles if needed.
  • Attach the trim around the door with the hammer and nails or with the drill. Use the stepladder to attach the top piece.
  • If you are installing PVC trim, you will need to glue the pieces around the door with some construction adhesive instead of using nails or screws.
  • You can then seal the trim or molding with caulk. Use the paint scraper to get rid of any excess caulk, and don’t forget to apply a thin layer of caulk over the nails or screws you used.

How To Paint Exterior Trim

Painting exterior trim is an easy project. You can make old trim look new again with a coat of fresh paint or create a unique look for your home by painting trim in an original color. You might be tempted to paint trim or molding before installing it, but this means that the caulk you use to seal the trim will be visible.

Latex paint is ideal for painting trim, window frames, shutters, and doors. This type of paint resists well to humidity and is very easy to clean. A paint with a semi-gloss finish is usually best for trims and moldings since it makes these elements look clean and shiny.

These are the items you will need to paint the trim around your door or windows:

  • Primer
  • Latex paint
  • Nylon paint brushes
  • Painter’s tape and plastic sheets
  • Sandpaper if you are painting wood trim
  • Pain scraper if you need to remove old paint
  • Sponge and dish soap

Ask yourself if other elements such as window frames, shutters, or even your front door also need to be painted to match the new trim. You can paint exterior trim and any of these elements at the same time.

Follow these steps to paint outdoor trim:

  • Use the paint scraper to remove old paint and debris stuck to old trim.
  • Clean the area as much as possible with the sponge and dish soap. Wait for the trim to be completely dry before you start painting.
  • If you are painting on wood, you will need to sand the trim so the primer and paint can be absorbed by this material.
  • Apply painter’s paint around the trim. Use plastic sheets to protect window panes, shutters, or a door that you don’t want to paint.
  • Start by applying the primer to the trim. Check the product label to find out how long you should wait before applying the paint.
  • You can then start painting the trim. Use an up-and-down motion with the paintbrush.
  • Wait for the first coat to dry. Apply a second coat and a third one if needed.

Note that you don’t necessarily have to paint exterior trim. If you want to keep the natural look of wood, applying lacquer or another type of protective finish over the trim should be enough. You can also opt for colored vinyl or PVC trim that will add a touch of color to your home without requiring any paint or finishes.


Replacing old trim and painting it is something you can do over the weekend. This is a fairly simple upgrade that will make your home look newer. Start by inspecting the current trim to determine if it needs to be removed or replaced or if you can get away with applying a new coat of paint.


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