Installing Entryway Casing

Installing Entryway Casing

Adding casing to your front entrance can be a simple but dramatic way to transform your entryway. It exaggerates the doorway, heightening the focus and changing the proportions. Casing adds visual interest, style, and depth, and makes a personal statement. It can also mask the gap between the jamb and the door opening. Entryway casing can be simple, elegant, or exotic -- there are a wide variety of styles to choose from that will match the architectural style of your home, and your own personal tastes. You might think the millwork would make adding casing to your entryway cost prohibitive, but several manufacturers offer a high-density urethane foam as a less expensive option than natural wood.

Before embarking on any home improvement project, make sure you have all the tools and material you need. (See list at end of article.) Always take safety precautions, follow manufacturer's instructions, and take special care to protect your eyes with safety goggles (especially when working with nails).

Here is a simple how-to for adding or replacing the casing around your front door: Remove Old Casing

Paint or caulk might have sealed the joint between the casing and the wall, so use a utility knife to cut the seal before attempting to pry off the old casing. (Otherwise, you might unintentionally pull off the wall finish.) Remove the existing casing carefully so that you don't damage the wall or doorjamb. Remove the nails from the pried-off casing right away, so that you don't risk any puncture injuries. Mark the reveals

The inside edge of the casing is located about 3/16" back from the inside edge of the jamb. Set the blade position in your combination square so that it protrudes 3/16". Mark the jambs by positioning the body of the square against the face of the jamb. The blade should extend over the edge. Make a mark at the end of the blade. Mark the jambs at the top corners, at intervals along the side jamb, and at the midpoint of the head jamb Cut The Miters

Determine the distance between your marks on the side jambs at the top corners (frame opening plus two times the reveal), and miter-cut the head casing at 45 degrees on both ends. The short dimension should be equal to your measurement. Cut miters on one end (remember that one will be left-handed and the other right-handed) of each piece of side casing.

A power miter saw is recommended for this job, as it makes better cuts (and more precise tapered adjustments) than even a professional-quality miter box saw. If you aren't experienced at miter cuts, read the manual or a book or article explaining it. If you're renting a saw, don't hesitate to ask for a tutorial -- a free demo is a lot less expensive than buying more casing when you make a mistake. Prime/Stain

If your ultimate goal is to paint the casing, be sure to prime it first. If you intend to leave a natural finish, apply a stain and the first topcoat. Do this before you install the casing. Cover both faces and the sides to seal the wood and prevent warping.

One reason for this is that pre-finishing (on a horizontal surface) is a lot easier than painting the casing once it's been installed, especially if you don't intend to paint the walls as well. You also won't have any difficulties with glue spots (at joints) that won't take the stain. Tack Head Casing

This is a dry run to make sure everything fits right. Lightly tack the head casing into the jamb so that it just covers your marks. As this is a front door and will get lots of exposure, use weather-resistant fasteners such as hot-dipped galvanized nails. Place the nails at least one inch from the edge of the molding to prevent splitting. Test Fit the Sides

Take the left-side casing and stand it -- upside down -- next to the left jamb, with the long side up against the point of the head casing. Mark the desired length, and square-cut it at the mark and test the fit. Repeat the process for the right side. Another method is to measure the distance from the floor to the top left-hand edge of the casing, and then cut your casing using that measurement. Adjust Where Necessary

If the jamb isn't square or if the jamb sits even slightly above or below the plane of the wall, the miter won't meet without a gap. You'll probably have to re-cut the miter, but this will also result in the casing being slightly short. Exhaust your options first. Does the jamb protrude from the wall plane? Plane (use a sharp block plane) at least the last foot or so of the head and side jambs until they are flush with the wall. Does the jamb sit just below the surface? Remove a little of the drywall where it bumps into the back of the casing; this might improve your miter fit. Another alternative is to use a wooden sanding block or Surform tool to back-bevel the miter cuts. Using coarse sandpaper, you can remove some of the material from the back edge of the mitered face on the mating pieces. This may help you close the open joint, if just on the only part of the joint anyone would see. Secure the Casing

Glue the end of the side casing and position it so that it fits snugly with the head casing. (The reveal marks aren't important now, so don't worry about alignment just yet.) Use 6d or 8d casing (or finishing) nails to secure the side casing to the jamb, positioning the nail about one inch from the end and near the outside edge of the casing. Using a 4d finishing nail, make sure the inside edge of the casing is attached to the jamb and the miter is tight. Starting at the top, work your way down the casing, nailing it at equally-spaced intervals. Be sure to place the nails at least one inch from the edge of the molding to prevent splitting. Repeat the process for the other side of the casing, and then finish nailing the head casing at the two ends and midpoint. Cross-nail miters

Keep your miters snug-fitting! Using the same tip to avoid splitting, lock the head and side casings together by driving a 4d finishing nail through the edge of the head and side casings, about 3/4" from the outside corner. Finishing touches

Drive all nail heads slightly below the surface (use a nail set). Hand sand to make casings flush and eliminate rough surfaces and splinters. Wipe off excess glue immediately with a damp cloth. If you will be painting the casing, fill the nail holes with wood putty or acrylic caulk. If you plan to stain the casing, fill the nail holes with colored wax putty sticks when you're done. Tools and Materials

  • Safety glasses or goggles (always!)
  • Sharp pencils
  • Tape measure
  • Casing
  • Utility knife
  • Trim pry bar
  • 6d or 8d casing nails (or finishing nails)
  • 4d finishing nails
  • Nail set
  • Hammer
  • Block plane
  • Sanding block
  • Coarse-, medium-, and fine-grit sandpaper
  • Surform tool
  • Combination square
  • Wood glue
  • Drywall-taping knife or wide putty knife
  • Power miter saw (or miter box saw)
  • Finishing supplies (paint, stain, etc.)
  • Wood putty or acrylic caulk (if painting)
  • Wax putty sticks (if staining)


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