We're building a new house and will need to install wood trim soon. We will
need a lot of trim and want a natural or stained wood trim, so I'm trying
to figure out the least expensive option for the trim that will still be
attractive and not cause problems later. Our home will have a "rustic"
appearance, with knotty T&G cedar ceilings throughout, and one room that is
completely covered with T&G knotty pine. So, the trim can be a little
"rustic" as well.
I had originally planned on using 1x4 cedar boards for the trim, as it has
the color I am looking for without needing to stain. But, a few checks of
local prices quickly rules this out. So, I figure I'll use a less expensive
wood and stain it to the color we want.
Most other species of the 1x4's I have priced locally are almost as
expensive as the cedar 1x4's. So, I'm trying to come up with other options.
One thought I had is to buy standard kiln dried framing lumber (Douglas
Fir in our area) then rip it in half and plane it smooth. A bit more work,
but only 1/4 the price. If I go with smaller trim, I could even rip a 2x6
into 4 pieces for 1/8 the price. I've used framing lumber for other
woodworking projects in the past and it has worked out nicely. But, I
wonder what problems I might encounter using it for trim? And, I would have
to rip the trim on my table saw which would require two passes to cut all
the way through a 2x4. For areas inside door jambs and whatnot, I would
need to edge glue a couple of boards to get the width I need.
Another thought is to cut the tongues and grooves off of our ceiling lumber
and use that for trim. That would allow the trim to match the ceiling, but
I don't know if all those knots would work as well for trim as they do for
A similar option would be to buy unfinished wood flooring and rip the
tongues and grooves off. But, I don't know how the price would compare with
just buying 1x4's ready to go.
Short of dismantling wood pallets, are there other options I might be able
Of course, the best option would be to find an inexpensive source for the
1x4 western red cedar boards, or maybe even redwood.
This is what I would do. Just cut the tongues off and install with the
grooves down. It will be a perfect match and you will most likely have
enough left over from the ceilings to do what you need. As for the knots, I
wouldn't worry. They will cause no more problems if used for trim than they
will if used for ceilings.
Believe me I can understand being cost-conscience and looking for
alternatives resources is a good idea. I don't have a good solution for you
but can offer some points to consider in your costing efforts. This assumes
you want 4" wide trim as you state in your post below.
The cost of a 1"x4"x8' long #2 common pine board is about $5 typically. It
will yield one 3/4" thick x 3-1/2" wide by 8' long trim strip as is. (that's
2.66 bdf making the cost about $1.92/bdf)
Using a 2x4 (nominal 1-1/2" x 3-1/2") or 2x6 (nominal 1-1/2" x 5-1/2") isn't
going to work out as you think. The kerf of any blade (regular or thin-kerf
or bandsaw) will reduce the thickness of each piece and it will be less than
Ripping construction grade lumber usually results in a lot of waste due to
stress being released (bowing, cupping, twist) not to mentioned the
shrinkage factor after the trim dries out - next year. Most construction
grade lumber is dried to only 15-20% MC. Don't know where you live but as
the trim dries it has a high probability that it will shrink, split, etc.
I too have made projects from construction grade lumber - after I let it dry
in my basement for a few months, ripped it, made firewood from the pieces
that bowed and found that my actual yield of useable lumber cost more than
if I purchased kiln dried (6-8% MC) stock from a mill. A 2x4 costs about
$2.50 ea (4 bdf) or $1.60/bdf plus consider 25% waste raising the cost to
about $2 a bdf - no savings there. Yes you can buy cheaper 2x4's or get
wider boards to lower the costs but I think your waste will still be at 25%.
Just not worth the effort. The trim is going to be there a long time -
think about it.
You said its okay if its rustic looking. If you mean rough sawn rustic,
then go to a mill that dries it's own lumber and look for seconds (has
mineral streaks, grain not pretty, etc.) that usually reduces the price
considerably (50% or more). You can then mill these pieces for your trim and
stain to suit.
Just some ideas,
That's my initial plan, simply based on available 1x4 lumber. But, I'm
certainly not fixed on that size. Our current home has trim that is 1-3/4"
wide and only 1/8" thick (yep, a mobile home), so anything has to be an
improvement over this (which actually looks halfway decent).
I figured by the time I ripped the 2x4 in half and planed it smooth, I
would end up with trim that was approximately 1/2" thick. Maybe not a
"standard" trim size, but certainly usable. In some ways, I actually think
I would prefer the slightly thinner trim.
If I'm willing to accept a smaller width as well, I could rip a 2x6 in
half, then rip each half in half. This should provide four pieces of trim
from each board that is at least 2" x 1/2" after planing. That's a little
small, but still usable for it's purposes of covering gaps and whatnot (and
larger than the trim we have now).
Those are some of the reasons I've been hesitant to go with the framing
lumber approach. Still, I've had pretty good luck using boards I ripped
from off the shelf framing lumber. I've done several projects using trim
sized boards, and not one has split, cracked, or shrunk noticeably in the
last several years. But, it tends to stay fairly wet here in the Pacific
A cedar 1x4 costs somewhere around $6 to 8$ locally for an 8' board (don't
recall the actual prices now). As you mentioned, I could probably get pine
for around $5.
An 8' KD 2x4 at $3 would yield two boards, or about $1.50 per 8' trim
board. Even if half turn out to be unusable, that's still $3 per board as
opposed to $5 for pine.
Then again, I'm paying about .26/ft for my 1x6 T&G cedar (#3), or about $2
for an 8' board. Ripping the tongue and groove off, leaves me a board that
is at least 4" wide, and just under 3/4" thick. Pretty decent for trim.
But, the cedar has a lot of knots and stuff that would probably increase
the waste percentage considerably.
I'll probably have to try a few approaches and see what is going to be the
best compromise of cost and labor.
Thanks again for the input. I appreciate it.
I applaud your willingness to think outside the box.
If you are willing to replane framing lumber, that's not much harder than
planing rough stock. One of the realities of buying rough-cut lumber is
that prices are very regional. What you need to do is scope out rough-cut
hard-wood suppliers (they will sell softwoods too... but it will eliminate
all the regular lumber yards that only sell dimmensional lumber) and ask
them for a price sheet.
I think that the suggestion of finding lumber which is cheaper because of
sub-optimal grain is a good one. I know that I can get cheap maple for just
that reason. Unfortunately, I can't tell you specifically what to look for,
you have to ask what THEY have cheap locally.
You could also save by resawing 5/4 stock to get close to 1/2" stuff.
Remember that the back sides don't have to be milled completely smooth. Who
cares of there are a few saw marks on the back side.
Random width stock is going to complicate your life though.
Just in case this has not occurred to you, you do not have to miter the
corners. Butted corners can much easier to do and look excellent (although
it is a different look) if you extend the header slightly past the side
pieces and use a slightly thicker and wider stock for the header.
I spend far too much time thinking outside the box... Ha. Ha.
Most of the 5/4 lumber I have seen locally (mostly cedar decking), costs
more than a standard 2x4 does (though it is nicer looking).
I'm not worried about the appearance of the back side. I would mostly be
running it through the planer to make sure it is flat on the back side. My
tablesaw will not cut through the full 4" height of a 2x4 in a single pass,
so I would need to cut half way through then flip it over and cut the back
side. I figured planing would clean up the overlapping cuts a bit,
especially if I tilt my board slightly or my saw blade isn't perfectly
Yep, I was planning on simple butted corners. Faster and easier to do.
I knew about extending the header trim a bit, but hadn't thought about
using a thicker board for that. Will have to try it and see how it looks.
Thanks for the tip!
How about buying 4x framing lumber and ripping it through the 3.5"
dimension? If you choose more or less plainsawn beams on the face,
you are going to wind up with nearly vertical grain pieces when you
rip thru the 3.5" dimension. A 4x6 ought to yield 5 boards an inch
thick and 3.5" wide before planing. The only problem with this is, I
don't think you can find KD 4x lumber - but if you could dry it
yourself, I think you could get some nice material this way. Some of
those beams are really not bad at all if you can pick them carefully.
I don't know where you are located, but around here (Boise, Idaho), you can
buy 1x4x10 #3 for about $2.50 each which is much less expensive than 2x
framing lumber. The #3 pine isn't perfect but usually isn't that bad either.
I bought a bunch this weekend that almost looked like #2.
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