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Casing Doors: Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, we reviewed the details of casing joinery and how to measure for new casing around a door frame. We also reviewed the necessary cut list, so that you can cut your casing right the first time. In Part 2, we’ll move on to the details of baseboard.


Chapter 2: Part 2

A serial publication of excerpts from Trim Made Simple by Gary Katz

Training techniques for apprentice carpenters and serious DIYers


Preparing the Jamb

Measuring, marking, and cutting molding takes patience. Proper jamb and wall preparation takes patience, too. In fact, the more care you take preparing the jamb and the wall for new casing, the easier, more rewarding, and better the job will be. To speed the process, always use the right tools in the proper sequence.

1. Cut caulk joint. Use a sharp utility knife, angled between the wall and the casing, to cut through old caulking and paint. That’s the first step in breaking the casing loose.

(Note: Click any image to enlarge)

2. Work 5-in-1 tool. A 5-in-1 tool is a hybrid scraper/prybar/can-opener and is a must for removing moldings. Rock the sharp, stiff blade back and forth, working it under the casing.
3. Wiggle in small prybar. Use the 5-in-1 tool to lift the molding away from the wall just enough to wiggle in the small prybar. Then work the tools in opposite directions—use one to pry against the molding; use the other to pry against the wall.
4. Finish with medium prybar. Once the molding gap is large enough, slide the short end of the medium prybar as far under the casing as possible. It’s best if the prybar prys against the wall under the casing, rather than alongside it, where marks might show! Work your way down the jamb with the medium pry bar, removing the casing.
5. Clean wall. Cut or remove all nails with wire cutters or pliers, then scrape clean any caulking or paint buildup using the 5-in-1 tool.  

Baseboard Preparation

I frequently install new casing without changing the baseboard. When the new casing is wider than the old casing, the baseboard must be cut back farther from the jamb. That cut must be perfectly straight, at exactly the right distance from the jamb. If the baseboard isn’t very tall, I use a handsaw; if the baseboard is big and there are a lot of doors, I use a power tool.

1. Mark baseboard. Use a short piece of casing to trace a line on the baseboard at exactly the right location. Be sure to allow for a reveal on the jamb—hold the casing 1/4 in. back from the edge of the jamb.
2. Make cut. Using a dovetail saw or backsaw, guide the saw near the floor with one hand. Slide the saw gently up and down with your other hand. Don’t push on the blade or try to cut fast. Constant, even, and light pressure is the secret to a clean cut.

3. Use a power tool. If your project involves more than ten doors, the Fein Multimaster is the ideal tool for cutting back baseboard. This power tool is very easy to control and cuts with little noise, dust, or vibration. The tool and the blades are expensive, but the Multimaster is handy for a variety of difficult chores, such as scraping adhesive, chipping out tiles, cleaning grout, or cutting metal, concrete, and drywall.


Keep an eye out for Part 3 of “Casing Doors,” coming soon from THISisCarpentry!


27 Responses to “Casing Doors: Part 2”

  1. Emanuel

    Nice article.Great tips and yes that multi tool is great.

  2. Henry IX

    I must differ with you on the Fein Multimaster – I find I need to wear ear-protection. Otherwise, a fine article. Thanks for the details; there are always some which I need pointers and reminders.

    • DJ Moore

      What part of that made you think that he said don’t wear safety glasses?

  3. Sternberg

    I have taken to useing one of those rotary knives that dressmakers use for making that first cut to the caulk, instead of a utility knife. It seems to follow the molding better.

  4. Ralph

    Should maybe mention a problem that comes up often. That would be the drywall being a little “proud” of the casing to be installed. I pencil mark where the casing will be installed and then using a Stanley SURFORM to knock down the drywall until the casing sits flat on the jamb and drywall.

  5. john r graybill

    Which end of the pencil should I sharpen?
    I thought this Web mag was for serious woodworkers, I don’t want to click through to some Infomercial for your books.

    • john r graybill

      There should be a delete this post button for people like me. I’ve always said ” If you want to put words in my mouth; write them on my shoes.”

  6. David Luyendyk

    John, I’d suggest you skip the “Building Basics” part of the website. ThisIsCarpentry is for everyone. It’s an inclusive place that endeavors to help carpenters of all skill levels with free information. Constructive criticism is great. Sarcastic negativity just doesn’t fit in here. One of the great things about the web is that there are many places to find information and no one is forcing you to be here and certainly no one is interested in comments that add nothing to the discussion. I hope you find a place that is worthy of your serious woodworking skills. I appreciate ThisIsCarpentry and think we’re lucky to have a place like this.

    • Gary Katz

      Ditto what David said. There’s no place here for internet bad manners. If you can’t be respectful and if you’re not adding something to the conversation, please don’t comment.

      As for “some Infomercial for your books:” TiC is free. So is each one of the chapters I’m publishing from that book, which I wrote with the intention of helping carpenters new to the trade. I’d give away the book if I could, but it costs too much to print books. This is the best I can do. Sorry if it’s not good enough for you, John.

  7. bert

    I also use a cedar shake or like object to protect the drywalls finish surface while prying the window, door or floor trim. Great article !

  8. john r graybill

    I apologize for my bad manners. Most of what I’ve learned was self taught. It took twenty years before someone showed me the horseshoe to plumb baseboard cut to the casing legs.
    What I want to know is what other methods are there when the sheetrock/plaster is 1/2″ proud at the top of the jamb and a1/2″ in at the bottom,
    You can’t chop away and end up with the base board sticking out like a sore thumb. and half of the casing buried in the plaster. Caulk is not the answer.
    What I do, and I’m grateful to Festool, is cut long tapers from o” to 1/2″ for the bottom jamb and the same for the top leg of the casing.
    Before I start jobs now. I bring a straight edge and a camera and snap pics of every lousy framing or plaster detail that’s going to make the finish carpenters job much harder than it should. Then hold the previous tards responsible for their poor workmen ship and the owner/GC for letting it get bye.
    Once again I was raised a gentlemen and my posting was rude, childish and un-called for. For that I’m truley sorry

    • Gary Katz

      Thanks John. We all have senior moments, even when we’re not seniors.

      • A W Smith

        John, if you have a jamb leg that is 1/2 inch out at the top and 1/2 inch in at the bottom. Use a tapered ripped length of parting strip to build out the jamb at the bottom and build out the wall at the top. In theory you would only need about 41 inches of parting strip to a point where both the jamb and wall are flush and “crossover”

        • J H

          my 2 cts: depending on the quality of work you aim for/ how much time you have / how much you’re getting paid you can also just put blocks of wood of the appropriate thickness at the bottom and at the top, and at 2 or 3 spots in between so you have a place to put your nails/srews/hot glue. The spaces inbetween get filled up with some kind of 2-component spray foam so that it doesn’t sound hollow when someone comes aknockin, and that should do it… unless I didn’t understand the problem :)

          Doing it with the tapered length of whatever is the cleaner version, but also takes more time and needs more tools on-site… like I said, depends.

  9. Jeff

    Thanks for taking the time to put together the process. Basic but worth mentioning to start cutting the caulk at the corner on the casing an pull towards centre, otherwise you risk marring the paint with an errant cut. Never happened to me of course, but I’ve seen it happen.

  10. Randy

    Good article, Gary. As a DIY’er I never seem to do enough of anything to get really good at it, so tips are always appreciated. I especially dislike doors (and crown molding) because they seem difficult to do well but the right process makes an amazing difference in one’s results. I saw you at the Denver Roadshow recently and thoroughly enjoyed all of the tips you offered and am looking forward to putting them to use in my next project. John R’s tip above about adding a tapered strip to the casing sounds like a very helpful idea.

  11. Steve Christopher

    Sometimes the basics need to be revisited.
    A HYDE prybar, also called a beekeeper’s tool, works great for prying trim and scraping caulk/paint. HYDE”s have a long thin taper that get in the smallest gap, most others have a short thick double bevel.

    • Sol

      Thanks for the recommendation. I bought the Hyde prybar and it is much better than the others I have. The thin taper really does the job.

  12. Keith

    Hey folks, gotta tell ya that as an absolute novice woodworker, and an equally-inexperienced home renovator (my own home that is), this is and all of the associated responses, are fantastic. Congrats to everyone that participates and shares there tips/techniques and experience!!

  13. Jim Stevenson

    Good article. I think it’s really important, though, to clarify that the Fein Multimaster is not only very expensive, but that one can buy a similar tool at a fraction of the price. I first discovered the Fein model 6 or 7 years ago (borrowed) when I was installing door casing where existing baseboard was going to remain. I have thousands of dollars in tools, and decided I absolutely needed one of these until I discovered the price – over $600 AT THAT TIME. Then I discovered a similar “multitool” for $60. Of course, I bought one – thought I’d died & gone to heaven because I’ve used it for so many jobs that would have been difficult or otherwise not even worth undertaking. Within a year of purchase I discovered that the same tool could be purchased for $49, and I’ve since seen it on sale (at Princess Auto in Canada) for $19! Many manufacturers now sell these multitools, but the Princess Auto version is the one that I would recommend because they sell replacement blades at a fraction of the cost of blades at other retailers (important to note that not all manufacturer’s models accept other manufacturer’s blades). I don’t often post comments, but I thought that this post would be the most valuable one that I could make. EVERY HOMEOWNER SHOULD HAVE ONE OF THESE MULTITOOLS.

    • Mike Olson

      I have found these multi tools very handy also. The biggest issue is finding a source for blades that don’t cost an arm and a leg yet can last for a couple of cuts. Most are too fine for the task. My shop is in an old building and most of the old trim was done in hard maple and the walls are plaster. I recently hung a new door in an old jamb and found even the jamb was hard maple.

      • Gary Katz

        I’ve had good luck with the blades that Al Constan makes. Check out his website:
        Al cares about his work a lot. If you’re not satisfied with anything he makes and sells, let him know. You’ll make him feel terrible, for sure. And he’ll refund your purchase without a doubt.

  14. john graybill

    The Gods of carpentry came to haunt me last month. I could not for the life me remember how to square a three French door jamb.
    I swear I spent 45 mins. with a level on the floor, adding and subtracting to figure out how much to cut off the hinge leg to plumb the head. Finally I had lunch, took a nap (like a five year old), when I came back it all fell in to place. Good old basic, first year apprentice carpenter stuff.
    “Your never know how stupid you can be until your done”
    Lillian Hellman author and playwright.

  15. john graybill

    I really like the 5 in 1 tool. I keep it in my pocket all the time. By the way that ‘Door Lift’ tool that’s for sale on this web site really works. I use it to left and set cabinet, shim appliances etc. good tool.

  16. Chelsea H.

    Thanks, Gary! I’m no carpenter, but I am a home owner! Articles like these help those w/o the background knowledge or skill become a little more self sufficient. Thank you and God bless!


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