DIY Guide: Best trim installation tools for high quality results [2021]

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Home » Projects » Trim Installation » DIY Guide: Best trim installation tools for high quality results [2021]

Installing trim can be a daunting task without the right trim installation tools. For example, figuring out compound angles on crown molding or making an adjustment to the back of trim to fit the wall can be a major headache. In this article learn what tools are available to let you tackle trim installation for a higher quality result.

As a cabinetmaker I have a healthy respect for installing trim. 

While cabinet construction quality can be controlled a trim job puts you at the mercy of the framing and drywall quality that preceded you.

And that can require some extra time, patience and the right tools.

In this article you’ll learn about tools that will:

  • Simplify cutting crown molding
  • Locate studs for a firm trim connection
  • Tricks with a jigsaw for coping trim
  • Sanders that will help “adjust” your trim to the wall
  • A hand applied putty that applies easily and wipes off

Lastly, to help you with your tool search, we’ve included links to top rated tools from name brand suppliers.

Trim Installation Tools

Based on experience installing trim in my homes, and as a woodworker for 25 years, here’s my recommended trim installation tools:

1. Cordless Trim nailer to secure trim to the wall

Makita XNB01Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless 2″ Brad…
  • Drives a range of 18 gauge brad nails from 5/8″ to 2″, magazine capacity up…
  • 2-mode selector switch for sequential or contact nailing operation. Net…
  • Easy to use “tool-less” depth adjustment dial for a wide variety of finish…
  • Anti-dry drive mechanism engineered to prevent driving blanks and damage to…

Last update on 2021-03-03 at 19:04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

A cordless trim nailer like the Makita will let you skip the NOISY air compressor and let you move around freely.

The trim nailer will be the centerpiece of your trim installation tools.

Start with a bad nail gun and you’ll have a frustrating time installing the trim.

Key features to look for:

  • I prefer an 18-gauge nail gun as the holes it leaves are smaller. However, on larger base trim I’ll sometimes revert to a larger diameter 16-gauge nail gun.
  • Cordless is just easier and quieter than air powered
  • Look for a non-mar tip
Lastly, be sure, no matter what your nail gun of choice, to wear eye protection.

2. Miter saw for cutting trim to length

DEWALT Sliding Compound Miter Saw, 12-Inch…
  • Your purchase includes: 1 CDEWALT DWS779 sliding compound cord miter saw,…
  • Tool dimensions: 17” H x 24.75” L. Tool weight: 56 pounds; Maximum…
  • Other specifications: 15 Amps, 12” blade diameter, 5/8” or 1” Arbor…
  • Exclusive back fence design cuts up to 2×14 dimensional lumber at 90 degree…

Last update on 2021-03-03 at 15:20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

While this list is starting with larger tools, you can't install trim without a nail gun and a good quality miter saw

I know, this one was obvious. But, if you’re here because you haven’t installed trim before then it’s a must have trim installation tool.

What to look for when buying? Well, consider these 3 general types:

  • An entry level, non-sliding and basic saw can go for $150 and will do the job for most installations without crown molding.
  • However, if you have crown molding or larger base you’ll want to invest in a sliding, compound saw like the Dewalt mentioned above.
  • Lastly, if you’re bought into the Dewalt tool ecosystem then a cordless  Flexvolt Dewalt miter saw  is a great place to look.

3. Crown molding trim installation jig

Kreg Crown Pro Miter Saw Guide -Model KMA2800
  • No compound cuts necessary
  • Eliminates coping of joints
  • Curved design matches any spring angle
  • Angle-finder included

Last update on 2021-03-03 at 10:23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Compound angles like crown molding can be an expensive job for a DIY'er. But a jig like this General Tools crown guide will eliminate the double angle (and pay for itself)

One of the trickiest jobs in trim installation is cutting inside and outside angles in crown molding.And while there are a few tools out there for this – Kreg is a trusted brand name by countless woodworkers. Other considerations:
  • Coping: some professionals prefer a cope machine  to butt the crown into the adjacent piece vs. cutting angles (interior angles)
  • Angle finders are usually needed in homes to find if you’re dealing with a 90-degree or 92-degree corner

4. Trim measuring tool for installation of 45-degree corners

Milescraft 8401 TRIM45 Trim Carpentry Aid
  • The Trim45 trim carpentry aid is the handiest tool in the toolbox when it…
  • Unique measuring and marking device eliminates fumbling with tape measures…
  • Unique to the Trim45 is an adjustable reveal setting ranging from 1/8″ to…
  • Tape measure slots & rare earth magnets make it easy to measure jamb…

Last update on 2021-03-03 at 16:55 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Uses:  

  • Measuring and setting up angles for door jambs and cases

The Trim45 let’s you quickly and accurately cut trim for around windows and doors. With an ingenious measuring and marking device you can quickly and accurately measure trim without a tape measure. And at around $10 this is one of the most affordable trim installation tools.

5. Stud finder to locate studs and nail trim to

Zircon Stud Finder Pro/DIY 4 in 1 MultiScanner...
77 Reviews
Zircon Stud Finder Pro/DIY 4 in 1 MultiScanner…
  • The Zircon MS A250 is an electronic edge and center stud finder, ferrous…
  • Wire Warning Detection indicates the presence of live, unshielded…
  • Signal strength indicators help distinguish shallower targets from deeper…
  • Ergonomically designed grip allows a comfortable hold on the tool for any…

Last update on 2021-03-03 at 10:23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Uses:  

  • Locating studs to nail trim to the wall.
While it may not be an obvious tool to a first-timer, any experienced trim installer will know a stud finder is one of those required trim installation tools. Especially for thicker trim where a solid connection is needed into the stud behind the wall.

6. Portable Air Compressor to power nailers

CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, Pancake,...
8,236 Reviews
CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, Pancake,…
  • 6 gallon pancake maximizes portability and stored air
  • Durable, oil free pump for long life and no maintenance
  • 150 max PSI to ensure adequate cut in pressure for a variety of…
  • 2.6 SCFM @ 90 PSI allows for quick compressor recovery time. Voltage – 120…

Last update on 2021-03-03 at 10:23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Uses:  

  • Powering air nailers to install trim.

When you look at an air compressor two things matter.  First, the less noise the better as it’ll be running in a confined space (under 85 decibels a must).  Second, the cubic feet per minute and holding tank will dictate how many tools you can run continuously.

Tip: the air hose shipped with most units is a throw away as they are short, coiled messes that only work for a small space. Because of that you’ll want a high quality 25′ non-marring air hose. With this hose you’ll prevent marks on walls and trim alike.

7. Portable Shop Vac to cleanup trim tool dust

Stanley Wet/Dry Vacuum, 3 Gallon, 3 Horsepower
461 Reviews
Stanley Wet/Dry Vacuum, 3 Gallon, 3 Horsepower
  • Novel and compact design make it powerful and portable
  • Sealed pressure (Inches of water): 52-inches
  • Electrical rating: 120-volts/60-Hz/ 7-amps
  • Airflow: 80-CFM

Last update on 2021-03-03 at 11:23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Uses:  

  • Cleanup of dust on floor and around miter saw after job is done.

Trim installation tools generate a lot of dust from the saws, wood chips from drilling holes, and sheetrock dust from any minor wall modifications. Therefore, you’ll need a vacuum to cleanup the mess and reach all the hard to reach places. Why not sweep? It raises dust up into the air and creates a larger issue.

8. Miter saw dust hood to prevent dust in the house

Rousseau 5000-L Lighted Dust Solution For Miter…
  • Eliminates dust generated by miter saws and illuminates work surface
  • Interior baffles prevent escape of fine dust
  • Use with shop vac, dust collectors or installed vacuum systems
  • Hood folds into heavy duty carry bag for compact storage and transport

Last update on 2021-03-03 at 14:56 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

My wife refuses to let me have the miter saw in the house when trimming. 

Why? Well that answer is easy: dust. 

Miter saws generate a lot of it but to have it outside is an incredible inconvenience.

This lighted Rousseau dust hood will work wonders for catching dust and providing a lighted work area for safety and accuracy. Not sure you’ll use it after the trim installation is done? Well, consider it’s a great addition to your garage to not have dust there either.

9. Jigsaw for coping trim during installation

DEWALT 20V MAX Jig Saw, Tool Only (DCS331B)
  • All metal lever action keyless blade
  • Battery and charger sold separately. All metal key less shoe level
  • 4 position orbital action
  • Battery & charger sold separately

Last update on 2021-03-03 at 12:14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Uses: 

  • Use with coping jigs and trim reliefs

A jigsaw comes in handy for cutting corner trim and for use with coping tool jigs. 

When you are looking at a jigsaw there are three features that should be top of mind:

  • First, you want an adjustable “stroke” that allows you to adjust the bite the blade takes with each trip up/down.  For trim this is crucial to avoid chipping the face of the trim. 
  • Second, a smooth bottom is a must. While I usually put a few layers of painters tape on the bottom of the saw to make sure I’m not scratching any surface, having a high quality bottom plate helps.  High end saws with aluminum bases are a great place to look. 
  • Finally, look for a variable speed to let you adjust the speed up or down depending on the wood you are cutting.

10. Oscillating multi-tool to cut off trim ends during installation

DEWALT Oscillating Tool Kit, Corded, 3-Amp, 29…
  • POWERFUL 3 AMP MOTOR provides strong performance for cutting and sanding;…
  • QUICK-CHANGE ACCESSORY SYSTEM allows blades and attachments to be changed…
  • DUAL-GRIP VARIABLE SPEED TRIGGER gives users ultimate speed and application…
  • BRIGHT LED LIGHT illuminates dark work surfaces for accurate cutting

Last update on 2021-03-03 at 19:04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Uses:  

  • Trimming shims, removing drywall from tight corners
  • Sanding in tight corners

This might not be used on every installation. But when you need it and have it handy it can be a time-saver for tackling odd cutoff jobs like wood shims in tight corners, cutting back drywall or even trimming off stray nail or screw heads. What’s more this tool is excellent for window and door installation as well for trimming shims and drywall.

11. Portable table saw

DEWALT Table Saw for Jobsite, Compact, 8-1/4-Inch…
  • Portability: Compact size for ease of transportation and storage
  • Easy adjustments: Rack and pinion telescoping fence rails make fence…
  • Variety of cuts: 24.5 inches of rip capacity for ripping 4×8 plywood or OSB…
  • Power: 15 Amp, 5800 rpm motor

Last update on 2021-03-03 at 19:04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Uses:  

  • Cutting trim and custom wood strips to width.

While 95% of trim installation is straightforward, there are custom trim tasks that benefit from a portable table saw. First, cutting stairway trim in older homes can involve customizing the skirt board. Second, you may find yourself installing the actual stair tread and a table saw is a must for accurately cutting the treads and risers.

You can review my guide to portable corded saws and cordless saws from Milwaukee and Dewalt to see what works best for you.

12. Belt sander

SKIL 7510-01 Sandcat 6 Amp 3″ x 18″ Belt Sander…
  • Pressure control technology warns user when excessive pressure is applied
  • Auto track system keeps belt centered on track
  • Micro-filtration captures and contains fine dust particles
  • Clear view dust canister removes guess work of when to empty canister

Last update on 2021-03-03 at 17:14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Uses:  

  • Shaving edges of trim in corners, removing material from back of trim.
Ofter overlooked but a much needed tool, the belt sander comes into play for tricky pieces of trim that need adjusting because of layout issues with the house or drywall that  needs to be corrected.

 

Summary

Hopefully this article was useful in discovering what trim installation tools are available for your upcoming project. Didn’t see something you need? Make sure to add in the comments!

Trim Installation Tools on Amazon

Last update on 2021-03-03 at 13:24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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