Interior Trim Carpentry Components Assessment

interior trim carpentry component assessment

Which interior trim carpentry components are specified for a job, how much, how many and what sizes are all questions to consider when pricing a trim job.

The other day I was asked, “How much do you charge per square foot for trim?”

My reply, “It depends.”

Him, “Don’t you have a standard installation price that you can give me?”

Me, “Do all of your houses get the same trim package?”

Him, “No.”

Me, “Every house is different but I’ll be glad to price whatever you want.”

Him, “OK”.

Let’s start at the subfloor, work our way up and discuss the variables.

Wood Flooring

Trim subcontractors may or may not be set up to install wood flooring and if so equipped they may or may not elect to take on a flooring job. To price such work thickness, profile, material, locations must all be determined and should be priced separately.


What is the material, its height, and its thickness? Is it one piece baseboard, two pieces, three, more? All of these factors affect what tools and time are necessary for the installation. Eight-inch oak baseboard is many times more difficult to cut, cope, handle, adjust and nail than four-inch finger joint spruce. Multiple pieces mean multiple times around the room. A three piece base may be four times more time consuming than one piece depending on how the pieces layout and attach. Ask whether the baseboard will sit directly on the subfloor or if needs to be blocked up the depth of the flooring material. It is common that cabinets are not in place while the interior trim is being installed. Once base cabinets and vanities have been set another trip will be needed in order to run the base to the cabinets.

Shoe Molding

Determine if shoe molding is in the scope of work. Sometimes it is contracted to a separate “punch out” sub. Sometimes it is done in-house by the contractor. To price size, material and locations will be needed. Installing shoe is typically a simple operation but understand a separate trip will be needed to install this component.

Interior Doors

Split-jamb or solid jamb, pre-hung and pre-bored or hardware prep and install from scratch, hollow core or solid core, pre-cut casing kits or cut to fit on site, pre-installed or field applied casing are all questions needing answers. What type doors will be used? Bi-fold doors, double doors, and pocket doors take more time than solid jamb single doors and solid jamb single doors take more time than split jamb doors. Solid core/solid wood doors are heavier or much heavier than hollow core doors and it may take more than a single person to place, maneuver and hang such millwork.

Exterior Doors

Generally, exterior doors will already be set and will only need casing applied. To be determined will be the trim components and material. If some preferred jamb reveal is expected, that information will be necessary.


To price, you will need to know design, material(s) and locations. The height of the wainscoting will be needed for the layout. I have seen it as low as 32” but I was recently on a job where the height was 60” with finials extending another 48” at the outside corners.

Chair rail

Instead of wainscoting sometimes only chair rail is installed giving the room a look similar to wainscoting. Single or multiple pieces, material, and profile of trim pieces will need to be determined in order to price.

Mantelpieces and fireplace surrounds

You will need to know the type of materials, material dimensions, and design. In my experience, this is where it the most likely place to be creative. Generally, I find that the customer has some general idea of what is wanted but will often ask for ideas.


These days cabinet installation is usually performed by a separate subcontractor but if you want to give a price for installation you will need the cabinet layout and bill of materials to determine the number of cabinets and fillers. Ask if doors are hinged and attached or not. Will countertop installation be part of the project? What is the countertop material?


There are many types of windows and trim treatments. You will need to know material and sizes of components. Simple picture frame casing will have four pieces of trim. If the casing is built up the picture frame might have eight, twelve or more pieces. Adding a simple stool will add one piece to the component count. A returned stool will add two more pieces. A simple apron does not add to the count but a returned apron will add two more pieces. Window stop will add three more pieces. So, a simple picture frame will have four pieces to cut and install but the same window might have quadruple the piece count.

Interior Stairs

More and more interior stairs are contracted separately from door and molding installation. Stair specialists or “stair snobs” as they are sometimes called may do nothing but stairs and know all of the questions to ask and might already have the answers. As with moldings, it is important to know the types of materials to be used for treads, risers, skirt boards, balusters, newels, and handrails. Maybe the most important question to ask before tackling an intricate set of stairs is, “Can I do it?”

Crown Molding

Determine size, material, and a number of components. Bed molding and some smaller crown sizes can be installed by one person but most cases count on two. Larger crowns may need furring strips installed behind the crown in order to provide a nailing surface for crown attachment.

Interior Trim Carpentry – Recap

In general: bigger, and taller material requires bigger, more expensive saws and is more difficult to cut, cope and fit. Hardwoods moldings of any size and/or profile are more difficult to cut and, especially, cope. Built up moldings take more time by a factor of times the number of components plus added layout.

Next post will consider job site conditions in pricing an interior trim carpentry installation.

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