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Whether a gap between the door trim and the wall has developed over time, or you are completing the finishing touches on a new door trim installation, you’ll wonder how to fill this gap. Proper gap-filling provides a longer-lasting, more aesthetically pleasing presentation. The challenge lies in determining the proper tools and techniques to fill the gap between door trim and wall. We have compiled information from builders, home improvement experts, extension resources, and governmental home construction guides to help with this process.
To fill the gap between the door trim and wall:
- Complete preliminary adjustments.
- Measure the gap and determine the best strategy.
- Fill large gaps.
- Clean the area to be caulked.
- Fill and finish.
The door trim covers space between the door frame and the wall. This practical step provides a great opportunity to enhance overall home appearance and value. Please keep reading to check out suggested techniques and tools for aesthetic and functional ways to fill gaps between the door trim and the wall.
1. Complete Preliminary Adjustments
Per the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), trim is a way to cover construction, balance surface variation, and finish inter-material gaps and joints. When you are ready to fill either time-created or newly-constructed door trim gaps, a few preliminary steps may help ensure the gap seal’s durability, functionality, and appearance.
True: Level, Plumb, and Square
True denotes exactness as it relates to the earth, rather than the ground surface. Level refers to being a true horizontal. Plumb references true vertical. Square is the 90-degree intersection of a plumb object with a level object.
Your door frame should have parallel opposite sides and square corners. Tools are available to determine levelness, plumb, and square. A plumb bob uses gravity to show when something is truly vertical.
A level may be utilized to determine when something is level or plumb.
A square is a triangle or L-shaped metal determinant of corner squaring.
Verify Door Frame Is Square
If your trim seems to be off by more than just the gap you are trying to fill, take a little extra time to remove the door and trim to ensure the frame is square. Use a pry bar to loosen and remove the door trim.
While you may use separate tools to determine levelness, plumb, and square, a cross-line laser level will allow you to determine all at the same time. Red laser tools are less expensive than green but do not have as long a range or the same visibility. Take care to protect your eyes when using any laser tool. Because green-laser power drains batteries, a lithium-powered cross-line level will help ensure full-project visibility.
Adjust Door Hinges
Improperly hanging doors can pull against and diminish door trim and frame stability. Adjust and tighten door hinges before completing the gap-fill. Replace pulled out screws with longer or wider ones. If the wood is too damaged to hold the larger screws, use wood plugs to fill the holes and hold the new screws. Remove stripped or broken screws with a damaged screw extractor kit.
Do doors expand in the summer?
Wood expands as it picks up moisture and shrinks as it loses moisture from the air. The greater humidity that occurs during the summer often causes doors to expand. This expansion may cause doors to stick. Cooler air does not hold as much moisture.
You may use a Hygrometer to monitor humidity and help determine if moisture is the issue. Readings should be below 70-percent. Venting the home or drying the basement may assist with consistent moisture.
2. Measure Gap and Determine Strategy
Caulk comes in tubes and is the finishing material for sealing gaps. Silicone and acrylic latex types are available. Using a paintable silicone caulk will achieve both paintability (found in acrylic latex caulk) and waterproof endurance.
How big of a gap can I fill with caulk?
To establish tools and materials needed to fill the gap between door trim and a wall, you will need to determine the gap width at the widest and most narrow points. The gap width determines whether you may use caulk alone or whether you will need to fill larger gaps before using caulk. Per the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service (CES) Home Energy Conservation Guide, you may use caulk for gaps up to ¼-inch and expanding foam for larger gaps.
Measuring the Gap
A vernier caliper provides accurate measures using a sliding vernier scale. Small top jaws measure the inner gap, lower large jaws measure outer edges, and the stem measures depth. A digital vernier caliper provides easy-to-read measurements. Having accurate measurements allows you to choose the best gap-fill strategy.
3. Fill Large Gaps
If the caulk is used to fill too deep a gap, it will not properly cure. Gaps more than ½-inches deep or more than ¼-inches wide should be filled with foundational materials.
A shim is a thin wood or composite wedge used to fill gaps or achieve square installations. Wood shims are easier to stack and connect with wood glue to fill larger spaces. Plastic shims may be stacked but must be glued with polyurethane glue to avoid sliding out of place.
Either shim material provides easy size adjustment. Score wood shims with a utility knife and snap at needed length. Composite shims often provide convenient scoring lines that allow you to snap the shim at the needed length.
Be careful not to push each shim to the needed depth but not too far, or the shim will bow the trim. Tap shims into the gap with a hammer or rubber mallet. Since shims may break easily, a rubber mallet may provide the best tapping tool.
H3 Pre-Caulking Backer Rods
Use a pre-caulking backer rod, also known as filler rope or caulk saver, to avoid drying issues when the caulk is used to fill too deep or too wide a gap. Filler rope provides a flexible adherent caulk base. Backer rods come in a variety of sizes to complete large gap-fill needs.
4. Clean Area to Be Caulked
Before adding caulk, clean surface edges to help ensure a smooth finish. Use a scraper to remove any debris that will not wipe away from the area to be sealed.
Use a degreaser to remove any residual, oily dirt. Try isopropyl alcohol to prepare the surface for caulk. Ensure the surface has dried completely before applying the caulk.
5. Fill and Finish
Use a spout cutter or scissors to cut the nozzle at a 45-degree angle to create a ⅛-inch hole. For a larger coverage area, you may increase the opening to ¼-inch. If the caulk gun does not come with a tube-puncturing pin, use a long, thin nail to pierce the inner seal.
Applying the Caulk
Place the caulk tube into the caulking gun. With the caulking gun angled flush against the trim, squeeze the trigger as you move along the edge of the gap to distribute caulk lines (or beads).
Finishing the Caulk Edge
When the gap is filled, use a finishing tool or run a moistened finger down the caulk line to provide a smooth edge. Fill incomplete coverage areas with more caulk and smooth.
Caulking gun kits come with a variety of tools to simplify the caulking process. Handy tools include any combination of a caulk gun, spout cutter, puncture tool, finishing tool, scrapers, caulk caps, and other convenient implements.
Wipe excess caulk off the trim and wall before it dries. For cleanup, try mineral spirits or naphtha. Allow the caulk to cure (dry) fully per manufacturer directions before painting.
How do you seal an exterior door frame?
Per the United States Department of Energy, sealing an old or drafty home from the air may reduce heating and cooling bills by more than 20%. Weatherstripping allows easy door sealing, and caulk is effective for general cracks and gaps.
Start with the interior door side when using foam to fill large door trim gaps. Place the straw on the foam can and spray into the gaps between shims. Leave ⅓ the space for expansion. The foam should expand flush with the door frame.
You will need to determine the gap width to purchase the correct weatherstripping. Use weatherstripping to cover the sides and tops of the door. Utilize weatherstripping made for friction settings. Other adhesive weatherstrippings will not hold as the door is opened and closed.
Try a tension seal (V-shaped strip) to seal exterior doors effectively. A tension seal is a metal or plastic strip that springs open to fill gaps.
Regardless of whether you have a new door trim installation or one that has been around a while, gaps occur between door trim and walls. Some easy preliminary cleaning, measurement, and tweaks will provide an attractive and functional resolution. Choose the correct fill and smooth caulk edge to ensure a functional and attractive finish.
Check out our related posts, for other ways that you can use caulk around the house to seal and enhance aesthetics: