Installing Craftsman Window Trim (Finally)

A while back, we published a post about selecting douglas fir lumber from the odd lot section at our local lumber yard to use for window trim. That lumber sat for a while in the basement while we worked on other projects.

We (or should I say the husband) decided it was finally time to get to work on it. It went something like this: “The lamps, the pillows are nice and everything, but maybe you 3 could work on some projects that will get the house done.” He’s so practical (and right).

Just as a reminder, we had 9 windows without trim. The windows came from Loewen, a company from Canada. They make beautiful SDL (simulated divided light) windows – you can check out their website. One thing they do in their fir windows is mix a vertical grain (vg) fir with a less costly flat grain to make them more affordable. To save costs, that is what our plan entailed as well for the trim and we saved even more money by going to the odd lot section. We told ourselves that we would be ok with imperfections such as knots, and once everything was up, the knots did just become a natural part of the window.

Here is one example of window sans trim:

Windows for a Craftsman Style

Our craftsman trim design was pretty simple – we talk about it in our post Installing Door Trim. Window trim has 4 different parts: head casing, side casings, stool, and apron. Our plan was to use 5/4″x6″ for the headers and the stools and 1″x4″ for the side casings and aprons. The 5/4″ dimension is a great option for the head casing because it creates dimension and a nice shadow line against the 1″x4″ side casings.

Craftsman window trim explained

Our Plan

  • Sort and label the wood into 3 batches: stools and headers (5/4″x 6″), side casings (1″x4″), and aprons (1″x4″).
  • Measure (working around imperfections of odd-lot lumber) and rough-cut the wood an inch or 2 longer than we needed.
  • Sand.
  • Final measure/cut, finish and install stools.
  • Final measure/cut, finish and install head casings.
  • Final measure/cut/fit and finish and install side casings.

Sanding/Finishing Window Trim

For sanding, we used a random orbital sander and started with 100 grit and moved to 150 grit. We used a block sander for better control for the eased edges. For finishing, we used Daly’s Benite for conditioning, then hand sanded with 220 grit and used 3 coats Daly’s Satin Profin for finishing, hand sanding lightly with 220 grit between each coat.

Clear finish for fir trim

How to finish fir trim

Window Stools

The stools went on first. Husband Dave nicely offered to cut them as it involved ripping the 5/4″ x 6″s on the table saw (I’m not really comfortable with the table saw, I’ve seen a lot of people that have had fingers go missing after using a table saw and I’m really accident prone). He came up with a clever (I think!) solution to cleanly and invisibly attach the stools to the existing window frame. To create the stools, he ripped the 5/4″ lumber to the correct width and cut them to correct length on the chop saw. Then he used a router to create a channel in both the edge of the stool and the edge of the window frame. Then he cut a “spline”, a strip of strong, good quality, 1/4″ birch plywood and inserted/glued the spline to the stool. When that was dry, he glued and clamped the “splined” stool onto the frame. It is really strong and there are no attachments to be seen. While it was clamped, he wiped off the excess glue with a damp rag.



Headers, side casings and aprons

After going through a somewhat complicated process of cutting, measuring, fitting, cutting, finishing – all involving running up and down the stairs and swearing every once in a while – we used the nail gun to install the trim.


Finally done

Click on the images below to see a slideshow of the completed windows. We still need to caulk the gap between the casings and the wall and fill in the nail holes with wood putty, but that will be later. Much later. Do you have any projects you are putting off?

See more of Heidi’s artwork at Old Stuff. New Stories.

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11 thoughts on “Installing Craftsman Window Trim (Finally)

  1. You’ve all done just an amazing job on those windows, Bravo. Great photos too. I really think that spline to connect to stool to the existing window is super clever. Looks awesome and seamless. I definitely would never attempt to do anything like this but I’m happy for all the tips I learn along the way.

  2. It looks fantastic!! I tend to lean toward favoring the look of white trim (realizing that the craftsman style doesn’t tend to have that–I just mean in general), but I am loving the stained trim on those windows. Well done–LOVE it! The assembly was clever also

    I see that the window dividers are also the real deal rather than the ones in between the panes of glass. We went that route also on our windows because I liked the idea of it looking closer to the authentic individual panes of yesteryear. Every year when I go to wash the windows I curse and shake my fist in the air at my stupidity as I remove the 66 different dividers on the 33 windows I have to wash. Every year I swear I’m going to hire out the window washing and every year I end up biting the bullet and washing them myself :)

    • Yep Yep Yep – I do the same, but I don’t wash the windows as often… Monica here, I replaced all my windows with Lindal, sdl, vg fir, with divisions inside and out(but not between the panes)- sigh. Love the look but honestly, they never get washed :) Next time I think I might just do the divisions on the inside (no chance to rot). Or go modern.

    • Thanks! I think in the old days people would use a dark stain on douglas fir to make it look like a more expensive oak or mahogany. Using just a oil finish really brings out the nice grain and beautiful orange of the wood. Yes, they are “simulated” divided lites – and what’s nice is they look like the real deal because of a shadow bar between the layers of glass. The grid isn’t removable, so I just don’t wash the windows! I’m so impressed that you wash yours once a year, maybe it would be brighter in this house if I did that!!!

      • Ok, you called my bluff…I do attempt to get them all washed once a year, but last year only the main floor was done and I don’t think anything was done the year before that (sheepish grin). We get hit with a lot of wind in an open field surrounded by dusty farm fields, so they do need it once a year. They just don’t always get it!

  3. We’ve done some very similar window trims in two houses. The stool attachment can be done even more simply using a biscuit joiner. The full-length spline is overkill. Windows look great however.

    Also, if you do get windows with all vertical grain, you can often find some pretty decent VG fir at Lowe’s or Home Depot for the trim. You just have to pick through large stacks of mixed grain to find a few nice pieces. It helps if you live in an area w/ multiple locations. No 5/4 however. We usually use a 1 x 4 header, and the side casings are 1 x 3s that we zip through the planer to create the small reveal where they meet.

    • Hi Dave, We did think about using bisquits, but didn’t think that would be strong enough – but it sounds like it has worked for you ok? Good tip about Lowe’s/Home Depot, will check next time. We love our local lumber yard, Dunn Lumber, they’ve always been super helpful and knowledgeable, and we love their “odd lot” section!

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