Exterior Trim – The Longest, Worst Project Of All Time, Ever

August 1, 2016

You can tell this is going to be good, right? Exterior Trim. Ugh, just typing those words makes me angry. I never thought that something could be so deceiving: it seemed so easy and simple and quick, and yet it was the longest and most irritating and the worst. The worst, I tell you!!!

About 10 years ago, Eric and I began staining wood for our trim…. Just kidding, it was only 4 years ago months ago, but you get the idea. Way back in April, Eric and I decided it was time to tackle the trim around the windows, the door, the metal siding, and all the edges of the tiny house. How hard could it be? Slap some stain on a 1×4 and screw it down. No. No no no. No no no no no no. No. Little did we know, we were about to embark on a four month long journey of misery and headache. Now, because this project took 4 months to complete, and I don’t want to think about trim ever again in my life, I’m going to try to make this post as compressed as possible, while still giving you a glimpse of this torturous process. Be thankful you’re only reading about it and not living it.

Staining a.k.a. Slowly killing myself with boredom and tears

Staining the trim a.k.a. Slowly killing myself with boredom and tears

To start everything off, I had to pick out the color of stain. I had a certain brown color in my head of what I wanted for the trim, but apparently that color doesn’t exist in real life. Or it does, but not at any store we went to. I knew I wanted the trim to be a dark-ish, rich brown color. And, just like with picking the color of the house, I stressed way too long over this decision. However, when you’re having to decide between “semi-transparent dark bark” and “semi-solid dark bark” things get confusing. Like, what does semi-transparent even mean? It’s either transparent or it’s not. And, doesn’t semi-transparent and semi-solid basically mean the same thing??! I finally gave up and just chose the semi-transparent dark bark (with sealer) and hoped for the best.

Once the stain was chosen, we headed down to Lowe’s to buy what seemed like 300 1×4 pieces of lumber. We dug through the entire pile to make sure we were getting boards that weren’t warped or curved in any way. After inspecting Lowe’s entire inventory of 1x4s (and that’s not a joke) we headed home with the boards that made the cut. Because the wood was going to be outside in the elements, we made sure to get treated wood. Unfortunately, that meant the wood needed to dry out before we could stain it. So, we would lay the boards out in the sun to dry out, and without fail, it would rain. We would drag all the wood inside the house to keep dry from the rain, but that meant they weren’t drying out from the treatment. Once it was sunny again, we’d drag all the wood back out. Or, sometimes we wouldn’t get to the wood in time, and it’d get soaked from the rain and have to re-dry all over again. We should have known then that this was going to be a long and painful project, but we were still so naive.

When the wood finally dried out, it was time to sand those bad boys down. Once all the wood was smooth, it was staining time. I started staining, and the color looked good. At one point, though, there was a bit of a mix up when Eric told me to, “Stain these ends” talking about the end of the boards. However, I heard, “Stain these again.” So, I put down another coat. It actually turned out that I liked the darker color best, but it also meant that every piece of trim needed about 4 coats of stain. When you stain 4 coats, you have to let it dry in between each coat, and when you have to let something dry, it always rains. Even when it didn’t rain, waiting for each coat to dry was a pain, and time consuming, and slowed us down to a crawling pace. What was even more frustrating was that the wood did not absorb the stain consistently. Some pieces took the stain great and looked amazing. Other pieces looked like a zebra mated with a tree. There was no way to tell how each board was going to take the stain. Some boards ended up needing 5 or 6 coats of stain, and some probably could have taken 11 coats and still looked like an old-timey prison outfit. We just tried our best to group the boards together that looked similar. (Also, don’t forget to stain the edges of the boards, because you’ll regret it later…. like I did.)

My sanding attire. Just trying not to die from inhaling a whole tree's worth of sawdust.

My sanding attire. Just trying not to die from inhaling a whole tree’s worth of sawdust.

The original color of the wood compared to its stained look.

The original color of the wood compared to its stained look.

So much staining.

So much staining. And, why does that one board look like a zebra??! I don’t mind some variation, but come on.

So tired of staining.

So tired of staining.

At this point, you might think that this whole process happened all at once: we went and got all the wood, we sanded all the wood, and we stained all the wood all at the same time. If you think that, you are wrong. Please return to the paragraph below choosing the color of stain, read to this point, and repeat 8 times. Now you’re starting to get it: trim is the worst.

The main thing about trim is that it’s like a puzzle. A horrible, horrible, not-fun puzzle. Every piece of trim depends on the piece next to it. Every piece of trim has to be measured exactly. And, because construction is the dumbest thing ever, a 1×4 piece of lumber isn’t actually 4 inches wide. Sometimes it’s 3.5 inches, sometimes it’s 3.4. Sometimes it’s 3.75. So, when you’re trying to get the measurement of the top piece of trim over the window, you can’t just measure the window and add 4 inches on each end to get the final top length. You can’t even add 3.5 inches (the “supposed” true size of a 1×4) on each end to get the final length. You have to hold the trim board on top of the window, and hold the right side window trim board up, and hold the left side window trim board up, and when everything is finally held in just the right place, then you can get the measurements. So, ideally, you need 5 arms for this. You’ll also be balancing on a ladder. No big deal. Now, please repeat this process for every side of the window, on all the windows, the door, and all the corners of the house. It’s truly a thrilling, delightful experience.

We started this horrible puzzle on the kitchen window on the back of the house. After finally getting all the measurements, cutting the boards to length, and attaching them, we had to seal the edges with waterproof sealer. We followed that up with the three windows on the front of the house and the bathroom window on the side.

The kitchen window before trim.

The kitchen window before trim.

Adding the top trim piece.

Adding sealer to the trim pieces.

A close up of the trim.

A close up of the trim.

Working on the loft windows.

Working on the loft windows.

Working on the front loft windows.

Working on the front loft windows.

Putting sealer behind each piece of wood on the bathroom window on the side of the house.

Putting sealer along the edge of each piece of wood on the bathroom window on the side of the house.

The front window next to the front door. Looks great!

The front window next to the front door. Looks great!

Now it was time to get the door trim up. There was more prep work for this, simply because the siding and metal stuck out from the sheathing creating an uneven gap right where the trim was supposed to go. That meant we needed to add a small sliver of sheathing around the door frame to even everything out. But, before we could do that, we had to watch the St. Louis Blues beat the stinking Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs!!! See ya, losers!!!

Get out of here, you garbage Blackhawks!!!

Get out of here, you garbage Blackhawks!!!

Ok, that was awesome, but back to work.

We measured and cut small sections of sheathing to fit into the space around the door frame to even up the base. Then, we measured and cut the trim for the door frame just like for the windows, except that the side trim pieces each had to have a notch taken out. This was to accommodate the metal angled sill at the bottom of the frame. The metal sill is about an inch wider than the frame on both sides, so the trim needed to make space for it. We used a hand saw and chisel to cut out the notches. Once that was taken care of, we could attach the trim pieces as usual.

The frame of the door isn't even to the siding, so we added sheathing to make it flat.

The frame of the door isn’t even to the siding, so we added sheathing to make it flat.

Adding the sheathing to even out the door frame.

Adding the sheathing to even out the door frame.

Adding the sheathing around the metal sill.

Adding the sheathing around the metal sill.

Now the trim can lay flat.

Now the trim can lay flat.

We attached a metal trim piece around the extra layer of sheathing, so it would blend in on the metal.

We attached a metal trim piece around the extra layer of sheathing, so it would blend in on the metal.

Cutting out the side notches with the hand saw.

Cutting out the side notches with the hand saw.

Cleaning up the notches with the chisel

Cleaning up the notches with the chisel

The two notches removed.

The two notches removed.

Adding the trim around the door.

Adding the trim around the door, and the notch fits perfectly!

Finishing up the trim

Finishing up the trim on the door

The bottom of the door

The bottom of the door

The door trim is finished!

The door trim is finished!

After a trip to Texas to see some friends get married, we started working on the the rest of the trim.

At the Texas Aquarium, which is not an aquarium at all. Don't be fooled. It's a cool place but don't expect to see fish there.

At the Dallas Aquarium, which is not an aquarium at all. Don’t be fooled. It’s a cool place but don’t expect to see fish there.

We were ready to start putting up trim on every corner of the house, including the loft overhang. If we thought that piecing together the windows was annoying, it paled in comparison to the annoyance and irritation of piecing together the back loft. A window only has 4 sides to figure out, but the loft felt like it had 40. We also had to cut weird notches and angles for the vertical trim pieces to slide under the facia board. This was made more difficult because our roof slants. After standing on the ladder, holding up the boards over and over again, marking and measuring and cutting, we finally got the end of the boards right. We had some trouble with a few of our trim boards warping while sitting in the sun, which made an annoying process even worse, but we powered through (and mostly didn’t care anymore because we were tired of this stupid house and its stupid trim, and we just wanted to be dooooone) and soon enough all of the loft and corner trim was complete. But, don’t worry, because trim is the worst, there’s still more to do.

The end of the trim pieces cut in the weirdest ways possible to fit under the facia boards.

The end of the trim pieces cut in the weirdest ways possible to fit under the facia boards.

It fits! The trim pieces slide under the facia board.

It fits! The trim pieces slide under the facia board.

The loft trim

The loft trim

The loft trim. The loft was super frustrating because most of our boards warped, making them not fit together as seamlessly as we'd prefer.

The loft trim. The loft was super frustrating because most of our boards warped, making them not fit together as seamlessly as we’d prefer.

It was time to finish the last portion of trim which was the horizontal trim wrapping around the house where the metal and siding meet. But first, we were off to Bowling Green to see Eric’s cousin get married!

All fancy for the wedding.

All fancy for the wedding.

When we got back, we really buckled down because WE WERE SO TIRED OF DEALING WITH THE TRIM!!!!! Ugh, it was just taking forever to finish. I’m telling you, trim is the worst!!! Just be done already.

Well, we weren’t done, but we were getting close. For the horizontal trim, we used a water level to mark on the metal where the wood needed to be screwed down. Eric then put waterproof sealer on top of the metal, and we attached the boards. This was amazingly easy compared to everything else, and a welcome relief. We worked our way around the house until we got to the side wall with the trailer hitch. We cut out a long section of the trim so it could fit over the outside storage box. Eric even cut the notch on the same angle to match the slant of the storage box roof, so the water would roll off the trim and onto the box correctly. Once that section was finished, we trimmed up the last window. We waited to trim this window because we wanted to make sure the trim for the window and trim around the storage box would all fit in the small space.

We added the sealer on top of the metal before attaching the trim.

We added the sealer on top of the metal before attaching the trim.

The horizontal trim covering and sealing where the siding and metal meet.

The horizontal trim covering and sealing where the siding and metal meet.

The horizontal trim wrapping around the house.

The horizontal trim wrapping around the house.

The edge of the cut out trim for the storage box.

The edge of the cut out trim for the storage box. You can’t tell, but the angle of the notch matches the angle of the storage box roof.

Perfect fit.

Perfect fit.

The trim with the notch cut out along the storage box.

The trim with the notch cut out along the storage box.

The trim finished along the hitch wall

The trim finished along the hitch wall

We made sure to put a bead of waterproof sealer along all the seams on the trim to keep water from getting behind the boards and rotting. And, like everything else with this project, when we put the sealer on the trim to dry, we would suddenly get a surprise rain shower. The rain would make the sealer completely disgusting, and we would have to wipe it all off (in the rain so it wouldn’t dry once the rain stopped) and re-apply everything. However, this was one thing we couldn’t ignore because 1) it looked terrible and 2) we really want the trim water tight.

The sealer is white when first applied and it dries clear. Here is it splattered and running off the trim because of a surprise rain storm.

The sealer is white when first applied and it dries clear. Here it is splattered and running off the trim because of a surprise rain storm.

Any of the sealer that didn't get wiped off while ruined in the rain would dry all funky. So we got a razor and cut it all off and re-applied.

Any of the sealer that didn’t get wiped off while ruined in the rain would dry all funky. So we got a razor and cut it all off and re-applied.

Finally! Sealed up and looking nice.

Finally! Sealed up and looking nice.

Throughout working on the trim, we were also working on getting the facia board to match the stained trim. We originally planned to paint that green to match the siding, but then thought it would be better to have it match the trim. That required us to stand on the ladder and lift a power sander over our heads to smooth down those boards. Talk about a shoulder workout! I couldn’t lift my arms to wash my hair by the end of it. Once they were smooth, we then went over them with 2 coats of stain. I was worried 2 coats wouldn’t be dark enough, but it worked perfectly, and we could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. The last two pieces of horizontal trim over the metal were attached on the back wall, and HALLELUJAH, the trim is done!!!!! Our terrible, terrible, terrible trim project was finally behind us.

Burning shoulders all for the sake of the stupid trim

Burning shoulders all for the sake of the stupid trim

Here you can see the facia board matches the rest of the trim.

Here you can see the facia board matches the rest of the trim.

The outside of the house is now FINISHED!!!

The outside of the house is now FINISHED!!!

It only took us 4 months, but with the trim finally done, this makes the outside of the house complete! There are still a few optional things we can do to the outside, like paint touch ups, but all required construction is finished! Now that the outside is wrapped up, all our focus turns to the interior. The electricity and plumbing are finished, so next up: Spray Foam!

5 Comments

  • Reply Julia August 1, 2016 at 7:57 PM

    If i hear the word TRIM or FACIA one.more.time…. I’m done. Are we done with the trim now? Miss you.

    • Reply emar2012 August 1, 2016 at 9:44 PM

      I know, riiiiight!!!! So done with working on the outside. I’m ready to decorate the inside. Miss youuuu!

  • Reply Jeanie August 1, 2016 at 8:40 PM

    Love it! The house and Eric look good with a little trim 😉

  • Reply emar2012 August 1, 2016 at 9:44 PM

    Thanks!! I agree! 🙂

  • Reply Jojo June 1, 2017 at 11:31 AM

    Hi!!! I love the way the metal and wood siding came out—looks fantastic! I just have one question (atm)… Did y’all apply caulk to the top edge of the metal and then sit the trim on the face of it or on the edge where the caulk was applied? I am asking because my siding on my thow is similar and I want to see how this worked out for you.

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