modern walls and my distaste for trim

I hate trim – let’s just be clear right off the bat.  If I had my way (which obviously I don’t otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this) ALL of the trim in my house would be used for firewood and target practice.  Trim, in my opinion, has little place in the modern or contemporary home.  I even, on occasion, put it in the same category with glass block – a heinous and disgusting material that should be abolished by law according to Bob Borson.

Trim, in historical terms, was occasionally used for a purpose, like to hide the counterweight cavity to either side of a hung window frame.  But mostly it was used to hide stuff that you didn’t feel like taking care of, like plaster returns at openings or the termination at a ceiling/floor. These details were foregone in favor of a “cover-up”, a piece of wood moulding that has no function other than to hide something unsightly or unfinished.  That bugs me.

Today however we have all sorts of wonderful little pieces and doo-dads that can be used to create wonderful details out of these transitions. Something as simple as a casing bead at the top and bottom of a gypsum board wall, set off the adjacent surface 1/4″ with backer rod and sealant can give a very clean and refined detail that just makes me smile. 🙂

Take a look at these details published by Build, LLC (these guys are my friggin heroes).

image rights belong to Build, LLC @

image rights belong to Build, LLC @

image rights belong to Build, LLC @

image rights belong to Build, LLC @

Now, honestly, aren’t these simple details a much better alternative than the hardware store trim that is clogging up your home like the image below? I know which way I’m going from now on. How about you?

image posted under creative commons license - owner's name left out to protect the innocent 😉



10 thoughts on “modern walls and my distaste for trim

  1. I agree, the guys at Build LLC rock. Kudos. I also love these details. I have worked hard to develop my own set of clean details but the construction industry is rooted, buried, blinded, whatever in a process of construction that is built around mediocrity and covering up poor craftsmanship. If you want a wall with no base that will cost you plenty my friend. I’m actually working on another post that addresses that very issue. However in the meantime, I completely agree and aspire to make details as well as these.

    • Thanks, Lee. And, yes, contractors have gotten insanely lazy and charge ungodly sums when asked to do something “radical” like properly construct a wall termination detail. How dare we?! :-\ Can’t wait to read your next post! Cheers.

  2. I like them but they are not simple – to build well. It is much ‘simpler’ to leave the bottom edge of the gyp. 1/2″ off the floor and cover it with something else. It also has a lot to do with the style of the building. Traditional architecture reveled in those profiles so they are still appropriate in the right context, if chosen carefully.

    I focus on modern and these details seem at home in that context. Thanks for sharing…

    • Dan, thanks for your comments. I disagree however. Any detail is simple if detailed properly. It is even more simple to construct if you simply take the proper time to pay attention to said detail. Obviously there has to be a level of communication between architect and contractor, but furthering the notion that it is “difficult” and therefore “more expensive” is just wrong in my opinion. We’ve gotten too comfortable with just “covering it up” or making it “good enough” and that hurts both professions.
      Traditional trim profiles are still relevant in all manner of historic preservation and period homes. But walk into your average salt box suburban mcmansion and tell me that the trim profiles present are in any way historic or even in keeping with the style of the house. That is, if you can even identify the style the house was built in because there are usually several.
      It’s time to expect a higher quality of construction and craftsmanship from both the architect and the contractor.

      • I am definitely NOT arguing for the tract home approach in my previous comments, just trying to distinguish between “simple” versus “easy”. Easy wins out when quality is sacrificed to achieve maximized profits. The residential market is driven now by builders maximizing their profits and buyers who are only thinking about how much they will sell the house for in 3 years!

        I’m tempted to believe that the houses that have survived 100 years were built by ‘craftsmen’ but I might be romanticizing it a bit much. I grew up in those homes, all over 100 years old, and spent many saturdays refinishing intricate wood moldings. It’s hard to look at what now passes for a home, especially with $100/sf and up price tags, and not cringe.

        I do believe that the details illustrated above would take longer to properly build and finish. As to cost, time usually equals money. None of this means we should not pursue this type of detailing. If the rest of the building is detailed similarly, any additional cost will be minimal in the overall budget.

        Bottom line, I think we both agree that these details are not the norm in the current state of residential construction and most construction workers (I hesitate to give them the label craftsmen or even carpenter) would not say, at first look at the plans, “Oh, no problem. I’ve done these before”.

      • Dan, I don’t think you’re romanticizing at all. True historic homes were built by craftsmen and carpenters – tradesmen. There was a level of quality that was expected that is missing today. Which I mentioned in my post about trim serving a purpose that has been lost with modern technology. And that trim wasn’t purely functional, but was made decorative at the same time. It was an honest expression of a material and a functional building element. Today it’s used simply because contractors are lazy. BUT, I would maintain that the details I’ve presented would not take additional time to fabricate and could even take less time. Let me explain.
        Think of the steps taken to fabricate a typical residential wall with trim. First you frame the studs, install wiring, mount boxes, etc. Then you install the gwb, mud and tape the walls, sand, float, sand, clean. Then comes the trim. Now the contractor has to measure the wall, take the trim to his saw, measure the trim, cut, go back to the wall, dry fit, attach in place with glue and brads. THEN he has to go back and patch the nail holes, prime and paint the trim.
        Now lets look at the steps of a modern detail like those depicted. We basically cut out all the trim nonsense. We’re actually saving time here, which in turn saves money. The details above are basically put in place at the time you put up the gwb simply by using the proper hardware. Now, more care has to be taken in the taping and mudding phase, but not to the extent of measuring, cutting, nailing, filling, priming, painting of trim. Again, it’s all in how you execute a plan. Do you need quality contractors? Yes. But then, you should want quality contractors working on your house anyway. It’s your largest investment. Take care of it. 🙂 Cheers.

      • One thing I might add to this great discussion is the issue isn’t really about complexity whether perceived or real. The real issue is the paradigm in place for residential construction. The reason we still use trim today has to do with the system or mindset that most people have with respect to residential details. All contractors EXPECT to have trim, so all the tradesmen from the rough framing carpenter to the drywall contractor to the finish carpenter and all in between know or at least assume there will be trim. Therefore the way they approach their work is lazy or sloppy because they are falling back on the idea that the trim will cover this up.

        This blog about trim details is just one example used to illustrate Jeremiah’s larger more important point. If you are going to use crappy ranch casing that is 2-1/2″ high, why can’t the contractors finish the wall another 2″ down and eliminate the trim? Do you really think that casing adds to the architecture? No, seriously? If you have a traditional house, especially authentic, then I’ll allow the use of the 8″ high base. It adds to the architecture. Spare me the talk about why you want the prefinished, plastic ranch casing. It just makes me gag.

  3. Jeremiah:

    Saw this recent post and thought the last part was appropriate to this conversation…



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