Wood molding: DIY or hired help?
July 15, 2008 7:59 AM   Subscribe

Finishing up a small basement project. Should I install the wood trim and base molding myself (with rented finish nailer) or hire some help?

Installing a home theater in a previously finished portion of our basement. I framed and drywalled a 14' L-shaped half-wall on my own, which came out fairly well. I now need to finish it by installing wood molding under the half-wall cap and the baseboard. I have an electric miter saw, so I can miter cut the molding (I think), but installing it is a different story. I tried hand nailing one section with finish nails and a nail set and it was a disaster. I consider myself fairly handy, but some more precise tasks challenge me. Should I rent a compressor and finish nailer (I assume for about $80-100/day) and try it myself, or should I try to locate a handyman on Craigslist to come in for two hours and do it for me? I'd like it to look good, but absolute perfection is not required. Ultimately, which option would be 1) cheaper and 2) produce a better result?
posted by flyingrock to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
DIY is cheaper. PRACTICE the cuts on scrap trim that you do not need, saves swearing a lot. Have a tube or 2 of Liquid Nail for any spots needing a bit of help and again PRACTICE the nailing. Use a level. Draw the layout rough so you are not having the most complex cuts in the least open areas, do those first. Look on-line at other results too is good.

There are also electric naliers, ............rented? Depends on your local shops of course.
posted by Freedomboy at 8:14 AM on July 15, 2008

What kind of problems did you have hand nailing it? I'd try to master that skill rather than spending money on renting a finishing nailer and spending time picking it up and dropping it off.

Sometimes it helps if you take a very small drill bit and pre-drill the holes for the nails.
posted by 14580 at 8:54 AM on July 15, 2008

Just to give one more option, you can buy a compressor and nailer combination really cheap if you watch the Home Depot/Sears/Lowes/etc sales -- that can end up cheaper than renting (assuming that you work as slowly as I do) and lets you keep the tools for future projects.

My thinking would be that you've done the hard part already, so why not take the time to figure out the finish work? Hand nailing can work (especially if you predrill, use the right hammer, and so on), although an air-powered nailer is easier.
posted by Forktine at 9:28 AM on July 15, 2008

One more option - I use this. You can find it pretty reasonably priced if you shop around but it's the real deal - it'll put a 2.5 inch finish nail through maple and the batteries last forever. It entirely uses battery power - no gas cartridges or air power - the battery spins a flywheel that flings the nail into the wood. It does cost a premium over a compressor/gun system, but if you're not planning on buying any more air tools it's pretty nice to be able to pull it out and nail something up without lugging out the compressor.
posted by true at 9:50 AM on July 15, 2008

Go for it. I am incredibly un-handy, and I stained, finished and installed base molding in my living room. And it looks pretty good.

One tip... For base molding, do it in two parts; the base and shoe molding. It takes more nailing (and costs a little more), but it's worth it. (Since your floors & walls are not perfectly even/level, the shoe molding will flex to cover any gaps. A base molding will not.)
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:52 AM on July 15, 2008

Best answer: I second the DIY choice. I guess there are a few considerations first:

What type of trim are you putting up, Stain grade or painted?

If it is stain grade, which it sound like it isn't, then getting a pro will be the least complicated.

If it is paint grade, then go ahead and do it yourself. Remember to pick up some lightweight spacking (for small holes), caulk (waterbased acrylic, !!!dont use silicone!! for the gaps of the base board where the wall and a heavy grade filler. (There is a product called "Crack Shot" that I use for big holes, wide gaps and the like) Like the saying goes..."Caulk and paint, make a carpenter what he aint"

Like Freedomboy says, practice on scrap pieces and you shouldn't have that much of a problem. Check out this helful video...

As far a nailing them on, you could go manual and predrill a pilot hole so the the nail has a good start, but you have to make sure that you are over a stud of some otherwood so it has something to hold on to.

And if you do decide to rent a nailer and compressor, get a 18 gauge brad nailer and nails long enough to go through both the trim and the drywall to the stud. Again, a helpful video...

When I do trim carpentry, I usually just use some, not too much though, construction adhesive (liquid nail) and just stich or butterfly nail the trim onto the drywall.

Stitch nailing, btw, is nailing the trim at sharp angles opposite directions to each other, I dont bother finding the studs since the tension created buy the stitching holds the trim to to the drywall almost as well as the stud. And you only need to have the nails hold until the glue dries.

Good luck,

ps. sorry for such a long response :(
posted by MiggySawdust at 9:58 AM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

For some reason the links didnt work. Here they are, in order.


posted by MiggySawdust at 10:00 AM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

DIY. Framing and handing drywall is much more frustrating/difficult than installing trim, in my opinion. Rent the compressor & finish nailer.
posted by desuetude at 10:06 AM on July 15, 2008

I'm going to nth the DIY suggestion. Rent or buy a finish nailer which come in very handy for any framing, trim, carpentry, and even auto applications. If you get all of your cuts right, you could nail up the base and quarter round in that space in about 15-20 minutes easily.

Also, for the indentation that the nails leave in the molding, use painter's putty (let it dry then sand it down to flush). For the gap between the drywall and the molding and the molding and the floor, use caulk (apply along the gap, wipe down with a wet finger, wipe excess off your finger onto a rag.... keep a cup of water to wet your finger during the process).

You'll get the hang of it quickly once you get started. After this project you're qualified to put crown up throughout your house.
posted by premortem at 10:46 AM on July 15, 2008

Another DIYer here. Only thing I can add it to make sure your miter saw is properly adjusted. The swears flow easily in my house when my corners don't marry up because my miter saw reads 45 but is really 40 because someone knocked it with a stud recently without telling me.
posted by toomuch at 1:01 PM on July 15, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks to all of you for your comments and suggestions. I'll give the compressor and finish nailer a shot - gotta learn some time, I guess. Now, however, I need to figure out the buying vs. renting options. I will, as suggested, practice on some scrap pieces before attacking my beautiful drywall work again, though. :)
posted by flyingrock at 1:11 PM on July 15, 2008

gotta learn some time, I guess.

I like that line of thinking, but not so much when it comes to renting a bunch of gear. You'll figure out how to hammer the trim in, it really isn't as hard as it seems, you just need to persist a little more. Or to put it differently, knowing how to use a hammer is a far more fundamental skill than using a power nailer.
posted by Chuckles at 9:45 PM on July 15, 2008

I am currently in the process of putting down about 300' of baseboard in my own house. All of it will be hand nailed, it doesn't take that long to do. As mentioned above, "Caulk and paint will make you what you ain't. Save your money! You can do it!!!
posted by Daddy-O at 9:56 AM on July 16, 2008

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