Lessons Learned

This story is a continuation of Fit and Trim. Go ahead and read that post if you haven’t already, then come on back.

Over the course of a week I spackled, sanded, and painted David’s door frames so they look good as new. Well, not quite. The frames look better now than when they were covered with dog claw marks, and David is pleased with them, but I would be embarrassed to offer this product to a paying client. Which leads me to two lessons I learned for future projects.

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Spackle fills unsightly gaps. Sanding makes the transition smoother.

Lesson 1: A seam is hard to hide. Plenty of things make it difficult to align trim pieces perfectly, including shim thickness and strength of the hammer on the finish nails. And David’s doorway trim has a fluted shape that makes the seam even harder to mask if adjacent pieces don’t line up perfectly.

I did the best I could to spackle over the location and then sand that spackle smooth, but the change in plane is still pretty obvious. This was a budget project. Next time I’ll insist on replacing the entire trim length.

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Close, but no cigar.

Lesson 2: Measure the doorway. The carpenter’s creed is “measure twice, cut once,” and I always do. But in this case there was kind of nothing to cut. I removed a piece of trim and installed an identical piece of trim – what could go wrong? As it turns out, a lot.

The master bedroom door is 30 inches wide, so the opening had better be just over 30 inches wide, top to bottom. Imagine my disgust when, after I spackled and sanded and painted three coats on the new trim, I reinstalled the door and couldn’t get it to close. I chiseled out the bottom hinge further, but the swinging door still hit the bottom trim rather than sliding in. Finally I measured the bottom of the doorway and discovered somehow I’d made the opening only 29¾ inches wide.

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The location I chiseled out for the hinge.

My repair wasn’t hard: pry off the trim, take out a spacer, nail the trim back on, MEASURE, spackle and sand and paint the edges again. David got some longer hinge screws to help seat the door, and now it closes tightly. But the ordeal took time, and time equals money, not to mention materials and customer satisfaction.

I’m a forever student of carpentry, and I’m grateful I got to learn some lessons while the stakes weren’t too high.

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Master bedroom door, properly closed and tenant ready.

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