Dear James: A neighbor recently added some ornamental wood trim to her house and it looks great. I want to add some to my house, but I don't want more to maintain. Is urethane trim a good substitute? -- Linda L.
Dear Linda: Installing even a small amount of ornamental trim on your home can dramatically change its appearance and can establish its basic exterior architectural style. Take a drive around your neighborhood and study how some others have used trim to accent their homes to give you some ideas.
Urethane trim, for both the exterior and interior, is your best choice. Although the urethane materials cost more than using wood, unless you have good carpentry skills and can do wood trim work yourself to save the labor costs, using molded urethane trim is less expensive overall. Even simple-looking wood trim is often a complicated assembly of smaller pieces.
Since urethane trim is molded, it can have very complex shapes and profiles without substantially increasing its cost and or the difficulty in installing it. If you can saw and nail a piece of wood, you can easily install your own urethane trim. You use standard woodworking tools to work with it.
Do an internet search for "urethane trim" or "urethane millwork" and you will be amazed at the vast selection of attractive styles. If you have trouble finding sources for it, contact the following companies: Chemcrest, Focal Point and Fypon.
Also, urethane is about the best material for the minimum trim maintenance you are looking for. Since it is basically a solid chunk of plastic, it will not rot or warp like real wood does with weather changes. Paint it with any standard latex wall paint. You don't have to worry about painting unexposed areas to seal it as with wood.
Urethane trim feels rigid and substantial, but it is not as strong as wood and should not be used for any structural support. It can support its own weight, but that is all. Anything mounted near or over the trim should be secured to the sheathing or structural lumber beneath it. The same is true for urethane trim used on the house interior.
When you get ready to install the urethane trim, study the manufacturer's instructions carefully. Various manufacturers require different procedures to assemble and to mount the trim pieces. Some pieces may be glued together and others may be snapped together. The snap-together ones may need to be cut slightly longer than appears correct at first.
Being made of a plastic resin material, urethane trim expands a lot with temperature changes. When working outdoors with it, don't place it in the hot sun that will heat it up before you measure and cut it. It will surely shrink some as it cools and may not fit properly.
If you plan to install the urethane trim over vinyl siding, keep in mind that the vinyl siding is hung loosely. Don't attach the trim too tightly over the siding so as to restrict the siding movement as the temperature changes. Drilling clearance holes in the siding for the trim nails is not a bad idea.
The following tools and material make the project easier to do: hammer, countersink punch, square, hammer, carpenter's level, saws, miter box, caulking gun, tape measure, stainless steel nails, adhesives, sandpaper, paint, urethane trim.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.