Back when I used to trim a lot of homes, we found a need for a faster system than what we had. Ideally, we wanted to measure an entire home – all the casing, baseboard, shoe mold, crown, stools, and aprons – then cut them all at one time. The system we developed made this not only possible but is vastly more efficient than what we were doing before.
Using the Speedy Trim Out Method, one person measured, then gave the measurements to the cut man, and the cut man cut each room. Upon finishing cutting the trim for a room, he carried it into the room and the installer sorted each bundle and placed them in the approximate order in the room, per the numbered items.
With a system like this, and of course, with a skilled crew, you can actually cut the trim for a whole house off site.
In this whitepaper I’ll lay out the basic procedure, the abbreviations used in this system, some examples of cut lists, and some final tips on making this system as efficient as possible for your crew.
The Speedy Trim Out Method
- Note that most measurements for crown, base, chair rail are measured from wall to wall. Shoe mold is measured after the baseboard is installed.
- Baseboard is typically measured and marked on the top rear edge.
- Crown mold is typically marked on the bottom rear edge. Since crown is cut upside down, in the miter box, you are looking at the “top” rear edge.
- For right handers, I recommend coming into a room and measuring baseboard in a counterclockwise direction. For example, you enter a room, turn to your right and measure your first piece of base, e.g., 7″ SS (7″ square to square). Next would be, for example, 10′ 6 1/2″ CR (square on the left end and cope right on the right end). The reason for this is that coping the right end of trim is easier for most right-handers than the left end. Do the reverse of this if you are left-handed.
- Crown is the opposite since it is cut upside down. Enter the room and measure in a clockwise direction. This produces a cope left for most pieces. Typically, for right-handers, this is easier to cope than the right end. Note that we are viewing the crown upside down, where the left will actually be on your right when placed in the miter box. Do the reverse of this if you are left-handed.
Measuring tip: When you measure crown or base, note how large your trim is. For instance, if your base is 6″ high, then your measuring point should be approximately 6″ above the floor. The same applies for crown; if your crown’s height is 10 inches, don’t measure your crown at the ceiling. Measure approximately 10″ down from the ceiling. This will make a big difference in the accuracy of your list.
Explanation of terms used in the abbreviations below: Note the terms “Closed Face Miter” and “Open Face Miter” in the image below. In this example, you’d write “x” MLCR for this piece in your cut list (x inches miter left cope right).
SS – Square to square cut: Both ends are cut at 90º to their face (0º on your miter box).
MR – Miter the right end: Measure from wall to outside corner on the right. Transfer measurement to trim measuring from square end on the left to the short point on the right then miter (closed 45º cut) at short point (square left end is by default)
ML – Miter the left end: Measure from wall on right to outside corner on the left. Transfer measurement to trim measuring from square end on the right to the short point on the left then miter (closed face 45º cut) at the short point (square right end is by default)
CR – Square on the left, cope on the right end: Measure from wall to wall. Use this measurement, cutting an open face 45º at the long point of the right end. Measure from square end on the left to the point on the right then open face miter at long point (square left end is by default). Cope the right end.
CL – Square on the right, cope on the left end: Measure from wall to wall. Use this measurement, cutting an open face 45º at the long point of the left end. Measure from the square end on the right to the point on the left then open face miter at long point ( the square right end by default). Cope the left end.
RR – Return on the right end: Returns are measured on the front of the trim. Then closed face miter at the longest point on the face of the trim. Cut the small return piece and glue or brad into place.
RL – Return on the left end: Returns are measured on the front of the trim. Then closed face miter at the longest point on the face if the trim. Cut the small return piece and glue or brad into place.
CRML – Cope the right (open face miter), miter the left (closed face miter): Measure from outside corner on the left, to wall on the right. Go ahead and open face miter on the right end (CR). This leaves you with a long point on the back side of your trim to hang your tape on. Measure to the short point of your miter on the right end and close face miter that end using the measurement marked on the rear edge of your trim. Cope the right end.
CLMR – Cope the left (open face miter), miter the right (closed face miter): Measure from outside corner on the right, to wall on the left. Go ahead and open face miter on the left end (CL). This leaves you with a long point on the back side of your trim to hang your tape on. Measure to the short point of your miter on the right end and closed face miter that end using the measurement marked on the rear edge of your trim. Cope the left end.
RLR – Returns on left and right ends: Cut a return on the left and right (such as you would do on a window apron). First close face miter either end, hang your tape on the longest point (on the face of your trim) and measure to the longest point on the other end. Miter a closed face miter on that end. Cut the opposite small return pieces and glue or brad into place. Returns are are used typically on aprons, crown mold, baseboard, hand rails, etc.
CLCR – Cope left and right ends : This abbreviation is used often when installing crown mold. Typically it is the last piece that is installed. Cut it a little “proud” (maybe 1/32″ long) so it pops into place tightly.
MRL – Miter the left and right ends: This measurement is the short to short points on both closed face miters.
22R – 22º open face miter on the right end: Typically used when installing shoe mold and want to avoid making real returns at the openings. In the case of shoe mold, measure from left wall to the casing on the right, then cut a 22º open face from this long point, marked at the rear edge of the trim. Use this method to speed up your shoe mold installation. (You can also speed up shoe mold installation by not actually coping the inside corners. Instead designate each inside corner as a CR or CL, but don’t cope them. E.g., you might have a piece of shoe mold on the cut list denoted as CRL, the next CRL, and the last at an opening as CR22L Lv 1/8″)(Lv 1/8″ explained below).
22L – 22º open face miter on the left end.
Other abbreviations that may be useful
LTL – Long to long: Used sometimes for casing, as in the top casing piece of a door, 38 1/4″ LTL (You do need to note that this part of your cut list is casing so that the abbreviations make sense.)
STS – Short to short.
SP – Short point: Used sometimes on casing, as in L82″ SP – left piece of casing 82″ to the short point.
LV – Leave: Used when noting to leave x amount as is before cutting. For example, when cutting shoe mold, you might encounter an instance where the casing sticks out further than the face of the baseboard. In this case one might write, MRR22L lv 1/8″. Translated this means miter the shoe mold on the right end (MR), and cut an open face 22º miter on the left end (R22L), leaving 1/8″ square, at which point you would start your 22º cut (1/8″ from the rear face of the baseboard) (Lv 1/8″) (the casing sticks out 1/8″ further than the baseboard).
Tip: Don’t write the measurement on the back of the trim. Instead optionally write the room name (dr for dining room) and the number of the piece. For example the first piece would be dr1, dr2, dr3, etc. If you didn’t need the room name just number them 1, 2, 3, etc. This way the installer knows the sequence of the cuts and can easily place them in the room, even without a copy of the cut list.
Tip: Make a roomful of cuts first, and then remove your copings. Doing things in batches speeds up your work.
Door casing and baseboard cut list example:
Crown Mold Cut List Example:
I hope that this will give you some ideas on how you can speed up your trim outs. This method in no way reduces your quality of work; it merely speeds it up.
I know that many of you already have your own Speedy Trim Out Method, so please share your valuable advice in the comments below.
This article was written by Randall S. Soules, writer, remodeling coach, advisor, educator, and creator of the Scientific Remodeling System. The Scientific Remodeling System will show you easier ways to advance your business, raise your profits, and improve your life, through the use of superior remodeling processes. If you would like to learn more about this eCourse and all of the forms and contracts available to Premium Members, click here. You are free to reprint or copy this article to your blog, newsletter, staff, etc. as long as the article is shown in its entirety and has a live link to RemodelerBiz.ScientificRemodelingSystem.com.
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