Home Inspection – Looking For Defects On Interior Trim

By on July 18, 2017

Interior trim is often also called casing, millwork, or molding in the world of building and interior design.

They are often used as a frame for windows, doors, walls, floors ceilings, etc. Adding these decorative elements can transform a dull looking house into a stylish one.

But they do serve more than just a fashion statement.

They have functional purposes like concealing unsightly edges and gaps where the walls meet the floor, door, windows, etc. These help to play it’s part in preventing moisture problems in the house.

And for a home inspector, defects on trims make their jobs all the more easier in identifying potential structural problems among others.

Unless you are a veteran in the construction industry, you might not be clear what an interior trim is. So here is a visual illustration of the common types of trims.

According to the numbers stated in the diagram above:

  1. Door/window head casing
  2. Picture molding
  3. Crown molding
  4. Door/window head jamb
  5. Door/window side casing
  6. Door/window side jamb
  7. Stool
  8. Apron
  9. Wainscoting
  10. Chair rail
  11. Base cap
  12. Base board
  13. Plinth block

With a basic understanding and reference to the various names of trims, you are better equipped to inspect them and identify problems.

1) Gaps at corners where they meet

Finding gaps at the corners where trims meet is a common occurrence due to expansion and contraction caused by the climate. This is the point where 2 points (often a vertical and a horizontal) meet… and are therefore weak areas.

If this is such an eyesore that you just cannot let it be, the gap can be filled and painted over.

Just note to use a filler that is soft. Because a hard and tough filler can remove any room for the trims to expand. Causing bigger defects.

2) Gaps between floor and baseboard

Like gaps found at corners, gaps under the baseboard are also common due to seasonal contraction and expansion.

This is especially the case when you are using wood flooring.

Practically speaking, baseboards should be built floating just above the floor for the reasons stated… unless we are talking about a house in a tropical climate all year round.

3) Trim split

This is most probably caused by bad workmanship where the nails were nailed too close to it’s edges.

They can be filled and painted over too like gaps.

The problem is that most homeowners or contractors fill these parts up with wood filler to achieve that natural look as if there were no defects to begin with.

While this line of thought is right, seldom do you find wood fillers in the exact matching color with whatever you are doing the filling on.

This remedy can often create marks that look like stains.

So you either have to apply a new coat of paint after using wood fillers, or use a clear filler.

4) Down tilt

The head casing of doors and windows can start to tilt downwards as a result of settlement issues. These are not necessarily issues of grave concern and are often cosmetic.

5) Diagonal cracks

If tilts are sloping down to one particular side, coupled with diagonal cracks originating from the corners of doors and/or windows, it can be a sign of structural damage.

This can be caused by a sinking pad, failed girder, inadequate drainage systems, etc.

You might need an engineer to take a closer look.

Finally

People often make the mistake of using interior trims like the baseboard, head casing, or side jambs, etc, as a reference point of the horizontal and vertical levelness in a house.

This is an incorrect way to approach things.

Because the lines along the corners where walls meet the floor and ceiling might not be level in the first place. And trims are often installed parallel or perpendicular to these lines.

Just keep that in mind when you are judging the levelness in the home.



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