Remodeling? Finishing a new build? Don’t forget the trim.

Trim: Learn how to pull it all together

It’s a well-known fact among architects and designers that the trim you choose can make or break your design results. Just consider the houses pictured here: Actually, they are one in the same, with some very notable differences. The image on the right demonstrates what happens when you combine premium exterior vinyl siding material with basic, inexpensive trim. The image on the right is what can be achieved with thoughtful use of accents and trim.

Look at the images again and ask yourself which house would sell faster and brings more value to the deal? Then consider this: the design achieved with the house on the right did not cost much more than the house on the left. Homeowners who choose vinyl siding recoup up to 95% of their remodeling costs when they sell their homes. Just how much you recoup has a lot to do with how much consideration you give the trim and accent selections.


The big picture


You can finish your home with any type of trim, but a one-size-fits-all or “on the cheap” approach can dramatically affect the outcome – and not in a good way. Take some time to research your trim options and materials.

Once you have a solid understanding of what’s available, the better able you will be to make choices that will complement your design. Be sure to thoroughly communicate what you want to your installer or remodeler to make sure they understand your intentions and have actual experience installing the trim you desire.

When you set out to research your project, there are two things to consider: materials and the finished look. You’ll want to know all of the materials available, and consider the plusses and minuses of each. Also be sure to study optional finishes and make sure you weigh the aesthetic value of every option.


Materials: Positives & Negatives


Trim is available in a few basic types of material: wood, aluminum, man-made composite (fiber cement, engineered wood, and cellular PVC) and vinyl. You will need to review each type of material to ensure you select the one best suited for your home, environmental conditions, goals, and design vision.  



Wood trim


Typically consists of pine, cedar or cypress. Wood trim can be stained, clear sealed or painted




  • Easily available
  • Requires continuous painting and sealing
  • Affordable
  • Requires caulking
  • Authentic
  • Likely to crack, split and rot
  • Easy to work with

Aluminum trim

Long strips of aluminum are cut to fit and wrap around existing or new wood trim. Aluminum trim is offered in hundreds of colors and textures.   



  • Economical
  • Dependent on contractor's skills
  • Keep existing trim
  • Difficult to create intricate shapes
  • Durable
  • Maintenance-free finish

Man-made composite trim

A combination of man made and natural components that have been fused together. There are several types of “composite” trim:

Fiber Cement

Made of layered cement.



  • Heavy material
  • Somewhat brittle
  • Takes paint well
  • Typically has to be painted and re-painted
  • Can absorb water

Engineered wood trim

Wood strands or fibers combined with binding resins.



  • Wood-grain finish
  • Requires continuous painting and sealing
  • Pre-painted
  • Requires caulking
  • Affordable
  • Likely to crack, split & rot
  • Easy to work with

Cellular PVC

Shares the same base sub-components as vinyl siding, but is manufactured using a different process.



  • Wood grain or smooth finish
  • Higher initial cost than wood
  • Natural wood dimensions
  • Only available in white and requires painting for colors
  • Won't rot, crack or split
  • Quality of installation depends on contractor's skills

Vinyl trim

Architectural vinyl trim is made from PVC.  It is offered in a variety lengths and widths in varying price points.  From simple options to full suites of architectural details, including trim elements, accessories and much more.




  • Virtually maintenance-free
  • More expensive than wood
  • Extremely durable
  • Available in many colors
  • Lifetime warranty

Types of trim


There are a variety of trim options available on the market today that will complement your siding and make your house really “pop.” Accenting architectural features, creating interest on an otherwise plain façade and boosting curb appeal can all be achieved with trim. The quality of your trim should be on par with that of your siding. Nothing will ruin a great siding job like cheap trim! Some trim is utilitarian, and other types are more visible. Take a look at the options highlighted here. These can either make or break your look.


Outside corners

Outside corners protect the corner joint in your siding and are offered in a variety of styles, widths, and colors to match or accent your home’s style: modern, traditional, historic, prairie, etc.

Remember, outside corners are functional, but also highly visible, so choose with care.











Shop for outside corners



Windows, door and garage trim



The trim you choose can turn an average doorway into an inviting entry. If you have not specified the type of door and window trim you prefer with your contractor, you may end up with the basica, universal J-channel -- the trim most installers use as a default. While it may do the job, it may not give you the look you hoped to achieve.  


Shop for window and door trim



Finishing accessories

Often overlooked are those places where the top course of siding meets your roof. Leave it up to the contractor, and you could wind up with basic J-channel trim. It is secure and will do the job, but it will not do much more, and may actually detract from the job if you’ve selected a wider trim everywhere else.


Shop for finishing trim




Mitered corners or butt joints


In almost every case, mitered corners are best. They are a truer joint, more secure and just look better. Mitered corners also last longer than butt joints, which tend to separate easily.