Finish carpentry is not a type of woodworking that is exclusively practiced in Finland. It is the art of creating and installing the intricate details which bring a home’s interior to perfection. Unlike rough carpentry which focuses on utilitarian walls, roofs and floors, finish carpentry revolves around aesthetic features such as window trim, door trim, crown molding, baseboard, chair rail and wainscoting.


Angell’s Construction has almost three decades of finish carpentering experience. We’ve seen it all in that time – including the eyebrow-raising mistakes typically made by amateurs. We don’t want to discourage you from attempting your own finish carpentry. It is an invaluable skill to have, and it is immensely rewarding to stand back and admire a newly perfected indoor space. But if you do decide to try your hand at finish carpentry, take special care to avoid these eight common mistakes.


1. Using the Wrong Finish


Don’t use the same finish for finish carpentry as you would use for outdoor surfaces. Lacquer is the preferred solution. It is easy to apply without specialized equipment, penetrates deeply, dries quickly, seals effectively, and retains its rich luster for many years to come.


2. Using a Carpentry Pencil


It seems only natural to use a carpentry pencil during every carpentry project. The broad, flat pencil won’t roll away when you set it down, and it is easy to handle with gloved fingers. Don’t fall for this line of thinking! A carpentry pencil’s lead is typically 1/4″ wide, but finish carpentry requires much finer measurements than that.


3. Using a Tape Measure


Precision is inseparable from excellent finish carpentry. Rather than taking measurements and transferring numbers, you will find that you can cut trim far more accurately by marking it while it is laid in place.


If you must use a tape measure during your finish carpentry project, make certain to use the highest-quality one you can find. A rigid tape with a 1″-wide blade is easiest to lay flat and read. That said, a rigid rule is the preferred tool for measuring lengths less than 6′.


4. Using the Wrong Saw Blade


Rip blades are designed for cutting with the grain on solid lumber. They have relatively few teeth and spaces between them, which helps to reduce friction during long cuts. Rip blades aren’t ideal for finish carpentry, which requires precise against-the-grain cuts. A crosscut or trim blade, which has substantially more and finer teeth than a rip blade, is!


5. Cutting Inside the Line


Pay close attention to which side of the line you are cutting on. If you cut on the inside, you may find that your molding is now too small. If you cut on the outside, you may have the opposite problem – but at least that molding will still be usable with a little additional trimming.


6. Creating Wide Miters


When walls are uneven or jambs are misaligned, creating a tight miter joint becomes more difficult. Open miters aren’t aesthetically pleasing, but fortunately you have a couple of workarounds. You can use a compound miter saw to create a slight bevel on the back of a piece of molding. This is a difficult trick for a layman to pull off, however, which is why you will probably find it easiest to simply place a small shim behind the molding.


7. Creating Flush Edges


Wood, as you are likely aware, has a tendency to shrink as it dries. Wood that is used to create fine finishes may also shift out of position as the house gradually settles. In other words, if the bordering edges of two newly installed pieces of molding sit flush with one another, they are almost certain not to remain that way for very long.


Instead of creating flush edges when you install a door or window frame, create reveals. By setting the face molding back by a distance of 3/16″ to 1/2″, you will ensure that it doesn’t distort and extend beyond the casing. Note that tighter reveals tend to give an interior a cleaner, more contemporary appearance, whereas wider ones create a heavier, more traditional look.


8. Leaving Gaps Behind Baseboards


Mounting a baseboard so it sits flush against the wall can prove difficult if there is no stud to anchor it to. This is an especially common problem near corners of walls. Here is what you do: angle an 8d finish nail so it points downward, and gently hammer it into the wall’s base plate.



Do you need a finish contractor in Minnesota? The Angell’s Construction team is standing by to make any room in your home look like it belongs on the cover of Architectural Digest. We welcome you to contact us today for an estimate!