How to Install Door Trim With Uneven Walls

Adjusting Imperfections for an Even, Level Finish

Ladder by sofa covered in dust sheet in room, view through doorway

 

Muriel de Seze / Getty Images  

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Yield: One side of door trim
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to $20

Installing door trim works beautifully when all of the surfaces are in alignment. But what do you do if the door trim is not flush with the wall? Uneven walls will throw off that perfect fit. Easy door trim tricks are the secret to tight-fitting joints. Knowing how to work the drywall or adjust the trim can often solve your problems with walls, trim, or frames that aren't fitting right.

Try this straightforward approach to align the door trim with the door casing or frame—despite uneven walls. It requires only a few simple tools, and you don't need to cut the door casing or door trim.

What Is the Difference Between a Door Casing, Door Frame, or Door Jamb?

A door jamb is the part of the door where the strike plate and the latch recess for the door locks are located; it includes the part of the door where the door hinges are screwed on. The two-door jamb sides are considered the vertical parts of the door frame. Door jambs and door frames are often mixed up with door casings. The door casing is the wood surrounding the door frame. The casing is also called the door trim.

Common Problems With Door Trim, Jambs, and Frames

Sometimes, you might have a situation when there is no room for trim on one side of the door. To handle that, you'll want to narrow down your trim.

Similarly, if your door jamb sticks out past the wall, you could narrow the door frame, but this might affect the trim on the other side of the door (also check that it is not a building code violation). When the door jamb is wider than the wall, you could also consider adding an additional molding piece outside the frame to hide the gap.

In every case, drywall should always be flush with the door jamb. You do not want gaps between the jamb and the frame or molding. Door jambs are supportive and functional; if they're not level or flush, you may have problems using the door or air drafts can affect the temperature control inside the room.

The gap between your door and door trim or casing is called the margin. This issue mainly occurs at the bottom corner of the door and is a simple fix solved in minutes. If you have a gap, consider weatherstripping if the door is drafty or if you want to keep bugs from entering. Another solution, particularly if you have a light gap at the bottom of the door, is to affix a door gap seal sticker.

Installing Door Trim on Uneven Walls

Door trim surrounds a door opening on three sides like a picture frame. Trim covers the gap between the door frame and the wall. When the wall protrudes farther out than the edge of the door frame, one or both vertical door trim pieces will not meet the frame perfectly.

Tilting the door trim to force it to meet the frame is a poor workaround. This creates a visible gap on the wall side. The most telling is the top, which meets the horizontal header trim. The angled trim doesn't align with this header trim.

You have two workable solutions for this problem: using shims or manipulating the drywall underneath. Shims or thin wedges of wood fill the gaps between the trim and drywall with the wood pieces. Wood shims will leave the drywall alone and add an extra layer to the door frame for more stability.

The second fix is to create a depression or pocket in the drywall so the trim rests slightly deeper into the wall. Sinking the trim into the drywall will help you fill the gap between the door trim and the wall. This works for trim up to 1/4 inch out of alignment with uneven walls. Sinking the trim deeper than 1/4 inch causes the trim to recede from view; this is even more visible when other trim sections are not recessed. Read on for the step-by-step instructions for this method.

Installing Door Trim With Uneven Walls by Removing Drywall

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Cordless drill with driver bits
  • Cordless nailer
  • Flat prybar
  • Clean towel or cloth
  • Utility knife
  • Hammer
  • 5-in-1 tool

Materials

  • Drywall screws, 1 5/8-inch
  • Painter's caulk

Instructions

  1. Remove the Door Trim

    If this is a fix, not a new installation, first remove the existing door trim.

    With the prybar, gently remove the door trim from the door casing. Begin on the wall side and fit the flat end of the pry bar under the trim. Insert a towel or cloth under the prybar's fulcrum to protect the wall. Push down on the prybar. The trim should pop up, allowing you to remove it.

  2. Secure the Drywall to the Stud

    Sometimes, the drywall underneath the door trim has loosened from the stud. The drywall screws or nails may have popped through the drywall paper. If there is a gap between the drywall and the stud, drive several drywall screws to secure the drywall to the stud. If there is no gap, do not drive screws as this will complicate later steps.

  3. Cut the Drywall Paper

    Placing the trim back in position and using it as a straight edge, slice the drywall paper on the outer edge. Avoid cutting farther back into the gypsum core for now, though you may need to do that in later steps. Put the trim aside.

  4. Peel the Paper and Test the Depth

    With the sharp side of the 5-in-1 tool, slice away drywall paper on the door side of the slice. Do this carefully so that you do not disturb the paper or gypsum on the other side. Peel away the rest of the paper by hand. Test this new, lower depth by placing the trim on top. Sometimes removing this thin layer of paper is enough to bring the trim into alignment with the door casing. If this does not work, proceed with the next steps.

  5. Remove Drywall Screws or Nails

    If there are any drywall screws or nails in that strip between the door casing and the cut, remove them.

  6. Break the Gypsum Core

    With the hammer, gently tap the drywall on the door side of the slice. Your goal is to partially shatter the gypsum, loosening it for removal in the next step. Do this carefully to avoid breaking gypsum in areas that you want to preserve.

  7. Remove Some of the Gypsum

    Scrape away gypsum to the depth that you need. Keep the depth equal. Frequently test the depth by placing the trim over the area that you are gouging out.

    Tip

    If you removed drywall screws or nails in a previous step, replace them. Do not nail back in the same spot as the nail will not hold.

  8. Install the Door Trim

    With the cordless nailer, nail the door trim back into place. The far side of the trim should rest within the pocket that you created within the drywall.

  9. Apply Painter's Caulk

    Apply a small amount of painter's caulk to the far (cut) side of the door trim to smooth the appearance and cover up any ragged paper cuts. After the caulk has dried, paint the trim and the wall.

FAQ
  • How big of a gap can you fill with wood filler?

    Go to just under 1/2 inch—about 3/8th of an inch—when filling in gaps in the wood with wood filler. Any larger than that might result in surface integrity issues.

  • Why is my door frame coming away from my wall?

    Sometimes homes shift and take door frames out of alignment. A door frame pulling away from a wall can signify a potential problem with the home foundation or settling. Other possible causes include swelling or contracting of the wood due to temperature or humidity or improper wall construction.

  • Can I use caulk instead of wood filler?

    Caulk is a good substitute for wood filler for filling wood gaps or cracks in frames and trims.

  • What's the difference between wood putty and wood filler?

    Wood filler and wood putty fill cracks and gaps in the wood. Wood filler is a thicker product made for more significant gaps or cracks, while putty is thinner and works best for filling nail holes or small gaps between pieces of wood. Wood filler can be sanded when hardened. Putty doesn't get hard enough to be sanded.