Not Enough Room for Trim Around Door – What to Do?

You probably saw the problem coming. It’s not easy to miss the fact that there’s not a whole lot of room left on one side or the other when framing a door.

When the time comes to install the trim/casing, you have a problem. When it comes to doors, the problem is doubled because you have two sides to deal with. 

There are a few things you can try and it depends on your situation. If there is not enough room for trim on one side, that’s a simpler fix than it sounds. Narrowing the door frame is another, but you have to consider how it will affect the trim on the other side of the door as well as a possible code violation.

The easiest answer is to narrow down your trim but that’s not always the easiest thing to do, especially if you’re dealing with a scenario where cabinetry is sticking out on one side, flush or nearly flush with the door frame. You may need to familiarize yourself with scribing as well. 

Door Trim

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Work the Problem

Narrowing and widening doors is rarely a good idea. There are building codes for a reason and many of them will prohibit too much in the way of adjustment.

One of the most common problems with trim is that the door frame is just too close to the wall, so we’ll touch on that first. 

Materials Needed to Reduce Trim Width

Trim is often pretty delicate. It’s not like dealing with a 2×4 or a 2×6. You’re going to make your marks on the front of the trim and work your measurements and cuts on the front side.

Why the front side? Because when you flip the trim back around, you want your cut edge flush with the wall, not with the doorframe. 

  • Carpenter pencil
  • Trim gun
  • Air compressor
  • Table saw
  • Compound saw

Not everybody has these things and that’s understandable. Many local hardware shops will make the cuts for you. Just make sure the measurements are correct and all of your trim is marked before you take it. That will cut down on trips to the hardware store. If a friend or a family member has these tools, so much the better. 

Measure and Mark Your Trim

Place your trim where it would normally go on the door, edge against the wall. Flip it upside down so that the back of the trim is facing toward you and the normally visual side is facing the door frame. Press the edge flush against the wall. Leave some separation between the trim and the door frame.

Use your carpenter’s pencil to run a straight line down the front side of the trim. You can do that by reaching through the gap and using the door frame against the trim as you make your mark.

Or, you can simply take the measurements from wall to door frame and mark the measurements in increments on the trim. 

Start Making Your Cuts

Come back and draw your line when you’re ready to cut. Measure the height of the door jam, so you know where to make your miter cut. Make your miter cut and cut down the center of your trip, making it more narrow. 

Before you nail your trim in, stand it up against the wall and place your top trim piece flush with the side trim you just cut.

You will see that the wider top trim has a longer 45° angle. Make a straight line from where the point of the narrow trim’s 45° meets the top trim’s 45° angle. Cut to the top angle flush.

Now, go ahead and start nailing your trim in, working from the narrow, cut section first. That way you can check the rest of the trim against it as you go. 

Use or Scribe an Architrave

An architrave is a very narrow piece of trim. It may not match the current trim, but it’s pretty standard and it will work in a pinch. Whatever your situation is, there is a possibility that the architrave is still too much. Thankfully, an architrave is narrow enough that you can scribe it down to a narrower version. 

A scribe tool is what you will need to make your marks on the architrave. If you’re installing an architrave, you need to determine the width of the widest point of the 45° angle where the peak of the architrave will sit flush against the horizontal trim that meets it. 

A profile gauge will help you match up your architrave if it’s going to sit flush against additional crown molding. Use the scribe tool to run a line all the way down the length of the architrave. A jig saw is the best tool for this purpose. 

Now, you can either use a sanding block to scribe the architrave down the rest of the way, smoothing out the cut end or, you can use a belt sander. Just be careful with the belt sander. You want to avoid eating too far into the architrave. 

Other Options

Narrowing or reducing the height of your door frame is always problematic. You need to check your local builder’s codes before you go slapping on additional 2x4s or removing them. This is especially true if the door frame in question is located in a load-bearing wall. 

If it’s a matter of cabinetry, or something similar sticking out, you may consider breaking out the old belt sander to scribe the cabinet down enough to make room for a small piece of trim. If we’re talking about 3”, or something crazy like that, don’t bother scribing your cabinet as that will just be a mess. 

Bottom Line

Worst case scenario, you’re just going to have to have a very small piece of trim on the side of the door that’s too narrow for a standard trim piece. Will it look weird? Sure will. However, with the right patience, measurements, and work, you can make the best out of a bad situation. 

If you’re having issues closing your door, take a look at our article about how to trim the bottom of a door without taking it off.