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I have a front door with tall skinny windows on its sides. I want to case it all in as a single unit (door + 2 windows). I’m struggling to understand what the best way is to piece them all together.

If I treat every joint the same way I have already been doing other normal door casings, then that would be multiple back to back miters, breaking up the header piece into 3 separate sections, and also working with non-45 angles since the needed height of the header changes from being over the window sections vs the door section. The idea of breaking the main header piece just feels wrong.

If I keep the header piece as a single board that stretches the whole unit from left to right, then I’ll have to make some interesting notches in it to accommodate the different header height requirements above the windows vs the door (imagine a really wide stretched out T-shape).

Hopefully all the images attached offer enough context. Really interested to hear what kind of feedback and advice you guys have for me.

Additional background for those interested: For what it’s worth, the main motivation to take on this project at all, is because our house came with really cheap and thin builder-grade trim all throughout. It was like they used trim as baseboards (like 1.5” in height). Well I’m updating to proper 5.5” height baseboards throughout the whole house… except these damn tall skinny windows on the sides of the front door. They go so low to the floor, that I’ll have issues running baseboards under them. Notching the tops of the baseboards to run under the windows would look really cheap and ugly.

I came to the conclusion that if I case out the windows and door as a single whole unit, then my higher profile baseboards can die into the outside of the overall unit (and yes, I’m achieving a nice little reveal at that connection since my door/window casings are 3/4” while my baseboards are a thin profile 1/2”).

Hopefully the community here will also give me some ease of mind that this was the right approach (short of completely replacing the windows). I’m a little past this point of decision making already, but some affirmation would be nice. Orrr, let me know some horrible mistake I made last minute… I guess I could possible be convinced to rethink everything.

front door render if door zoomed in on the reveal isolated rendering of the casing work I expect to build 2nd image of expected build highlight of difference in height for header casing using butt joints and leaving header piece as single long board with notched wings offset miters throughout, breaking header casing into 3 parts extra-complicated miter while still keeping single piece for header casing

Edit: Here are some visuals for @isherwood's suggestion. I think this is the right way to go! you guys are the best thanks! Updated idea 1 Updated idea 2 Updated idea 3

Edit 2: Actually, I have one more question now. If I go with isherwood's suggestion, do you guys think the same approach should be taken for going down the sides of the door as well in order to get the inner vertical casings to match the same width as the outer vertical casings? I added 3 more images to illustrate this appended question: stepped down trim for the door sides too? enter image description here enter image description here

2 Answers 2

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I think that there are two good ways to make this look right and professional. What you definitely don't want is odd shapes on the perimeter or oddly oblique angles in your miters*. Steer clear of your #2 and #3 ideas, as well as any solution paralleling the various heights across the top.

The first one is close to one of your suggestions (#1). However, I'd move the notch from where you have it to inside the inner casing (mullion). This eliminates the exposed end grain at the upper right of the sidelight opening. It also makes the casing heights more uniform between the short point of the outside casing miter and the top of the inner casing.

enter image description here

The problem here is that your total head casing height would need to be taller than your standard casing, to accommodate the lower door jamb. Whether you build a wider board with an extension, sanding and repainting it, or purchase a wider board is up to you. The outer vertical casing and the head casing at the outer corner need to be the same height, though (or you end up with a nonstandard miter angle and an odd appearance).


The second option (which I think I prefer) is to run the head casing across the sidelights as you normally would, then fill over the door with a flat trim. This could be a rip from the bottom of your base molding, for example. It should be thinner than the casing so you have the same type of reveal you do between casing and base elsewhere. It could also be something very thin, like a 1/4" slat. Mock it up and see what you think looks best in the scene.

enter image description here


* In theory the joints in painted trim disappear, but that never really happens (or lasts forever). They'll be somewhat visible.

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  • thank you so much! I think this is the right way to go. Check it out. I added some more images to the bottom of my initial question/post to reflect your suggestion. Can you please take a look and confirm I understood your idea correctly?
    – Mr Wood
    Mar 7 at 21:58
  • Actually, in case you already looked back from since my last comment, can you check once more (3rd edit added onto my initial post)? If I go with your suggestion, do you think the same approach should be taken for going down the sides of the door as well in order to get the inner vertical casings to match the same width as the outer vertical casings? That way, that same plane is a consistent 3.5" all the way around. Or is that just unnecessary?
    – Mr Wood
    Mar 7 at 22:13
  • I approve of both of these solutions, except that I wouldn’t miter the corners. (I like craftsman detailing. +1 if the head casing was thicker by a tiny amount.) Mar 8 at 1:58
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I would find an alternative trim - it could be decorative or just block that is slightly higher than the rest of the casing. I would encase the door at 3/4".

This way you have a solid piece on top and with a solid straight line you could put a door crown on or just about anything you want for the whole width. But also the window casing will be more symmetrical (3.5 x 3.75).

This is a win win. I know 3/4" trim will turn into a shopping issue but seems like the easiest thing to do (I am not sure I would rip trim that long with exposed edges but if you have those skills you have way more options).

An example is using 3/4" chair rail (thin on the inside). Note I just looked for 30 seconds so there are tons of options.

enter image description here

As for installation I would go 45 degree mitres on the chair rail or whatever you use. Header on top and block installation for the rest.

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    @isherwood - I personally wouldn't wrap it at the same height. When you have oddities I try to make it more decorative. You wrap it at the same height without a significantly different pattern in the wood and then people are like why those 3/4" strips? I added a picture of something I would possibly use in the answer.
    – DMoore
    Mar 7 at 19:45

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