How to Choose the Best Exterior Window Trim for Your Home

Exterior window trim isn’t just a pretty face. It’s made to cover gaps keep your home sound and free from water, heat and humidity. 

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Classic american house with colomn porch

Photo by: irina88w


The top of the window, or head casing, should have a drip cap to keep water from entering through gaps in the top of the opening. A cornice or crown molding can add decorative detail.

Exterior window trim must also have a windowsill, which, like the drip cap, keeps the interior dry and blocks the elements.

While interior window trim typically matches the rest of the home’s molding, exterior trim should match the home’s exterior design. When you’re choosing a trim color, consider matching it to the windows for a cohesive look.

Custom Window Trim Install 03:19

Paul Ryan shows a homeowner how to measure, cut and fit custom window trim.

Window Trim Styles and Ideas

Exterior window trim varies from the simplest picture-frame trim to the most elaborate millwork.

Ranch homes work best with simple, unadorned window trim, such as a picture-frame trim.

Wide trim is a hallmark of Craftsman and Prairie style homes. Often these designs group windows together and case them in wide trim.

Victorian, Colonial, Provencal and English cottage styles can handle more decorative trim, such as fluted trim and rosettes. In these designs, the head casing, jambs and sill can also be extended or have cornices for added style.

How to Install Window Trim

If you enjoy finish carpentry, installing exterior window trim can be a satisfying job. For a full tutorial check out our video, installing custom trim. In the meantime, here are some tips to get you started:

·         Begin with high-quality products measure and cut precisely.

·         When doing this demo, be gentle.

·         When the window trim is dismantled, use the pieces to measure for what you’ll need to buy.

·         Fill gaps with wood filler strips instead of caulk, but finish the window trim with UV-rated, paintable silicone caulk.

Cleaning and Maintaining Window Trim

Cleaning and maintaining exterior window trim can keep it in good shape and help it last longer.

Twice a year (or as needed), clean the trim with water and mild detergent. If the trim shows evidence of mildew, spray a mixture of vinegar and water directly on the mold, and let the mixture sit to break down the mold. Wipe the frame and repeat the process until you can see the wood.

If your exterior window trim develops water spots, use distilled water or a squirt of rubbing alcohol when you clean them.

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