How to install a decorative door header

July 13, 2020

I replaced the door and window headers and trim in our old house and I've started to do it in this home as well. I LOVE the character these Craftsman headers add to our new home! 

I've shared how to add chunky trim to windows here and give doors the Craftsman look here. Over the years I've found a slightly easier way to do this that I'll share in a bit.

This weekend I finished up another spot in our foyer. I added my chunky Craftsman trim around our front door last fall:
foyer with Everett table and white walls with molding

And last year I also added a really thick header over the doorway into our great room: 
How to add character with header over doors

But I still had the other side to finish up: 
Replacing thin trim around doors

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I had leftover wood for the main header part, so just had to purchase a few pieces. I'll list those at the end of the post so you'll have a shopping list ready if you'd like to try this!

Most of the work when replacing skinny doorway trim with thicker stuff is in the removal of the old trim. You'll need a utility knife to cut the caulk around the trim, as well as a hammer and pry bar to get the trim off the wall. 

After that you'll need to replace the side pieces (see more about that in a minute) and build the header.  Lately I've been building that header, then caulking and painting before installing it over the door. It's easier to paint when it's not up high!

I'm always surprised at the difference the thicker door trim makes -- I absolutely love it!: 

Thick Craftsman trim over doorway

We have a LOT more doors and open doorways in this house than we did in our old one, so I've come up with a plan on what I'll be adding. I think installing the thicker trim over every door would get to be a little much. 

I plan to add this Craftsman door trim (sometimes called farmhouse trim) to our exterior doors (like I did over the front door) and then on the main open doorways like this one:
The difference thick door trim makes

I will be leaving the trim on smaller doors as is. At least that's the plan for now! Just the larger doors will take me another year. ;) 

There's something about this addition that makes the whole space feel grander. It's a detail that people may not be able to put their finger on...but it gives a home an elevated feel for very little work! 

Here's how the other side of the doorway looks:  
Adding chunky trim around doorway

I've found a little shortcut that has helped both the cost and time it takes to do this! Our old house had thinner trim on the sides of the doors, but here it's a bit thicker. So for most of the taller doorways I've started just taking the top portion off and replacing it with the new header. 

I shared how to just replace the top of the trim here -- this oscillating tool is a must have if you're going to do that: 
easy way to cut trim without removing
So instead of removing the side pieces, all I do is cut them off at the top and then place the header on, like so:
easy way to update door trim

It is SO much quicker and will save you money on trim! Go here to see more about how I did that!

It looks just as good too -- the thick header is what makes the biggest impact anyway: 
Installing farmhouse trim around doors easy way

 I used this trick in our mud room:
Huge DIY chalkboard

And on the other side as well:
Storage on side of fridge diy

I plan to keep this method going with all of those open doorways. If you have any DIY experience, this is an easy project! 

As I mentioned, I also added thick trim around our old windows and it made a HUGE difference: 
How to add pretty trim around windows

Those windows didn't have any trim to start, so it was a noticeable difference having that beautiful accent. 

We have window trim on our windows at this house, so someday I may replace the tops and bottoms to start chunking them up a bit. We'll have to see! 

I spent about $20 for this doorway, because I had the biggest piece in my wood pile. Here's what you'll need to do this at home: 

1x whatever thickness you want for middle of header
lattice trim for under the header
I use primed mdf for the sides of our doorways when needed (you can use 1x4's as well but they cost more)

Have you added this to your home? It gives our house so much more character! It's such an easy way to update open doorways that just have drywall and no trim too.

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  1. You said you caulked and trimmed before putting it up, I thought you hang it up with the little nails? What did you to to install it on the wall, could you please explain more?

    1. I put the three pieces of the header together first with a nail gun, then caulk and paint, then nail it into the wall at the top. ;)

  2. You make it looks so easy! It elevates the look of your home. I live in an older house with similar trim. I love it.

  3. Do you have a blog post on trimming out windows that have no trim? I want to do this, but don’t know where to start.

    1. Yes I cover all of that at the link at the end of the post about windows. :) Our old windows had no trim to start.

  4. Looks great! I'm curious why you didn't have the chunkier trim installed when you built the house, since you knew from the old house that you preferred that look. I assume it is because of the extra cost from the "standard" trim, but would the difference in cost have been more than what it cost you to replace the trim later? Sorry if you answered this before; I have a vague recollection that you did, but can't remember (getting old, I guess!).

    Love your blog and read it religiously!

    1. Thank you! A couple reasons -- the cost for sure. I knew I could do it cheaper myself. Also, I knew we'd have more doorways here so I wanted to figure out which ones I wanted to do. I knew all of them would be overkill. :)

  5. So amazing what a difference it makes! Seriously! Can I ask, how wide is the trim that goes up the sides? I’m trying to decide whether to replace mine or just do the header part like you did. I think mine might be thinner than yours, but I’m not sure.

  6. My walls are cement blocks so how do you put them on? Tks

  7. WOW! Well done! It really looks totally amazing.

  8. I love the look of this. I may just have to add some new tools to my toolbox and start some new projects. 😊 Thank you for sharing!!!

  9. Looks great! What is the size of the lattice trim?

    1. Thanks! It's super thin, around 1/4 inch. I'm not sure on the width, probably about 1.5 inches.


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