Exterior Window Trim - How to Pick Your Window, Door and Wall Trim

Published: 12th January 2010
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Browsing through a company's set of exterior window trim you may be intimidated by the number of choices, and how similar each individual profile looks. At first glance, they do all seem to match one another, and it may lead you to wondering that you can pick any profile and stick it anywhere. Well, it's possible. However before you and your wife/husband decide to throw bar darts at the monitor to decide which ones you'll choose, read through this and you'll likely re-think, or atleast narrow your choices for exterior trim.

Exterior Cornices (also known as Styrofoam crown moldings) are usually placed at the intersection of soffits and walls. They provide a "finish" to the top of your wall and can make an otherwise boring-looking corner a focal point. More often than not, they are larger at the top than bottom to give a tapered look.

EIFS Bands are the "chameleons" of exterior window trim. They can be used almost anywhere, but work particularly well in the middle of walls so as to "separate" the wall, or along the underside of building joints to mask their presence.

Window Headers are placed over the top of windows or doors and give them a solid effect. Often, they are a larger profile than the trims that run along-side the exterior doors. Some may also contain a drip edge, which is an indent in the bottom of the molding to prevent water from running into the window joint. This helps to prevent water from infiltrating into your residence through the window joint (but is not a solution to an improperly installed window!) and causing moisture damage. When compared to Trims and Sills, they protrude furthers and are in between in width.

Exterior Trims are used around windows or doors as a surround, or in a similar fashion to bands (the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably). Trim may run the entire perimeter of the exterior window to give it a simple, clean look, or more commonly just between the Header and the Sill. Trims are usually flatter and narrower than Headers or Sills.

EIFS Sills are specifically designed for the base of windows, to help manage precipitation (such as snow) and protect themselves. When selecting sills in particular, it is important to ensure the profile has been designed according to EIFS Council recommendations; that is: "EIFS trim projecting out from the wall's vertical plane should be sloped a minimum rise over run of 6:12 for drainage (ASTM C1397, Standard Practice for Application of Class PB EIFS). The length of the slope must not exceed 300 mm, according to most EIFS manufacturer's specifications." This is particularly useful to note as most manufacturers do not comply with this recommendation. Sills are typically largest in size and protrude from the wall somewhere between Headers and Trims.

Stone Sills meant as a replacement for expensive, heavy concrete trim. Due to innovative developments of EIFS , moldings can be made which look like stone, but at 10% the weight (and sometimes cost!). Due to the how they are manufactured, they can also be made in longer pieces which makes installation cheaper and easier. Exterior Trim may also be finished at the joints much nicer than precast, to the point you can't even tell they're different pieces. Did I mention they're less expensive?

Pilasters may look like columns embedded in the wall, but are nothing more than vertical trim with caps and bases. Pilasters' designs is typically fluted. They are popular at wall corners or spaced out along the wall to provide an illusion of "sturdiness" and are often associated with excessive roman architecture.

Exterior Columns are designed to fit around structural poles and posts. They don't do anything in the way of structural support so don't think they're going to hold up the roof over your head, but adding them will certainly make your home more breathtaking.

Stucco Quoins have become so commonplace on houses, it has become fashionable to add them without them serving any real purpose. Quoins will add an air of classic design to your home by making it look better planned and sturdier.

EIFS Keystones may have been the key to holding up bridges and windows in the past, but serve more of a design purpose now than a structural one. Like Quoins, they have become commonplace in contemporary architecture and serve as a focal point for windows, doors and garages.

As you can see, your selection of trim will not cause your home to either stand or fall apart, but can serve important design roles and should be used with a purpose in mind. In the end, it comes down to your own personal taste for exterior window trim and what will achieve the look you seek. Don't be afraid to ask for a picture of a previous job of your molding or picture of your selection if you are at all unsure of what the finished moldings will look like. No matter what you decide to go with though, adding exterior window trim to your residence will bolster the ever-lasting first impression that family and potential purchasers get of your residence.


Jim Shwarz is an exterior design professional for new construction and retrofits. To see some demonstrations of the exterior window trim covered in this article or more information on wall decor go to http://www.decoramould.com/shop

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