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Selecting Exterior Window Trim: Everything You Need to Know

exterior window trim

There are a lot of different components that go into making up a home’s exterior, and each one of those pieces can help create the style, architecture, and curb appeal that you want. A lot of builders and homeowners put emphasis on choosing the right siding and roofing for their homes, but it’s important to keep the other details in mind, including the exterior trim. It’s these small details that can really help bring the rest of the design together, creating the ideal look and appearance for your home.

Window trim comes in a variety of different styles, sizes, designs, and materials in order to give you the ability to create your own unique style. Make sure you learn everything you can about window trim (and its uses) to ensure you make the right choice every time.

Coordination and Style

The first thing most homeowners will be concerned with when selecting or installing a window trim is how it’s going to look and coordinate with the rest of the exterior. Trim is a crucial part of the home’s exterior design, and window trim needs to be able to match the trim used elsewhere, right down to the little areas like fascia board and edge trim. 

When selecting window trim, remember that appearance can be influenced by material. For example, trim is available in aluminum, vinyl, fiber cement, and various wood products. Whatever is used needs to be able to coordinate with the rest of the home, look good, and not stand out as being too “other”. For example, vinyl trim often looks like what it is: plastic. This is why many people opt for wood even when the siding is made of vinyl, because it’s those little details that help make a home stand out and look great. 

Sizing and Style

window trim

Trim comes in many different sizes, as well as a few different styles. Trim can be plain or decorative, and some trims can be layered on top of one another to create a more dimensional appearance for the exterior. This is an important consideration when selecting window trim; you need to make sure that the trim is large enough to frame the windows properly, showing them off to their best effect, but not so big that they dominate the exterior. This is also important if you have windows of varying sizes; it’s best to select one size of trim to use on all the windows to help create a cohesive look. 

For larger windows, layering the trim or tying the window trim into edge trim can help make them stand out more, without making the windows appear heavy or out of proportion with the rest of the home. 

Window Trim Materials

Window trim comes in just as many materials as house siding, if not even more. And every homeowner is going to be looking for a trim that not only matches and complements their exterior, but trim that also keeps looking great year after year. As important as trim is to the facade of the home, trim that starts peeling, chipping, or rotting quickly will end up detracting from the beauty of the home much too fast.

That’s why so many different trim materials exist; because everyone wants to make sure that the trim they choose is the one that’s going to deliver. 

Cedar Trim

Cedar is probably one of the most frequently installed wood trim products. Wood has a natural appeal and appearance that looks good with nearly every type of siding. And cedar naturally resists things like insect activity and moisture, so it outlasts most other types of wood.

Cedar has some drawbacks that need to be addressed. The sap in the cedar can bleed through the paint to the surface, creating a stain that’s difficult to cover. The only solution for this is to prime the cedar before painting it, which means a longer and more costly installation.

Cedar will only resist moisture problems and rot for so long before it begins to show its age. Homeowners will need to be diligent about maintenance, scraping and painting frequently to help it stay looking its best. 

Cedar is also expensive, with prices going up every year. This high cost coupled with the maintenance often makes cedar less appealing to both builders and homeowners. 

Vinyl Trim

Vinyl trim is designed to match vinyl siding. It’s made of plastic called polyvinyl chloride, and it’s designed to be a lower maintenance material than wood. The color of the vinyl goes all the way through, so as long as you stick to the original color, it never needs to be painted.

Vinyl has several drawbacks, however, that often make it less than desirable. The material can melt and warp in high heat and become brittle and crack in cold weather. This means that it’s best used only in areas that see moderate temperatures year round. 

In addition, while most vinyl is given a faux wood grain, the edges and thin plastic sides of the material often makes it look cheap, detracting from its appearance. If a homeowner decides that they want to change the color, it requires special primers and paints, and then it’s subject to the same peeling, scraping, and painting cycle as cedar. Vinyl is also not very eco-friendly, and can be difficult to recycle at the end of its lifespan. 

Aluminum Trim

Aluminum is one of the first materials brought to market as an alternative to wood. It resists insect activity and moisture, and it does better than vinyl in all climates. However,  aluminum has some other issues that often make it less than ideal.

Aluminum is often smooth, rather than grained, which gives it an oddly flat appearance. And while the color doesn’t chip or peel, it does fade into a chalky residue that can wipe off on anything or anyone who gets too close. It also dents easily and if scratched to aluminum substrate color shows through requiring a difficult paint matching repair. You may also have trouble finding aluminum trim in a wide variety of sizes, styles, and colors, so it’s less likely to complement the finished job. 

Fiber Cement Trim

Fiber cement is designed to help address some of the issues with these other materials. It has a wood grain, isn’t impacted by hot or cold climates, and it doesn’t dent or easily chip. Unfortunately, fiber cement is very heavy, difficult to work with, and costly. It produces silica dust when it’s cut, which means that installers need to take extra precautions to protect themselves while working with it. Because of its weight, it often requires two people to install, when one person alone might be able to put in a lighter trim.

This means that you’re paying more for the material and for the installation than you might be if you had selected another material. So, while it may be better than vinyl or aluminum, many homeowners may want to pass on the added costs and time it takes to install fiber cement trim. 

Preservative-Treated Wood Trim

A better alternative is to use preservative-treated wood trim. It is real wood that’s been given a non-toxic surface treatment designed to help make the wood insect- and rot-resistant, but without the bleed through, high costs, and added installation time of cedar. 

Preservative-treated wood has a real wood grain appearance. It comes pre-primed and ready for installation, so it’s faster to install than cedar or fiber cement. It’s also more cost effective, as well as lower maintenance for the homeowner.

Available in several sizes and able to be cut and finished like other wood products, preservative-treated wood trim is the ideal choice to help complete any exterior application. 

Get the Better Window Trim

By using preservative-treated wood trim from Belco Forest Products, you get an environmentally-friendly, real wood trim that lasts. Choose a better window trim for your next project, and visit Belco Forest Products to learn more about their material.

Download the Window Trim Cutlist Guide

Reduce trim waste with this guide to the optimal window trim cutlist. Download the Guide

Our Happy Customers

Preservative treated, primed, and available with a combed, brushed, resawn, or smooth face. The real beauty of your home comes to life through a well made trim package.

Preservative treated, primed, and available with a combed or smooth face. These glulam columns are strong, beautiful, and enhance any exterior design. 

Belco XT®-T&G is graded smooth face with edge vees on all four edges and a textured ungraded back.

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