Help! – Why is the Trim in my new House Coming Apart?

Help! – Why is the Trim in my new House Coming Apart?
September 6, 2013 SNH Editorial Team

Do you live in a new house and

• the joints in your trim are opening up, or
• sheetrock seams are opening up, or…
• molding is twisting
• upon closer inspection perhaps your walls are not exactly straight?

Your builder will likely tell you this is “normal” and he will send a painter “to fix it”. Fixing it most likely means patching it over – caulk open wood joints and re-tape sheetrock seams, followed by a repainting of trim and walls – not exactly what you had in mind when you opted for a brand new house!

How does this happen? Can it be avoided? Yes, it can be prevented. Instead of common 2×4” or 2×6” wood studs, so-called engineered lumber could have been used.

The reality is that lumber today is not good, seasoned material. This is true of douglas fir as well as spruce. Today’s lumber is grown fast and comes to the marketplace “green” which means it comes with high moisture content. When the lumber dries it often twists and works all the joints in the sheetrock and trim in the process. This is what causes your trouble.

The solution: Engineered lumber. Engineered I-beams may look a bit flimsy (see photo) but they are strong and stable. This means they stay straight after installation. With engineered lumber you can hold your carpenters to perfectly straight walls and perfect corners.

Yes, they cost a bit more. But the continually deteriorating lumber quality, which often winds up with the “unexpected” and added labor cost of shaving the wood back to somewhat plumb even before sheetrocking, makes engineered lumber worth it.

If your house is near salt water and salty air, engineered lumber is a necessity, if you like to live in straight and stable walls.

Engineered lumber versus common wood: Two building materials in one products group…an excellent example of how construction can have different price points just from those “invisible” details.