Exterior Trim, Molding and Columns

Create curb appeal with these handy touches that add character to your home.
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By: Jeannie Matteucci

Sometimes the exterior of your home needs that finishing touch to make it look complete. Decorative trim, molding and columns are three design tools you can use to reach this goal.

7 Smart Exterior Upgrades

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Add Pizzazz With a Pediment

Exterior crown molding and a pediment used over a front door create a cohesive and attractive entry for a classic, formal-style home. Always choose trim that complements the architectural look and style of your house.

Build Stone Columns

Columns on stone-faced pedestals are a nice option for a rustic-style home. "Proportion is very important with columns," says Jeffrey L. Davis, founder and owner of Chadsworth Incorporated. "You want to think about it ahead of time. We've all seen columns that are too skinny for a porch."

Photo By: Alistair Tutton

Try Out Dentil Molding

The small rectangular blocks that look like a row of spaced teeth are called dentil molding. This Victorian-style molding in a synthetic material costs less than $5 a foot.

Construct a Charming Walkway

Add sophistication and wow factor to your Cape Cod, cottage, Colonial or Tudor with a stone walkway. "Using real stone for a walkway gives you added detail of quality and it can be used to connect your hardscape with your architecture," says landscape architect Rosheen Styczinski, owner of New Eden Landscape Architecture.

Photo By: Chipper Hatter

Be Whimsical With Trim

Use wood or paintable cellular PVC gingerbread trim, intricate-cut and pierced frieze boards, braced arches and scrolled brackets to add personality to Victorian-style cottages.

Install Rustic Wooden Brackets

Exterior brackets used under eaves can be decorative or functional, and add a rustic touch to a mountain house. Wooden brackets can range in cost from $25 to $60 and up.

Make an Entrance With Lighting

If you currently have only one ceiling light in the center of your entry or front porch, consider upgrading your lighting by adding surface-mounted lanterns."A better lighting approach for your entry helps invite guests into your home," says Jeff Dross, Kichler Lighting's corporate director of education and industry trends.

Dress Up Your Home With Trim and Molding

Adding molding and trim to the exterior of your home is like wearing a great pair of earrings or the perfect pair of shoes: It can create harmony and add a nice touch of elegance.

"Exterior trim and molding can bring an old house back to life and bring an under-featured house, regardless of age, to a newfound sense of vibrancy," says licensed general contractor Mark Clement, host of the MyFixItUpLife radio show.

There are many types of decorative exterior molding and trim you can use, including gingerbread trim, dentil molding, brackets or a gable pediment. Choose trim that complements the architectural look and style of your house. For example, exterior crown molding and a pediment used over a front door flanked by columns or pilasters create a cohesive and attractive entry for a classic, formal-style home.

"My best suggestion for someone who wants to add detail to the exterior of their house is go on the Internet and look at homes in your style for ideas," says Jeffrey L. Davis, founder and owner of Chadsworth Incorporated. "You want to keep the details consistent with the style of your house."

Once only available in wood, molding and trim products now come in synthetic materials (including composites and cellular PVC) that are lightweight, long-lasting, require less maintenance, and easy to shape, mold or cut using standard woodworking tools. The installation process and price depend on the type of molding or trim you choose. For example, you can pay less than $5 a foot for dentil molding in a synthetic material, or pay $30 a foot for molding with an intricate design. Replacing exterior wood trim can cost around $5 to $12 per square foot, while replacing exterior brick trim can cost $15 to $20 per square foot. Costs vary by material and sizing.

Something as simple as choosing a screen door with decorative trim can have an impact on the look of your house and require no additional installation. Consider your budget, the time you want to spend on the project and any upkeep the material might require when deciding on the right molding and trim for your home.

Top 10 Exterior Styles

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Midcentury Modern

Among some of the country's best architecture, this midcentury bungalow features cast concrete blocks laid in a brick-like pattern and a gently sloped low-profile roofline.

Cape Cod

Cape Cods originated in the 1600s and were designed to withstand the sometimes-stormy weather on the Massachusetts coastline. Cape Cods are traditionally modest boxes with few exterior details — simple gray shingles and a dormer window or two — but they have evolved over the years, now incorporating different styles and influences.

Photo By: Robert Linton

Contemporary

Contemporary homes are a broad category that often feature an interesting mix of natural materials, horizontal lines and flat or low-pitched roofs. These homes often emphasize a strong connection between the indoors and outdoors, with large walls of glass that allow natural light inside.

Cottage

Cottages are smaller-scale homes that are charming and cozy. Used for everyday living and as vacation homes, cottages often include dormer windows, an inviting porch with wicker furniture, or a casual garden with a picket fence and bright flowers.

Photo By: Chipper Hatter

Craftsman

With details inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement, Craftsman homes are known for their broad front porches with thick, square columns. These homes are often economical bungalows and feature clean lines, warm colors and natural materials.

Photo By: Eric Eggly

Farmhouse

Straightforward and functional, these homes originated as houses built on agricultural lands. Farmhouses often feature porches added for shade, dormer windows and local stone or timber. This home's aesthetic is heavy on necessities and timeworn finishes, with a simplified interpretation of other styles and influences.

Victorian

Detailed craftsmanship and multiple rooflines add lots of personality to Victorian homes. A diverse style, Victorians feature elaborate and ornate details with a liberal use of decorations on the facade. Turrets and towers are some of the eye-catching details, along with interesting exterior color combinations, often with three to five different hues. Design by KTGY Group, Inc.

Ranch

These often single-story homes with large, overhanging eaves usually include a large sliding door that connects the indoor spaces with a courtyard or patio outside. Ranch homes often have an attached garage that blends with the rest of the house.

Colonial

Colonials have a formal feel and stately look, with a restrained style developed by settlers from Europe who brought their architectural influences with them. Many traditional symmetrical Colonials have a brick facade, flat front and a prominent front door flanked by columns.

Tudor

Known for their steeply pitched roofs, pointed arched doorways and decorative half-timbered exteriors, Tudors often have a medieval look and feel. Tall and narrow windows grouped in multiple locations, sometimes with decorative crossbars for visual interest, give Tudors a distinct sense of style.

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Photo by: Alistair Tutton

Alistair Tutton

Add Columns for an Architectural Boost

Exterior columns are sometimes load-bearing or purely decorative. They add detail to a porch, portico or veranda and can make your entry a defined destination. There are different shapes and styles of plain and fluted columns that reinforce or enhance specific architectural styles, everything from historically accurate elegant Ionic and textured Corinthian columns to the thick and tapered square columns that are a trademark of Craftsman homes.

"Proportion is very important with columns," says Davis. "You want to think about it ahead of time. We've all seen columns that are too skinny for a porch."

Columns on stone-faced pedestals are a nice option for a rustic-style home. You can even space columns far apart to make a tight entry feel more gracious and inviting, or use columns in pairs to visually establish a rhythm on a porch.

Columns come in a variety of materials, from traditional wood to composites, and range in price from around $100 to $5,000. Prices depend on the design and material as well as the bottom diameter and height of the column.

"If cost is an issue, stay with something in a simple design," says Davis. "If you add an ornate cap or other detail, you're going to pay more."

Columns made from composite materials are a popular option because they stand up to the elements and can be cut to length. Many carry a lifetime warranty, but always check with the manufacturer.

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