Types of Trim: What’s Available to Builders & Homeowners Today
There are a wide variety of trim materials available today, and it can be confusing. That’s why we went straight to an expert.
We talked with Allura National Sales Manager Jay Cole about what’s out there and the pros and cons of each type of material. “There are a few types of trim: wood, PVC, metal, fiber cement and a fiber composite trim,” says Jay.
Let’s break each of those down.
Wood trim is probably the most traditional option and remains popular because it’s the least expensive product available and because of its appearance. Who doesn’t love the look of wood grain?
There are a few issues with using wood trim on your exterior, however. While it might be the cheapest option, it comes with costs later on. “The product will most likely need to be primed and painted in the field,” explains Jay with Allura. “You’ll still need to pay for painting — and rely on painting contractors to use the right amount of paint on the trim.”
As with many wood products, wood trim will need to be treated with a fire-retardant finish in order to meet Class-A fire ratings. It’s also prone to other types of damage, including pests and moisture. Wood will also expand and contract at a different rate than fiber cement siding, so if you use wood as an exterior trim, the caulking might crack because of movement between the different materials.
You’ll often find PVC trim to be prevalent in markets that are at or above the freeze/thaw line. PVC is a highly durable material with a long lifespan — if it’s maintained well.
Most PVC trim is white, which makes it a great choice for homeowners who want a clean, classic exterior look. “PVC trim is flexible: You can work with it in the field, round it, edge it, route it, etc.,” says Jay.
“It’s seen as a higher-end trim product,” says Jay, and he explains how PVC trim comes with a few other benefits. “PVC is resistant to rot and cracking, and is reversible in that it comes with a smooth side or a wood grain side, so you can choose between the profile you want for installation.” Like wood, the product will most likely need to be painted in the field, as prefinished options are not usually found with PVC trim.
When it comes to installation, PVC can also be installed close to the ground, unlike other trim materials. PVC comes in longer lengths but requires a carbide-tipped blade for cutting.
PVC has a few downsides. There’s a higher upfront cost, and it will expand and contract at a faster rate than other exterior materials. “It also has a harder time resisting mold and mildew, so you have to make sure it's clean,” says Jay. “Since most PVC trim is white, it shows dirt fairly easily.”
Metallic trim materials are a trendy selection with a more contemporary design. “Metal provides a clean, low profile look,” explains Jay. “It’s usually paired with vertical fiber cement panels, and comes with several profiles and lengths available, which gives you some design flexibility.”
Metal is used more often in mixed-use developments and other commercial projects, and it works best with a panel system (if paired with fiber cement) as opposed to Shakes or even Lap profiles.
“Metal is usually a more expensive option, similar to PVC in price,” says Jay. Metal is often selected for its longer lifespan: “So long as it’s installed correctly, it will work well.”
Metallic trim comes with the downside of being difficult to repair. “If it gets dinged, dented or bent, it’s going to hold that shape,” explains Jay.
Fiber composite trim is a material with a higher content of wood particles. “In southeast markets, this type of trim is used fairly often,” says Jay.
Fiber composite trim, like wood, is a cheaper product and often comes primed. And, like wood, it will need to be finished in the field. Fiber composite offers some versatility in design since it’s reversible — you can choose the wood grain or smooth profile, depending on the exterior style you’re after.
However, because of the amount of wood content, fiber composite is susceptible to changes because of moisture. It will expand and contract at a different rate than fiber cement siding. “In high moisture climates, after the install, you may find that areas around exposed fasteners will mushroom, showing signs that the product has absorbed more moisture than it should — so you may see a ring around those fasteners on the trim,” explains Jay.
It's also worth noting that it’s harder to achieve a Class-A fire rating with fiber composite, because of the high wood content in the product.
Using fiber cement trim with fiber cement siding is a great option for homeowners, for a few reasons. For one, the products will expand and contract at the same rate since they’re made of the same materials.
Fiber cement trim also offers a smooth side and a wood grain side, for design versatility. It is available in a factory paint finish, in both solid and stain colors. The trim also comes with the same benefits that other fiber cement products come with:
- Moisture- and mold-resistant
- Class A fire rating
Fiber cement trim is heavier than some other trim alternatives, like wood, and it can cost more than some of the other options (though the cost is upfront, as it has a longer life and more durability).
What to Consider When It Comes to Trim
If you’re using fiber cement siding for your exterior, you know you’re working with a highly durable and reliable product. Choosing the right trim for the exterior will involve a few considerations. To sum up:
- Design: Are you looking for wood grain or a smooth profile? Do you want a white trim or something that will require painting? Mixing trim and siding styles might give you a little more versatility with design.
- Customer Service: If you work with the right manufacturer, you might be able to source both the siding and trim from the same place. Brands like Allura offer a full menu of fiber cement products and free installation training for customers who work with Allura.
- Warranty: A good warranty means you can rest easy knowing that the products you install will last for years. “Allura trim has a 15-year product warranty and 15-year paint warranty when choosing factory finish. This is a good combination with Allura siding’s 50-year product warranty,” explains Jay. Mixing different siding and trim materials might have an effect on your warranty, so you’ll want to check with each product manufacturer.
- Installation: Some products are easier to work with than others, and if you choose fiber cement trim and siding from Allura, you’ll only have one installation manual to worry about. Allura’s trim unique formulation does not require a fiber cement saw blade, so you can cut with a wood saw blade, a feature installers enjoy.
- Cost: Some products might cost more up front, but that shouldn’t be the only variable you look at. Look at your overall budget, the quality you want and how much maintenance (or repairs) will need to be performed after install when picking your trim.
If you’re mixing and matching the trim and siding you work with, you should know that you’re working with different variables when it comes to installing, then maintaining those products over the years.
“When you use fiber cement trim with fiber cement cladding, the entire home is from one source,” says Jay. “That eliminates any finger-pointing or confusion, especially from a warranty perspective. With Allura products, there’s a single warranty for the whole home. It’s a complete package.”
Working With Reliable Products
Fiber cement is a popular choice in commercial building and home construction today, because it’s known for its durability, long-term lifespan and design versatility.
When you choose to pair fiber cement trim with fiber cement siding, the benefits extend beyond reliable products, especially when you work with a trusted manufacturer like Allura. Check out some of our most inspirational home designs in our gallery.
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