Architrave is a decorative finish that is usually applied by a site joiner (carpenters). They are usually fixed around doors to cover the gap between the walls and door casings. To achieve a high-quality finish and an aesthetically pleasing look, the joints must be cut at the right angle and the timber must be fixed correctly, so all joints have a smooth seamless finish.
Attaching architrave with screws is possible in theory. However, it is definitely not best practice and we don’t recommend it!
Screws would need countersinking and filling to achieve a good finish. This could be difficult, particularly on the rebate side of the door, as you will usually be fixing the inside edge of the architrave, and this would affect the moulding. Big holes made by the screw heads will be much harder to hide.
The advantage of fixing with pins, is the holes are much smaller, and it is far easier to hide them with a small amount of filler.
How to attach architrave correctly
To fit architrave correctly you will need the following:
- Hammer or finishing nail gun
- Small pins (nails)
- Grab adhesive for the back of the architrave
- PVA glue for the joints
- Saw and mitre block, or a chop saw
- Tape measure
- Nail punch
Firstly, you will need to mark an even gap around the door. This will usually be around 5-6mm and will create a decorative step from the door casing. You can mark this with a tape measure and a pencil, or you could use a combination square (the latter is my preferred method).
The pencil mark will help you create an even gap around the door, and it will also give you an area to measure to for the lengths of architrave.
Generally, the architrave will be fixed with a 45° mitre cut where the head and legs meet. You can use a saw and mitre block, or a chop saw to achieve the correct angle. You may also need to use a block plane for any minor adjustments to the joint.
The order in which you fix the legs and head of the architrave are a topic of hot debate.
- Some people will fix the head first and then fit the legs to the head.
- Some will add one leg, then the head, and then fit the last leg to the head
- Finally, some other people will fit the legs first and fit the head to the legs.
There is no right or wrong answer as long as the finish is neat.
To fit your architrave, you should add grab adhesive to the back of each piece and then nail in place. Nails should be spaced 30-40mm and you should also make sure to add a small amount of PVA to the mitre joints.
Once all the pieces are fitted correctly you can go around the nails and punch them below the surface with a nail punch. Following this you can apply a filler to the holes, which can be sanded before painting.
What pins should you use for architrave?
The best fixings for architrave are not screws, instead you should use small nails. Commonly something like a 40mm lost head nail will be used. Following installation, you can punch the nails below the surface with a nail punch.
The advantage of using small nails is the holes are easy to fill and hide. Once the filled holes are sanded and the door is painted, they will not be visible anymore. If you used screws the holes would be much more difficult to hide.
You should always have the end goal in mind, and you should be trying to achieve a seamless finish. The only time you may need to use a screw is if you have sightly uneven walls. A well-placed screw may help you to remove a step from something like a mitre joint, or a step between the skirting and architrave where the wall is slightly uneven.
Can you just glue architrave?
Again, in theory this is possible, but not recommended. A strong grab adhesive would be able to hold architrave without nails. However, there is a chance of movement whilst the adhesive is drying. Even the smallest amount of movement could result in your joints moving and producing a terrible finish.
Whats more, once the adhesive dries you may have problems removing it if there are issues.
Adding nails around the architrave will take an extra 5 minutes and is not difficult. You will also need to punch and fill the holes, but it really isn’t much more work and will guarantee the best possible finish.
Conclusion – Don’t screw your architrave!
Fixing architrave with screws is not advisable, it will have an impact on the finish and will be much harder to hide with filler and paint. This is especially true for moulds like taurus and ogee, as they have curved details. This would make it very difficult to fill big screw head holes and hide them effectively.
Lost head nails on the other hand, create a very small hole and can be hidden easily, even if they are nailed through a curve in the mould of your architrave.
Nails are not that expensive, and you can buy them from any handyman, builders’ merchant, or DIY store. So, there is really no reason to use screws. Just jump in the car and go buy some nails, you will be glad you did when you are finally looking at a neat and seamless finish, on your newly fitted architraves.