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How to Build PILASTER-103 for About $35.67

how to make diy pilaster for door trim moldingTraditional & Victorian Styles

Think of a pilaster as nothing more than a column flattened against a wall.  Some are fluted, some are flat and some, like this one, have inset panels.

The inset panels add that extra detail — elevating the door surround they are installed on to senior status in the home — so save them for more public rooms (Read more about Architectural Subordination here.) especially easy and affordable to build.

Posts in This Series

1.  How to Build DOOR TRIM-114 for About $60.00

2.  PLINTH BLOCK-101: How to Make Step by Step

3.  PILASTER-103: How to Make Step by Step

4.  ENTABLATURE-100: How to Make Step by Step

5.  How Do I Make This Large Baseboard?

6.  How to Paint Moldings:  Steps to paint this door trim and this room are on this page.


 About the Room

There are two doors on this project, one a pocket door leading from the living room to the kitchen (below), and the other is the front door that opens into an open floor plan foyer/living room (bottom of this page).

how to install door trim molding

Step by step how to make these simple, affordable pilasters.

Materials Needed


I use this MDF flat-stock for the pilaster foundation and the strips that make up the frame of the inset panels.

More about FS-002 here >>

pre-primed mdf flat-stock board for plinth blocks

3 ea. ($5.49 ea.) = $16.47


This is the small panel molding detail that goes inside the frame.

More about PM-004 here >>

panel screen molding from lowes home improvement

4 ea. ($4.80 ea.) = $19.20

 Step 1: CTF (Cut to fit) Foundation & Frames

The pilaster foundation is the piece of flat-stock that I layer the small frame pieces on top of.

Note: Make your foundation and frame flat-stock a tad wider than you actually want, so that after you’ve assembled everything you can run the edges through your table saw to clean them up nice and square.

how to make mdf door trim molding piasters

Step 2:Install the Frames

Install the frames on top of the foundation.  I use Elmer’s wood glue and 23 gauge micro pins to hold it all together.

how to make pilaster moldings for door surround

You can make your pilasters wider or narrower than this one.

Step 3: Install the Panel Molding

The panel moldings go inside the frames.  These take a little time, so make sure you’re not in a rush when you do this part.  (I always have a couple extra pieces of PM-004 in case I split some of the material.)

how to install easy door trim molding

Step 4: Clean Up The Edges

Run the pilasters through your table saw to square up the mated surfaces on the outside edges.  You can do the same at the top and bottom on your miter saw.

Step 5: Install the Pilaster on the Wall

Install the pilaster on top of the plinth block.  Don’t forget to use Liquid Nails on all contact surfaces: between plinth block and pilaster and the back of the pilaster as well.  You could also use biscuits to hold the pilaster to the plinth if you like.

how to install pilaster installed on plinth block moldings

There’s rarely ever a stud to shoot your nails into on the outside edge of the pilasters, so make sure your 18 gauge nails are aimed accurately into the door jamb.


The front door with its pilasters installed. Now for the entablature!

Posts in This Series

1.  How to Build DOOR TRIM-114 for About $60.00

2.  PLINTH BLOCK-101: How to Make Step by Step

3.  PILASTER-103: How to Make Step by Step

4.  ENTABLATURE-100: How to Make Step by Step

5.  How Do I Make This Large Baseboard?

6.  How to Paint Moldings:  Steps to paint this door trim and this room are on this page.


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8 Responses to How to Build PILASTER-103 for About $35.67

  1. Rich Battista June 9, 2012 at 2:54 AM #

    I sent an email you may nor have received. really like this trim design. Could you please indicate the thickness of FS 002.

  2. Ken June 9, 2012 at 6:54 AM #

    Rich, FS-002 is exactly 11/16″ thick. Thanks for pointing out that I left if off the inventory page. Good luck!

  3. Brian August 15, 2012 at 6:41 AM #

    Ken, do you normally make the plinth flush with the pilaster or do you incorporate a reveal by making the plinth a little proud?

  4. Ken August 15, 2012 at 7:31 AM #

    Always make the plinth block proud of both the pilaster and the baseboard. That’s one of its functions, to act as an intersection.

    This is very helpful when door jambs are not flush with the drywall, as most are not. That reveal gives you some wiggle room at the intersection.

  5. Brian November 4, 2012 at 4:50 AM #

    Ken, I have two general questions about working with MDF. I’m doing my first project incorporating MDF. I bough a quarter sheet of half inch stock at Home Depot. I naively assumed that 1/2 inch MDF was really a half inch thick, but you know what they say about assumptions. My MDF was 7/16″ thick. Is this the way MDF is normally sold? My second question involves sanding MDF joints. Do you leave mitered joints with a sharp edge or do you sand the joined edge to round it over? I’m seeing that sanding MDF usually leaves a raw, scuffed look, unlike sanding real wood. Thanks for all your help.

  6. Brian November 4, 2012 at 4:59 AM #

    Ken, one more question. Instead of cleaning up the outer joined edges with a table saw, I assume that using a router with a flush trim bit would be an acceptable alternative. Thanks again.

  7. Ken November 5, 2012 at 4:20 AM #

    1. I’ve never seen mdf that is not exactly the thickness advertised. That’s one of the main reasons I use it — “engineared” lumber is exact every time. Did you buy the chunkier partical board by mistake? MDF has very fine grains unlike partile board. If it does not suit your needs, then just run over to Lowes and buy a whole sheet and have them trim it down on their panel saw.

    2. Each mdf manufacturer has its own fourmula for the material, some of it good and some of it bad. The bad kind is more fibery and sands poorly, the good stuff (moldings made from Ultra Lite material) is much better, especially for sanding.

    Each manufacturer also has its own primer formula. Again, some sand really well and some sand poorly. These are things you just have to be aware of when buying mdf moldings. The quality of mdf moldings at HD has declined in the last few years to the point where very little of it is usable for anything but production “starter trim,” if that. And they are constantly changing suppliers, so you never know one month to the next if they are going to carry a molding with the same mdf formula and primer finish.

  8. Ken November 5, 2012 at 4:24 AM #

    I’ve never used the router method, Brian. Why don’t you make a short test piece and run it past your router and see what happens. Let me know how that turns out.

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