Painting Wood Trim

As I said in my Intro Post, the Hubs and I are working slowly to update our 1987 two story Colonial.  One of the things that turned me off about our house when we were looking was that it has wood trim.  The previous owners had painted the dining room and hall bathroom trim white, so I could see the potential, but couldn’t imagine how we would tackle the rest of the house.  Add to that the Hubs’ reluctance to let me paint it all white.  Finally he caved and after talking to a couple pro painters, we had our game plan.

Our wood trim is just stained pine, nothing fancy and in some cases, showing a lot of wear and tear.  As we started the process we realized that some of the trim didn’t even have a top coat, or maybe the top coat had just completely worn down over 20 years.  I’m not a “paint all wood trim white” person, but in our case, the orange stain did nothing for our style or the style of the house.

The latest parts of the house to get the trim painted were the other half of our hall bathroom doorway, the entire office, hall closet doorway and guest room doorway.  Two things to note on this project: 1) The previous owners only painted the inside of the hall bathroom white when they painted the trim and 2) We only painted the outside of the hall closet doorway because we plan to take everything out and paint all the shelves and inside this spring/summer when it’s warmer.  I did do the office closet because I took out all of the old shelving and am re-doing it with a better closet system.

Here are the steps we used to prime and paint the trim.  We have had good results with this process and haven’t experienced any peeling or chipping.

Step One: Tape off all trim
The Hubs and I love Frog Tape.  (No compensation from them, but after the amount of taping we’ve done, we know what does and doesn’t work).  My biggest hint is to make sure you take your finger and rub down the tape so it’s stuck.  I do all the painting in our house, so the Hubs is the taper.  The Hubs is also the door remover as you can see from the before photo.
There is a mix of Frog Tape and the 3M blue tape here because the Hubs started taping and realized we were almost out of Frog Tape.  (And, yes, the linen closet is on the spring cleaning list!)

Step 2: Prime with Oil Based Primer
We have crown molding, chair rails, baseboards, door, and window trim in our house.  After the Hubs tapes, I just wipe everything down with a damp cloth and let dry.  Then everything gets 2 coats of primer.  Some of the baseboards cover fine with one coat, depending on how much top coat they have.

I’m a fan of the Zinsser Cover Stain Primer that is oil based.  Yes it smells, yes, clean up can be a pain, but it covers the trim and sticks to anything. I wait and prime when I can have the windows open and keep things aired out.  Usually within a couple days the smell is gone.  I know that recently they have come out with latex primers that cover like oil based, so if you’re just starting, I would research those.  We’ve been painting trim as we can for the last two years, so this is the product I’ve been using.  Also, thanks to some tips over at Centsational Girl, I make sure to add some Penetrol to my primer to help even out the brush strokes.

As you can see in the closet photo, the baseboards there only have one coat of primer, where the door frame has two coats.

Step 3: Paint with Semi-Gloss Latex Paint
I give the primer anywhere between two days to a week to “cure.”  This is mostly because I paint on the weekends and spend one weekend priming and the following weekend painting.  I used to live around the corner from a Benjamin Moore store (that has since gone out of business), so when we started this task I went with an off the shelf bright white semi-gloss.  I wanted something I could easily pick up and wouldn’t have to play the tinting game over multiple gallons.  The salesman suggested their regal brand, which was what they used on their own trim in the store.  I’ve been really pleased with it for it’s wipe-ability and ease of use.

I also add some Floetrol to the semi-gloss paint, although I haven’t noticed a big difference with that.  I didn’t initially use it when doing our trim, so I can’t say it’s completely worth it, but it hasn’t hurt the paint either.  I find this paint to even out pretty well on its own with minimal brush strokes.

Step 4: Peel Tape off While Paint is Wet!
This is super important, especially if you don’t use the Frog Tape.  Once I’ve gotten a good ways done with the second coat, the Hubs usually starts taking off the tape.  I’ve done it on my own, but I definitely recommend taking off the tape as soon as you’re done painting.  Don’t even wait until after clean up.

Step 5: Caulk around the trim
About a day after painting the hubs goes around and caulks all the trim.  This fills in any gaps that the paint didn’t fill, especially with some of the door frames with the mitered corners.

I love how the white trim brightens up the space.  Even the wall color looks a lot different with the white trim.  It’s amazing the difference in the before and after photos.  I can’t wait to finish up the guest room and closets.  Also since painting the trim, we’ve realized we need to paint all of the doors now as well, so that’s also a project for the warm weather so we can do those outside with our paint sprayer.

I hope our tips and experience help you if you want to tackle painting trim.  I know it can be a daunting task, as we’re still not done, but it is something you can do yourself if you’re willing to take the time.


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