5 Beginners Tips for Painting Trim

5 Beginners Tips for Painting Trim

With one week left of my Christmas holiday, I have been tackling some painting jobs around the house. This made me think back to when Paul and I first dipped our toe into the DIY of home decorating.

While we love our new bright and airy home – the trim … door and window surrounds, skirting boards … were painted in a drab brown varnish (freshened up every year with a new coat).  This gave the rooms a heavy, 1970’s feel – not at all the bright, sun-drenched look we are aiming for.5 Beginners Tips for Painting Trim

So our first major task as new home owners was to paint over the brown varnish trim (and matching doors). While it felt a bit overwhelming to start with, painting the trim can be be one of the easiest and cheapest ways to transform a room.

Here are 5 beginners tips I learnt along the way

  1. Take it one room at a time
  2. Prep: fill in all the gaps and nail holes
  3. Prep: sand and clean the surface
  4. Paint the trim before the walls
  5. Lightly sand between each coat

1. Take it one room at a time
I’ll admit even with all the enthusiasm in the world, painting the trim of your entire home can be a bit overwhelming. Break it down and focus on “one room at a time”.

Start with the smallest room and go from there.  Paul and I started with the laundry.  Being able to quickly see the difference our hard work made to this small space was all the inspiration we needed to continue.5 Beginners Tips for Painting Trim

2. Prep: fill in all the gaps and nail holes

Don’t be temped to skip this step. In fact, don’t be temped to skip any prep … there is an old adage painting is 90% preparation and 10% perspiration. I have listed what I think are 2 of the key preparation steps you should do before picking up a paint brush. Not only do you get a better finish, the paint job lasts longer … remember you need to live with (and look at) the results for a long time!

Taking the time to fill in the nail holes, cracks, imperfections, and gap between the trim and wall is worth the effort. I was so keen to get painting when I started on the laundry that I only half-heartedly completed this step.  The result was not pretty!  Even after a primer and a coat of paint, the gaps and cracks where clearly visable and looked awful.

So … before you even pick up a paint brush … fill in all the cracks, nail holes, imperfections in the wood, and gap between the trim and the wall.  I like a ready-to-use multipurpose filler which is found at our local hardware store.  Wait until filler is completely dry before sanding.

5 Beginners Tips for Painting Trim3. Prep: sand and clean the surface

After filling in the gaps, nail holes etc, sand well to remove excess filler and old paint (or in my case brown varnish). Sanding will also provide something for the paint to “grip” too. I used a medium 120 grade sandpaper and cork sanding block as our trim is plain. If your trim is intricate you might like to use a sanding sponge to get into the crevices sandpaper can’t get to.

After sanding, it’s important to clean the surface. Vacuum the trim and floor well to remove all traces of dust left by sanding. I didn’t vacuum or clean properly once and the results? Trim which is slightly lumpy, grainy and needs redoing! Whoops!

Follow by washing all the trim with water and a small amount of grime remover. I like “Sugar Soap” to remove the last traces of dust, grease and dirt. A clean surface will ensure the paint adheres to the wood and will not flack off. Wait until the wood is fully dry before beginning to paint.5 Beginners Tips for Painting Trim

4. Paint the trim before the walls

I found out the hard way that there is a certain order when painting a room. Paint the trim first, then the ceiling, then the walls. I was so keen when I started painting our trim to do a neat job, that I carefully taped off the wall with “painters tape” so as not mess up the walls with the trim paint. However, when it came to removing the tape I ended up removing a layer of paint. Not a good look!

We have every intention of painting the walls. So I needn’t have worried if some paint got on the walls, I should have just concentrated on getting a smooth finish on the wood. Take your time, but don’t worry if some of the trim paint gets onto the walls. You’ll cover it later when painting the walls.5 Beginners Tips for Painting Trim

5. Sand lightly between each coat

Lightly sand the trim between coats of paint for a smooth finish. I found out this little trick too late! If I could back and do it all again … I would definitely sand between each coat of paint.

Allow the paint to dry for about 24 hours. Then use a fine 240 grade sandpaper (or sanding sponge) to lightly sand the trim before applying the next coat of paint. After sanding, vacuum the trim and wipe down with a tack cloth to remove the dust. Sanding between coats will help ensure you don’t get a grainy feel.

These are just a few tips I learnt along the way. I hope they help get you started on your own DIY project. If, like me, you’re new to home decorating I encourage you to take the plunge. If I can do it, anyone can. I don’t always get it right the first time … but I’m gaining confidence and leaning from my mistakes.

Oh … and by the way … don’t forget to put the the dog outside (but that story is for another time).

What are your top painting tips?

What mistakes have you made that you’d like to share?

3 responses

  1. I love choosing the paint colours. Home magazines often say what colours they use and checking out friends’ houses is always inspirational. 🎨


  2. Pingback: How To Distress Furniture Using Sandpaper |

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