Monday, July 29, 2013

Tutorial: A Beginner's Guide to Painting Wood Trim

Do you like the crisp, clean appearance of white painted trim, doors and windows, but don't know where to start to get that look in your own home? This tutorial will walk you through all the steps you need to take to have a successful outcome in your own home.
Note: Read through entire tutorial prior to starting. Tutorial is for painting over stained and varnished existing trim. If you want to paint over already painted trim be sure that your existing trim is painted with a latex (water-based) paint and not an oil-base paint otherwise your new paint will not adhere properly according to these instructions.

  • Premium quality primer. I recommend Kilz Premium Primer
  • Good quality semi-gloss latex acrylic paint
  • Medium grit sandpaper
  • Vacuum
  • Cleaning rags
  • Water bucket
  • White paintable, interior caulk
  • Painter's tape
  • 1" paint brush
  • Foam roller with handle
  • Paint tray for roller 
  • Small artist brush
  • Small pocket knife or box opener
Using medium grit sandpaper, sand down all the wood trim and window and door parts that you want to paint. The idea is to scuff up the surface to give the primer something to grab onto. It isn't necessary to remove all the stain, but try to at least break through the varnish.
Vacuum up all the dust created from sanding.
Gently wipe clean the surface with a wet rag until you no longer see dust on the rag. Be sure not to over saturate the wood. Allow the surface to thoroughly dry.
Look for areas with gaps between trim pieces or between the trim and the wall. Using a white, paintable interior caulk, run a bead along the gap. Run your finger along the caulk to push it into the gaps. This is a messy step. Wash off finger(s). Then, using a clean, wet rag, wipe along the caulk to smooth the surface and to remove excess caulk. Allow caulk to properly dry.
It should look like this when you are done.
Note: If you are going to be painting the walls as well, you'l want to do that prior to step 5. 

Using painter's tape, mask off any areas surrounding the trim that you don't want to get paint on. This includes walls, flooring or non-removable hardware.
Once all your surfaces are clean and dry, apply one or two coats of primer to the wood. I have medium-colored stain in my home and apply two coats of primer for the best coverage. However, if you are painting over a light wood, you can probably get away with one coat.
When primer is dry, apply two coats of semi-gloss, latex paint. Let the first coat dry before applying the second coat.
For tight areas or around non-removable hardware, use a small artist brush.
For doors, I use a 1" brush for insets and foam roller for larger flat areas. This applies for the priming in step 6.
When paint is completely dry, you can remove the tape. To prevent any paint from being pulled off, score the tape where it meets the trim. Slowly remove the tape and discard.
If there are any areas that need touching up, use the small artist brush.

You're done!

Enjoy your freshly painted trim.


  1. I love your tutorials. Do you ever tape BEFORE caulking, or are you just really good at caulking? I know that I am not...and I've had a LOT of practice, so I'm not convinced I'm going to get any better. ;) I'm envisioning a lot of water cleanup (and swearing) in my future.....

  2. Sara: Cut your nozzle on your tube of caulk smaller, and use a very narrow bead with a diametre of no more than 2/3rds the width of the space you are filling. Messy caulk work is usually the result of using way too much caulk.

  3. For those looking for larger more sophisticated wood dust extraction solutions, the CEF Filter could be just what you're looking for.
    4 x 8 ply

  4. What paint and color are you using? There are so many white paints to choose from.

  5. I have the same exact anderson window in my house except I have a half circle about it! Can you show me what the window looked like once you were finished. I have always wanted to paint it just nervous about how it would turn out. Great tutorial.

  6. Can you show the finished product from a distance?

  7. We can't thank you enough for helping us preserve the precious memories they shared in this soon to be torn down home. Yours is a true talent! Painting Services

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  10. How do you paint the actual window trim (up against the glass) and still have the windows be functional? Guess I am afraid that I would "paint the window shut"!

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