DIY Friday: Paint Your Trim Like A Pro

You’ve made it through another week of work and now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the weekend.  For some of you this may mean a weekend of wandering around the city, or heading away to the cottage,  or perhaps for some of you it means relaxing and enjoying a good book on the couch.  For others, however, this may mean ‘Hey, it’s Friday and time to get some work done around the house, what to do!?’  For all of you that fall into that latter category welcome to this week’s installment of  Do-It-Yourself Friday.
A great way to enhance the beauty of your home is to add or upgrade interior trim and moldings and this is especially true if they’re properly finished!  Painting trim can be tricky, frustrating and time-consuming.  So for all those DIY’ers out there, here is this weeks’ Do-It-Yourself Friday tips dedicated to painting your trim like a pro!


  1.  Sand away!  Sanding is a key part of making sure your finished trim looks great.  If you are lucky enough to have a relatively smooth surface already you won’t have to take as much time with this step.  If not, you’ll need to start with a coarse sandpaper (80 grit would make a good starting point) to get rid of the big problems and then switch to a finer grit sandpaper (such as 100 grit) for blending and smoothing out.  The final (so if you’re surface is already smooth you start here) sanding should be done with an even finer sandpaper (think 120 grit) to smooth over all the ridges.
  2. If there are any holes or dents fill them…and you guessed it, re-sand! You may need to fill the holes more than once as compounds and wood fillers tend to shrink as they dry.  Just make sure that the first coat is dry before you start in on the second one.
  3. Caulking is key.  If you want to make your trim look professional, you have to do this step.  It’s messy and annoying but also essential!  Three pieces of advice to ease some of the stress in this step: make sure that you don’t cut the tip of the caulking tube too large as this will make the job even more difficult, move quickly so that you don’t put too much caulk on one spot and make sure to keep a damp rag close to you.
  4. Prime away! Any wood that has been filled or painted should be primed before putting on trim paint.   If you decide to skip this step you will regret it later!
  5. Tape it up!  Put painters tape to the edges of the wall where they meet the edges of the trim and if you haven’t tried FrogTape you really should, it’s a great product.  Painting Trim Like A Prol
  6. Shaken and stirred!  Make sure your paint is ready to go; if it isn’t stirred you run the risk of bubbles and an uneven colour.
  7. Control the flow = do not overload your brush!  You only need to load the top third of the paint brush with paint and once you do this tap the brush against the side of the can (this will help you avoid getting drips) and then wipe the bristles against the sides to remove any access paint.
  8. It’s time…cutting-in.  I would recommend using a paint guard (a large flat edge of some sort) against the trim even if you’ve done #5.  Apply the paint in one stroke and in one direction as you cut-in from the edge and as you come to the end of the stroke, arc the brush away from the cut-in line.  Use a second stroke along the edge to smooth things out and ensure you have the proper coverage.
  9. Lay on your paint in as few strokes as possible and smooth it with a single stroke.   Remember, paint starts to dry as soon as you put it on the trim so avoid overworking the surface to prevent getting unwanted stroke marks in the finished results.
  10. Brush in from a dry area towards a wet area.  If you do it the opposite way you will end up with a ridge of paint and then you’ll have to backtrack across the surface you’ve already smoothed out (which you don’t want to do…see number 9!).  Start on an unpainted part of the trim and finish at the already painted side by sweeping the brush up and off of the trim to avoid leaving a ridge or mark.
  11. If there’s an edge don’t start there! If you decide to avoid this tip you will most likely end up with dripping paint as the edge of the trim will act like the edge of a can.  Instead of starting at the edge, paint towards it.  If you can’t avoid starting at the corner just make sure to line up the bristles with the edge of the trim (meaning, don’t let the bristles go past the edge).
Some Additional Warning and Tips:
  • Use a sandpaper labelled ‘no-load’ as it’s less likely to clog.
  • If your home was built before 1976, and especially if it was built before WWII, be aware that there may be lead in the paint you are sanding.  Click here for more information.
  • When caulking you  may need to run your fingertip across the top to smooth it out, try wetting your finger when you’re doing this.
  • Use a stain-blocking primer.
  • Consider adding a conditioner to your paint if using latex paint as it will keep the paint wetter longer and helps it to dry smoother (ie. without brush marks).  Check with the paint store to see what they recommend for the brand you are purchasing.
  • Use high quality brushes.

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