Tutorial: How to Paint Trim

There's some woodwork in our house that's not in great shape and I've been sloooowly painting it, room by room, inch by inch.  It's a big undertaking and involves a large investment of time but if you do it correctly, you'll be pleased with how fresh and crisp it turns out, especially if your woodwork is not in good condition.

Here's my tutorial, plus some handy tips, on painting woodwork.

1. Painting your woodwork is a huge commitment.  Huge.  Be certain that you're ready for the kind of commitment.

2. Be really certain.

3. Use an oil base primer and oil base paint.  I've tried latex high gloss and latex primer and it's not as durable.

4.  I prefer a 2" angled brush for painting trim baseboards and windows because it seems to spatter less.  If I'm painting doors, I like using a 4" foam roller and using the angled brush for the inner corners (note: I typically take doors down and lay flat when I paint them).

5. Prep your room.  You may be tempted to skip this step because it's tedious and time consuming, but you'll be glad you did.  The prep work will depend on the condition of the woodwork and walls.  In this case, I caulked the gaps between the woodwork and the walls, filled the nail holes with spackle, sanded and cleaned the baseboards.

Here's the caulk & spackle that I have been using recently.

6. Tape the floor where the baseboards meet up.  I am a good painter with a steady hand but you will get a crisper look with tape.  Keep in mind that no tape is perfect and some paint will get on the floor.  No tutorial that I've read states this and I've always felt bad when it happens so I am just putting it out there because that's reality.  There are ways to minimize this, though (see Step 7).

7. Put two coats of primer and two coats of paint and allow for drying time between coats. Oil base paints can take quite some time to dry. If the paint is still tacky, don't paint on top of it because your brush will drag off the paint.  I use a "dry brush" approach with priming because I don't like an overly wet brush and the dry time is faster.  Overly wet brushes drip more and you will have more paint drip down between the floor and tape, which will leave more mess.

8. When I paint baseboards, I do not use a drop cloth if there's wood flooring in the room.  Some people may think I'm nuts, but I've found that a drop cloth actually makes more work for me.  When little paint spatters land on the drop cloth and I step on them, I track paint around the room and have to search for paint spatters everywhere and scrub the whole floor.  Without the drop cloth, my floor is dark enough that I can easily spot the spatters and wipe them away with no problem.  This is a product that I use to wipe off oil base paint.  (If you are using latex paint, you can easily wipe up with a damp cloth).  Make sure you test Goof Off in an inconspicuous area before using all over your floors.

9.  While you're priming, you will likely notice some holes or cracks that you missed in the spackle/caulking step.  Make sure you fill those before painting on your finish coats.

10.  Finish off with two coats of oil base paint and allow amply dry time.  Again, don't overload your brush with paint or you will have a lot of drips.

11.  Scrub your floor!  I'm talking about the good ol' fashioned, hands and knees kind of scrub.  There may be some paint spots you missed.  Plus, there's the bonus of having a clean floor and fresh paint!

Here's another product that has proven to be a good little helper.  I use it to guide my brush so I don't get paint onto the window sashes.  I've also heard it marketed as a paint guard.  

Last night, I was getting tired of painting and got a little sloppy by the window sash (I wasn't using the paint guard).  

I used some Goof Off to remove it and it was perfect.  So glad I found this stuff!

These photos are from the girls' playroom which is getting a makeover this week. I spent 5 hours last night painting and got two coats of primer on.  A board from the closet stop also fell on my head while painting.  Didn't see that one coming.  

I hope to have something to show for my work by the end of the week!

The above companies did not pay me to endorse their products.  But maybe they should have.... :)



  1. I like your blog a lot. Its informative and full of information. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thank you for sharing this interesting and informative article, painting with airless spray gun will be faster and more interesting!