Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Painting Wood Trim Tutorial

I love my house.  I really, really do.  It has lots of charm and we are so happy here.  That said, there are some things I do not love.  The biggest one is the overabundance of oak.  Oak floors, oak doors, oak windows, oak trim, even some lovely (not) trim around my kitchen counters.  I tried to work with it  initially because I don't HATE wood, but as it turns out I really dislike having orange oak everywhere.  Its too much!  Finally this year, I had looked at it enough decided to take on all the work and start painting it. 

Here is a picture of my kitchen in all its oakness before we moved in, just so you can see how overwhelming it is:

 You have no words, right?  Some doors are white, some are oak.  There are two oak doors in this area and two white ones.  We have painted in here and done a few other little things, but the oak remains for now.  I'm coming for it though. 

I am only one room into painting all my trim and molding (are they two different things or not?  I'm not sure and too lazy to Google right now) and I love it.  As soon as I had the primer on, I knew it was the way to go for me.  Just looking at it in all its clean, crisp beauty makes me happy and calmer.  Crazy what a little paint can do for your mood, huh?

So , this is where I started: 

And this is where I am now:

I didn't paint the actual windows yet and to be honest, I am hoping the plantation shutters or wood blinds I plan to get will cover them up enough so you won't notice.  We'll see how it looks...

One thing about me, that may or may not be obvious as time goes on, is that I am a huge dork.  HUGE.  I love researching things.  It is one of most favorite parts of decorating.  I can spend weeks, maybe months, researching paint colors for a room or the right technique to stain something or what plants will do best in my garden and what plants will look best with those plants and on and on it goes.  So, of course I spent a lot of time reading about the best way to paint my wood trim.  I know I could have just winged it and it probably would have looked great, but I wanted to be sure that my paint job looked the best it could and that it would stand up to a lot of abuse that my boys and even I will inflict upon it.  I was really worried about chipping and flaking.  Plus, I just like reading and planning and it was an excuse for me to to do that.

So, here is what I did:
  • sanded with 80 grit sandpaper until I had evenly roughed the surface and removed all noticeable "shine" from the previous varnish
  • cleaned with tsp and water
  • wiped surface dry and wiped with tack cloth to remove any remaining dust
If you aren't familiar with tack cloth, it is just a sticky cloth that picks up any dust or dirt that is left behind on your project and helps give you a nice, clean surface to work on.  It looks like this (well, the package looks like this):

  • Primed wood using Benjamin Moore's Alkyd Enamel Underbody 217 Primer in white.

 I originally planned on using Zinsser's Cover Stain Primer that I already had on hand, but I wasn't happy with the brush marks that I had using it.   After talking to my paint guy, he said the BM product levels really nicely and would be better when it came to this issue.   I used a brush specifically for oil based paints vs my usual Purdy brush because I read that once I use it to paint with an oil based paint, it would be really hard to completely clean it back to where it was.  This may or may not be true, but I didn't feel like risking it.  I am curious about how a foam brush would do and may experiment with that next time.

  • caulked any gaps using Dap's Dynaflex 230 caulk and used wood filler to fill in any holes or other imperfections.  You always do this step after you prime. 

(Yes, I used an offset cake spatula to apply my wood filler.  I couldn't find my putty knife.)

  • I then sanded lightly with 220 grit paper, used my tack cloth and did another coat of primer.  I did this because I wanted to try to cover up some of the wood grain pattern that was showing through somewhat, so if that isn't a concern to you, you can skip this step.  I'm not sure how much of a difference two coats of primer made anyway.  One was probably fine
  • I sanded again with my 220 grit paper, used my tack cloth and painted with Benjamin Moore Aura in White Dove (satin finish).

    This stuff goes on like butter!  Wow!  It is tricky though.  It dries really, really fast, so you have to lay it down, go over it quickly and then move on to the next section, starting with the wet edge where you just left off.  Once you put this paint on and go over it quickly, you have to leave it be.  It dries really, really quickly.   Its tempting to try to get it perfectly smooth, but it will level off on its own, trust me.  Let it do its thing.  Also, it has a tiny bit of "sag" to it.  Meaning, you need to watch for drips and catch them right away because it dries really hard and drips are tough to remove if you wait until then.  Even though this paint is expensive, I chose it because touch ups are supposed to be seamless with it and touch ups are a definite reality with trim.  Also, it is really thick and covers really well and dries tough as nails.   I don't think I would splurge to use it on my walls, but for my trim, I am happy I went with it. 
  • I then sanded very lightly (and used tack cloth again) before applying my second and final coat.
Done!  I am so happy with how it looks.  It really does look like it was sprayed on, which is what I was hoping to achieve.  I did have a difficult time brushing the Aura on my window sill and next time, I think I will use a foam roller there.  I will probably do a third coat with the roller, since it doesn't look as good as I think it could and because my two year old snuck into the bathroom and took some sandpaper to it in an attempt to imitate me. 

Hope this was helpful!  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.  I'd love to answer them and hear from you!

And here's one final before and after:


  1. LOL, oh boy that little bugger!! I love how this came out and I love that you are a dork about this stuff. As you know I am right there with you and it's great to go to someone who "gets it".

  2. Jodi....Wow! That is a huge difference...thanks for all the tips...researching is a good thing. It really avoids mistakes later!

  3. Hi! I just came across your blog as I was 'researching' for some projects I want to get started with. Thanks for letting me know I'm not the only one who researches the HECK out of things trying to figure out how to do it right! Unfortunately for me though this in turn causes my projects to get pushed back until I find the 'perfect' way to do it. :) Anyway...great job!

  4. Don't know if you still check this blog but I am so happy I stumbled across it. Did you end up painting all the trim in your house with the steps above? Are you painting your kitchen cabinets or staining them? I love your blog, sad you haven't updated :(

  5. Amanda, I painted several more rooms, but not the whole house! It is holding up perfectly...not even a nick ::knock on wood:: I will try to update it soon. I have actually completed my laundry room and office, painted my master bath (including the oak vanity) and master bedroom and started decorating a nursery (I has a baby girl four months ago. The office and laundry room are my favorite rooms in the house now!

  6. I, too, feel as if I'm drowning in oakness sometimes. Our kitchen and adjoining family room have lots of oak cabinetry and wainscoting. I'm OK with it, but not head-over-heels in love, preferring a nice clean white palette instead that I think would be much more in sync with the traditional Colonial stying of our home. I admire you for getting it going with such enthusiasm!

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