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How to Paint Trim

By Jim Dugan
Professional Contractor & DIY Expert

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  • If youíre planning to paint trim on the interior or exterior of your house, prepare the surface, first, or peeling will result. Unless you are a skilled painter, you may not be able to paint trim freehand without getting overlap on ceilings and walls. Take the time to cover adjacent surfaces, or you could end up with stains.


    Professionals can paint trim without the help of painterís tape; unless you are sure of your ability to keep paint off ceilings and walls, donít try to mimic the pros. Instead, apply painterís tape to the portion of the wall and ceiling directly next to the trim.


    Before you try to paint trim that has been previously painted, roughen the existing paint with sandpaper. Use this same strategy before painting plastic or vinyl trim. Adhesion is the fundamental key to trim painting. Donít skip this step, or the trim may shed its painted finish.


    Do not try to paint over bare wood, plastic, vinyl or metal trim; instead, apply the right primer before painting the trim, or peeling will result. Use latex primer on abraded vinyl, plastic and bare wood trim; prime metal trim with a galvanized metal-etching primer. Before you paint stained trim, apply a shellac primer.


    Once the trim is primed, you may paint it. Use latex paint for interior crown molding, baseboards, window and door trim. Use an acrylic latex paint on outdoor trim.

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