Trim Painting Short Cuts – Why you Should Avoid Them

Trim Painting Short Cuts – Why you Should Avoid Them

Our take on trim painting, in a nutshell: traditional. Great prep, very clean, use the best tools and materials. Anybody can do this, most of us have already so what’s the big deal? Shortcuts, that’s the big deal. Seems like there are shortcuts to everything these days and painting is no exception – why should it be? Why can’t we rely on a few short cuts and still have perfect painted trim? What could go wrong, right? Much could, is the short answer; let’s unpack the longer answer by looking at a few trim painting shortcuts and why you should consider skipping the skips.

Like most other shortcuts (all, maybe?) there are tradeoffs. The first can be found in the prep stage: clean, dry and dull; that’s the trinity in the realm of trim preparation.The first of these is clean, and the first short cut: use a good primer and you don’t have to clean. Reality; skipping the clean step can cause problems down the road, short term and long term. In the short term, your primer or paint may not stick on areas that are not clean, which could result in you having to stop priming/painting and start to clean – a mess and an exercise in frustration. Long term, your new trim paint may look sound, but paint over dirt doesn’t adhere, and the next time you tape up holiday or birthday decorations your gentle Scotch tape can pull off the paint. Bottom line, make sure it’s clean by wiping down surfaces with mild solution, or for heavy soiled areas such as grease build up, or smoke damage, use a TSP substitute -and scrub it – then wipe with clean water/sponges, being careful to not soak the trim or your flooring, damp is good enough, its not like washing the sedan.

Next step, surface prep: the sanding. Short cut: use a good primer and you don’t have to sand. Or, use liquid sander (chemical gloss remover) to dull the surface. Don’t do this short cut for the same reason you don’t want to skip the cleaning step. But there’ another reason to not skip this step; sanding makes the surface smoother, yielding a nicer finish. So, give it a good scuff – sand it with paper, sponges or steel wool, then vacuum the dust, and finally give it a wipe with a rag lightly moistened with thinner or water – to pick up the smallest dust particles, you may not see them, but you will feel them on the surface after your paint dries.

Magic Number3: dry. Don’t prime right away, let your cleaning & prep dry overnight. Same thing with primer, if the drying time is overnight, let it dry overnight. Rushing the finishing steps by applying a coat of paint after your primer is dry to the touch is risky- if not fully dry it will hamper the drying of your top coats, may cause adhesion problems, possibly sheen irregularities.

Priming: this may or may not be necessary; bare wood, heavy prep such as putty, fill, caulk, staining, etc. – all good uses for primer. But use the right one, ask the pro desk at Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore, and don’t use the paint/primer in 1 can shortcut – it is a compromise, despite what the slick commercials suggest.

Prep now done, its time to paint; the biggest shortcut to avoid here is probably using the wrong tool to apply the product. If brush lines are visible in your painted trim and doors, and you want to save time by using a roller, stop! Put down the roller and back away from the door. Rolling trim is fast, but achieving a smooth, velvety finish is very difficult with a roller – even in the hands of a seasoned pro. Only if your trim has been previously rolled, and you’re ok with how it looks, should you consider rolling.

That’s a wrap! Mostly. There are more shortcuts, of course, but we’ve laid to rest the most egregious. In my cartoon bubble, we can only pick from what’s on the menu- we can’t have a high performance anything without compromising something. And, it’s ok to compromise, but it should be done only with a good understanding of what the trade-offs are.