Painting trim, whether interior or exterior, can be somewhat difficult because of the precision that is required. The main part of the process is the same for indoor and outdoor painting. When preparing to paint trim, the most important part is the prep, so make sure that you have all the necessary tools before you start.
Before painting trim, you will need a drop cloth, painter's tape or masking tape, sandpaper, primer, paint, and paintbrushes. Deglosser, caulk, and masking paper may be needed as well, A sanding sponge can be more useful than sandpaper, as sanding sponges are flexible and conform well to surfaces which are not regular. To clean a sanding sponge, just rinse the sponge with water.
Lay down a drop cloth to protect the floor or ground, and mask the perimeter of the floor if you are painting inside. The type of tape for masking the floor will depend on the type of floor. For wood floors, use medium-tack painter's tape, and for carpeting, use masking tape. If you are only painting trim and not the walls or ceiling, then those surfaces will also need to be masked. They can be masked with pregummed masking paper or low-tack painter's tape.
Next, scuff-sand all the trim that is to be painted if there is any gloss or semigloss finish. In addition, you can apply deglosser with a paintbrush, to improve the bond of the new paint on the glossy surface. Drive any nail heads slightly below the surface, using a nail set and a hammer.
Primer needs to be applied to any wood that is stained, varnished, or unfinished. Wood that has already been painted does not need primer before painting trim. Always work from the top down, beginning nearest the ceiling. After the primer has dried, apply a thin line of caulk over any cracks that might be at trim joints or between trim and other surfaces. Smooth the caulk with a damp finger.
The next step in painting trim is to fill any nail holes, dents, or other depressions with spackle or wood putty, using a putty knife. After the putty is dry, sand the spots lightly. Finally, the trim can actually be painted! Two coats of paint is usually ideal for painting trim, allowing the trim to dry according to the paint instructions in between coats. If the walls are to be painted, it is usually easiest to paint the trim first, then mask the trim with painter's masking tape before the walls are painted.
Written by Bronwyn Harris
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