How to Paint Trim for a Home Refresh

A man painting a outdoor windows and trim
What You'll Need
What You'll Need

Giving the exterior of your home a fresh coat of paint can seem like a daunting task. But painting the trim is one way to freshen things up without having to do a complete makeover. Not only does it breathe new life into your siding, but painting the trim also increases the longevity of the wood. From picking out the right colors to mastering brush techniques, here is everything you need to know about painting your home’s trim.

Step 1 - Pick a Color Scheme

Selecting the right colors is one of the most important steps to a good trim project. The colors should complement the rest of the house and highlight existing architecture. Your local paint store is a great place to get ideas and color samples. Many stores also have a paint expert who can guide you in the right direction.

Step 2 - Prep Work

A run-down home being painted

The trim should be thoroughly cleaned before you slap on a fresh coat. You can use a water hose and rag to quickly clean the trim. After the surface is dry, lay down some plastic to protect nearby plants and start chipping off any peeling paint. Once that is finished, sand the trim to the bare wood and prime the surface with exterior primer.

Step 3 - Select the Right Brush

While they are more expensive, high-quality paint brushes can really make a difference, a good all-around brush is a 4-inch synthetic bristle, which can be used with latex. You should also consider buying an angle sash brush for close corners and details. A 1-1/2 inch angle brush should work for most projects.

Step 4 - Use Brush Skills

When using a brush, start by dipping the brush around two inches deep and then slap it against the side of the can to remove extra paint. Apply the paint in thick coats at first and keep re-loading the brush until you have covered about 3 feet. Then smooth the paint with long strokes without re-dipping the brush back into the paint.

Step 5 - Start Roller Painting

A roller is great for painting larger sections of trim. Start by pouring the paint into a 5-gallon bucket and dipping the roller inside. A roller screen is necessary to remove excess paint and can make the job go by a lot faster. With moderate pressure, apply the roller to the surface of the trim and avoid moving too fast. Rollers are notorious for flicking paint everywhere, so make sure nearby surfaces are adequately protected with plastic or drop cloths.

Step 6 - Cut-in the Trim

Man paints white trim

Developing a good cutting-in technique will really make the trim pop. Start by loading the brush with paint and gently sticking the tip of the angle brush into a corner. Pull it away from the corner slightly and continue along the edge. Continue this process until all of the edges have been painted. Once that is done, you can use the brush to fill in any gaps between the edges.

Step 7 - Use a Wet Edge

Using a wet edge is important because it allows you to paint new surfaces while avoiding overlapping into dry areas. Painting into an area that is starting to dry can make the film buckle, which is not good for the finish. To ensure a wet edge is always kept, simply overlap the areas you are painting with what you just painted.

Additional Tips

The weather is something you need to account for when painting exterior trim. Try to paint when there is low humidity and the temperature falls between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also recommended to paint in the shade whenever possible. Direct sunlight can cause heat blisters in the new coat and ruin the paint job. As far as paint thickness goes, it is better to apply a thin coat than a thick one. Thinner coats dry better and do not have issues like sagging and running, which are typical with coats that are too thick.