Interior Painting - Trim and Woodwork

person painting interior trim
  • 1-6 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 20-200

Most paint jobs can be tackled in segments. Once the prep work, priming, and main surfaces are done, it’s time to focus on the details of trim around doors, windows, ceilings, and floors.

Painting the Trim

After you have finished all the large surfaces, you’re ready to paint the trim and woodwork. Up until now most of your work has been on large surfaces, and detailing was not important. To do the trim, you need to change your mental set about painting. You are changing from rough work to finish work. Attention to detail and care at this stage means the difference between a professional looking job and a sloppy one.

Your tools will also be different. During this stage you will use the smaller angled brushes and metal paint guide. A 1 ½-inch angled sash brush is often used for narrow molding, and a two-inch trim brush on wider trim.

As you apply the paint to the trim and woodwork, keep a supply of clean rags near you to immediately wipe off any excess paint that gets on the previously painted surfaces. With oil-based paints, use a little mineral spirits or paint thinner. With water-based paints, use water.

For a more durable finish, oil-based paints are most often used on trim. With these enamel paints, fingerprints are more easily removed. On trim that has been previously stained, bleeding may occur. In this case, two coats of shellac are needed first.

Start with the horizontal surfaces and then paint the vertical surfaces. Begin with the trim closest to the ceiling and work down. Do baseboards last. When doing baseboards, paint the top edge first, then the floor edge, and finally the large center area with a larger brush. Be sure to cover the edge of the floor with a paint guide or masking tape.

Painting Windows

room with big windows prepped for painting

Paint inner sections of doors and windows before the outer portions. Windows especially require great care. Because of their many small areas, you’re going to need a lot of patience and a steady hand. Apply the paint right down to the glass. The paint creates a seal between the wood and the glass.

You can either tape the glass or remove the excess paint later with a razor-blade knife. If you are applying masking tape to the panes, leave a hairline crack of glass exposed between the tape and the wood to be sure you have a good paint seal between the wood and glass. As soon as the paint is dry remove the tape.

When painting double-paned windows, do it in a certain order so you can raise and lower the sashes to reach all the areas. Begin by painting the exterior sash. Paint the horizontal side pieces, then the vertical, and then the mullions (the pieces that divide the window into small sections). Paint the lower part of their sash first, then raise the window and do the upper part. Next, repeat this process with the interior sash. Afterward, paint the frame and trim, first the top sides and finally the sill.

Raise and lower the sashes a few times while the paint is drying to be sure they don’t dry stuck. Don’t paint the jambs (the area where the window slides) unless absolutely necessary. After the window is dry, rub a candle or bar of soap over any wood jamb to create easy window movement.

Painting Doors

room with blue walls and open white doors

Flat doors are easily painted with rollers. Panel doors take much greater care. If you can, remove the knobs or lock plates or any other hardware on the face of the door. If you can’t remove them, mask them off with painter’s tape.

With a flat door, roll on the paint to apply it and follow up with rapid brush strokes from top to bottom to hide the stipple marks from the roller.

For a panel door, roll paint onto the panel surfaces and then brush the paint into the molding and inside edges of the panel cavities. Then use the roller to paint the flat parts of the door and very rapidly finish the whole thing off with straight brush strokes. If the door opens into the room, paint the door's latch edge, the jamb, and the door side of the door stop as well. Once the door is dry, replace the hardware.

That was your last step. You repaired the walls, prepped the room, cut in the edges, painted the surfaces and finished the trim. Now it’s time to step back and admire your work. After you clean up.