Our home was built in 1940. We fell in love with it in large part, because of the charm and character that comes naturally to an older home, but in order to embrace that character, homeowners often feel they have to compromise on some things. A good example of this is found in the look of old trim. After so many years of bumps, dings, and scratches, not to mention several coats of paint, old trim can sometimes cross the line from "full of character", and start to simply not look good anymore.
Obviously, replacing all the trim in your home would be quite expensive and I am the type of person who will always choose to spend time over spending money. If you are like me, the following tips will help you get that old trim looking crisp, clean and new again. I cannot stress enough the importance of taking your time. Some of this can get pretty tedious but taking your time and doing it well will make all the difference.
1. Start by cutting out any old or bad caulk. Caulk is meant to create smooth transitions between pieces of trim and/ or wall etc, but especially in older homes you will find that that caulk stopped stretching properly and started to crack or crumble and now it looks awful. Remove it so that you can start over with new caulk.
2. Use a putty knife to dig into corners. The metal edge will help you break out years of buildup or old paint and such. One big difference between old trim and new trim is the loss of definition. When you paint something over and over again the details start to fill in and even out. Removing some of this to redefine those details will help the trim look new again.
5. Also use the putty knife to scrape off any high spots or bumps. You may end up creating dents or holes instead but don't worry, those will be fixed in the next step.
4. Fill any holes or dents with Lightweight Spackle. Use a putty knife to push spackle into the holes and scrape it relatively smooth, then allow it to dry fully. Once truly dry, sand smooth and then check to see if it may need more spackle in order to be truly smooth.
5. I usually run my fingertips along the trim to feel for any dents or bumps, but if you really want to make sure you do this correctly, use a bright hand held light. Hold it close to the trim, at an angle. This will create shadows anywhere that there are bumps or dents, and therefore you will be able to see them more easily. Use a pencil to circle these areas so that you can come back and fill/scrape them. It works best if you do this when you do not have full daylight.
6. Caulk any seams. Don't forget to re-caulk the areas you cut old caulk out of. Do a good job of smoothing the caulk because it can't be sanded the way spackle can. Wait for the caulk to dry fully before moving on.
7. Time to sand! Take your time with sanding. Frequently run your fingertips along the surface to feel for rough spots, bumps or dents. If you find something you missed earlier, go back and fix it properly. You don't want to to spend all this time just skimp on the details now. Even if it seems aggravating to backtrack, go back and do it right.
- There are several different sanding options and they serve different purposes. Use the right sander for the job in order to achieve the best results. A Sanding Block is a hard sanding surface that works best on smooth flat surfaces. It works great for window sills but not well at all for details.
- A Sanding Sponge looks a lot like a block, but it is squishy. These work perfectly for detail sanding because they can conform to the curves and shapes. The downside is that they can lose their sanding abilities relatively quickly. If you still have a lot of sanding this will not last long enough to complete the job, so don't start with a sanding sponge, but when it comes time to fine tune this is a great option.
- Sand Paper is the most versatile option. It doesn't do the flat stuff as well as a block, or the details as well as a sponge, but it can do both pretty well. I generally tear a full sheet into quarters, and then fold the quarter in half. This creates a very manageable size piece that can be used for just about anything and manipulated into whatever shape works best for the task at hand.
8. Once the sanding is truly completed, you need to clean up. Use the bristled brush attachment on a shop vac if you can. The bristles help loosen the dust you have created. If you have a lot of this type of dust (or if you have drywall dust) it can be pretty hard on a regular vacuum so you may not want to risk using one. If you do not have a shop vac, you can obviously use a broom or rag to clean up the majority of it and then just vacuum up the leftovers.
9. Now it is time to prime. Be sure to prime over anything that was spackled or caulked. If necessary use a stain blocking primer. We are lucky enough to not have any staining but if you do, a good stain blocking primer is very important.
10. Finally we get to the painting. Professional painters often prefer to use oil paint because it has a better finish, but it can also be harder (and smellier) to work with, so homeowners generally prefer latex paint. The only downside to latex is that the brush strokes often remain more visible. The answer to this is Floetrol. Read the directions on the packaging to determine how much you need, but adding this product to your paint will thin and smooth the paint just enough to help eliminate brush strokes and roller marks. This is not a paid endorsement, I am truly just telling you this stuff is great.
11. If you are painting an entire room, paint the trim first then the ceiling, then the walls. (If there is no trim touching the ceiling you can do the ceiling first if you prefer).
12. Sand between coats of paint. This is another good time to use the sponge sander. Sanding between coats will help the create the smoothest finish on the final product.
13. When painting the trim around a window you can simply paint over the edge of the window and then scrape the dried paint off the glass with a razor blade. This usually creates the smoothest edge lines with the least amount of effort.
14. I don't ever bother with tape because I am too lazy. I prefer to just take my time cutting in. If you prefer to tape, before you remove the tape, be sure to run a knife along the edge to separate and cut the paint that connects the tape to the painted surface. If you don't, you will end up pulling up some of your new fresh paint.
**Use caution: some the above steps require the use of knifes, razor blades, and putty knifes. All of these are sharp and can cause serious damage if not used properly. Do not cut yourself, Please!
General Painting Tips:
- When is comes to painting trim, less is more. You don't want to keep brushing over the same section of trim because the paint will start to set up and the brush strokes will look messy. This is one of the big reasons why it is best to do trim first. You don't have to take your time as carefully because you can just get paint on the walls.
- Do not start a new brush stroke or roller roll (not sure how else to work that one) in the same place where the last one left off. You basically want to always be working slightly backward. With each new stroke, move slightly ahead and then work the paint back to the last section. Try to disturb the previous section as little as possible while smoothing the line between the sections.
- Cut in before you fill in. If you don't know the term "cut in" it refers to the act of painting the edges of the space. Cutting in a wall means painting the edge where the wall touches the trim, floor or ceiling, and then coming back afterward to roll the middle section. It is easiest and most efficient to cut in the entire room before bothering to come back and roll.
Have any tips I forgot to add? We would love to hear them in the comments below!
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