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Painting Tips & Tricks: Painting Interior Trim

Interior Trim PaintingWhen painting over previously painted trim you must first know the type of paint that was last applied. When painting interior trim, you can apply latex over oil/alkyd paint or oil/alkyd over latex, but the surface must first be properly prepared.

The trim in most homes 25 years old or older was usually painted with oil paint, while almost all new homes have latex on the trim. Latex is now more common as their have been dramatic improvement in both quality and appearance made in latex paints in the past decade. Latex paint wears well, provides a nice smooth finish, and is much easier to use and clean up than oil based paint.

If your old finish is latex and is in good shape, it can be painted with little preparation. If, however, the old finish is oil or is damaged or chalking, you’ll need to sand it and apply a good primer prior to painting. I prefer semi-gloss on all my trim; it wears well and is less likely to show imperfections than high gloss.

When painting trim I use 2” or 3” angled sash brushes (synthetic bristle with latex and natural bristle with oil). For close areas or specialty trim such as window grids I sometimes us a smaller brush. Do not stop painting in the middle of a section of trim; once an area is begun, continue into a break, such as a corner, to avoid leaving lap marks.

If using oil based paint, exercise caution as the material is flammable. Keep away from open flame, excessive heat, or sparks. Do not smoke when applying oil paint and turn off any appliances or tools in the area. Maintain good ventilation.


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