the painted surface
How to Paint Woodwork and Trim
This article dicusses general tips and techniques of how to paint all types of woodwork and trim. This might include doors, windows, wainscoting, door frames, crown moulding, baseboard, cabinets and more. Specific techniques can be found by reading these articles; “How To Paint a Window”, “How To Paint Baseboard”, “How To Paint a Door” and “How To Paint Crown Moulding”. The tips discussed here will apply to all woodwork painting projects. Read this article for a general overview of common woodwork painting tasks. Read the individual articles listed above to learn tips specific to those subjects.
Today woodwork may not be wood at all. Interior trim may be made of MDF (medium density fiberboard), polyurethane foam or wood, which is usually pine or poplar. Basically the repair, prep work, priming and painting techniques will be the same for either of the materials.
Woodwork is painted by either spraying or brushing. Spraying paint inside is usually not an option. This article discusses tips for brushing.
Materials Needed For Woodwork
- Caulk - Use paintable acrylic caulk to fill cracks between moulding pieces and between mouldings and walls or ceilings.
- Wood putty - It is used to fill holes or gouges. It will need to be sanded after drying and primed before painting.
- Painter's putty - This is similar to window glazing compound. It is used to fill holes left after the nails have been set. Can be smoothed when applied so there is no need to sand.
- Sandpaper - A medium or fine grit size is needed to smooth the surface before and between coats of paint. Sanding sponges work well because they conform to the shape of the moulding.
- Hammer and nail set - Nails may protrude above the surface and will show after painting. The nail set is a punch like tool used to recess the nail below the surface. The hole is then filled with wood or painter's putty.
- Finish nails - Used to attach loose moulding.
- Scraper - Used to scrape off loose or peeling paint. Do not scrape or sand paint that may contain lead. Test to be sure. The scraper should be kept sharp which will require frequent sharpening with a metal file. Scrape in the pull direction, not back and forth which will quickly dull the blade. Use eye protection and a dust mask.
- Screwdriver - Used to remove hardware such as knobs, handles and locks.
- Putty knife - The putty knife has many uses. Light scraping, cutting through dried paint on window sashes, smoothing putty, levering open windows and applying glazing are just a few reasons to have a putty knife.
- Low-tack tape - If hardware cannot be removed then mask over it. Door hinges are an example. Tape over the hinge and cut away the excess for a perfect mask.
- Vacuum cleaner - The surface should be dust free to obtain a smooth finish.
- Tack cloth - This is a sticky cloth used to wipe over surfaces to remove the finest of dust particles. They are found where paint is sold, are cheap and very effective.
The brush used will in large part determine the quality of the finish and the ease of application. Use the very best brush. Some of the companies who make quality brushes are Purdy, Wooster, Corona and Sherwin-Williams. These are not the only ones but one of their brushes should be easy to locate. The brush should be a synthetic bristle when used with acrylic paint. With alkyd paint the brush should be a natural bristle brush or a synthetic bristle made for alkyd paint. The label will indicate the type of paint the brush is for. A good size is a 2 1/2 inch angle sash. The bristles on an angle sash are cut at an angle, hence the name. The 2 1/2 inch size is convenient being not too small and comfortable to hold being not too wide or heavy. The angle sash paints a sharper edge, convenient for painting close to window glass and edges of mouldings.
The paint used for woodwork can be either acrylic (water-based) or alkyd (oil-based). There are advantages and disadvantages to them both.
- Easy clean-up with soap and water
- Usually has less odor
- Lower volatile organic compounds
- Thins with water or a water-based paint conditoner
- Not as durable or washable as alkyd
- Not as sandable as alkyd
- Retains gloss or sheen well
- Dries fast but may not level out
- Quick to dry but this may cause lap marks
- Cannot be applied over surfaces previously painted with alkyd paint
- Cleans up with mineral spirits
- Is thinned with mineral spirits or Penetrol
- Is very durable and washable
- Dries hard and is easy to sand
- Usually has a smoother finish than acrylic
- It has the best finished look
- Some have strong odor during application but quickly goes away
- Has stood the test of time as the preferred finish for woodwork
- Slower to dry than acrylic
- Usually will cover the previous finish better
- Can be used to paint over other alkyd or acrylic paint
The advantages of alkyd paint far outweigh the downsides. The rich, smooth, porcelain like finish cannot be matched by acrylic paint. When properly applied it has no equal. Acrylic enamel is convenient in many ways. The clean up is somewhat easier, it dries fast and has less odor. Its quality is improving every year as manufacturers develop new formulas. It may be the right product for your project.
- The preparation of woodwork for painting is basic prep work.
- Remove the hardware such as knobs, handles and locks. It is easier to take them off than to try to paint around them and achieve neat results.
- If the surface is dirty or greasy, clean it and allow to completely dry.
- Fill nail holes with wood or painter's putty. Wood putty will need to be sanded when dry and primed.
- Any bare surface should be primed. This includes any new wood or a surface that has been scraped or sanded down to the bare surface. A sealing primer will prevent the finish coat from being absorbed, insuring an even gloss or sheen.
- Prime new wood first, allow to dry and then caulk any cracks. See "How To Caulk". Caulk adheres better to a primed or painted surface.
- Sand all surfaces to insure good adhesion of the new paint to the old and achieve a smooth finish.
- Vacuum and wipe down the surface with a tack cloth to remove dust.
The painting techniques of woodwork with either alkyd or acrylic paint are about the same. One difference that may affect the application is the quicker drying time of acrylic paint. The edges at the srarting and stoping strokes may begin to dry (known as tacking up or becoming tacky). These spots are hard to blend in and may leave an uneven finish. This can be helped by adding a paint conditoner to the paint which will slow the drying time.
Whether the choice of paint is alkyd or acrylic, thinning may be helpful to achieve a smooth, level finish. Not only can thinning improve the looks of the finish, it can also ease the application. Some paint is just too thick to flow smoothly out of the brush. A little thinner can greatly improve the "brushability" of the paint. Use the appropriate thinner, mineral spirits for alkyd and water for acrylic. There are also paint conditioners for each type of paint. Two of them are widely used. One is "Floetrol" for acrylic paint and the other is "Penetrol" for alkyd paint. Both should be used sparingly as they are thinners.
More helpful painting tips, techniques and how-to articles can be found by following these links:
Sherwin-Williams 2016 Color of the Year ◊ How To Paint a Room ◊ How To Paint a Stairway ◊ How To Paint a Two-Story Room ◊ How To Choose Colors ◊ Six Step Color Choice ◊ Popular Color Ideas ◊ How To Choose Paint ◊ Tools ◊ How To Caulk ◊ How To Patch a Hole ◊ How To Patch a Crack ◊ How To Cut In a Wall or Ceiling ◊ How To Roll a Wall or Ceiling ◊ How To Paint Woodwork ◊ How To Paint a Window ◊ How To Paint Baseboard ◊ How To Paint a Door ◊ How To Paint Crown Moulding ◊ How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets ◊ How To Choose a Premium Paintbrush ◊ How To Paint a MDF Bookcase ◊ How To Paint Aluminum or Vinyl Siding ◊ How To Paint Over Faux Finishes ◊ How To Use Magnetic Paint ◊ How To Use FrogTape ◊ How To Paint Repair Water Damaged Drywall ◊ Hiring a Contractor ◊ Paint Stripper Safety ◊ Painting Louvered Shutters ◊ 2013 Color Trends ◊ Choosing Front Door Colors
More details about specific painting subjects are covered in the additional articles. In those will be found details, painting tips and techniques gathered from over 20 years of painting experience. Here is a list of links to the articles: