Do You Paint Walls or Trim First? A Guide for DIY Painters

Painting your home can be a rewarding and cost-effective way to refresh your living space. However, it can also be a daunting task, especially if you are not sure about the best order to paint different parts of your room. One of the most common questions that DIY painters ask is: Do you paint walls or trim first?

The correct answer is to paint the trim first, then the walls. This is because it is easier to tape off the trim than to tape off the walls. Moreover, you can be more careless when painting the trim, as any paint that gets onto the walls can be covered later.

However, painting the trim first is not the only thing you need to know to achieve a professional-looking result. In this article, we will explain the benefits of painting the trim first, the steps to follow, and some tips and tricks to make your painting project a success.

Benefits of Painting the Trim First

Painting the trim before the walls has several advantages, such as:

  • Saving time and money: Taping off the trim is much faster and easier than taping off the walls. You can use less tape and get a cleaner edge. Also, you don’t have to worry about the tape peeling off the wall paint when you remove it.
  • Avoiding mistakes: If you paint the walls first, you run the risk of getting wall paint onto the trim, which can be hard to remove or touch up. On the other hand, if you paint the trim first, you can easily cover any trim paint that gets onto the walls with a second coat of wall paint.
  • Getting a smoother finish: Painting the trim first allows you to use a brush, which gives you more control and precision. You can get into the corners and edges better, and create a smooth and even surface. If you paint the walls first, you will have to use a roller, which can create a textured and uneven finish on the trim.
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Steps to Follow When Painting the Trim First

To paint the trim first, you will need the following tools and materials:

  • Painter’s tape
  • Drop cloths
  • Trim paint
  • Wall paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paint rollers
  • Paint trays
  • Ladder
  • Sandpaper
  • Caulk
  • Putty knife
  • Screwdriver

Once you have everything ready, you can follow these steps:

Prepare the room: Remove any furniture, curtains, rugs, and other items from the room. Cover the floor with drop cloths to protect it from paint spills. Remove any outlet covers, switch plates, and hardware from the trim. Use a screwdriver to loosen them and store them in a safe place.

Clean and repair the trim: Use a damp cloth to wipe down the trim and remove any dust, dirt, grease, or stains. Use sandpaper to smooth out any rough spots, cracks, or holes. Use caulk to fill in any gaps between the trim and the wall. Use a putty knife to scrape off any excess caulk and create a smooth line. Let the caulk dry completely before painting.

Tape off the trim: Use painter’s tape to mask off the trim and create a clean edge. Press the tape firmly along the edge of the trim, making sure there are no gaps or bubbles. You can use a credit card or a plastic scraper to smooth out the tape and ensure a good seal. Leave a small gap between the tape and the wall to allow for the trim paint to overlap slightly.

Paint the trim: Stir the trim paint well and pour some into a paint tray. Dip a paintbrush into the paint and wipe off the excess on the edge of the tray. Start painting the trim from the top and work your way down. Use long and smooth strokes, following the direction of the wood grain. Apply a thin and even coat of paint, covering the entire surface of the trim. Don’t worry if some paint gets onto the walls, as you will cover it later. Let the first coat of paint dry completely, then apply a second coat if needed.

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Paint the walls: Once the trim paint is dry, you can start painting the walls. Stir the wall paint well and pour some into a paint tray. Dip a paint roller into the paint and roll it on the tray to remove the excess. Start painting the walls from the top and work your way down. Use a zigzag pattern, overlapping each stroke slightly. Apply a thin and even coat of paint, covering the entire surface of the walls. Be careful not to get too close to the trim, as you don’t want to peel off the tape or the trim paint. Let the first coat of paint dry completely, then apply a second coat if needed.

Remove the tape: After the wall paint is dry, you can remove the tape from the trim. Use a sharp knife or a razor blade to score along the edge of the tape, cutting through the paint layer. This will prevent the tape from tearing or pulling off the paint. Peel off the tape slowly and gently, pulling it at a 45-degree angle. If you notice any paint bleeding or uneven lines, you can use a small brush to touch up the trim or the walls.

Tips and Tricks for Painting the Trim First

To make your painting project easier and more efficient, you can follow these tips and tricks:

Choose the right paint: For the trim, you want to use a semi-gloss or high-gloss paint, as it is more durable, stain-resistant, and easy to clean. For the walls, you want to use a flat or eggshell paint, as it is more forgiving, hides imperfections, and creates a soft and cozy look. You can also choose a paint that has a primer included, as it will save you time and money.

Choose the right color: For the trim, you want to choose a color that contrasts with the wall color, as it will create a crisp and elegant look. You can go for a classic white, a warm cream, a cool gray, or a bold black. For the walls, you want to choose a color that suits your personal style, mood, and preference. You can go for a neutral, a pastel, a bright, or a dark color. You can also use a color wheel or a paint app to find complementary or harmonious colors.

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Choose the right brush: For the trim, you want to use a brush that is about 2 inches wide, has angled bristles, and is made of synthetic fibers. This will allow you to paint the trim with precision, accuracy, and ease. For the walls, you want to use a roller that is about 9 inches wide, has a medium nap, and is made of synthetic fibers. This will allow you to paint the walls with speed, coverage, and smoothness.

Choose the right time: For the best results, you want to paint the trim and the walls when the weather is mild and dry. This will ensure that the paint dries faster and more evenly, and that the humidity and temperature do not affect the paint quality. You also want to paint the trim and the walls during the day, when there is plenty of natural light. This will help you see the true colors of the paint and spot any mistakes or flaws.

Conclusion

Painting the trim first, then the walls, is the best way to achieve a professional-looking result when painting your home. By following this order, you will save time and money, avoid mistakes, and get a smoother finish. You will also need to prepare the room, clean and repair the trim, tape off the trim, paint the trim, paint the walls, and remove the tape. By following these steps, you will transform your living space with a fresh and beautiful coat of paint. You can also use some tips and tricks to choose the right paint, color, brush, and time for your painting project. We hope this article has helped you answer the question: Do you paint walls or trim first? Happy painting!