Best Practices to Paint Door Trim and Molding

While you may never actually think about door trim and molding, they add the finishing touches to any space. They also need a bit of extra care since they’re usually the first parts of your home to get damaged, which can negatively affect the look of your home.

Trims, molding, and even doors are used more than other painted areas in the house, and they do need attention sooner than other areas such as walls or ceilings. If you’ve ever tried to paint trim, you’ll know exactly how much of a tricky and frustrating task it can be. But as with many other DIY jobs, the only way to get better is to practice. While it will never be 100% easy, this video by Dunn-Edwards Paints will show you the best practices to keep your door trim and molding looking great. As with so many other DIY projects, the key to success is preparation and practice.

What You Need

In addition to paint, you’ll need the following:

  •   Painter’s tape
  •   Paintbrushes
  •   Buckets
  •   Sandpaper
  •   Spackle and putty knife
  •   Caulk and caulking gun
  •   Safety equipment such as a mask, safety gloves, and safety goggles.
  •   Drop cloth

Step-By-Step Breakdown

1. Examine and repair your molding.

Before you even think about painting, you need to make sure that your trim and molding is in good shape. If you see any holes, fill them with spackle and sand them smooth.

Then, lightly sand the entire molding to help the primer and paint bind to the surface better. It also helps ensure that the whole surface is smooth, which looks better.


2. Check and repair the trim.

In many older houses, the trim may start moving away from the wall. You may also notice cracks in the corner joints, which if left untreated, can result in structural damage to your floors and walls.

The best way to repair your trim is to use some caulk from a caulking gun. This creates a solid bond and fills in any cracks that you may not have noticed before.

If you’ve ever struggled to get a smooth finish with caulking, a great tip is to wet your finger with some water and gently run it over the caulking. The water prevents the caulking from sticking to your finger. No matter how big or small your caulking job may be, it’s always a good idea to keep some water and a damp rag on hand to help clean up messes and smooth out your work.


3. Clean up the space.

Before you start the actual process of painting your trim and moldings, make sure that the surface you’re working on is clean and free of any dust. Any dust particles still on the surface of your molding or trim will get stuck under the paint, resulting in a less-than-perfect finish.

Clean up your space by using a vacuum cleaner to remove any dust in the room and then use a damp rag to prepare your surface for painting.


4. Mask off areas.

The essential part of making sure that you get a perfect paint-job is using painter’s tape to mask off the areas you don’t want to get paint on. Masking helps keep the edges crisp and clean, and even while there are many shortcuts, they will never produce results like this. If you want a smooth, neat paint job that looks great even up close, take the time to do it right.

There are also a couple of best practices to make sure that your painter’s tape remains sealed. These practices will prevent any excess paint from seeping under. While painter’s tape is designed to form a tight seal, there may still be a couple of errant paint drops that can creep in and ruin your otherwise perfect trim.

By running your finger along the edge of the trim, you remove any excess air bubbles and reinforce the seal. This will help prevent paint from bleeding through underneath the tape.


5. Protect your floors.

In addition to protecting your walls, you need to keep your floors clean as well. Use a small bit of painter’s tape to protect the edge of the floor, and then use a cover to protect the rest of the floor. Any heavy-duty thick canvas cloth will do. If you’re painting in a carpeted room, consider investing in a carpet guard to prevent any unwanted accidents.


6. Prime your surfaces.

While it’s always tempting to dive in and start painting, make sure to take the time and prime any areas that you may have fixed beforehand. The purpose of the primer is to provide an excellent surface to the paint to stick to, so don’t be shy in using it.

Primer is also particularly useful if you used oil-based paint, which tends to repel any new paint you want to apply. By first lightly sanding and then priming your surface, you guarantee that your fresh paint will stick, preventing future flaking or crumbling.

Once you have applied the primer, let it dry thoroughly before continuing. Also check if the primer needs to be sanded, as some primers work better after a good sanding. Use fine sandpaper, 220 grid or higher, to ensure that you don’t leave any unsightly sanding marks on your final paint job.


7. Paint!

You’ve finally reached the point where you can paint your molding. Hopefully, you’ll have chosen the right type of paint beforehand. When painting heavy-duty areas that see a lot of wear and tear, such as doors and trim, use a gloss or semi-gloss paint, which is much easier to clean than matte paint. It’s also much more durable and can handle a lot more abuse. While many people prefer oil-based paints as they are more forgiving of mistakes, they are even more harmful to the environment and produce a lot of bad odors.

There are several little tips and tricks that you can use to ensure that your paint job is as smooth and clean as possible. If you’re serious about having the best looking trim possible, check up on some tutorials on effective painting techniques.

Did you know that a bandsaw can be a game changer when doing most DIY jobs? When used skillfully, a quality saw will allow you to use wood to its full potential and greatly expand your creativity especially when painting.


8. Remove the tape

When removing the masking tape, make sure the paint is dry and work very slowly. Make sure to remove the tape as soon as possible, since it may start to become stickier and damage the paint. Use a slow, confident pulling motion to gently peel the tape off, revealing your great-looking new trim.



Painting something like a wall or ceiling is relatively easy since you don’t have to worry too much about mess and neatness. However, as with many DIY jobs, the secret to success in painting trims, molding, and even doors is correct preparation. By taking the time to check for and address any imperfections, you’ll find that your result looks like new.

Also, while many painting techniques don’t rely on masking off certain areas, it’s a great way to ensure clean, even lines all the way through. They’re particularly useful if you’re a painting novice and are still unsure of your painting techniques.

If you’re sick of your trim bringing the rest of your room down, why not give it a fresh lease on life with a bit of spackle, some sandpaper and a bit of TLC. You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference such a small DIY job can make.

You can also check out more awesome tools such as blades that you can add on to your DIY projects here.

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