How To Paint Stained Wood Trim

paint trim

While the pros have been knocking out our hardwood floors and master bathroom renovation, Matt and I have been learning how to paint stained wood trim through trial and error.  While I definitely like DIY projects, I prefer projects with super quick results.  I once made a quilt.  That was a BAAADDD idea. Took entirely too long and I definitely had to call my mom in for reinforcements or I never would have finished.  Painting stained wood trim isn’t as bad as the quilt, but its definitely not my preferred project.

Some of you are probably wondering why in the world we are painting beautiful stained wood trim aren’t you?  You are probably wondering why we would slap paint on expensive stain-grade trim just to make it look the same as any ol’ MDF trim.

And I get it, I understand, because there’s gorgeous designs that look like this!

But here’s the thing, sometimes, like in our house, it looks like this:



If the dog scratches and water damage and general wear and tear aren’t bad enough, the simple lack of light in EVERY ROOM in the house made it a given, we HAVE to paint the trim.

I’ve done a lot of painting in my time, from walls to furniture to fingernails to decks so I pretty much just jumped into painting the trim one day assuming I knew what I was doing.
My thoughts were about like this, “oil based stain (most likely) so use oil based paint. Simple simple!”

Except it wasn’t that simple. Thank goodness my mom came to help one day and stopped us before we did too much damage.

Identifying Oil Based Paints and Stains

Do you know how to tell if you are painting over oil based stains and paints? We kinda knew but were willfully ignoring what we were seeing.  Thankfully my mom knew for sure how to tell and called it to our attention.

Oil based paint over oil based stain (come to find out), leaves streaky, uneven strokes. You will be able to tell there is an adhesion issue going on as you paint.  Not only does painting over improperly prepped oil paint and stain require many additional coats, when it is dry it will easily peel off at the slightest scratch.

How To Paint Stained Wood Trim

Once we got this all figured out we had to learn the right way to paint over our stained wood trim.  We now have a three step process.  First we sand with 150 grit paper (we purchased this specific sand paper from Sherwin Williams and it has made it much easier to sand in the tight spots).  Then we prime with Extreme Bond Primer (as recommended by our local Sherwin Williams store), and then we finally paint with ProClassic Interior Oil Based Paint.  It’s a fairly laborious process but at least in the end it looks almost brand new and it is not peeling off.  We tried painting the trim with a water based paint (instead of the ProClassic oil based paint) but were not thrilled with the results.  Our brush strokes remained visible after the paint dried and we didn’t achieve enough of a sheen even using a semi-gloss paint.  The oil based ProClassic paint solved both of those issues and we are very pleased with it.

Our first push is to paint all the trim before the floors go in and then circle back around and address the doors since they can be taken off and painted outside. We still have a lot more painting to do but here’s the new look in the entryway and living room! (Forgot what it used to look like?  Check out our “before” pictures here.)


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I’m sad to see some of the character leave this house but the bright, fresh, clean feeling of the painted trim is well worth it to me.  What do you think?  Were we right to paint the trim or should we have found a way to salvage and replace the stained trim?



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