Is It Better To Paint Walls Or Trim First?

While you might be tempted to just pick up a roller and start painting, professional painters usually follow a certain structure when it comes to interior decorating.

This ensures that they get the job done to the best standard possible, and in the shortest space of time.

Professionals usually stick to the following structure:

  • they paint the trim first
  • then the ceiling
  • then the walls

The reasoning for this is that it’s easier and more efficient to tape off the trim than to tape off the walls.

When painting the trim, you needn’t worry about being neat, as if you get paint on the walls, you’ll be painting over this eventually anyway. Focus more on getting a smooth finish on the wood.

Once you’ve painted the trim and it’s been left to dry thoroughly for at least 24 hours, you can then use ‘easy release’ painter’s tape to tape it off before moving onto the ceilings and the walls.

Should you paint the trim before or after it is installed?

This is a good question, and professionals have different answers to it.

If you’re installing a brand new trim, it makes sense to paint it before you install it.

Once the trim is installed, you’re working at an awkward angle to paint it, so it’s much more efficient to paint it prior to installation.

People who paint the trim before installing it usually work on sawhorses or over a drop cloth to avoid paint getting everywhere.

If you paint your trim before installation you also have more of a choice in terms of how you apply the paint.

For example, when the trim is on the wall, you’re limited to a paintbrush, whereas when you’re working off the wall you can easily use a roller or spray painter for a more efficient application without worrying about it getting on the walls.

Once you install the trim, you can then fill in any nail holes and cover up any marks with a small touch-up brush or a simple final coat applied with a paintbrush.

On the other hand, some experts will maintain that it’s better to paint the trim after it is installed.

It might take more time to paint it after you’ve installed it, but it also means you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to cover up the nails, caulk, and scuff marks.

This is also a better method for people who don’t have the space to paint the trim before it’s installed. Setting up sawhorses and drop cloths requires having ample space, and sometimes it’s just easier for some people to paint after installation.

Advocates of this method also make the point that it’s the easiest option if you’re planning on repainting your walls.

It means you can install the trim, prime and paint it, caulk it, apply a finishing coat, and then move on to painting the walls. You needn’t worry about getting paint outside of the trim as you’ll be covering this when you paint the walls anyway.

Should I paint the ceiling or walls first?

Professional painters will always paint the ceiling first. The reason for this is that it allows you to cover the surface with at least two coats of paint without worrying about over-spray, which is the effect of excess paint being sprayed onto the walls by the roller. This ensures a cleaner, neater paint job.

When painting the ceiling, the best application tool is definitely a roller with a double arm frame. The double-arm frame ensures support at both ends of the roller, and this allows you to easily access the area you need to paint.

The double-arm frame will also offer even pressure across the width of the roller and will provide a more even finish.

Do you paint the baseboards or walls first?

The baseboards – also known as ‘skirting boards’ – are considered part of the trim, so these need to be painted before you paint the walls.

Baseboards are usually painted with semi-gloss or high-gloss finish paint.

You can use masking or painter’s tape to ensure accuracy of the cut line, and remove this once the paint is dry.

Don’t forget to sand the trim between coats to ensure a smooth finish.

Before applying each coat of paint, sand the trim with a fine-grit sanding sponge. Sponges, rather than sandpaper, allow you to get into crevices where sandpaper can’t get to.

After sanding, apply your first coat of paint and let it dry for at least 24 hours. Then lightly sand it again for a completely smooth surface before applying your second coat of paint.

After each sanding, you can then vacuum the trim and wipe it down with a tack cloth to remove any dust and residue.

Painting like a pro

There are a few rules of thumb you can follow to ensure you achieve a smooth, even finish when painting your walls.

  • First up, always examine your walls for any imperfections, and use filler for any cracks and holes.
  • Let the filler dry, sand down the surface, and seal with sealant.
  • For flaking paint and bumps, you can use a scraper to even the surface before sanding and sealing.
  • If your current paint is satin or gloss, sand the walls with sandpaper using gentle pressure in a circular motion.
  • Clean your walls thoroughly to remove dirt and dust, and allow them to dry fully.
  • Cover switches, sockets, and skirting boards with masking tape and remove and reapply between each coat.
  • Always use a primer before you paint
  • When it comes to applying your paint, ensure you stir the paint thoroughly before you start painting. Use a roller to apply the paint in an M or W motion, and use a small brush or roller for the edges and corners.
  • Two coats are usually recommended, and always ensure your paint is dry before you move onto the next coat.

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