Elaborate trim and crown molding painted white

Interior trim and crown molding accent your rooms, and when painted or finished well, these decorative features can be the final touch that makes your makeover project look complete. So, when you're repainting walls, or updating décor, remember to pay special attention to these areas to really bring your room together.

Step 1: Choose a Color

Many people opt for stained wood trim or crown molding for a natural wood effect. This project will focus on finishing trim and molding with paint. Common color choices for trim and molding are neutral colors that blend with a room's walls, windows and doors. A standard trick is to paint the trim darker than the wall color by using a darker or deeper version of that color.

If you prefer more color, you can create an attractive balance between the walls, trim and molding by choosing analogous colors, which are colors located next to each other on the color wheel. To get more contrast, use complementary colors (located opposite of each other on the color wheel, like red and green or orange and blue).

Your local True Value hardware store's Certified Color Experts can answer any questions you have about paint color and point you in the right direction, based on your preferences. Pick up a Custom Mixed Color Sample to try out different colors on your ceiling or walls. You can also pick up one of our helpful Paint Idea Cards to help you choose your palette.

Step 2: Pick Paint Type

True Value EasyCare Ultra Premium Interior Paint comes in a wide array of colors in durable flat, flat enamel, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss and high-gloss finishes and is easy to apply and simple to clean up when the job is done. Semi-gloss and high-gloss finishes are best for trim and molding. Semi-gloss has a higher gloss level than a satin finish, but isn't as shiny as high-gloss. High-gloss is good for trim areas that are washed often.

Helpful Tip

Latex-based paint can be applied on top of a primer that is acrylic or oil-based.

Step 3: Choose Brushes

Use high-quality enamel or varnish brushes. They hold more paint, apply with ease and don't leave brush strokes. Choose brushes with flagged tips and tapered edges. Small, angular-tipped brushes are good for working on molding, doorframes, baseboards and any small, hard-to-reach areas in corners and for detail work. You can use a larger brush for wainscoting, paneling and doors.

If you're using latex or water-based paints, you should use synthetic brushes (usually a combination of polyester and nylon bristles), which hold their shapes and stiffness, even in large amounts of water. If your paint is oil-based, opt for brushes with natural bristles.

Step 4: Prepare for Painting

Before you start painting, prepare your trim or crown molding surfaces. Prep work takes time and effort, but it makes painting easier. And the results are longer-lasting, so prepping is definitely worth it.

Paint doesn't adhere well to dirt, so clean surfaces well before you begin. Dust and vacuum all surfaces to be painted. For crown molding, tops of windows, or door casings, use a stepladder or small extension ladder to reach up there.

Helpful Tip

Give even brand new trim a good, once-over cleaning just to be sure that the piece you're painting is fully prepped and ready to go. The cleaner your surfaces, the better the finished job will be.

Use a sponge dipped in phosphate-free cleaner and warm water to clean all of the woodwork. Use a soft brush for crevices and, if necessary, an abrasive cleaning pad for tough stains. Rinse the surfaces well and dry thoroughly with an absorbent towel.

Use plastic or canvas drop cloths to protect your floors from any paint that might drip or splatter. If your room is carpeted, and you're painting base molding, mask its edges with blue painter's tape, placing it against the molding and using a putty knife to push it beneath the edge. Most molding has a gap under the lower edge to leave room for the carpet; if yours doesn't, push the tape down as far as you can between the carpet and the molding.

Painter's tape should also be used to protect the edges of walls and ceilings that are adjacent to the trim and molding. Last but not least, if any hardware is attached to the trim, remove what you can and tape up the rest.

Helpful Tips

To protect twice as much carpet, use a double strip of tape. Place the second line parallel to the first, effectively doubling its width.

To keep paint from bleeding under the tape onto neighboring walls and ceiling, press the edges of the tape down with a block of wood to seal them tightly.

It's inevitable that some trim will see daily wear and tear. Dents, nicks and scratches can be very noticeable and distract from a room's overall appearance, so it's important to repair any imperfections before you start painting. Sanding works well to remove shallow dents or scratches. For best results, use sandpaper on a rubber sanding block, or a sanding sponge if the surface is irregular. Start by sanding with 80-grit paper until the dent or scratch is smooth, then finish, sand and feather into the surrounding area with 120-grit paper. Wipe the area clean with a slightly damp rag to remove any dust and grit.

Wood filler should be used on areas with more severe damage. First, rough up the surface with coarse sandpaper to ensure a good bond. Then apply wood filler with a putty knife. When it's hard and dry, sand it level.

Helpful Tip

Shine a strong light at a low angle across the surface of the trim to pinpoint any paint drips, brush bristles, chipped paint, dents and scratches that need to be fixed.

Safety Alert!

Lead is toxic, and scraping, sanding or removing old paint may release lead dust into the air. Children and women who are pregnant should stay away from the work area during this process. When you're working with lead dust, wear a NIOSH-approved respirator and clean all debris carefully with a HEPA filter-outfitted vacuum and a wet mop. Before you start, learn the proper methods to protect yourself by contacting the National Lead Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD or visiting www.epa.gov/lead.

If your woodwork has a glossy sheen, it's important to dull it so that the paint will adhere effectively. To remove the shine, lightly sand the area with 120-grit sandpaper or apply a brush-on deglosser, which is available for latex or oil-based paints. Remove the sanding dust with a vacuum when you're finished.

Helpful Tips

A thorough de-glossing is critical if your trim was previously painted with oil-based paint and you now want to switch to water-based; if you skip this step, your new paint will not adhere or wear well.

To find out if your trim was painted with latex or oil-based paint, rub the surface with a rag moistened with denatured alcohol. Oil-based paint will not be affected, but latex paint will soften and stain your rag.

Safety Alerts!

When you sand indoors, keep the air clear by creating an easy exhaust system. Set a box fan in an open window to circulate air and direct airborne dust outdoors.

As a safety precaution, observe all label instructions and cautions for using electrical tools and deglossing agents.

Step 5: Prime and Paint

Before painting trim or crown molding, you first want to prime surfaces with True Value EasyCare Ultra Premium Interior Primer/Sealer. Apply one coat, or two if necessary, using a small paintbrush. Use your stepladder or ladder to prime and paint crown molding and trim that is out of reach. Let each coat dry thoroughly (overnight, if possible) before continuing.

When priming and painting, load your brush by covering 1/3 to 1/2 of the bristles and tap the brush on the side of the can to remove any excess paint. Apply from one side of the brush with one long stroke. Use the return trip to unload the other side, starting just where the first stroke ended. Complete each area with a long, light finishing stroke. Make sure to brush toward the paint that was just applied each time you begin a new stroke. To get the best results, paint only a few feet of trim or molding at a time. Clean up any drips or splatters before they dry.

Helpful Tips

Accidents happen. If you inadvertently get paint on an adjacent surface, wrap a cotton cloth over the end of a putty knife and use it to neatly remove the spill. You'll get a nice sharp edge that removes the unwanted paint without scratching the trim's surface.

You can use denatured alcohol or Oops! Multi-Purpose Remover and Cleaner to remove dried latex paint spills or drips. If using on carpet, test on an inconspicuous area beforehand as these products may remove color.

Step 6: Clean Up

Thoroughly rinse brushes with water until the water runs clear, then place them in a brush/roller spinner to remove excess liquid. Afterwards, store them in their protective sleeves or hang them on nails or hooks. Pick up all drop cloths, being careful not to spread around any wet paint that may still be on them. Remember to remove all painter's tape as well — the longer it stays on, the harder it is to remove.

Good job! You're finished. Freshly-painted trim and crown molding was just the professional-looking touch your room needed.

Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.