Freshening Trim

By Sharon Naylor

July 1, 2013 5 min read

Give your home a quick refresher with a task that's much easier to complete than painting the walls and ceiling; give your trimwork a fresh coat of paint to restore its original shade. Most homeowners don't notice that their trimwork paint color has faded from age or from sunlight. (Ultraviolet rays from nearby windows or skylights can fade paint color.) Until they take a good, close look at their window trim, molding, baseboards and chair rails, they don't see little knicks, dents and damage that happens over time. Chair rails and window trim are especially susceptible to damage and stains by virtue of being touched and stained by skin oils. So take a look now and really see the difference between your original color choices by holding up the paint color strip you likely have in your home decor file. The difference can be astounding. Whites can look ivory. Pastels can be bland. Brights can be dull. But they won't be for long if you embark upon a trim-refreshing project.

Start by deciding whether you'll refresh with the same color of paint you originally used on your trim or if you'd like to apply a new shade. If you stick with the original, retrieve that old paint can from your garage and buy a fresh, new can in the same shade at your local paint store. If you didn't save the can or paint strip, use an easy iPhone or Android app from Benjamin Moore to snap a picture of a non-faded portion of your trim in quality light, and the app will automatically provide you with the name and color number of an exact paint shade. Technology makes it easy to match your paint color, and it prevents you from having to chip off a section of your paint to have it color-matched at your paint store using their spectrophotometer tool that scans items you can bring into the paint store, such as a pillow or Tiffany blue box, to get a paint match.

If you'll choose a new paint color, visit the Benjamin Moore website to try out trim colors by using their interactive room visualization tool that lets you see and print out information on the shade you choose for your new trim appearance.

Next, inspect every inch of your trimwork from all angles to see where you might have dents and rough spots that need to be sanded before you paint. The experts at suggest using a 120-grit sandpaper for fine sanding and 80-grit sandpaper to smooth rougher portions before progressing to a 120-grit sandpaper for fine finishing. The experts at Home Depot suggest using "no load" sandpaper that doesn't clog. Always sand by hand. Do not sand with a machine that can create ruts and ridges in your trim work. Home Depot's experts say to brush off any remaining sanding dust before the next step. If your home was built before 1979, be aware that your trim paint may contain lead, which makes sanding a hazard. Check with your local public health agency for advice on lead testing and safe removal.

Fill fine holes and scratches with Spackle, and use wood filler to patch up larger dents.'s experts say that deeper holes may require an initial Spackling and then a second Spackling after the first application dries to get a completely smooth finish.

Next, you'll repair the cracks or gaps between your molding or trim and your wall with caulk. Always use a fresh container of caulk, and choose a small-tip opening for a controlled application of caulk in a smooth application along cracks, smoothing with your fingertip. suggests keeping a damp cloth handy to clean your fingers between applications. Allow the caulk to dry completely, according to package directions.

Brush on stain-blocking primer to achieve a uniform shade, and let that dry for 24 hours. Then carefully apply blue painter's masking tape along the lengths of your trim above and below. Use corner-cut pieces if you paint trim strips on your windows. This protective strip will keep you from splashing paint onto your walls, preventing a larger paint job or unsightly spots that ruin the effect.

When painting on your color, The Family Handyman says not to overwork it. Paint starts to dry as soon as you apply it, so continuing to apply can leave brushstrokes on your trim, requiring an extra coat or two to cover. Two layers is often sufficient for a new and pretty paint refreshing on all of your trim. Remove the blue painter's tape while the paint is still wet, Home Depot's experts advise, or risk pulling off sections of dried paint.

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