Paint Dark Wood Trim White in Six Easy Steps


If it’s been a while since your home’s dark wood trim felt current and stylish, perhaps it’s time for a makeover. Transforming dark wood with pain that’s white or some other light color can provide an instant refresh that brightens the entire room.

Yet this particular job requires a little planning and some careful execution if you want to achieve the best possible results for your room’s chair rails, window frames, and baseboards. A few hundred dollars for paint and supplies, a couple of days’ work, and a little precision can produce a whole new look for your room if you follow these six simple steps.

1. Choose Your Shade of White

White paint comes in a dizzying array of shades. It’s important to pick the right one to accent and highlight the rest of your room. You can use an online paint color visualizer to get an accurate idea of how a specific shade might pair with your existing wall color. The Glidden Paint Color visualizer and the Sherwin Williams color visualizer can both help you pick just the right white.

2. Make Sure You Have the Right Tools

Assemble your tools and supplies, starting with the paint. You’ll need to first figure out how much paint you’ll need by measuring the width and length of each piece of trim you’re painting, then multiplying those sums. For every 400 square feet you’ll be painting, you’ll need one gallon for one coat. Double that amount for two coats, which is usually needed for covering dark trim with white.

In addition to your paint, you’ll need several supplies and tools:

  • Primer
  • Sandpaper
  • Clean-up supplies, including a clean sponge
  • Wood filler
  • A putty knife
  • Painter’s tape
  • Drop cloths or tarps
  • A paint tray
  • Paint brushes sized to fit the trim

Once you’ve assembled your supplies and tools, move on to prepping the trim and getting it ready for painting.

3. Prepare the Trim for Painting

Start your prep work by cleaning the trim and adjacent wall space so it’s ready for tape and paint. Dip your clean sponge into a solution of a few tablespoons of mild detergent or soap in water, then wash the area carefully. Make sure you clean a few inches above and below the trim to make sure your painter’s tape will stick to the surface while you paint.

4. Fill in Nail Holes

Once the area to be painted and taped has been properly cleaned, it’s time to use the wood filler and putty knife to fill in any nicks, gaps, or nail holes in the trim to ensure a clean, even coat of paint. After you’ve applied the filler and scraped off the excess, use the sandpaper to smooth down the area so that it’s even with the rest of the trim. Then use a clean, slightly damp sponge or rag to wipe off the grit. After the trim is completely dried, you can then tape it off so that paint stays on the trim and doesn’t mar the walls.

5. Apply Primer

Next, prime the trim. This is an important step when you’re taking trim from a dark color to a light or white one. It’s essential to achieving that even, uniform color. Once you prime the trim, you’ll need to wait 24 hours before you can apply the white paint.

6. Paint the Trim

To ensure an even coat and beautiful finish, it’s important to approach the trim paint job carefully, one section at a time. Make sure you’ve mixed the paint well, then pour a small amount of paint into the paint tray. Use short, even strokes to cover one small section of the trim, then give it one long stroke to get rid of brush marks.

After the paint dries, you can give it a second coat. Don’t remove the tape until the last coat has thoroughly dried.

The Value of a Great Paint Job

A good paint job will help you sell your home more quickly and can even help your home make the best possible impression during an appraisal. Take your time and go slowly if you’re not an experienced painter, or consider leaving the job to a pro to make sure you get the best results.

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