What To Do About Ugly Trim

What To Do About Ugly Trim

Recently, a fellow Curblier posted a question about painting natural wood interior trim. With several total house remodels under our belts we’ve been faced with a lot of ugly molding. Some of it we’ve replaced, some we’ve refinished and some we’ve painted. Along the way, we’ve come up with a few rules that work for us. I thought I’d pass them along.

Rule #1: If the molding is in bad condition, you paint it. But be aware that painting a thousand plus feet of baseboard and door molding in a total house remodel is A LOT of work. Although it adds to the tedious nature of the job, you really should use an oil-base paint, sanding it with fine grit paper between multiple thin coats, to ensure a nice, smooth, durable finished.

Rule #2: If the trim is in good condition but mismatched (brick molding in the new addition and ranch molding everywhere else) you might consider painting it as doing so will suggest trim uniformity throughout the house–if uniformity is important to you.

Rule #3: If the trim is in good condition but painted (and you love the look of natural wood) you might want to consider refinishing it. We did this once, using a heat gun to remove the paint then finished up with a good sanding. Unless the house has significant architectural relevance, we will never do this again, as it is A LOT of work.

Addendum to Rule #3: To make the job less daunting, we refinished only the windows and window trim (as it was unique and not easily replaceable) and chose to replace all the baseboard and door moldings (and even doors), which we stained and varnished to match the windows. Again, we will only replace molding that does not have architectural relevance. Six inch, oak molding in a 1942 Craftsman would be refinished, for example.

Rule #4: If the natural wood trim is in good condition, you don’t paint it. "But what if it’s the color of poo?" you might ask. Well, there is an alternative to painting the trim here; namely, you paint the walls. It’s all a matter of contrast. Take a look at the examples below.

A light-colored wall with dark trim makes the trim scream: LOOK AT ME! I’M THE COLOR OF POO!!

A dark-colored wall with the same dark trim makes the trim politely remark: Let me introduce you to my pretty friend. Her name’s "Wall."


Again, these are our rules; if they can help you with your molding dilemmas, great! If you have trim rules of your own, please share them because ugly trim, it seems, isn't going away anytime soon.

Top pic courtesy of trinkaisland @ flickr.

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DesigningMom on Jun 13, 2007:

If your trim is light and you want dark you can always give it a light sanding and use Polyshades by Minwax to darken it.  It's stain and polyurethane in one product.  Oil based.  Make sure you put it on multiple thin coats since thicker coats have a tendency to look blotchy.

Becky <><

McFly on Feb 21, 2007:

We did some trim refinising before, and it was a lot of work. We made it easier by gently removing the trim from the wall. Once striped, we stained the trim and added one coat of varnish. We then painted the wall because it was dammaged slightly during the removal process. We then re-installed the trim. Once installed we filled the holes and added the second coat of varnish. When it was done it looked great, I just don't know if I would do it again.  

Special Note: When removing nails from trim, pull them out through the back with a vice grips so that the face of the wood is damaged less.  

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