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Lee Wallender

Paint Walls or Trim First? The Question is Answered.

By December 20, 2009

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I get this question all the time:

"Do I paint the walls or trim first?"

As frequently as I get this question, I do not tire of it.  It's an interesting question, with no clear answer.  Consider:

  • Painting walls first means taking care of the big spaces first.  But if you're painting your walls anything but white, there is the potential for slop-over onto your soon-to-be white trim (most trim is white).  It's hard to cover over colors with white.
  • Painting trim first means you might slop wall paint onto your final white trim coat.  It also means a lot of laborious taping and masking of trimwork.

Now we have it on good authority from painter John Montorio, in a House Beautiful article called Confessions of a House Painter, that it can go either way (with a slight preference toward doing the walls first).

Montorio says that he takes it on a case-by-case basis.  And since he's also trying to manage clients' expectations, he takes that into consideration:

Every situation is unique. Is there a builder involved? Other tradespeople? Are the rooms loaded with fine architectural details? Do the clients have particular preferences? Some ask you to paint the walls first -- they want the instant gratification of fast change. Others want to gauge the look of the trim work before anything else is done. Typically, though, it makes the most sense to start with the ceilings and the walls, and move on to the molding, door trim, doors, and baseboards.


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