Should You Paint Trim or Walls First

Should You Paint Trim or Walls First? – Best Wall Painting Process

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There has always been a bit of a debate regarding whether you should paint the wall or trim first. Nevertheless, we have decided to provide you with clear instructions on the order that you should follow when undertaking this project. With this information, you would never question whether you should paint trim or walls first. Below, you will find all of the information that is needed to make an informed decision. While the order is something to consider, you will quickly learn that it should not dictate how you work.



Why the Order Matters

The order of painting the trim or the wall first is something that is often relegated to an afterthought. However, there are a handful of reasons for the importance of this. In some cases, most painters will boil this down to personal preference. However, there is a specific order to be followed and there is evidence that proves that the order itself will make a difference when the painting process is concerned.

Trim and Wall Painting Order

If you are struggling to determine whether you should paint the trim or walls first, there are reasons for starting with either one. You will paint the trim first if you are planning to tape off certain areas. Taping the trim is much easier, particularly if you are working with a textured wall.

Another reason to start painting the trim is that it is easier to cut in as not all painters have the patience to freehand a clean edge.

However, you should paint the walls first if you need to get the room painted quickly, more so if you would like to get rid of an ugly color. Some people also struggle to commit to a color, and this has a significant impact on the wall. It is also a good idea to start with the wall if you are undecided on a color scheme as it will take much longer to paint both the wall and the trim.


The Results of Starting With the Trim and the Wall

Realistically, there is no visual difference whether you start with the trim or the wall. However, there is proof that painting the walls first will get the job done slightly quicker. Many professionals swear by starting with the trim as this will make it much easier than painting the edges of the walls.

Starting with the walls provides a particular feeling of instant gratification. For most of us, this is an important part of the process as it will allow us to take advantage of a quick boost in motivation to get the job done.

Ultimately, there is no drastic impact on the result if you start with the trim or the walls. However, the quality of the materials and tools that are used will make a significant difference.



Painting Trim First

It goes without saying that the trim and the walls are very different surfaces. This means that your approach when painting them has to be different. The same approach should be taken if you do not know whether to paint the ceiling or walls first, but we will tackle that later. You should paint the trim first under the following circumstances:

  • The room that you are working in is under construction and you would like to save time
  • You do not want to use tape when cutting in
  • You will be using tape when painting the wall


How to Prepare and Paint Trim

There are a variety of factors that need to be considered when painting trim, so let us start with the cost. The cost of painting trim will vary, but it is generally between $20 and $75 per hour if you are having it done professionally. However, if you are going to do it yourself, you will need to buy paint, brushes, tape, and a variety of other materials. You will need the following tools and materials to ensure that you get the best results when painting trim:

  • Trim paint
  • Stir stick
  • Dust cloth
  • 2-inch angled paintbrush
  • Painter’s tape
  • Plastic drop cloths

The first step is to protect your walls from dropping paint. Here you will use painter’s tape along the margins of the wall. Spread out a bunch of drop cloths to protect the surfaces of your home from spillage and splatters.

Also, clean or wipe off your trim, especially those with moldings or grooves, to remove any buildup of debris or dirt.

Once the trim has been cleaned, stir your paint well with a stir stick to remove bubbles and evenly distribute the pigment. Fill the upper one-third of the bristles of a 2-inch angled brush with paint straight out of the container to prevent overloading the brush. Tap the brush on both sides against the paint can, then run the bristles down the container’s sides to eliminate any extra paint. Apply paint in a single stroke, in a single direction, with your 2-inch angled brush on the broadest area of the trim. Slowly work your way across the entirety of your trim. To avoid ugly brush marks, begin your subsequent sweeps in a dry region and work your way to the wet ones. A top tip is to lightly run a small sponge paint-roller over your painted trim to disguise any brush marks.

Tips for Painting Trim and Walls

Following the drying of the initial coat of paint, look for spots that are uneven or that require extra paint, and touch up as needed. Strip the tape and allow the trim to dry sufficiently for 24 hours prior to painting the walls.


The Benefits of Painting Trim First

There are a handful of benefits that come with painting the trim first. Below, we will take a closer look at each of them and decide if the benefits are worth the extra effort that is needed to begin the process.


The Hardest Part Is Over

Painting trim is significantly more difficult than applying paint to walls as you need to be meticulous. There is not a large margin for error since it is such a limited space to cover. You possess a bit more flexibility if you begin with the trim.

If you happen to make a mistake and get some paint on your walls, it will not be a big deal because you will eventually be painting over it.


Easier to Paint the Edges

Beginning with the trim makes the task easier in the future. Many professional painters believe that using tape to cover the trim, crown molding, and baseboards is considerably easier than painting the margins of the walls. To keep the paintwork clean and mess-free, you will need to use painter’s tape, so it all boils down to whichever taping task is easiest for you.

Painter's Tape for Painting Trim


Tips and Tricks for Painting Trim

We have provided some useful tips and tricks for painting trim. This will allow you to get the job done faster while yielding better results. Some of these can also be used when painting interior walls, so check them out below.


Sanding Yields Better Results

If the woodwork is sleek, just sand it using 120-grit sandpaper. Begin with 80-grit sandpaper if the trim is in rough shape, as ours was. Smooth and blend parts with layered paint using 100-grit sandpaper. Lastly, go over the entire piece of wood with 120-grit sandpaper.

Purchase sandpaper marked ‘no-load.’ No-load sandpaper is less likely to clog and is excellent for sanding painted areas.


Get Rid of Dents and Fill Holes

Use a hardening-type two-part wood filler to fix major dents or gouges on edges that are prone to misuse. Spackling compound can be used to fill tiny dings and holes. As spackling compound shrinks when it dries, you will need to apply a second application after the first.

Repair Trim with Spackle for Painting

Run a bright light over the woodwork to draw attention to any depressions and make sure you do not miss any areas while applying the filler. Allow the filler to cure before sanding it smooth.


Cut in Edges Before Painting the Center

Cutting in takes work to perfect, but it is well worth the effort. Load the brush first before cutting in. Then, carefully scrape the bristles on the outer edge of the paint can to remove the majority of the extra paint.

Begin by dragging the brush down the edge, but leave the bristles about a quarter-inch away from the ceiling or wall to drop some paint on the wood.

Proceed with an additional brushstroke, this time slightly closer. It is significantly easier to creep up to the line this way than it is to nail it the first time. Curve the paintbrush away from the cut-in line at the final point of the stroke. Cut in a few feet, then fill the center with the lay-on, lay-off method.



Painting Walls First

If you are asking, “should you paint trim or walls first”, this should answer all of your questions. Much like starting with the trim, there are a handful of reasons for starting with the wall. Below, we will take a look at the benefits that come with starting with painting walls, how to prepare the surface, and a handful of tips and tricks that will help you. Here are some of the reasons for starting with the walls.

  • You have an extra hand to help you cover the larger surface area
  • You are undecided on the color
  • You need to get the room painted quickly


How to Prepare and Paint Walls

This is most likely the most straightforward surface to paint on. To achieve an ideal surface, simply apply a primer as well as an undercoat with a roller. If you fail to seal the surface beforehand, the plaster will absorb any paint that is applied like a sponge, wasting a lot of it and requiring a greater number of coats than necessary. Before decorating, allow all newly applied or fresh plaster to fully cure. To ensure that you get the best results, you will need the following tools and materials:

  • Sandpaper
  • Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paint rollers
  • Dust sheets
  • Painter’s tape
  • Sugar soap
  • Filling knife

Spending a little more time and attention in preparing your walls before painting can result in a much superior finish. Begin by cleaning the empty spaces with sugar soap ahead of filling, since dust might prevent the filler from adhering to the wall. Using the flexible filling knife, push the filler into the opening until it is flush with the wall.

Allow the filler to dry completely before smoothing it with fine sandpaper.

For cutting in, you will need to begin by masking your trim. Cutting in is a process that involves painting using an application pad or brush in places that a roller cannot reach. Load your paintbrush by dipping it nearly half of the length of the bristles into the paint. To remove extra paint, tap the paintbrush on the side of your paint can. Begin by brushing a few inches away from a corner or edge. The edge of the paint will be established as you advance. Drag the brush down the edge so that your paint line follows the edging.

Cut in Paint on Wall Next to Trim

You are now ready to build the wall. To load your roller, put it forward on the tray, then raise it to check for even spinning. If your roller is imbalanced, it is because the paint is not being applied equally, therefore keep rolling it over the surface of the tray with full revolutions to evenly disperse the paint. Roll over the wall beginning where you cut through. Roll as much as possible into the brushed section as possible for the greatest results.

After you have coated an area of the wall, lay off for a smooth finish. This is the most significant step in rolling the wall and must be done after painting a section.


The Benefits of Painting Walls First

Much like painting trim first, there are a few benefits to painting your walls first. Below, we have provided some of the benefits of painting walls first. While these benefits are minimal, they are benefits nonetheless, so check them out below.


It Is Easier

Beginning with the interior walls is considerably simpler for an unskilled painter than beginning with the trim. When painting the walls, you can be a little messy, but it will not impact the end result in any way. It is not a huge problem if you get some paint splatter on the trim when painting because you will be covering it up anyhow.


It Has a Positive Effect

Starting with the walls is more satisfying than tackling the trim. After all, if you begin with your walls, you will cover a larger area rapidly. This can have a favorable overall influence on how you are feeling about your development and give you the impression that you have done a lot.

Benefits of Painting Walls First


Tips and Tricks for Painting Walls

Below are some of the best tips and tricks for painting walls and this will help you get much better results. Some of these might be common sense, but there are other tips that might be completely new to you.


Paint in Dry Conditions

Temperature is everything when painting and doing so on a humid day will result in drips and delayed drying times. If you have no choice but to paint in those conditions, take your time and use slow-drying paint to repair any mistakes before going on to the next layer.

However, it is important to avoid overworking the paint since it will show after you are done.


Make Sure That You Use Primer

If you currently have a clean, flat surface, paint-and-primer combos are great. If the wall has problems or it has been over eight years since you have painted, it would be best to spend the money and use a different primer.

Always Use Primer for Walls and Trim


Start from the Top and Work Your Way to the Bottom

Once you have used a brush to cut in your edges at the edge of the baseboard and the ceiling, use a roller to spread the paint starting at the ceiling downward.

Amateurs frequently have visible splatters and drops at the final stage of a paint job, but professionals paint over their errors as they make their way down the wall.

Once the section starts drying, move on to another. Going over it again might leave scratches and streaks of color on the surface of the paint. If you are asking if you need to paint the ceiling or walls first, you will need to start with the ceiling.



Which to Paint First: Trim or Walls?

While it is usually a personal preference whether you would like to start with the trim or the walls, it is best to start with the trim. It is important to understand that both methods will yield the same results. The most important factors for this project are the tools and the type of paint that you use. Low-quality paint will give you a poor finish that you will end up redoing in the next few months, so spend a bit more and do the job right.

Tips for Painting Walls or Trim First

We would recommend starting with the trim, primarily because you will be able to get paint on the walls and easily fix it. However, painting the trim will make painting the wall more challenging as you will need to be more precise.

If you are completely replacing the trim, you could also use a pre-painted option that would work very well, but this could be more expensive.


Ceilings or Walls First?

If you are painting your ceilings, it is important to make it your starting point. Not only is it a more challenging job, but in this case, it is better to start from the highest point of the room. If you start with the walls, you will likely end up getting paint splatter onto the wall, which is another headache in its own right. Essentially, starting with the walls is a bad idea and we would strongly advise you not to do it.   

Always Paint Ceiling Before Walls


Ultimately, we would recommend that you start with the trim as it has a smaller surface area, which makes it easier to clean or paint over once you have finished painting the walls. While this is a paint job at its core, many painters have placed too much emphasis on the fact that the order will yield different results. However, this could not be further from the truth. The reality is that it comes down to preference, but starting with the trim is generally just easier. Nevertheless, whether you start with the walls or the trim, we wish you the best of luck with your paint job!




Frequently Asked Questions


Is There Any Difference in Appearance When You Paint the Wall or Trim First?

Whether you paint the walls or the trim first, the end result will be the same. While you will end up hitting the trim a few times when painting the walls first, the reality is that you will also hit the wall if you start with the trim. The only time that you may find a real difference is with a new-build or complete renovation, where you can paint trim before installing it on a freshly painted wall.


What Method Would Be Easier to Clean Up Should You Paint the Trim or Walls First?

Cleaning up the wall would be slightly easier should you start with the trim. This is because some trim designs are complex with intricate grooves that can be difficult to reach. However, you could also argue that cleaning the bottom of the wall, just above the trim, can be quite difficult as well.


Is There a Valid Reason to Paint the Walls First?

If you are asking if you should paint trim or walls first, the answer is not as complicated as you think. In most cases, it would come down to personal preference. However, if you have issues deciding on the color of the wall, then it is best to start with the wall. This is because you would likely need to change the trim color too if you are not happy with it. So, instead of changing the trim to compliment the wall that had to be repainted, start with the wall, and then you can decide from that point onwards.

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