How To Paint Wood Trim

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Today I am sharing how to paint wood trim white with step by step instructions. Painting our wood trim in our house white has been on the to-do list for years! Painting trim white is the easiest and quickest way to modernize and update a house.

Painting trim white is one of the most affordable ways to update a home. Whether you are painting wooden trim, doors or walls, a fresh coat of paint will provide a great before and after.

dark orange toned stained front door and staircase,

Painting Trim White

Many of you know that we have been considering painting all of the wood trim, doors and stairway in our house for quite some time. If you missed last weeks post about modernizing our mediterranean home with paint, be sure to get caught up and see all of the paint projects we have going on in the house. You can also see our 2023 list of house remodeling projects here.

Painting trim white, especially if you are painting over stained wood, is a simple but lengthy process as you must prepare the wood.

One of the biggest issues with stained wood is the stain color bleeding through and turning the white trim paint a dirty orange brown.

Paint prep work is the key to success so be diligent and take your time!

How to Paint Wood Trim: Complete Instructions Guide

Best Primer for Painting Wood Trim White

We used Zinsser Cover Stain to prime all the wood trim. Cover Stain is an oil-based primer which is very smelly but does a great job at covering stained wood. We applied 2 coats of primer allowing each coat to dry for 24 hours before applying the next coat. The directions on the can are very self explanatory.

Priming Tip

One thing to note about oil-based products, you cannot clean the brush or roller with water, you need to use paint thinner. If you prefer to use a latex (water based) primer (I think oil based covers the stain better), check out this post, how to paint over stain with latex primer.

Zinsser Cover Stain 5 gallon bucket for stained dark trim

Before we get started with the step by step instructions on how to paint wood, lets review a few common questions below about painting wood trim.

FAQs about Painting Wood Trim

Yes! You can 100% paint over stained wood trim. The key is to use a quality primer and paint. You can paint wood trim whatever color you like but I personally prefer white trim paint.

Depending on what you are painting, you can get away without sanding. For example, if you are painting furniture, a deglosser may work. If you are painting over wood trim, you will need to lightly sand to break the gloss seal of the stain or varnish and use a high quality primer before painting the wood trim.

Painting over stained wood trim is a personal preference. If your wood trim is a dark orange toned stain, then yes, painting wood trim white great way to modernize and update your home. White trim is classic and will offer a brighter and cleaner look in your home. Wood trim if used in a cabin or rustic setting can certainly look beautiful but in most style homes in “today’s times”, wood trim is considered outdated.

What Kind of Paint Do You Use On Wood Trim

Trim Paint: The paint sheen of trim is typically semi gloss or satin. We used latex paint in a satin finish to create a cohesive seamless look from our wall color. A semi gloss sheen for trim work is popular as it’s easy to clean but satin sheen is equally easy to clean and does not have as shiny of a finish. I am not fan of super shiny trim so satin is always our go-to trim sheen.

For our trim paint color, we used Sherwin Williams Westhighland (latex paint) diluted with white by 25% to provide a slight contrast from our wall color. Our wall color is Sherwin Williams Westhighland.

White trim will give you a clean modern look and brighten up a space!

Materials you will need to paint wood trim white

Use a good quality brush, I like Purdy and Wooster, to prevent brush marks. Keep your oil based and latex paint brushes separate. Use a dedicated brush for latex paint and a dedicated brush for oil-based primer application.

You can purchase all your supplies by clicking the highlighted links above or head to our Amazon Storefront.

If you are curious what the best paint for trim is, you can use Benjamin Moore Regal (we used BM) or Sherwin Williams Emerald Interior.

How to Paint Trim Like A Pro

Step 1: Lightly Sand The Trim

Lightly sanding the trim will break any shine or sheen on the stain and help the primer adhere better to the wood trim. Be sure to vacuum and wipe clean any mess from sanding.

sanding stained wood trim and brushing off sand debris with a paint brush

Step 2 – Apply Painters Tape Around Trim

When painting baseboards, window or door trim you will need to spend time taping off the trim to prevent getting primer or trim paint on the floors and walls.

applying painters tape to window and wooden trim in preparation to prime and paint wood trim

This process is a bit daunting and time consuming but it will allow for the painting process to go faster and once the tape is removed (after the paint is dry), you will have a clean professional straight paint line.

Step 3 – Apply First Coat Of Primer With Brush Or Roller

Be sure to apply the primer to a clean surface and allow 24 hours to dry before applying the second coat. We applied 2 coats of primer to ensure the stain color does not bleed through.

applying cover stain primer with a brush to stained wooden trim large windows

Step 4 – Lightly Sand Any Rough Primed Areas

Depending on your wood and how thick you apply the primer, you may need to lightly sand with 120 sandpaper the dried primer to ensure a smooth application for the latex paint. We had a few primed areas that needed to be sanded.

man priming large windows with paint primer in preparation for paint

Step 5 – Caulk Gaps Between Wood Trim & Walls

Stained wood trim is never caulked so you will most definitely have a gap/line between the trim and walls. Caulking will create a seamless transition between the trim and walls. Use wood filler for small imperfections and lightly sand filler areas to a smooth finish. Allow 24 hours for the caulking to dry before using painters tape to tape off trims.

caulking gap between baseboard and wall

Step 6 – Apply White Trim Latex Paint

Using a high quality 2″ angle brush, we applied 2 coats of latex white paint allowing 24 hours to dry in between coats.

man painting white trim on large windows

Step 7 – Remove Painters Tape

Remove painters tape once the paint is dry to the touch. You may need to use a putty knife or blade first to score the painters tape along the edge to get a clean line.

large windows painted with white trim

Painting wood trim white is by far the easiest and most affordable ways to update your home. I can’t believe how much brighter and “newer” the house looks since painting over the stained woodwork.

Update: See My Sherwin Williams Westhighland White Paint Review + “After” Pictures

Here are the same windows before we started painting the trim white.

dark stained wooden window trim on large windows
man painting a 25' ceiling with white ceiling paint and long roller pole

Here is the family room before we started painting the interior trim.

20' large window with stained wood trim getting painted white

Be sure to read this post, modernizing our mediterranean house with paint, to see what the house looked like before we started painting the trims white.

Here is a look at the staircase with white primed stair risers and handrails! The staircase looks so good!

Hopefully I have answered your questions of “can I paint over stained wood?!” If you are painting over stained trim or previously painted trim yourself you will save a lot of money in labor. We ended up hiring a professional painting crew (Keitson from Rio Painting in Massachusetts).

Paint Color Review Posts You Don’t Want To Miss

SHOP OUR HOMES: Pssst…. did you know we have an Amazon Storefront now (read that post here)? You can shop all of our home decor & so much more! It doesn’t cost you any more or less money to shop from our Amazon Store 🙂 Any commissions we make, are paid by the brand and they help pay for monthly fees to keep the blog up and running 😀.

Meet Jessica

What started as a hobby, Jessica’s blog now has millions of people visit yearly and while many of the projects and posts look and sound perfect, life hasn’t always been easy. Read Jessica’s story and how overcoming death, divorce and dementia was one of her biggest life lessons to date.


  1. Thank you for the informative and easy to follow directions. I have been wanting to paint the trim and decks of my bay windows for a while. At the ripe old age of 73, I may be a little ambitious, but I have nothing but time, since retiring, so why not! Researching my project now so I can open the windows and start with the first sign of Spring. I enjoy your blog and can relate to all the things you have been through, except dementia. Happy that you seem to be turning a corner. God bless you and your family in the coming year.

    1. Hi Karen! Thank you so much for the kind words 🙂 It’s definitely a lengthy process! Send me some pics when you finish of before and after would love to see!

  2. Wow, this is looking so much better, especially looking out the windows to the snow!

  3. So after the primer, do you remove the painters tape to caulk the cracks? Then tape again before painting?

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