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 white has been on the to-do list for years! Painting trim white is not only an affordable way to update a home, it’s one of the easiest and quickest way to modernize your space.

dark orange toned stained front door and staircase,
painting wood trim white is one of the best ways to update a house

Whether you are painting wooden trim, doors or walls, a fresh coat of paint will provide a great before and after.

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.

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!

Painting Wood Trim FAQ’s

Yes! You can 100% paint over stained wood trim. The key is to use a quality primer and paint. Priming is crucial as it protects the wood, prevents stains, and ensures better paint adhesion for a long-lasting finish. It’s essential to follow the right technique and prepare thoroughly to achieve a professional look. 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or rustic setting can certainly look beautiful but in most style homes in “today’s times”, wood trim is considered outdated.

Best Primer for Painting Wood Trim White

What type of paint is best for wood trim?

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.

Zinsser Cover Stain 5 gallon bucket for painting stained dark trim
The best primer when painting trim white

How to Paint Wood Trim: Complete Instructions Guide

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.

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.

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.

how to paint wood trim. sanding stained wood trim and brushing off sand debris with a paint brush
Painting stained wood trim white requires lightly sanding before applying primer

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
painters tape works great when painting wood trim white

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.

how to paint wood trim, applying cover stain primer with a brush to stained wooden trim large windows
how to paint wood trim white

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
painting stained wood trim white is a great way to modernize your home

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 while painting wood trim
caulking the gap between the wood trim 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.

how to paint wood trim white

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.

Painting Wood Trim Before & After

Below is the before picture of the large windows in our dining & foyer area.

dark stained wooden window trim on large windows before we painted the wood trim white
how to paint wood trim white

Here is the same view with a coat of primer and 1 coat of paint.

large windows painted with white trim  paint
painting wood trim white with primer and satin paint

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 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.

man painting a 25' ceiling with white ceiling paint and long roller pole
painting wood trim is an easy way to freshen up your home

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

how to paint wood trim white

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).

Once the floors are done and the furniture is back in place, I’ll update this post showing the final transformation.

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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