Paint Trim Before or After Installing? What’s the Right Way?

Author: Pat Freling | Updated: | Affiliate links may be present.

So you’ve got your new floors installed or your wall finally painted, and now it’s time to install trim. If you are planning on painting them, you might be wondering whether you should apply the paint before or after you install them.

Painting your trim before you install them makes the process much easier. You can avoid getting paint on your floors or walls, and the end result will appear more professional. Painting trim after installing has the benefit of avoiding touch-ups and is ideal if you don’t have a separate area to paint the trim before installing it.

Do Your Paint Baseboards Before Installing?

The answer to this question depends on a few things. If you have the space and the ability to paint your trim before you install it, it’s recommended you do so. This includes an area where the trim can be left to dry without the possibility of it getting touched by anything.

There is less chance of paint transfer to surrounding areas when the trim is painted separately. It’s also easier to see spots you missed with uniform overhead lighting.

If you don’t have a separate designated area, painting your trim after installing it is still a good alternative. It may require some more prep, such as taping off walls and floors.

Painting Baseboards Before Installing

If you have a separate workspace and an area to hold the trim while it dries, it’s beneficial to paint the pieces beforehand.

Set up Your Work Area

First, lay down a drop cloth or choose an area that you wouldn’t mind getting paint on the floor, like a basement or garage. Using a sawhorse or two tables, place your trim pieces face up. Wipe them down with a damp cloth and allow them to air dry.

Paint and Let Dry

Take a roller, brush, or spray paint and evenly paint the trim. You may need to apply a second coat, just be sure to let the first coat dry completely. Note: if you purchased a trim that was pre-primed, it’s not necessary to prime it first. If the trim isn’t pre-primed, the primer will be necessary to make sure the paint adheres.

Install and Touch Up

Once your trim pieces have fully dried, install them as you normally would. Afterwards, fill in the nail holes and caulk along the top edge and bottom, if you desire. After caulking, touch up the nail holes with your trim paint color.

Painting Baseboards After Installing

Sometimes, you find that you don’t have a separate space to paint the trim and let it dry before installing. Painting baseboards after you install them can be a little trickier, but you have the added benefit of not having to fill nail holes afterwards.

Install Baseboards and Prep Your Area

Install your baseboards as you normally would, then caulk the top edges and the nail holes. If you are painting your walls after you paint your trim, you don’t need to tape off the top of the baseboards if you don’t wish to.

Make sure to lay down a drop cloth and tape off the edges around the floor to avoid any unwanted transfer. Clean off the trim and let it air dry completely.

Prime, Paint, and Let Dry

As mentioned before, if you purchased pre-primed baseboards, you don’t have to worry about primer. If you do find yourself needing to use primer, one coat should do the trick, just make sure it’s the correct type of primer so it works well with your paint.

After your primer has dried, carefully paint your trim. Use fluid, even strokes, and pay close attention to corners and seam limes, if there are any. Once it’s fully dried, you can remove your tape and touch up any areas you may have missed.

Final Thoughts

While there is no one right option when it comes to painting trim before or after installation, there is definitely a benefit to painting it beforehand if you are able to do so. The result will be cleaner, more professional-looking baseboards.

Painting trim after installation is a fine option as well, just take care to properly protect your space ahead of time so you won’t have to do so many touch-ups.

About Pat Freling

Pat has been into DIY painting since he was 14 years old. He's painted interior walls, decks, patio, and even the first car that he'd purchased at 18.

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