House & Home

17 Tips for Painting Exterior Trim

Posted May 13, 2015

Start by Choosing Your Paint Colors

  1. Do you love vivid colors? They can be overwhelming in large quantities, but used only on the trim, they will give your home character and charm. (Check with your HOA, as they may stipulate permissible paint color.)
  2. White is classic, especially for an older or historic residence, but comes in more shades than you would imagine. Match it carefully to your siding. For example, if your house is painted slate blue, select white with a gray or blue undertone.
  3. Should you be lucky enough to live in a house built of brick or stone, pick up one of the tones in the paint for your trim.
  4. Want to be "on trend"? Very popular right now are monochromatic schemes -- combining different shades of the same color, darker and lighter or cooler and warmer.
  5. Pantone's 2015 Color of the Year is lovely Marsala, an earthy shade of winestain red.
  6. Whatever you do, don't set your heart on a hue you've only seen via the Internet. When you go the dealer, take a "face to face" look at the paint swatches themselves.
  7. For a polished effect, use a maximum of three different colors for the house exterior and trim.

What to Paint

  1. Windowsills and frames are a basic starting point.
  2. When you paint your shutters, do your window boxes in the same shade. You can even color-coordinate your plantings for an upscale, unified look. On the other hand, if you are more of a free spirited type, use the shutters as a small-scale canvas for an artistic creation.
  3. A freshly painted front door adds curb appeal and welcomes visitors to your home. Coordinate or contrast with your mailbox, porch railings, posts, and columns.
  4. To display your house number bright and clear, paint it on an oversized plant pot next to your entrance.
  5. Don't forget the front steps and the garage door. They are very visible to anyone approaching your house and can make or break that all-important first impression.
  6. Just for fun, touch up the playhouse and birdhouses in your yard, making them mini versions of your home.

Painting Tips

  1. Clean and sand before you get started on any exterior painting project. A fine-grit sanding sponge will help you reach into all the nooks and crannies of your trim. If you are a perfectionist, you might also want to sand between coats, for the smoothest finish imaginable.
  2. Experienced painting contractors agree to disagree on whether to paint trim and shutters before or after the body of the building. If you are going to spray paint your house's siding, you might want to save the trim for last so that splatters won't show. Otherwise, you can do it first, edges and all, to make it really pop. Whichever way you choose, just be sure you don't end up placing a ladder on top of newly painted -- and still wet! -- siding.
  3. Try mixing in a paint extender to slow down the drying time and avoid unsightly brush strokes and lap marks.
  4. For the neatest, most professional paint job when it comes to painting shutters and doors, take them down and place them on your well-protected patio before you begin, if at all possible. Rehang them once the paint is dry.
  5. Taping windows before you paint frames and sills is a major hassle and, quite frankly, a waste of time. Instead, after the paintwork has dried, use a razor blade to gently scrape off any drips.

Laura Firszt writes for

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