Converting Interior Natural Wood Trim to Painted Trim

Although nowhere near the equivalent of a locksmith teaching a budding thief how to pick a lock, the topic of this article feels similarly dirty to me.

Doing what we do, we see some of the most beautiful natural wood trim on the interior of people’s homes as one might conceive to imagine.

The finishes on this natural wood range from modern day stain & polyurethane systems to ancient shellac coatings that truly are remarkable.

Once in a while we get a request from someone that wants to paint this beautiful natural wood trim, if for no other reason than to bring the appearance of their overall interior to reflect more contemporary designs.

Each time we get asked to do this, I literally cringe.

Even with that being the case, we generally acquiesce and do a deep dive into what the potential project involves as well as the pros and cons of painting the natural wood trim.

Once the natural wood trim is painted, THAT’S IT!!

Short of a monumental restoration process, there is no going back to the natural woodwork in anything that comes near to resembling a quick fashion.

Not only that, if the prep process is not done 100% correctly, then whomever is the owner of the natural wood trim may have a disaster on their hands.

As an example, if a step is skipped, the paint that is applied may easily get nicked and possibly begin to peel off in sheets at the first time it is hit at precisely the correct angle.

The proper process (as I begin to delve into ‘locksmith teaching the burglar’ mode…) if one were to correctly convert natural wood trim to painted trim, looks like this:

– Lightly sand the wood trim that will be being worked on

– Clean off (wiping with a rag first, chased with a tack cloth)

– Carefully apply a coat of alcohol-based shellac

– Fill any imperfections (these will become accentuated after the first coat of primer is applied) with using wood putty for any holes and acrylic caulk for any gaps in trim joints

– Apply a 2nd coat of alcohol based shellac

– Apply (2) coats of your desired trim finish (sanding in between coats and then wiping with a rag/tack cloth as necessary)

– Apply a 3rd coat if it really seems like it may need it

YUCK!! I feel as though I have to go take a shower now…

In all seriousness, this is how we typically would do it.

As much as I try to talk folks out of it every time that they broach the subject with me, more often that not people want what they want and my word of caution seems to be appreciated, but seldom sways the mission.

While my appreciation for finished natural woodwork pales in comparison to a great majority of seasoned veterans in the trades as well as professionals with much deeper background in Historical Preservation, I still get irked by these types of projects.

However, as much as this is true, I do respect folks that would like to modernize the appearance of their living space which is why we still undertake these types of tasks, even though our internal preferences may lean 180 degrees to the opposite direction as to what we might like to see done in the space if it were ours to do so.

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