a top-down approach

When you look into updating your home, the most popular advice is to pick up a gallon of paint and go to town. And it is a good way to update things. But if you want to do a good job, you need to do some (tedious) work. As we finish up a renovation, I’m struggling through all of the steps myself to make it look its best.

Strip it down

A seldom done task is to strip the wood trim you want to repaint. If you have a home in Mt. Lebanon, chances are good that you have rooms with 60-90 years of paint on them. You can put another coat on top, but if you are doing major work (we had to remove casings and doors for our renovation) consider stripping the wood and repainting before you put it back up. Be careful, though, old paint may contain lead. A chemical stripper will help with safe removal. There are also places you can take them to have it “dipped and stripped” –that’s a great choice for doors with lots of nooks and crannies from the panels.


Patch it up

Does your trim look like someone read one too many home improvement blogs and took a chain to it to “distress” the wood? Yeah, mine too. This is a really easy fix, just get some wood filler and a putty knife to smooth the area out. You’ll need to sand it smooth with a fine-grit sandpaper (I’ve been using 150 successfully).

Fill it in

Maybe your trim work has gaps between it and the wall. Over time, old trim can shrink and pull away a bit from the wall. New trim will never line up perfectly with the walls. The solution here is a bottle of caulk and a caulking gun. Caulk is extremely easy to work with, and you will be amazed at the difference! It’s especially good for those inside and outside corners that aren’t quite square.

Get it primed

This isn’t always necessary, but if you are covering a dark color, stains (like pen and marker), or unusually smooth areas, you may want to prime first. This will help your paint stick better and absorb more evenly so the color and sheen are consistent.

Take it to the top

Have you considered painting your ceiling? Some people go bold, but I prefer to take the lightest color on the paint card that I chose for the wall and put that on the ceiling. It gives just a bit of contrast from the trim, and it already matches your wall. If it’s been a while, painting your ceiling can really freshen up your room.  **Warning, if you try to fix those cracks, you are in for the long haul. Sometimes I just accept the “character” of my house. This is one of those times. Just paint over the cracks and know they’ll likely show back up. Or enjoy your time upside down, Michelangelo!***


Work your way down

I like to start with the ceiling, move to the crown moulding, then do the walls, and then the baseboard. I’ve found that it’s easier to “cut in” from the top of the trim than from the bottom. Taping is always an option, but it’s easier for me to go back and touch up as needed. Just take your time and go slow.

The bottom line

Painting is not always easy. Or cheap–did you see that list of items? But it is a great way to update your home. And it is easier than most other renovation projects!

Final tip

Buy high quality paint for optimal durability. if you know you’ll be painting in the near future (within a year) start keeping an eye on seasonal sales. You can buy a steep discount, and you don’t have to tint it when you buy. Just take it back to the store when you are ready to paint and they will add the color and shake it up for you.

Good luck!

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