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Preparing Exterior Trim for Painting

Step-by-step DIY tips to help you in preparing exterior trim for painting, from cleaning to sanding to stripping the woodwork.

When it comes to damage from sun, rain, and wind, one of a house’s most susceptible elements is its wood trim, and few things look shabbier than cracking, peeling paint.

paint exterior trim

Classic San Francisco Victorians proudly display colorful exterior trim.

At the very least, preparing exterior trim and siding for painting involves thoroughly cleaning, lightly sanding, and priming the surface. It may also require scraping, stripping, reglazing, wire brushing, filling, and caulking.

Preparing Exterior Trim for Painting, Step-by-Step

Start by scrubbing off all dirt and chalking paint with a scrub brush and a solution of trisodium phosphate (TSP). Rinse the trim thoroughly, and allow it to dry completely before preparing the surface for primer and paint.

Primer seals the surface and provides a base to which the paint can adhere. Slow-drying alkyd-base primers are your best bet. On partially bare wood, apply two coats of primer. To help the paint cover, have your primer tinted with some of the finish color.

Here are some other things you may have to do to prepare your trim for paint:

1) Disc sand the fascia, graduating from rough- to fine-grit paper. Wear safety goggles and a dust mask or respirator.

2) Blister the paint with a heat gun, and then peel it away with a putty knife. Keep a hose nearby as a precaution.

3) Tap out old window glazing compound that is cracked or brittle.

4) Power sand the windowsills with a palm sander, graduating from rough- to fine-grit paper.

5) Fill cracks and holes with a vinyl exterior spackling compound, and sand the surface when dry.

6) Spread new glazing compound along the window frames at an angle and let it cure.

Featured Resource: Find a Local Painting Pro

About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort developed his expertise more than 30 years ago as Building Editor for both Sunset Books and Home Magazine. He has written more than 30 home improvement books and countless magazine articles. He appeared regularly on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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