Step 8: Painting the Trim

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Time required:

5 to 20 hours on an average size house. It will largely depend on whether there are wood windows to paint. If your house has vinyl windows, painting the trim should not take more than a good day.

Equipment list:

To paint one trim color


  • High quality exterior latex paint. For an average size house without wood windows, one gallon of trim paint is usually enough. Houses with wood windows or other large trim areas will require more. (It’s also quite possible you already painted the eaves with the trim color, which would mean you’ve already gone through two or more gallons.)

Once you’ve painted the siding, it’s time to paint the trim. Painting trim is a lovely way to unwind after the flurry of muscle-powered activity demanded by the siding. I love lounging on a step ladder on a summer afternoon, painting a window, listening to the radio, knowing the hard work is behind me. Even when you work at top speed, painting the trim is much easier on the body than painting the siding. Enjoy! You’ve earned it.


Painting the trim means different things on different houses. If you have windows that are not made of wood, painting the trim mostly entails brushing and rolling any cornerboards and fascia (and gutters and downspouts if they are not factory-finished); painting any exterior doors and door jams; and painting any other miscellaneous trim boards that might adorn the house as part of the design.

Painting the trim generally moves along pretty quickly if you don’t have to paint windows and just have to paint fascia boards and cornerboards (pretty common on newer homes with vinyl windows). Use a combination of a 3-inch angled tip brush and a 4-inch roller (with a 3/8-inch cover or thicker) in a 1-gallon cutting pot with a roller grid. A 2-4 extendable foot roller pole is a great help, and if you have high cornerboards to roll, a longer 4-8 foot roller pole can really limit the number of ladder sets you need to make–you can get most of it from the ground after you go up on the ladder to cut in against the soffits or eaves.

Wood doors can be easily brushed and rolled with a 9-inch roller and 3/8-inch cover, but a metal entry door is harder to make look good. Same thing applies to factory-finished garage doors that have faded and need painting. Generally speaking, I recommend spraying these doors (see the videos on painting a paneled entry door and painting a garage door for tips on giving these doors a professional finish). I realize spraying isn’t possible for everybody, though. The best advice I can give for brushing and rolling paneled metal doors is start with the inside panels and work your way out. Try to divide the door into logical sections and paint one section at a time. It’s best to brush the panel corners and roll the flat surfaces with a 1/4-inch roller for maximum smoothness. Never leave “start marks” in the middle of the door with the brush and roller. Avoid this by starting every final stroke at the edge of the door or a joint/break, and bringing it toward the middle and gently lifting it off so that the strokes blend together in the middle. It’s the same concept I use when painting windows, so see the video for a demonstration.

If you have windows to paint, they can take a lot of time. Use 1.5-inch blue tape on the glass, and a razor knife to square off the corners (see video). Divide the window into 4 “legs” (top, bottom, right, and left) and tackle one leg at a time, always using the two step process of 1) laying (brushing) the paint on; and 2) laying the paint off by starting your final brush strokes on each leg with the bristles aligned in the corner joint, then brushing toward the middle of the leg and gently lifting the brush. By always doing your final strokes into the middle like this, you ensure your brush strokes will blend together and you won’t see any “start marks” on the windows. Again, see the video.

I like to use a 3-inch angled tip brush for painting all the trim, including windows, because it is steady and holds a lot of paint. If you feel more comfortable with a smaller brush, use a 2.5-inch brush, but I really wouldn’t recommend going any smaller than that. Small brushes are wiggly to control, in my opinion, and they don’t hold enough paint to be efficient.

One of the handiest items to have when brushing trim off ladders is a bucket hook. It’s one of those little pieces of equipment that’s just worth it’s weight in gold. Seeing somebody trying to hold onto a bucket with one hand and paint with the other when on a ladder makes me cringe. You need to always keep one hand free to hold the ladder rung, and a bucket hook helps immensely with this. The last thing you want to do is fall off a ladder.

Go back to Exterior Painting Videos     Go on to Step 9: Staining the Deck