How to Update Outdated Wood Trim

Things You'll Need

  • Fine-grit sanding block
  • High-quality primer
  • Paintbrush
  • High quality semi-gloss paint

Trim and moldings can be a great accent to the interior of your home. However, if you have old, outdated wood trim, it can be an eyesore and a hindrance to updating the rest of your home. Depending on the style of your home, you may have many different trim colors throughout your house. The best way to update the trim is to paint it all the same color for a uniform look. While it may take a significant amount of time and patience, the process is fairly simple.

Clean the surface of the trim with a scrub sponge using a bucket filled with non-soapy detergent. For optimal results, use two buckets, one filled with water for rinsing and one for application. Apply the detergent to a small area using the sponge and then dip the sponge in water and apply over the detergent. Don't allow the detergent to dry before wiping the area down with clean water.

Sand away any imperfections in the wood until you receive a smooth finish without gloss or shine. Use a fine-grit sanding block. Do not use a very coarse grit of sandpaper as you can put marks and gouges into the surface that can ruin the trim. If you need to remove more substantial imperfections, use a medium-grit sanding block.

Lightly brush the trim with a dry rag or brush to remove any dust and particles from sanding. Make sure the surface is smooth and has no gloss.

Tape all sections, using blue painter's tape, around the trim to protect the walls. If you are painting the walls as well, you don't need to use painter's tape as you will be painting over any mistakes you make on the wall.

Apply the first coat of primer to all surfaces of the trim using a brush. Apply it evenly, leaving no drip marks or paint blotches.

Allow the first coat of primer to dry according to the instructions provided. Usually it is best to wait 24 hours on the first coat before applying the second coat.

Apply the second and final coat of primer. Allow it to dry for the full recommended drying time before moving to the next step.

Lightly sand the final coat of primer so you have a smooth finish for the first paint application. Wipe it down with a dry rag and remove any particles from sanding.

Apply the first coat of paint using a high-quality, semi-gloss paint. Choose either a gloss or semi-gloss paint, depending on your preferred taste. A semi-gloss paint will do a better job of hiding any imperfections in the wood but still give a nice shine. Allow it to dry according to the paint instructions provided.

Apply the second and final coat of paint. If you notice any spots that need to be touched up, apply a smooth stroke with the brush across the area after the second coat has dried.


  • Allow each coat to fully dry before applying the next coat.


  • If the wood was previously painted before 1979, make sure you aren't scraping and sanding lead toxins.