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Should I Paint My Walls or Trim First?

Should I Paint My Walls or Trim First?

When approaching an interior painting job, homeowners sometimes wonder whether they should paint the walls or the trim first. If you were to survey house painters, or to browse painting forums online, you would quickly learn that this is a hotly debated topic. Some people with fiercely contend that the only right way is to paint the walls before the trim, while others vehemently assert that the trim must absolutely be painted before the walls! So, which is it?

The truth is that each person is going to need to consider his or her situation and try it one way or the other. It is truly a matter of personal preference, so the best thing is to discover which one your preference is.

In order to help you, we have a few painting tips to give you an idea why some people choose one method or the other:

Why do some people paint the trim before the walls?

Some people prefer to do the longer, more detailed work first, then the big open areas after. Painting the window trim, door trim, crown molding and baseboards is definitely a more detailed, time-consuming project than rolling the walls.

"Cutting in" is the process of using a brush to paint a straight edge first, before painting the main part of a section of wall. Many home painters say that it is easier to paint the trim first, since you can do it quickly and not worry about "coloring outside the lines." When you paint the walls afterwards, you will simply paint over the mis-applied spots. The careful cutting in will be done in this second stage, when you can get clean lines and protect your painted trim with painter's tape.

Why do some people paint the walls before the trim?

When rolling the paint on the large, open wall surfaces, sometimes little specks of paint will splatter onto the trim. If you paint the walls first, these little blemishes will be covered over when you paint the trim.

Usually, the walls will be flat or satin finish, but the trim will be semi-gloss. It may be preferable to paint the walls first with the lower-sheen finish, then the trim afterwards. This is because a higher-gloss paint may show through from under a lower-gloss paint if you do the trim first and get any paint on the walls. But if you do the walls first and get wall paint on the trim, this will not show through when you paint the trim.

General tips for painting interior walls and trim

  • If you are going to paint the ceiling, definitely do it before you paint the walls.
  • Use a brush for the trim and for cutting in on the walls. Use a roller for the big, open wall surfaces.
  • Use high-quality painters tape to create straight lines. Make sure paint is all the way dry before applying tape to it.
  • Allow the paint to fully dry before you remove the tape, and use a razor knife to cut along the painted edge of the tape before removing.
  • As a general rule, start from the top of a wall or trim piece, and work your way down. This prevents drip problems.
  • Always plan for at least two coats of paint. One coat rarely looks as good as two.
  • Listen to music that you enjoy as you work!

Professional interior painting in the San Francisco Area

MB JESSEE is a professional painting contractor, serving customers in San Francisco, East Bay, Oakland Hills, Berkeley, Alamo, Hillsborough and more. For best results in painting your walls and your trim, give us a call!

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Customer Reviews

“Hello Matt,Just another notice of thanks to your wonderful crew, Rigoberto, Javier and John. They did fantastic work, with Rigo providing meticulous and conscientious attention to the details and excellent woodwork finishing, as evidenced by the beautiful fireplace. Javier did a fantastic job in the bathroom especially, it looks "brand new," and John always does quality work, both with the interior and exterior. I can tell they care about what they do. Rigo's "punch out" was very thorough, too. I will call again when I need some more work and will definitely recommend your company and fine crew. I also felt as a homeowner, I could leave my house in their good hands during the day and that took a lot of worry from me, they were honest, prompt and reliable. They were also very kind, respectful and clean in their work, very professional. Thank you.”

— Beth Marx & Melissa Kirsch
Oakland

“Everyone I dealt with was nice, helpful, and very professional. The price was reasonable! (I didn't feel like I was getting the "San Francisco price." The attention to detail and work quality was excellent. They did what they said they would do in the exact timeframe they said they would do. Highly recommend!”

— Tim Tyson

“Matt, Julie & Ricardo, I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank the three of you for the wonderful job you did in hosting the SFBA NARI Chapter Meeting on Wednesday evening. Everything was perfect from beginning to end. Members and guests alike walked away with a truly positive experience. The "painter for a day" and the cookies in the paint cans were an absolute brilliant touch and received rave reviews. What a wonderful way to do such positive marketing. Thanks again for a truly memorable experience for our members and guests. You are valued as a NARI member.”

— Judy Tufo, SFBA NARI Executive Director

“I want to express my thanks for a job well done. The rooms look great and there is no problem with any marks on the all the trim, floor, carpet, etc. The paint job is lovely. I also want to express my thanks for the level of professionalism the foreman showed in running the job. He was very attentive to any changes I needed to make, was extremely careful in getting the faux paint color and effect correct. Thanks so much for a job well done.”

— Suzan D’Arcy

“In September, MBJessee finished painting two sides of our 3-story condominium building (six owners). We were impressed by the professionalism of the company and every one of its workers, Matt Jessee couldn't have been more helpful in planning the project. His painters were well-trained, easy to communicate with and eager to please. In addition to painting the stucco, they made extensive repairs on windows and frames, which will save us considerable money in the future. They finished earlier than anticipated, with as many as five men working on the job, and the scaffolding came down the next day. All of us were delighted with the results. Now my husband and I are looking forward to having MB Jessee paint our own apartment later this month. Matt and Gustavo (who will be our crew leader again) have explained how they will work to make the painting proceed smoothly while we're living here, and they have been endlessly patient with our protracted decision-making process. If you look at their website, you'll learn that MB Jessee is an exemplary company that takes good care of its workers as well as its customers, and contributes public service projects to the community. All in all, we can't recommend MB Jessee highly enough.”

— Jayne W.
San Francisco, CA

“I loved working with M.B. Jessee from start to finish on a relatively small paint job that grew a bit. I felt in very good hands from the moment Matt Jessee came out to give me the estimate and talk about my job. He was very easy to talk to and he handled my changes very well. Then the actual work done by Rigoberto and Mario was impeccable. They were neat and meticulous and the paint job looks beautiful. I could not have asked for more and when I did, they accommodated me 100%. I will not hesitate to call M.B. Jessee again and to refer them to friends.”

— Nancy Kurkjian

“Very easy to work with, they did an outstanding job with our project of re-painting our painting our kitchen cabinets. Given the scope of the job and that our kitchen is roughly half of our upstairs living area they did a fantastic job of minimizing the mess. Workmanship was top notch, would definitely recommend.”

— Vince Scola

“Julie,Just to let you know I am very appreciative of your crew catching the plumbing/mold problem. It was very astute of them. I wanted to let you know that again your crew has done excellent work here, please pass this along to Mr. Jessee. There are some bumps in the road here, but the painting and your crew has not been one of them. Their work is the only thing going right currently, and this crew is very nice and respectful. It is much appreciated. Thank you again.”

— Beth
Oakland

“MB Jessee painters are stellar! As a designer I've worked with numerous companies over the years, and MB Jessee is a top-notch firm. From the first phone call to the final clean up, every person is courteous, professional, and hard working. The owner, Matt, is a charitable leader who has instilled his team with integrity and honesty providing the customer with a first class experience at a fair price with a paint job that is guaranteed to last. I highly recommend MB Jessee. Thank you Matt and your STAR crew-Daniel, Rigoberto, Vicente, Edy, Pedro, and Mario, for a job well executed! Cynthia Brian, ASID, Starstyle® Productions, llc”

— Cynthia Brian
Morgan, CA

“In all the years I've worked with MB Jessee, I'm always so impressed by your crews. They are so respectful of everything--you never even know they're there! Except that the paint looks amazing when they're gone. We've had one showing of our home and already have an offer. I'm sure it is because the paint looks so beautiful.”

— Erin T.
Pleasant Hill

“The entire MB Jessee team is courteous, efficient and professional. From scheduling and estimating to the crew managers and crew, they all did an excellent job on a small (but complicated) two room project in my house. I'm already thinking about getting them scheduled for the next project in the spring.”

— Cari Cheney

“The people at M.B. Jessee are great – from the painters to the office staff to Matt. Talk about leadership from the top.”

— Kevin Ames, Mark Becker Homes