How to Prepare and Paint Exterior Trim


Your home is likely your number one asset, therefore, it is critical to maintain it in the best possible condition. Left unattended, exterior wood can soon become a matter of replacement, rather than simply preparing and painting it. Deteriorating wood can quickly become a very costly item, as soon it will become beyond repair.


List of the tools and materials required for exterior painting;

  • Paint Scraper
  • Wire Brush
  • Broom and Dust Pan
  • Sharp putty knife
  • Utility Knife
  • Orbital Sander (optional)
  • Sandpaper (optional)
  • Caulk Gun
  • Drop Cloth
  • Wet Cloth
  • Caulk
  • Masking Tape (depending on skill level)
  • Primer
  • Finish Paint ( Many paint manufacturers offer products that act as primer and paint all in one)

When it come to maintaining your investment, prevention is the best medicine when it comes to painting the exterior of your home.


Removing loose and chipping paint

These procedures can be used for all exterior wood surfaces of your home. Using the paint scraper, move back and forth in all directions to remove the bulk of the loose and chipping paint. Try to keep the blade of the scraper flush or level on the woods surface to prevent cutting or gouging of the wood

Keeping a level blade on the wood, continue working back and forth. Do not apply so much pressure that you damage the wood.

Work all areas of the wood surfaces that you intend to paint. Be thorough in your approach to ensure that all loose paint particles are removed. Remove all loosening and old caulk that may be present.



Wire Brushing

Following the use of the paint scraper, it is a good idea to go a step further, utilize a No products found. and putty knife to remove all smaller loose paint particles that the larger scraper is unable to remove. If you prefer an even cleaner look, sand scraped areas using 100-120 grit sandpaper. Dust off the areas that will be painted to ensure a clean surface that is free of debris, dust and particles. Wood that has been exposed to weather will eventually break down into a mass of crumbling fibers, , these loose fibers must also be removed. A wire brush is an effective way to knock off the remaining pieces of paint and surface fibers, while also roughing up the wood’s surface for better paint adhesion. Flat surfaces such as moldings and larger trim pieces can be easily sanded with a orbital sander.

Wire Brush the surface following the scraping process

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Keep your work area clean

Clean up all paint chips and dispose of in a trash receptacle. Believe it or not, I have actually witnessed little children trying to eat paint chips. Please dispose of promptly and properly. Additionally, if you maintain a clean work area your finished product invariably turns out better.



Prime Coating the bare or raw wood

Once all the paint chips and scrapings are completely removed, using a high quality paint brush and the paint primer, “Spot Prime” all surface areas that have exposed wood. Allow the paint time to dry as recommended by the paint manufacturers label on the paint can. If you are an experienced painter, then painters tape may not be necessary, However, if you are unable to keep paint off the areas that should not receive paint, then certainly use some painters tape to keep these areas clean and free of paint.




Once the paint has dried and cured, as per manufacturers recommendations, it time to caulk all gaps and cracks in the wood. Use a high quality 20+ year   acrylic caulk.

Caulking serves several purposes.

  • It keeps moisture out of the wood.
  • Keeps insects out.
  • Retains heat in the winter and cool in the summer
  • The paint job looks cleaner and more professional

Caulk all gaps, cracks and seams to ensure a more ascetically pleasing job, and also to protect your wood from moisture intrusion. Moisture intrusion and the direct sun are the two main causes of paint break-down and wood deterioration.

As you are caulking, use a wet cloth or a damp finger to smooth out the caulk and to wipe any excess caulk for a clean looking job.

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Paint application / Exterior painting  finish coat

As mentioned earlier in this guide, it is important to select a high quality paint brush while painting the exterior of your house. Cheaper brushes do not hold the paint as well and it is much more difficult to obtain clean lines and smooth finishes. If you are not confident in your ability to paint a good straight line, then by all means, run some blue or green masking tape around your work area. (Do not let tape sit on surfaces for more then about 24 hours, especially in direct sunlight or hot weather, as the tape may stick making it very difficult and frustrating to remove).

Application of finish paint

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A couple of quick tips:

  • Only dip your paint brush about halfway up the bristles as shown in the photo above. If you submerge the brush into the paint it will make for a very sloppy paint job.
  • After dipping your brush in the paint, hold the brush at an angle a slide the bottom side of the brush along the paint bucket. This will leave the correct amount of paint on your brush for better control.
  • Always try to wipe your bottom edge on the same side of the paint pail, this will minimize mess.
  • Make sure to have a drop cloth or other type of ground covering to protect from paint spills.
  • Keep a damp rag handy to quickly clean up messes and drips.


Apply paint with long even strokes.


  • Apply the paint with broad long strokes. This will help to prevent clumping and will allow the paint to lay down for a smoother finish.
  • Tape areas not to be painted as you find it necessary.
  • When you begin a piece of trim, a board or a door etc. try to work from top to bottom if possible. If you can maintain a wet edge on your paint this will prevent lapping or an uneven looking finish.
  • Don’t skimp on the paint quality. As a general rule of thumb, all of the top paint manufactures have different lines or quality of paints. Pick a higher quality paint as you will more then make up in time what you would lose with a lesser quality paint. This is true for coverage purposes, ease of paint work-ability and the longevity of your paint job.