Stain Trim Before Installation?


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Old 05-01-07, 08:05 PM
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Stain Trim Before Installation?

Being a new home owner, it was a mishap on my first DIY project that prompted me to register here on the forums. I hope to be able to pick up some good advice and contribute whenever I can.

Before repainting a small bedroom I decided to tear out and replace the worn out 80" x 24" closet door and trim. Now that the paint is on the walls, I'm about to start on the new door installation, a Jeld-Wen six-panel oak door. I plan to stain the door and trim with Varathane oil-based wood conditioner and stain topped off with their semi-gloss polyurethane.

My questions involve the Minwax stainable wood filler putty I bought to use for filling the trim nail holes. Right out of the tube this stuff is a very light cream color that is "guaranteed to accept wood stain" so I'm hoping for a good match to the stained wood finish.

Would it be a better idea to install the unfinished oak door trim, putty, then stain and finish the wood, or would it be better to stain and finish before installing the trim, putty the trim nail holes, then dab some stain on just the putty? Then again, would it be better to ditch this stainable putty and use another type of putty that is already closely color matched to the finished oak I'm using?
 
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Old 05-01-07, 08:47 PM
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If you decide to use the putty you have purchased, you would need to install the trim, fill the nail holes, mask the walls, then stain and finish the trim. Personally I have never had good luck with "stainable" putty. It never matches the wood perfectly. But you could experiment on a scrap and see if you are satisfied with it.

The disaster I imagine with that scenario is 1) the putty could fill in deep wood grain surrounding the nail hole, and may leave a spot that accepts stain differently from the rest and 2) that stain will wick around your masking tape and get onto your walls- something that commonly happens to DIY'ers that aren't aware it will happen when you get too much stain along the taped edge. One option is to staple wax paper (cut a roll of wax paper in half) onto the wall instead, taping the edges here and there with painters' tape before the trim is installed, which makes for less masking, and no stain on your paint job. The wax paper can be slit with a sharp knife once you've finished. The part behind the trim will stay there and no one will know it's there.

IMO, though, you will likely have better results if you stain and finish the door and trim prior to installation. Once it is installed, use Minwax's colored nail putty (combine 2 colors if needed to get a close match) to fill the nail holes. Wipe the trim down, and carefully give it one last light coat of finish to "seal" the putty. If you are careful, it won't require any masking at all, except for maybe along the floor. Since the rest of the trim is already coated, all you are worried about is the face of the trim and the jambs- the parts with nail holes.

Additionally, you don't need to use a special wood conditioner on oak... that would be an unnecessary step, IMO.
 
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Old 05-02-07, 04:40 AM
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I agree, I always prefer to stain and apply the 1st coat of poly/varnish prior to installation. Use the colored putty.
 
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Old 05-02-07, 05:38 AM
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The possibility of the stain seeping under tape didn't even occur to me. I don't want to even think about the mess that could have caused on my newly painted walls.

I believe I'll stain and finish first then use colored putty to match the nail holes after fitting the trim.

Thank you for the excellent advice! It undoubtedly saved me some time and trouble.
 
 

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