Refinishing Wood Trim the Right Way

What You'll Need
Claw hammer
Paint remover
Work gloves
Clear coat or stain
Paint brush

Many homes built in the early 1900s were blessed with beautiful woodwork. Hardwood floors, wood trim, and wood framing were all commonplace. Those characteristics make the homes so special; however, 100-years later, many pieces of original trim can begin to show signs of wear. Follow these steps to refinish wood trim the right way so that the pieces last for a long time and your home retains its beauty and personality.

Step 1 - Removing the Trim

Begin by removing the pieces of wood to be refinished from the wall. Gently pry them from the wall, paying careful attention to areas that may be weak or split. Most old nails can be loosened relatively easily, but use caution, as the plaster walls behind the trim can be damaged if too much pressure is applied. Once the wood has been removed from the walls, take it to a well-ventilated space where the refinishing will occur. A garage or ventilated work shed is ideal.

Step 2 - Preparing the Wood

The first instinct may be to sand the wood, but that is not always a good idea. If the trim has been painted, it is best to use a paint remover as opposed to sanding in case the paint contains led. Don heavy work gloves, protective eye gear and a dust mask before beginning. Follow the manufacturer's directions and apply the paint remover to the pieces of trim. Most chemical paint removers are highly toxic and flammable, but there are citrus-based products that are not toxic and work just as well as their volatile chemical counterparts.

If you are unsure as to which type to purchase, talk with an employee in the paint section at the local home improvement store. He or she will usually be able to guide you in the right direction for addressing the particular needs of your trim. Once the paint remover has been wiped off, the trim may require a second or third application. Take the time to allow the remover to do the work and the job will be much easier. Expect that this project will take a significant amount of time, especially if the trim is heavily painted.

Step 3 - Refinishing the Wood Trim

The paint is off, the trim is clean and it is now time to add either a protective coating or paint. For those homeowners who take the time to refinish trim, a clear coat or stain is usually the refinishing product of choice. Choose a stain that accents the natural grain of the wood and matches the rest of the house. Allowing the stain to dry completely between coats will ensure that the application is smooth and elegant. If opting for a clear coat of finish, go with an oil-based wood finish that will absorb quickly, be resistant to moisture, and have a long finish life. Again, a home improvement store employee will usually be able to guide you in the right direction of the product that will work best for your trim pieces.

Refinishing wood trim the right way will ensure that it lasts for another century. The proper care and protective sealant will help keep moisture out and help the wood remain healthy. Do not skip steps or skimp on quality finishes. Elegant wood trim awaits those homeowners who are willing to be patient with the refinishing process.