Do You Paint the Trim or Walls First?

The PropertyClub Team
Oct 31st 2020
So you have all your tape laid, a tarp on the ground, and your paint rollers ready to go. You dip your roller into your paint tray, but then you stop to think: What should I paint first, the walls or the trim?

When painting, there are several different surfaces you have to address. Walls and trim are the two most obvious parts that you need to cover. But which one should you tackle first? Walls might seem more straightforward, as the trim looks like it requires a more precise touch. So which is it: do you paint the walls or trim first?

The right answer ultimately depends on your preferences and painting experience. So there is really no right or wrong answer to this question. However, the pros usually do follow a set method that makes the entire process easier. 

What Do You Paint First, the Trim or Walls?

In general, pros paint the trim first, and then the walls. They do this because it is usually easier to tape off the trim than the walls, and any paint that splatters to the wall can easily be smoothed over when you reach the wall portion of the painting process. However, if you will paint the trim first, you need to be very precise with your brush strokes. Trim paint is usually high-gloss, and if you get paint strokes onto the wall, they may show up through the matte coating of the wall. This looks highly unprofessional, which is why painting trim first takes some skill. 

Another reason to start with the trim is that it is easier to set up painters tape along the edges rather than partitioning the entire wall’s perimeter. It may also be easier to cut over the wall’s large area rather than along the more narrow trim. 

However, not everyone is a pro, and some people have different preferences. If you are doing a DIY paint job and don’t have much experience, painting the walls first can be a better process. Painting the walls first is a less precise process, so you can afford to be a bit sloppier. Any paint splatter that gets on the trim can just be painted over later. Also, painting the wall with big brush strokes or a large roller is just more fun and satisfying than performing precise strokes on the trim. 

Can You Paint the Walls First? 

Yes, you can paint the walls before the trim. If you decide to paint the walls first, then the best method is to cover the walls up to the trim, then later use a smaller paintbrush to “cut” into the trim. You may have to go back over the walls a second time to make sure that the lines blend where the walls meet the trim. This will take some more time, but it gives you more room for error. 

Conclusion

At the end of the day, though, which order you choose is up to personal preference. The most important part of painting is not really which order you do it in but how precise and diligent you are with the process. Painting in itself is not an incredibly difficult task by any means, but it can be time-consuming, especially if you're painting a room or other large area. A lot of painters end up making mistakes because they try to rush the process and get it done as quickly as possible. 

So no matter what order you decide to tackle the walls and trim, it is important to take your time. Even if you have to go at it for longer, you will appreciate not having to redo any parts, and the end product will look much nicer. Painter’s tape is your friend here. You can use a painter’s knife or other thin, flat surface to press the edges so they lie flat against the trim and walls.  

Whatever you do, make sure you do not forget to put a layer of paint primer on first. Paint primer ensures that the walls have a smooth surface to hold the most important layer of paint. So before actually applying paint, make sure you apply a layer of primer to both the walls and trim. Applying primer is straightforward as you do not have to worry about any splattering or bleeding, as those areas will just be covered up by paint later.