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I have some damaged trim I would like to fix:

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Could these be fixed with putty and paint or will I need to replace the whole piece of trim? Is there a specific type of putty I should use?

The second one is the one I am more concerned about, I think I can manage the first one pretty well

Also, I had a larger piece with a lot of damage that I removed and it clearly was attached by nails, but from the front there is no visible or physical locations where the nail holes are. How did that magic happen?

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    On the exposed corner I would not repair it but cover it . There are Copper, brass, stainless , brushed stainless and even plastic corner protectors that will look great and hold up better than a filler. I find when filler is used just a bump and a chunk now comes out where a decorative cover protects and looks nice. – Ed Beal Apr 15 at 14:55
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    Just to add, the "magic" of hiding the nail holes is to fill the countersunk nail holes with wood putty and sand it smooth once it dries. It's relatively quick, and after it's painted the nail holes are invisible. Some high-volume trim guys or painters might just fill holes with caulking, but that doesn't hide them as well. – JPhi1618 Apr 15 at 15:27
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Both pieces can be fixed with filler. I would use auto body filler (bondo) for both.

Use blue or green painters tape to protect the wall. Prep both areas by clearing off any fibers of the base that are loose. I would use a piece of coarse (40G) sandpaper backed by a small block of wood. The small bit of damage on the first picture will need minimum sanding. For the prep work, it really needs a little sanding at the chipped edges to taper them in just a tiny bit. On the other corner, that is where the corner needs the wood backer block. You could use a rasp to do what needed, but the sandpaper/wood block combo will be used on both corners after the bondo initially sets. The bondo sets up regardless how thick it goes on so the heavy build up on the second picture will be easy filled quickly without waiting days for regular filler to harden. If you do have a "cheese grater" rasp, or drywall rasp will work for the initial shaping too.

Any shaping is done by using the rasp or sanding block from the corner going in. Do not go back and forth with either on the surface, it will break the corners off. Only cut on the material by applying the rasp or sanding block, at the corner and push toward the rest of the base. Pulling it back while it is on the base is where the corner will break off on you. If you do use a rasp, it will remove built up filler real quick if you catch it at the right time. Too early it will crumble on you. Too late, it will really be hard and tough to carve flat. Once it is down close to "in plane" with the rest of the surface, use the sanding block to sand it down flat the rest of the way flush with the surrounding surface.

This will leave very coarse scratch marks in the bondo and some in the surrounding trim. These will be removed by applying a thin skim coat of wood filler over all the areas that have scratches. Let that dry and using the sanding block again, but with medium grit 80G or finer sandpaper over it, sand until a smooth surface is gotten, then fine sand with 120G. You may need to add another skim of filler to get the final sanding done.

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    Plastic Wood is another option. Many say that Bondo has a longer working time. – Evil Elf Apr 15 at 12:07
  • I am not very fond of plastic wood, its open time is really bad. I has to applied really quickly or it skins over before it gets a chance to be built up properly. Bondo, if the right amount of hardener is added, has about a 15 minute working time and in a half hour, more or less can be initially shaped with the rasp.In an hour with the sand paper. – Jack Apr 15 at 15:41
  • I have become enamored with Vinyl Patching compound. – Alaska Man Apr 15 at 20:58
  • @AlaskaMan, I have used it as well, it applies easily, and very easy to sand, can go right to 120G, skipping the 80G. It is VERY weak, so for walls it is great, and nail holes, AND for the skim coat over the bondo, since the strength will be in the bondo and all that is needed is just to fill in the scratches. – Jack Apr 16 at 0:26
  • Thanks so much for your answer jack. I am also located in the NW corner of Washington. Any advice for hiring someone to help me with these repairs if I try and fail? – Prince M Apr 17 at 7:41
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I always use and suggest that you use setting-type drywall joint compound which is commonly called 'hot mud.' It's called hot mud because it gets warm during use. It's different than regular dry wall mud in that it is sets up in a given time and adding water does not change it. The drying time is on the package such as 20, 40 and 90 (minutes of working time before it hardens)

It is very good for this situation because it adheres very well, is very user friendly because you can control how pasty it is, it dries / hardens without shrinking, can be sanded, is very durable and resistance to denting. It is also very cost effective.

Mix it up with water until a thick paste, apply with a putty knife or similar, let dry, sand any imperfections and then finish by painting as desired.

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There are a number of wood and even glazing products that can work for you but I recommend that you use a wood filler. Just clean around the damaged area removing any loose material and use the wood filler according to instructions.
Smooth it on with a putty knife. Some wood fillers shrink so you might want to do a slight overfill. If the gouges are deep it might take two applications.
You can then sand it smooth and paint. Wood filler has wood fibers in it so they will take paint well.
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