We have a few rooms of dark stained trim, casing, and baseboards that we would like to paint white. I am pretty sure it is oak, I have not seen it to be sure at this time. It has already been taken off the walls so that should make it easier. What is the best way to prepare them for painting?

Should we sand them first? Just a light sanding or should we try to remove more of the stain? What grit would be best? We are planning on using the finishing paint shown below, Sherwin Williams Pro Classic Acrylic Latex,

Paint we are using

  • dont know why the image is sideways, was not that way locally.
    – mohlsen
    Jun 20, 2011 at 20:01
  • 5
    Don't do it! If you want white trim, go get some cheap pine trim or that plastic junk and paint that. If you don't appreciate the beauty of hardwood, give it away to somebody who does.
    – Tester101
    Jun 20, 2011 at 20:24
  • Not my house or my decision to make. The cost of painting vs buying new was too cost prohibitive.
    – mohlsen
    Jun 30, 2011 at 17:31
  • 1
    Most of the oak installed in the last 20 years isn't worth saving. You know the stuff I'm talking about.
    – jqning
    Sep 15, 2015 at 2:38

4 Answers 4


If you must paint this stained wood, a light sanding with 4-O steel wool or 320-grit sandpaper should be fine. All you're doing is roughing up the surface coat, usually poly, which will let the paint "key" to the surface better.

Be aware of the finish originally used on the wood; only poly will take a latex topcoat well, while on most other finishes like varnish or oil-based finishes, latex will not bond to the surface properly; it may peel easily, or even bead up when applied. If this is the case, roughing up the topcoat is not enough; you will have to sand off the topcoat to get to raw wood, and on a profiled wood piece like mouldings, this can be difficult or impossible.

Also be aware of the type of wood; certain woods are "open-grain", and will absorb paint deeply into the structure of the wood, requiring many coats to "fill" the wood and get a solid color on top. Otherwise, the grain and any knots will show through the final coat until you put 3 or 4 thick coats on. If you have to go down to bare wood on an open-grained wood, you have to seal the wood with a product that is compatible with your paint base.

  • Although you have a good answer, I can't give an up-vote for defacing wood. this question should be closed as "sacrilegious" ;)
    – Tester101
    Jun 21, 2011 at 2:21
  • lightly sanding and then painting worked great. I looks good.
    – mohlsen
    Jun 30, 2011 at 17:32

Regardless of the religious factor involved in painting hardwood trim, (lololol) if you must do it, you need to buff sand the wood, 150 or 220 is fine for this step. PRIME the trim with BINs Bullseye, pigmented shellac. After the Bins dries, very lightly sand it again with 220-400 paper or 4/0 steel wool. It will be smooth as glass. The shellac will seal the grain and block any bleeding into your new color. Now go ahead and paint away!

  • 2
    As penance for answering this question, you must now apologize to every hardwood tree you come across for aiding in the defacement of it's brethren.
    – Tester101
    Jun 21, 2011 at 12:25
  • You would be shocked how many folks want me to paint old wood trim. I beg forgiveness from the arbor gods. Jun 21, 2011 at 18:39
  • I wouldn't be surprised at all, I see it all the time. In fact a lot of the trim in the house I just bought is painted (I'm in the process of restoring it to it's natural beauty).
    – Tester101
    Jun 21, 2011 at 19:19
  • I recently had to paint some replacement cedar siding to match the rest of our house. I'm still paying for the alms to the tree gods...
    – tegbains
    Jun 24, 2011 at 8:17

I've painted over lots of old houses, most homeowners want to update the house by painting the old outdated look of wood to something more trendy like bright white. I recently had a job where I painted the walls, baseboard, window trim and sills, doors and ceiling all the same shade of white (Benjamin Moore designer white) in a flat finish. The ceiling was sanded flat and all the knobs and outlet covers were changed to a tarnished stainless steel design. When the room was finished it looked really cool and updated. I know that flat paint isn't recommended on baseboards but the owners were older and the room was low traffic so I think it will be fine.

Anyway I have had the most success tarnishing varnished woodwork with TSP. I prefer not to sand it because the varnish acts as a barrier, keeping in the stains from seeping through. Also older varnish probably contains lead,so you do not want to make it air born if possible.

Once the woodwork is tarnished, I always have the best results spraying a quality oil based primer. I try to do everything eco-friendly so I use a lower VOC product that Dulux makes. Finish it off with 2 coats of sprayed on white paint and everything will look great. For most people I would recommend a semi-gloss for anything high traffic and now days I always try to use latex but sometimes you will have to use oil for some applications still.

  • Hi and welcome to the site. We prefer that you put self-promotional links in your profile, not in your posts, since they aren't immediately relevant to the answer. Thanks.
    – Niall C.
    Jun 14, 2014 at 14:46

That's exactly right. No sanding, just free wood of debris, oil base prime, lightly sand as needed, and finally, paint two coats latex semi gloss white. Any other directions is not that of a painter.

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