How to Paint for Real Estate Profits: Interior Trim Tips


How to Paint for Real Estate Profits:  Interior Trim Tips

Preparing your home for the market can be expensive and confusing.  While it is true that construction upgrades can increase your home’s value and speed up its sale, you must be savvy to get the best “bang for your buck.”

Historically, painting offers one of the highest ROIs of any home improvement project.  Debbie Zimmer, spokeswoman for the Paint Quality Institute, says “the cost of…painting is so low, it’s almost like remodeling without touching your bank account.”  Although a professional paint job will cost you a few dollars, it is estimated that an investment in exterior painting will return 90% of its cost while interior painting will return 76% of its cost.

Painting projects aimed at preparing your home for sale lead to many questions:

  • How can I get my interior doors, trim and moldings not to chip?
  • What colors will sell my house quickly?
  • Should I do the painting myself or hire a professional painting contractor?
  • Do I have to paint every ceiling and wall in my house?
  • Should rooms have different colors or will buyers prefer uniformity?
  • What is the best brand and line of paint to make a space look great and maximize my ROI?
  • Can I re-paint factory-finished kitchen cabinets?

I will answer these questions and more in my blog series “How to Paint for Real Estate Profits.”

Paint for Real Estate Profits: Interior Trim  

Do I need to paint my trim?

Homeowners are always asking me if they should repaint their trim when they repaint the walls in a room.  Since trim paint normally has a higher sheen than wall paint, it tends to be easier to clean and more durable than flat and matte finishes.  This often means that the trim looks newer than the walls after normal wear and tear in a room.

My recommendation is to always paint the trim.  Freshly painted trim makes a living space look finished and complete.  The trim ties together the look of the entire room and new caulking where trim meets the wall is often necessary to make things look pristine.  Additionally, the choice of a slightly different sheen can give your room an entirely different look and feel.

Is my current trim paint oil-based or latex-based?

It is nearly impossible for most homeowners to visually tell if their trim is oil or latex-based.  Perform this quick test and you will know with certainty:

  • Scrub a small spot of your trim with a detergent/water mix, then rinse and dry.
  • Use a small rag–dampened with denatured alcohol, acetone-based nail polish remover, or Goof-Off—and rub the area vigorously.
  • If the rubbing removes the paint, its latex or water-based; if not, its oil. Latex paint will also feel “tacky” to the touch following this procedure.

What paint is most durable for interior trim?

In general, oil-based interior trim paints are more durable than their acrylic counterparts.  Most major manufacturers now produce hybrid products which have acrylic and alkyd elements with water-clean up properties.  These hybrids tend to be more durable than 100% acrylic trim paints but less durable than traditional oil paints.

The two oil-based trim paints that I highly recommend are Benjamin Moore’s Satin Impervo Alkyd Low Lustre or Fine Paints of Europe’s Hollandlac Brilliant.  The Satin Impervo levels well and will fade to a lower sheen within a few weeks of application.  The Hollandlac Brilliant has a glassier, shiny finish with slightly more durability but it is more difficult to work with and I would generally not recommend it for do-it-yourselfers.  Both products are exceptional at resisting scratches, cracking and chipping.

What is the proper process for painting trim?

Clean.  Before starting to paint, take the time to properly prepare the trim.  Clean all the trim with a solution of detergent and water.  Next, surfaces should be rinsed and allowed to dry.

Repair.  If there are any cracks or small holes in the trim, this is the time to repair them with the proper wood filler. Be sure to press the filler firmly into the holes and then re-apply more filler so that the repair dries to a slight bump rather than a dip.  Caulk all seams and gaps as necessary.  Sand and spot prime all the repairs to minimize any potential flashing.  Then lightly sand all the trim with fine-grit sandpaper.  Finally, vacuum the area and wipe down with tack rags.

Use Quality Tools.  Use high quality brushes (like Corona) and rollers – don’t try to cut corners by going cheap, because you’ll end up with a poor application that requires extra coats or touch-ups.  High-quality tools will help you apply the paint more evenly to get professional-looking results, even if it is your first time painting.

Use Quality Paint.  Invest in top-quality interior paints – they’re the do-it-yourselfer’s best friend.  When you’re putting time and effort into a paint job, you want that paint job to last.  That’s where great paints really pay off.  Top quality oil trim paints are extremely durable, plus they resist fading, so your paint job will look great for years to come.

Should I paint my trim myself or hire an expert?

This is a personal choice.  If you have plenty of time and you love painting, then you may want to tackle it yourself.  If you expect a high-quality finished look and you are not experienced working with oil-based trim paints, then you should call a professional painting contractor.  We offer a “Painter for the Day” program which is specifically geared toward smaller painting projects—such as freshening up a room’s trim paint.

Written by Mark A. DeFrancesco



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