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What’s Better for Painting Trim: Spray Finish or Roll Finish?

White baseboard along a blue wall

Written by My Home Handyman

February 7, 2022

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Painting is a lot more complicated than it looks. While it may seem as simple as applying paint with the instrument of your choosing, getting a quality paint job takes skill, technique, and the right tools for the job.

When it comes to painting trim, the question becomes which is better: spray or roll finish? For new builds, where a new door or flooring will be added later, a sprayer is fine because less accuracy is required. However, a roller or brush will prove to be easier to use for the most part. Rollers are easier to control and with the proper taping method, you can ensure total coverage in one stroke without getting paint anywhere else.

Which is Better for Painting Trim?

The answer to this question depends on what your setup is. For the most part, people reading these “how-to” guides have a home of their own and are looking to make a change. This is what gives us a clearer answer: rolling is better. The roller provides a much more accurate result for existing homes with no plans to change out the doors or the flooring. For thinner trim, a small brush is probably the best answer. That said, a roller is more than adequate for getting the job done.

If you are hiring a professional who knows how to properly spray and cover off the area well, so there is no overspray, you can’t beat the quality of a spray finish. It will provide that smooth glossy finish that you see in all new home builds, which is highly recommended if you are spending money on a reno or a full house repaint.

How to Paint Trim with a Roller

Painting trim with a brush or roller is the simplest method for getting the job done. It requires a lot fewer tools and protective equipment. Not only that, it is the most surefire way to get accurate, consistent results.

Step 1: Picking Up Supplies

You need only a handful of things, though you can really go above and beyond if you feel you need it. A short handle, brush for the edges is necessary. Your small, foam roller will get most of the work done. And, of course, whatever paint you are using for the trim.

The last part depends on how confident you feel. You can get away with painter’s tape, taping off the top and bottom of the trim. If you don’t feel confident in your abilities, consider taping down plastic sheets or drop cloths.

Step 2: Taping Off the Trim

Again, this all depends on how confident you feel in your painting abilities. If you have a steady hand, you can probably get away with taping the part of the trim that meets the wall. For the most part, though, you want to tape off the bottom part of the trim as well.

Adding a drop cloth or plastic sheets is a good idea if you tend to be sloppy. After all, no one wants to spend half their day cleaning up paint drops.

Step 3: Painting

Before you begin, make sure to give the trim a quick wipe down. If there is dirt, dust, or debris, the paint won’t adhere properly. Start out with your roller, making smooth, even strokes across the length of the trim. Going over the area once or twice is a good idea for even coverage.

When you have covered as much of the trim as you can with the roller, it is time to break out the brush. Add additional coats as is necessary and make sure to pull paint while wet to prevent chipping and tears in the paint. For corners, you may need to dab to prevent streaks.

How to Paint Trim with a Sprayer

It certainly is possible to paint existing trim with a sprayer, but it takes a little more precision and a few more tools to get the results that you are looking for. Still, when properly prepared, you can get the trim done in a lot less time than any other method.

Step 1: Gather Supplies

Before you can begin painting, it helps to have everything that you could need to get the job done. In addition to a paint sprayer and your paint, you’ll need a couple of things. Spray tips will help to get more accurate, cleaner results; these typically come in narrow 6- or 8-inch spray fans.

You also need empty buckets for priming your sprayer as well as clean up at the end. Some tarps and plastic sheeting or drop cloths will ensure that you don’t get paint on the flooring, which can be difficult to clean up later.

Painter’s tape will be required to separate the trim from the wall. Finally, rags and stiff nylon brushes for any cleanup that is required.

Step 2: Laying Down Drop Cloths and Taping

Before you do any painting, prep is the key. Make sure to move any furniture from the room that doesn’t have to be there. The less stuff you have to maneuver around, the better off you will be.

Lay down your drop cloths or plastic tarps, taping them at the edges of the trim. This serves a double purpose as the tape can act as a guideline for the bottom edge of the trim. Make sure that you have even coverage; air bubbles can lead to gaps.

Finally, put tape along the top edge of the trim. If you want to really go over the top, you can tape plastic sheets up on the wall to give yourself more room for error. The whole point is to leave only the trim exposed.

Step 3: Paint

Give the trim a quick wipe down to remove any dust or debris. Start by mixing together the paint you are using to get consistent, even colouring. Find the tip that works best for the size of the surface that you are painting.

Spray in nice, even strokes, ensuring that you stay about a foot away from the surface of the trim. You may need to apply a second coat. When you are confident in the coverage, rip the tape as the paint is still drying to prevent tearing or chips.

If you are considering repainting your home and would like an estimate, feel free to reach out to our team today.

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