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Ten Step Guide to Painting Woodwork

Painting woodwork yourself is a fairly simple home improvement project - if you know what to do. My husband and I painted the woodwork in our home and we were pleased with the results. In this article, I will provide you with a step by step guide for painting woodwork and include a list of all items that are needed to complete a do-it-yourself wood painting project in your home.

Items Needed for Painting Woodwork:

  • Clean cotton rags
  • Medium bucket of warm sudsy water (Use one tablespoon of dish detergent to one gallon of water. For exceptionally dirty woodwork, add ¼ cup of white vinegar and two tablespoons of lemon juice. This is my green homemade alternative to the toxic products that are often recommended by some home improvement sites.)
  • Small bucket of clean warm water
  • Paint (I strongly recommend water based paint to oil. Have it shaken at the store.)
  • Paintbrush (I would highly recommend a synthetic bristle brush if you are going to work with latex paint.)
  • Painter's masking tape
  • Paint tray
  • Pair of rubber gloves
  • Primer
  • Sander
  • Scrubber
  • Stick (to stir the paint)
  • Tarp

All of these items listed above can be purchased at home improvement centers, super department stores that have home improvement sections, and paint shops.

Warning: Before we begin a note of caution. If you are going to scrape a lead based paint from an area of your home, please first contact your area's health department to learn about paint testing and safe removal techniques. While lead paint was banned in 1977, some homes still have remnants of it and it is a health hazard.

  1. Step One for Painting Woodwork: Put on your rubber gloves and thoroughly wash the surface that you are going to paint. Dip the cotton rag into the warm sudsy water and clean. Use the scrubber on stubborn areas. Repeat as necessary.
  2. Step Two for Painting Woodwork: Wipe down the surface using a clean rag dipped in the bucket of clean warm water. Repeat until the woodwork's surface is clean. Once the surface is completely clean, allow it to dry.
  3. Step Three for Painting Woodwork: Lightly sand the surface. Sand the woodwork until you are satisfied with the smoothness.
  4. Step Four for Painting Woodwork: Wipe down the sanded woodwork with a wet clean rag and remove any dust or particles. Repeat if needed and as often as necessary to get the area in the best possible condition for painting. Allow the surface to completely dry.
  5. Step Five for Painting Woodwork: Apply painter's masking tape along all surfaces that you do not want to paint that are closely connected to the woodwork (windows, parts of the wall, glass, mirror, etc.). This will protect those areas in the event any mishaps occur.
  6. Step Six for Painting Woodwork: Lay the tarp under the area that you will be painting. This will save you the trouble of cleaning up any drips that could mess the floor.
  7. Step Seven for Painting Woodwork: Pour primer into a paint tray, select your brush, and apply the primer to the woodwork. (Some folks apply primer directly from the can; but, I prefer to do it this way to evenly distribute the primer.) Use sturdy long strokes as you lightly apply. Allow the primer to dry before going any further.
  8. Step Eight for Painting Woodwork: While the primer is drying, clean your paintbrush and paint tray to prepare for the next step. (Hot tap water and dish detergent did the trick for me.)
  9. Step Nine for Painting Woodwork: Paint the clean, primed, dry surface. Always stir the paint first. Next, pour about a quart of paint into the paint tray. Dip the bristles into the paint but don't over saturate the paintbrush. As specified in Step Seven, apply the paint using long sturdy brushstrokes.
  10. Step Ten for Painting Woodwork: In my experience with painting woodwork, a second coat is usually necessary. Allow the first coat to dry for 24 hours. While that may seem like a lot of time, it is worth the wait. The wood will absorb the paint somewhat and the second coat will give it a more polished, smoother look.

There you have it - a do-it-yourself guide to painting woodwork in ten easy steps. I did it and you can, too!

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