Renovation & Design

Trimming time on baseboards

Natural wood elements were installed before staining to ensure consistent colour.

Photos by Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press

A good portion of the 1,300 lineal feet of trim used in a Sage Creek lower-level build is placed in the rec-room area for priming and painting. By laying them side by side, a large roller could be used to paint multiple trims simultaneously.

Trim takes time to install, because it is often a multi-tiered activity. It must first be primed and painted, then cut or mitered to length, fastened to the surface, and lastly receive the necessary touch-ups to hide small nail holes and slight imperfections visible here and there.

Primed trim eliminates one step and pre-painted trim is a contractor’s delight! However, when pre-painted trim cannot be found in the desired style and profile, time-saving steps on the job site can hasten the task.

A simple facelift of a room may incur new flooring, light fixtures and a fresh coat of paint on the walls and trim. Although the baseboards must be removed to properly install new flooring, door and window casings can remain in place. The baseboards can be painted once removed and it’s easiest to freshen up the casings before the walls receive their coats of paint — you can even get away with being a bit sloppy, because once the casings are dry, they can be taped off for a clean edge anywhere adjacent the walls. A medium-sized bristle-brush is still the weapon of choice, but I’ve found the small paint roller with padded ends allows for a rapid and concise trim-painting experience. When trim must be installed in a newly built space, the process becomes slightly more tedious.

Pre-painted trim can be found in the most popular styles of the day. No doubt a time-saver. But when the client selects a profile of trim found in only primed MDF, or wishes all trim reflect the natural-wood or stained-look, the installation time increases exponentially. Most trim is sold in 14- or 16-foot lengths. Provided there is enough room to accommodate these lengths in the workspace, it’s best to keep’em long until it’s time to miter and install. During a massive lower-level build at Duane Ryan’s residence in 2013, nearly 1,300 lineal feet of casings and baseboards were acquired to accommodate the 1,500 square-feet of space that included the main rec room, two bedrooms, a bathroom, two utility rooms and the access hallway. A primed MDF trim style, consisting of casings and matching baseboards was chosen.

Before installation, every length of trim received two coats of paint. To expedite the process, the lengths were strewn along the floor in a parallel fashion atop two-by-fours, laid perpendicular to the trim. To protect the newly installed flooring, poly was first placed throughout.

The nearly 100 lengths of trim filled the entire rec-room area, allowing the painting to begin. Although the small roller works best when painting trim already installed, you can cheat with a big roller when the trim is laid out on the floor. With one pass, two or three lengths of casings or baseboards can be coated at once, depending on the width of each, which saves a bunch of time. Furthermore, by standing the trim upright, the top edge of several lengths can be painted at once, as well. Once the paint has cured, the cutting and mitering process can proceed, with touch-ups being the only outstanding task.

At my place, trim in the step-down dining room is mostly white. To match the existing trim profile in the house, and because pre-painted trim could not be located, a primed MDF was laid out on my subfloor and underwent a similar painting process.

Once the paint had cured for a few days, the casings and baseboards were stacked and put aside until the flooring was installed.

For the areas of trim that required staining (both entryways into the space, as well as elements along each of the staircases), I found that by installing the trim first and staining the features as a whole worked best. Staining can be tricky because it is time-dependent. By staining the jamb and outer casings of the entryway all at once, it was easier to control the darkness of the stain, which relies on the length of time it is given to penetrate the wood before it is wiped down to offer a smooth and consistent look. Regardless of the process, it was imperative that each task be achieved in a timely manner.

When nearing the completion of a project for hire, time becomes the number one facet of importance. To remain on schedule, implementing little tricks of the trade can be the difference between finishing on schedule and going over the allotted time frame.

Although pre-painted trim costs a bit more, it saves a ton of time. The primed MDF has been the most popular trim choice in my experience. Painting it before installation has proven quicker than not, and when multiple lengths are painted at once, the daunting task almost seems pleasant… well, almost.


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