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How To Make an Interior Trim Repair Easy

Interior trim is what brings life and personality to your home. The decorative wooden features in your home, including your doors, window casings, and floorboards, are interior trim. To keep your trim looking its best, repair is a necessary part of your home’s maintenance.

Most of the trim we use today serves both an aesthetic and practical purpose. Interior trim covers the areas where two or more different materials meet. It also adds a level of elegance and class to a space.

While wood is the most popular material, you can find interior trim in a variety of materials including PVC, plaster, metal, and more. Regardless of the material, unexpected accidents, damages, and time can cause the need for trim repair. Fortunately, most common interior trim issues are easy to repair.

Whether you want to revitalize old trim or fix a damaged area, you can make your trim look like new. Here’s what you need to know on how to make an interior trim repair job quick and easy!

Should I Repair or Replace Interior Trim?

The most common reasons for interior trim repair are damages and wear over time.

Accidents happen. You could be moving in new furniture and accidentally gouge and scrape a section of trim. A water pipe might leak, causing some crown molding to show signs of water damage and rot.

Trim surrounding the windows can take a beating from the sun and the elements. It’s common for trim to discolor or warp over time. Drafts in windows can also cause the trim to become brittle, fade, and receive water damage.

Time simply causes wood trim to fade and darken. If you don’t like the darker look, you can revitalize your wood trim to better match your aesthetic. Those who are repainting and designing their homes may want to change the color of their trim to match their new color palette.

Other reasons for trim repair may include:

  • Fixing gaps in molding and trim

  • Removing scratches

  • Repainting the trim

  • Repairing nail holes

  • Replacing damaged trim

Anytime you feel your home’s trim isn’t looking its best, it could benefit from a repair job.

Should you repair or replace interior trim in your home? Either option can be an easy and straightforward process with the right tools and patience. The best part is that you’ll have your trim looking like new!

Tools and Materials for an Interior Trim Repair Job

There's a good chance you already have most of the tools needed for repairing and replacing trim. If you don’t have some of the tools or materials, it’s a good idea to invest in them. They can help with a variety of home improvement projects beyond repairing trim.

The type of repair you need to do, however, will determine what tools and materials you will need.

The most common tools for most general trim repairs include:

  • Hammer

  • File

  • Wood or multipurpose glue

  • Nail set

  • Screwdriver

  • Coping saw

  • Miter saw

  • Drill bit set

  • Drill

  • Putty knife

  • Scraper

  • Varnish brushes

  • Pry bar

  • Tape measure

  • Protective eyewear

  • Work gloves

  • Face mask

Additionally, you may need the following materials:

  • Finish nails (size: 3d to 8d)

  • Alcohol

  • Wood putty

  • Extra wood trim

  • Screws

  • Stain, varnish, or paint

  • Caulk

If you’re revitalizing existing trim, you may only need a few brushes, a scraper, and a fresh stain. If you’re replacing a section of trim, you’ll need extra trim, a saw, nails, and more.

Take out your tools and materials before starting any project. Having everything you need readily available will help make the repair process go faster and smoother.

Spot Finish Wooden Interior Trim

Old trim has a classic and timeless look. The attention to detail in the millwork of some older trim is astounding. The only drawback is that you may hate the dark, lackluster color.

You could remove the old trim and replace it with something newer but that requires more time and money. Instead, you can revitalize it. There are a few ways to do this from giving the trim a thorough cleaning to taking it down and completely refinishing it.

1. Clean the Trim

A thorough cleaning can breathe fresh life back into your trim. Start by cleaning the trim to remove dust, grease, and other grime that’s sticking to the trim.

Use a rubbing alcohol solution or other wood-friendly cleaning solution to clean the trim. Denatured alcohol will remove old shellac and paint but it won’t remove most finishes. Dampen a sponge or rag with alcohol and wrap it around a putty knife to clean edges and narrow areas without slopping alcohol all over the trim.

Start in a corner or a less noticeable area to spot check your cleaning solution. Don’t worry about removing any finish as you’ll be able to touch it up later.

Gently rinse the trim with a rag and water to remove the leftover alcohol or cleaner. Dry the trim with a dry piece of cloth.

2. Sand and Scrape Damaged Areas

Older trim is likely to have damage in areas around the windows and exterior doors. No matter how much you clean them, the stain, discoloration, or paint won’t budge. In these cases, you’ll need to sand and refinish the damaged area.

Before you begin, make sure to wear protective eyewear, work gloves, and a mask. Carefully use a paint scraper to remove the old finish or paint. Avoid pressing too deep as this can damage the trim and leave a large dent or chip.

After scraping, use two different grits of sandpaper (120-grit to 180-grit) to even out the surface. Make sure the surface still has some roughness for the new finish (or paint) to adhere to the trim.

Sanding and scraping won’t remove some dark water stains. If you’re planning to refinish the trim with stain or varnish, you can use oxalic acid or a TSP substitute to lighten the stain. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to safely use the acid.

3. Sand and Fill Small Holes

You will need to lightly sand the rest of the trim. This will roughen the surface and allow the fresh finish or paint to stick to the trim.

Medium and fine abrasive pads work best as they’re more gentle than sandpaper. Test both in an inconspicuous area. Use the gentler abrasive pad that doesn’t remove any of the stains.

Fill any holes left by nails or screws with wood putty. The advantage of wood putty is there’s a wide selection of colors and it’s easy to use. Simply press it into the area you’re filling and wipe away the excess putty.

Similarly, fill gaps by pushing wood putty or wood filler into the gap.

For a more accurate look, buy several putty colors that are similar to the color of the wood of your trim. Mix them to create a custom-matched look. You can also use artist markers to color the putty or filler. If you’re using water-based polyurethane for your finish, make sure to use water-based putty.

Use a cloth or a vacuum to remove the dust and any putty residue from the trim. You don’t want this mixing with your fresh finish.

4. Apply New Stain

The most challenging part of interior trim repair is finding a stain that matches your trim’s existing stain. You want to use something as similar as possible to make the repairs appear seamless.

Some paint and stain stores can create a custom stain for you based on a trim sample you provide. Another option is you can purchase two or three similar stains and mix them to create the right color.

Start by testing the stain in a less visible area. If it looks good, you can use the stain to disguise scratches, discolorations, and other imperfections on the trim. Wipe off the excess stain with a rag and allow it a full day to dry.

5. Add the Finish

The final step is to add a fresh coat of finish. Wipe-on polyurethane is quick, easy to use, and doesn’t require the mess of a brush.

Dampen a rag with the finish and apply it to the trim using long strokes following the direction of the wood grain. Each layer of finish will be thinner but more even and smoother than if applied with a brush. Add a few more coats, according to your liking.

How to Refinish Interior Trim

Learning how to do interior trim repair by refinishing it is a great way to save money and your existing trim! This option is more intensive but results in a completely even and new colored trim. In this case, you’ll follow many of the same steps as above, but apply them to the entire trim rather than individual spots.

1. Remove the Trim

For best results, you should remove the trim before refinishing or painting it. This will help protect your walls, ceilings, and your flooring.

Take note of the trim’s location to ensure you place it back when you finish refinishing the trim. This way everything will fit together and you won’t need to cut or replace any trim.

If you can’t remove the trim, you can protect your walls and floors with painter's tape and a drop cloth. Take extra care to avoid damaging any of your walls or other trim. Another option is to contact a professional craftsman to refinish the trim for you.

Wipe debris, grime, and grease from the trim using a damp rag or a wood cleaner. This will make sanding easier and prevent unwanted debris from sticking to the trim. Denatured alcohol will help remove some unwanted paints and finishes.

2. Sand

Gently sand and scrape the trim to remove the old paint and finish following the sanding directions above. It’s okay to remove most of the finish and stain as you’ll be repainting or refinishing it.

Make sure to fill any holes, dents, gaps, or scratches with wood putty.

3. Stain or Paint

After sanding, your trim should be clean of old paint and finish. Wipe the trim to remove debris and residue before you paint or stain. Once the trim is clean, follow the manufacturer’s directions on how to apply and use the stain or paint.

Allow the paint or stain to completely dry before adding a polyurethane finish. The finish will protect your trim and fresh paint (or stain) from damage. Let the finish dry before reattaching the trim to your walls.

4. Reattach the Trim

After the finish dries, you can reattach the trim to its original location. If you left the trim on the walls and windows, you can clean away the protective tape and drop cloths. Now, you can enjoy your fresh like-new trim!

Replacing Interior Trim

In some cases, replacing interior trim is a better option. If you have extra trim laying around you can use it to replace the damaged areas. If you don’t have extra trim, you’ll need to visit your local home improvement store and find a trim style and width that matches the existing trim.

Crown molding, however, is much more challenging to replace. You should contact a professional if you need to replace or make any major repairs to crown molding.

1. Measure and Cut

Measure the space you’ll be placing the new trim. Use a miter saw to cut it to the appropriate size. Remove the old trim.

2. Stain or Paint

It’s likely the new trim doesn’t match the color or finish of the existing trim. You’ll need to stain, finish, or paint it to match the existing trim.

3. Attach

Once the trim thoroughly dries, it’s ready to hang. Attach the trim by using 3d nails. Use a hammer and nail set to tap the nails just below the surface of the trim.

Voilà! Your replacement trim will look and feel just like the rest.

Interior Trim Repair Keeps Your Home Looking Like New!

Interior trim is what makes your house feel like a home. Learning interior trim repair is a valuable skill that will make maintaining your home’s interior easy.

Do you have questions or prefer to have a professional update your trim? Request our service and we’ll help you with any of your home improvement needs!