How to Pre-Finish Wood Trim

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

Wood trim like this can add a very nice touch to a room, but of course to look its very best, it needs to be stained and finished. Here are a couple of tips for doing that easily.

With new wood trim, I do my staining and finishing before I install the woodwork. For the first sanding, I use 120-grit paper, cut into quarter sheets, then fold it into thirds. The idea is to use my hand to conform the sandpaper to the molding profile. Sometimes a single finger works best.

For grooves and crevices, using the edge of the sandpaper, does the trick.

By refolding the sandpaper, I can expose a fresh surface and use every bit of the sheet. The sanding leaves a fair amount of fine dust on the surface. This sticky tack cloth is the best way to remove it. It captures the dust and prevents it from becoming airborne.

If there's one cardinal rule in sanding, it's always sand in the direction of the wood grain. This avoids scratch marks which can become painfully obvious when the stain is applied. The stain I'll be using on this project is a water-based product from MinWax and comes in several colors.

The stain should be shaken first and can then be poured directly on a soft, clean cloth and simply rubbed into the wood. Here too, it's important to apply the stain in the direction of the wood grain.
In some cases, I prefer to pour the stain into a container and apply it with a brush. This allows me to easily and quickly work the material into molding details. Then I wipe off the excess with a soft cloth. I'm applying the stain to the face of this bead board, using a cloth.

But getting it into the grooves is definitely a job for the brush. One of the big advantages of a water-based product is easy cleanup. A little soap and water is all that's needed.

This is a water-based polyurethane top coat. After a good shake, the wipe-on poly can simply be poured into a clean cloth and rubbed on. The purpose of a top coat is to seal in the stain, protect the surface, add sheen or gloss and give the wood grain a sense of depth.

Another way to apply a wipe-on material like this is to pour it into a pan. Dip the cloth in the liquid, slap the sides of the container to remove any excess and wipe the top coat onto the surface.

As for technique, the two most important things to remember are, apply the finish in long straight strokes and move only in the direction of the wood grain.
For sanding between coats, MinWax recommends 220-grit paper. Use light pressure and sand only in the direction of the grain. Remove the sanding dust with the tack cloth — and apply a second coat of finish in the same way as the first.

Now that our woodwork has an attractive, durable finish, it's time to put it up.
Since we have prefinished this wood trim, we'll want to fill the nail holes with this wax pencil, matched to the stain color. Once the hole is filled, the excess is wiped off with a soft cloth. What a nice traditional touch to a wall. And you’ve got to admit, it couldn't be much simpler.

Learn how to pre-finish crown molding, bead board and other wooden trim before installation.

Pre-finishing new wood trim such as crown molding, baseboards, bead board, and chair rails before attaching it to the wall has a number of benefits. Among those advantages are minimizing fumes by working in a well-ventilated workshop or garage, applying the finishes while you stand upright at a convenient work surface, and eliminating the likelihood of smudging painted walls or dripping on interior floors. You can apply multiple coats of stain and topcoat and allow them to dry at your convenience, thus keeping your interior living space clutter free until you are actually ready to install the trim. Nail holes present no problem, because they can be touched up with a wax finishing pencil that makes no mess whatsoever. Add the potential of using water-based finishing projects for easy soap and water clean up, and the entire project goes quickly and efficiently.