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Simple updates to our molding makeover that don’t need to be linked to a pillar page.

Quick Tip: The Unifying Coat of Primer

The Importance of Priming Even Pre-Primed Moldings

how to paint moldings

After applying a unifying coat of primer on our half bathroom moldings. Before and after pictures below.

[This is part of my How to Paint Moldings series.]

Even if all of the flat-stock and moldings you installed come from the factory coated in primer, you still need to apply a final, unifying coat of sandable primer before you apply your first finish coat of paint.

Here are my four reasons why:

1.  To Cover Bare Wood or MDF

This one is obvious, but you need to cover bare material before brushing on a finish coat of paint.

before and after molding pictures

Primer will: cover bare wood, bare mdf, spackling on gaps and nail holes.

2.  To Cover Spackling or Glue

The spackling you used to cover all of those nail holes, gaps and gouges, will show through your two finish coats of paint as a rough or dull spot.  So they have to be covered with primer.

how to paint large baseboard moldings

Before: A cope joint gone bad that I filled with spackling.

Likewise, any glues that seeped between your moldings or were smeared on their surface, need to be covered with primer, otherwise those spots may show through your finish coats of paint.

how to prime moldings

After: The same cope joint covered in spackling. With a little more attention, you’ll never see the filled joint after I’ve painted it.

Below  All of the nail holes you filled with spackling and then sanded will need to be covered with primer.

Rather than trying to spot-prime only the nail holes on pre-primed moldings, just cover the whole thing with a fresh coat of primer.

how to fill nail holes in moldings

Before: Spackling over nail holes will be sanded and then primed over to create a unified surface.

how to prime diy mdf moldings

After: The same nail hole after being sanded and then primed over. Can you see the hole now?

Eye-Level Flaws Need Extra Attention

The two before and after pictures below show a nail hole in the wall frames that appears right at eye level as you exit the room.  It’s hard not look at this spot.

So this nail hole and others like it should get a little extra attention.

how to prime mouldings

Before: Nail hole that has been filled and sanded.

Below  See how the nail hole is still just barely visible after I’ve covered it in primer?

It’s just possible that after sanding the primer and then applying two finish coats of paint that divot may still show through.

And I can’t take that chance.  Not when it’s right at eye level.

So I will apply a spot coat of primer here and then sand it again.  That should take care of it.

how to prepare mouldings for paint

After: The same nail hole now barely visible. It may need a little more work before it’s perfect.

3.  To Fill Small Gaps

Most seams between wall and molding or between two moldings will need at least some caulk to fill them after your primer coat is applied.  But not all of them.

how to prime mdf moldings

There was a very small gap here between wall and molding before I primed it. Now it is filled with primer.

Those really fine gaps will fill with primer, eliminating the need to caulk them.  And that can save you a lot of work.

4.  To Unify the Quality of Finish

This is the most important reason for applying a coat of primer over your entire molding installation.

Because each of your installed material surfaces will have slightly different textures to them.  And each of those textures may show differently after your two finish coats of paint have been applied.

And you don’t want that.  So you apply an even coat of primer over all of the moldings you installed.

how to prepare molding for paint

Before: The intersection where door trim, ceiling and wall moldings intersect.

how to prime bathroom moldings

After: The same molding intersection with a unifying coat of primer applied.

Note 1:  Use only Sandable Primers

You want to be able to sand your primed moldings with fine grit sandpaper, like 120 or 220 grit, for a silky-smooth surface.

Many primers are designed only to cover a surface that you don’t want bleeding through the finish coat, and so they cure with a plastic-like coating.

That’s the wrong kind of primer to use on your moldings.  Kilz2 is that kind of primer — good for covering stains but not for sanding.

Use a primer that is designed for covering bare wood and mdf.

A sandable primer leaves you with a smooth, uniform surface texture.  When dry, these primers feel chalky.  That’s the one you want.

We’ve been using a Sherwin Williams brand that we really like (details about this primer here), but Benjamin Moore and other paint companies have good primers as well.

Note 2:  A Second Coat of Primer

Sometimes you’ll find some imperfection on your moldings that requires you to sand down to bare material again.

sherwin williams wood and wall primer

Before priming: Seeing all of the moldings as separate parts.

You’ll need to cover that bare spot with primer again, but you don’t have to re-prime the entire molding pattern.  Just make sure you feather-out the primer away from the re-primed area.  You don’t want to leave a visible line of freshly applied primer.

When the re-primed area is dry, sand as usual, blending the newly primed and original primed areas together until smooth.

how to paint large baseboard moldings

After: Finally you can see your moldings as a complete pattern, and that can be very motivating!

The Primer Coat and New Motivation

A great benefit to applying the unifying coat of primer is that you’ll get to see your moldings become the thing you had envisioned.

The primer allows you to see the complete pattern as a unit, rather than as individual materials nailed to the wall.

And seeing that always breathes new life into my motivation to dive back into a long, drawn-out installation.

The Next Step

Sanding all of your primed moldings to a very fine surface is the next step after priming.

Related Posts


Half Bathroom Molding Makeover Update

tucson bathroom renovation

Our half bathroom molding makeover turned out beautiful!

Here’s the list of finishing touches to come:

  • Shadow box moldings with appliques on the ceiling
  • Build a new ornate heat/ac duct to replace the old one
  • New color for the ceiling
  • Full size mirror to fit the wall above the sink

Build a Valance Box Now, Save a Cat’s Life Later. Hopefully.

beautiful wife holding cat

By Jennifer

Ken and I are both constitutional over-planners.  We tend to produce detailed, elegant and highly optimistic plans partly out of sheer high spirits.  This makes us mildly smug at times: you won’t catch us making dozens of trips to a hardware store because we haven’t captured the right measurements.

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Quick Tip: When to Use Spackling and When to Use Caulk on Moldings

Beware of Shrinkage!

how to paint moldings

A small gap like this on can be filled with caulk because it is so small.

[This is part of my How to Paint Moldings series.]

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Half Bathroom Renovation: Crown Molding Design Change

Covering My Mistake with This New (and Better!) Design

crown molding

The crown molding model I made based on design elements from our new light fixture.

[This is part of Our Molding Makeover series  and my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]

Find Inspiration in Your Furniture, Lamps and Other Decor

A good place to find design inspiration for your moldings is in the decorations you already own, or the ones you’re planning on buying for that room.

Look for details that you can repeat in your moldings like scrolls, scallops, and, in our case, a series of flat steps.

It was the flat steps on the base of this light fixture that solved the crown molding design issue I’ve been wrestling with for two months.

Ever since I made that fatal, yet fortunate, installation mistake.

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Quick Tip: Vacuum Sanding Dust Right Away

Or Else!

how to paint moldings

Use a soft brush attachment first across all moldings.

[This is part of our How to Paint Moldings series.]

I learned this quick tip the hard way.

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Quick Tip: Scale Sculpting

How to Shape Spackling in Difficult Molding Corners

how to paint moldings

[This is part of our How to Paint Moldings series.]

The eye is naturally drawn to the intersections of moldings in corners, and so doing a really good job prepping them is time well spent.

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Finding Happiness in Our Local Lighting Store

sun lighting tucson arizona

Parking lot yoga. It helps her shop.

Our Bathroom Light-Hunting Safari Part 2

By Jennifer

Lighting our half-bath presented a Gordian knot of design challenges: limited space, basic functional requirements, and poor choices at our initial price point.  We can’t expand the bathroom and I don’t intend to give up hope of grooming in there, so price had to give.  We would find a specialty store, thereby resigning ourselves to paying for good materials, thoughtful design and an expert staff.  In this case, it was well worth it.

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Quick Tip: Blending Molding Scarf & Butt Joints Perfectly

Using a Primer Shadow as Your Blending Gauge

how to install bathroom moldings

Blending butt joints on our bathroom moldings.  Look for the primer shadow.

[This is part of our How to Install Moldings series.]

When two pieces of molding don’t quite lay flush with each other, you’ll have to do some blending.

This post shows you the trick I use to tell if my moldings are blended perfectly so the joint will not be seen after it’s painted.

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Half Bathroom Renovation: Installing the Baseboard Cap Molding

base cap molding

Yes, it is a large baseboard cap for large baseboard in this small half bath. But it is beautiful!

Installing the Base Cap is not hard, but it is a finicky task.  So make sure you allot yourself enough time so you don’t get frustrated with the pace of installing it.

This is especially important when working in a small, cramped room like this one.

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Jennifer & Ken Leave the Big Box

Part 1 of Our Bathroom Light-Hunting Safari

bathroom renovation

I think it’s ugly. She thinks it’s tolerable.

By Jennifer

Ken and I realized yesterday that for weeks we’ve been in the grip of what a friend of mine from graduate school calls the Serengeti Effect.  The Serengeti Effect originally described human behavior in relation to the refrigerator in a graduate housing apartment, but the following scenario may sound familiar even if you don’t write J.D. or Ph.D. after your name.

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Half Bathroom Renovation: Installing the Baseboard Fascia

diy georgian or neo classical skirting baseboard

The tall, flat portion of a baseboard or skirting board is called the fascia.

[This is part of Our Molding Makeover series.  See all updates here.]

We made this baseboard fascia 6-5/8″ tall, a bit taller than the one I made in our kitchen that is 5-3/4″ tall.

Jennifer and I arrived at this height after making several baseboard mockups of different heights, placing them in front of the already installed wall frames and then living with them for a day or two each.

We felt that the baseboard needed the extra height to balance the visual effect of the baseboards “supporting” the wall panels.

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Half Bathroom Renovation: Installing the Baseboard Nailers

how to install baseboard and skirting board moldings

The baseboard will terminate on top of the door trim/vertical stile.

[This is part of Our Molding Makeover series.  See all updates here.]

This baseboard is the same basic design as the one we installed in our kitchen.  (See How to Install BASEBOARD-110 for $2.00/ft for more details.)

We made two slight modifications to it for reasons that are specific to this bathroom and to improve the design over our previous installation.

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Half Bathroom Renovation: Moldings Around the Light Switch

How I Install Moldings Around a Light Switch

door trim next to light switch

Moldings around bathroom light switch.

Important:  I am in no way qualified to give electrical advice of any kind.   This post is simply to show you how I handled this part of the project.  You should consult a licenced electrician first.

[This is part of Our Molding Makeover series.  See all updates here.]

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Half Bathroom Renovation: The Hardest Wall Of All

What to Do When There’s no Room for a Door Surround.  Or Crown Molding.  Or Wall Panels.  Or….

how to install bathroom moldings

This corner, where three different molding patterns intersect, was the most difficult part of the project to visualize what the finished design would look like.

Dissolving Multiple Molding Patterns Together

[This is part of Our Molding Makeover series.  See all updates here.]

Question  When you want lots of moldings in a small room, but you don’t have room for lots of moldings in a small room, what do you do?

Answer  You decide which pattern is the most important and then make the others fit.


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