Using A Paint Sprayer For Trim Instead Of A Brush

Whilst discussing office plans last week, a few of your comments about the blue trim situation in that room were the push that we needed. We were fooling ourselves to think we should paint all that trim by hand (we’re talking baseboards, crown molding, and five windows totaling 66 individual panes). So we decided to bite the bullet, break out the paint sprayer, tape everything off, cross our fingers and toes that we didn’t get any bleed-through on those wood floors, and say hasta la vista to some more blue trim this weekend.

We had painted all of the upstairs trim with the sprayer before we moved in and before the new floors went down, which was an easy no-brainer decision (nothing to worry about ruining). But for the downstairs trim that we’ve tackled (just in the kitchen and foyer so far) we’ve worked by hand – mainly because those rooms needed to be remain functional during painting, so we didn’t want to cover them with paper, plastic, and tape while a fog of paint-spray flew through the air. The office, however, didn’t have much furniture to move out, and could easily be sectioned off in a paint quarantine for a few days. So we went for it.

Last Thursday morning we emptied the room (except for the file cabinet, which was heavy enough that we decided just to cover it) and basically took over the dining room and foyer with all of the displaced items. Good thing we’re comfortable with chaos by now.

As excited as we were to attack this blue trim using a new method (we’ve never taped off a room to spray it before) we were both curious to determine if we felt like it was ultimately much of a time saver, since the prep is obviously a lot more intense. Although some things – like wiping down the to-be-painted surfaces and taping off the floor – would’ve happened anyways.

Next we rolled rosin paper out all over the floor since we’ve learned that paint mist gets EVERYWHERE from our particular brand of sprayer (which I’ll admit I’m growing less enamored with). We did our tape edging and our rosin paper as separate steps, just so we could focus on getting the taped edges nice and secure (paint on the hardwoods = our nightmare) before shifting our focus to taping each row of paper down. It meant that we ended up using more painter’s tape than we probably needed to, but the extra precaution felt like good nervous-first-timer insurance.

So here’s the room with the floors all taped over. Clara thought it was the coolest thing ever, especially when we let her come draw on the floors while we worked on the next prep step: windows.

I’ll admit I was a bit perplexed about what to do with the windows. I’ve heard lots of talk about “liquid masking film” that you can paint on your windows before spraying, which helps the dried paint just peel off seamlessly afterwards. It sounded awesome, but after reading some message boards it started to feel too good to be true. Lots of pro painters complained that it took 2 or 3 coats of it to work, so most recommended just doing the old fashion scrape technique anyways.

Wanting to save ourselves a bit of trouble, Sherry came up with the idea to roughly cut some rosin paper squares and tape them to the center of each pane. We didn’t meticulously cover every edge, but figured this would at least save us time on the back-end from scraping the entirety of each of those 66 panes. I left one empty just to test if the paper was a waste of time (spoiler: it wasn’t – that uncovered pane was a giant pain!). Oh and that big paper-covered thing between the windows is Sherry’s overflowing bulletin board full of Clara-art that we decided to just cover instead of removing (it was nailed right into the wall at the four corners as opposed to hanging on a hook).

With furniture out (or covered), floors protected, and windows “dressed” our last prep step was to seal off the office from the rest of the house. We carefully taped up a tarp across the doorway (on both the inside and outside of the door frame) and then used this handy instant zipper thing we found at Home Depot (it basically sticks to any tarp and then you slice an opening as you unzip it, giving you a resealable doorway in your tarp. Best $10 we spent on this whole project. That thing was airtight, which meant it single-handedly kept all of that swirling primer and paint dust from sneaking out into the foyer (while still allowing me to enter and exit the room between coats for a lot less hassle than a taped off tarp would provide).

Next, Sherry saluted me and wished me luck as I loaded in all of my supplies: paint sprayer (we have a Graco Truecoat II – here’s the affiliate link to it on Amazon), extension cord, and a can of primer (we used Kilz Premium). I also got dressed in the painters suit and booties that I bought and told Sherry to send reinforcements if I didn’t emerge in a few hours. I don’t know why, but I was actually kinda nervous about how this would go.

Well, it didn’t go great. At least it got off to a rocky start. For starters, my paint sprayer immediately got clogged, so before I could aim it at any blue trim, my hands were covered in primer and my sprayer was sputtering and leaking. About 30 minutes later, I was finally spraying. By this time it was about 4pm, and between clouds rolling in and all the paper on the windows, the room was suddenly pretty dark. And it only got darker as I sprayed the windows with primer. I’m so used to this room being crazy bright that I hadn’t even thought about needing a work light. Oops.

I actually didn’t own any work lights that we didn’t mind getting misted with paint spray (between this and just recently buying a dolly, you guys are probably questioning our preparedness) so I ran out to Home Depot after I was done with the primer coat and bought a couple, along with the trim paint that I’d need the next morning (Simply White in semi-gloss by Ben Moore). The lights revealed that my priming wasn’t perfect, but it’d do the trick.

After letting the primer dry overnight (and thoroughly cleaning and de-clogging the sprayer) I woke up early the next morning (Friday) ready for my first coat of paint. This is the room right after I finished that coat. Note the paint fog.

After cleaning the sprayer once again, I let that coat dry the entire day since we had showhouse stuff to do that afternoon in Northern Virginia. I was hoping the next morning (Saturday) would just be a clean up day, but we weren’t entirely satisfied with that single coat of paint. It did a great job covering, but it didn’t get all of the various nooks and crannies of the trim.

This was one of my fears about spraying this room because it’s virtually impossible to get all of the angles and sides of the trim in one swoop, and you can’t just go back right away and spray from a new angle because you’ll apply too much paint and get drips. So instead of getting to dive into clean-up with Sherry on Saturday, I did a second coat of paint in an effort to get those spots that the first coat missed.

So now we were on Day 3 of paint quarantine in our office, which was also looking not so pretty from the outside. Luckily by now I think the neighbors are used to us always being the middle of a project, so it doesn’t really raise many eyebrows anymore.

We let the second coat dry all day Saturday, and started the clean-up process yesterday morning. You can tell by the photo above that our homemade window coverings were far from perfect. We learned just how imperfect they were as we started to peel them off… leaving chunks of rosin paper stuck behind in various places. I was ready to curse our decision, and the time we had invested, in those quick little coverings.

Sherry and I tag-teamed window scraping, since neither of us had the stamina (or the hand strength) to scrape 66 windows clean ourselves. The coverage was so thick (one coat of primer, two of paint) that it took lots of effort to peel it off, but some serious scraping did the trick. In the end, the best method we found was using straight razors to get most of the windows clean, and then going back to scrape the corners with an exacto (we also tried using a putty knife for those corners, which was a little bigger and harder to control, but also worked semi-well).

This basically ate up half of our Sunday (with breaks to feed Clara, hand her a few new activities, take bathroom breaks, etc). It sucked. I won’t lie. The whole time I was brainstorming what I’d do differently and it mostly boiled down to not owning windows, which I don’t think is a great solution.

But I said above that we don’t regret the rosin squares. That’s because the pane that we’d left completely uncovered was ten times worse. Maybe even a hundred times worse. My fantasies of this one magically peeling off in one giant sheet were far from reality. It was hard and grippy, so we could only chip it off slowly. It took Sherry a good 30 minutes to do just this one pane.

But by around one in the afternoon we had them all cleaned and enjoyed a nice celebratory lunch. It was glorious to have our bright office back (and even brighter).

We considered calling it quits from here (our hands were both aching) and we thought it might be nice to leave the paper down while we painted the rest of the room (walls & ceiling), but I was getting paranoid that our rosin paper on the floor had only performed as well as it had on the windows (I was picturing giant blobs of paint having leaked through) so we went ahead and peeled it up. And it was PERFECT. Phew!

So here’s the room as of now (Sunday afternoon, when I’m writing this). It’s looking a bit gnarly with all of the over-spray beyond the trim on the walls and ceiling… but there’s no blue in sight!

We’re excited to go ahead and paint the ceiling and walls, since we figure it’ll be easier with all of the furniture still out. And we’re used to painting without the floors being completely covered, so there was no harm done by pulling up all that rosin paper.

But our trim-painting task isn’t quite over. For some reason my second coat of paint was especially drippy (once again, I’m less enamored with our sprayer than ever), so we had to sand down a bunch of spots that are still in need of some paint touch ups by hand.

But before I break out the touch-up paint, we still need to do some caulking. I didn’t realize how rough some of our trim was looking until it was all painted white. So there are a bunch of spots where the moldings and walls meet that need some filling.

I also never noticed how yellow the paint was in there until now. Sherry and I are still debating colors. We’re both thinking of something nice and light, but not white – and maybe with a hint of color. Not sure yet. Though you can see below that we’re starting to tape off where things like the built-ins might go, just to try to picture everything and make a final call on layout/placement.

Oh, but the verdict on spraying vs. painting by hand? I’m not totally sure yet. Spraying was definitely WAAAAY faster when you just measure the time spent painting. It took me just about 30 minutes to do a single coat, so one primer coat and two paint coats were a total of just 1.5 hours spent spraying – versus a single coat probably taking around 4+ hours by hand. But we’ve still got some kinks to work out in our prep/clean-up system before I’m convinced it’s less trouble overall (for example, when we paint by hand, we don’t get nearly as much on the windows so it’s a lot easier to scrape, and we don’t have drips in the trim that we later have to sand and touch up).

I’d love any tips or suggestions from those of you who are more well-practiced in the art of paint spraying. We plan to spray the dining room when the time comes since, like the office, it has little furniture and can easily be sectioned off. So I’d love to work out some kinks before taking that room for a spin – and then share all the “this worked better” tips when we get ‘er done. Can you believe that room is our last room with blue trim?! It’ll be a big day when it’s done.


    • says

      That’s actually what we did upstairs in many rooms since we thought spraying them would be a giant mess due to the overspray, but we knew from that experience that 66 panes = a ton of priming and painting (it’s the most windows that we have in any room) so we decided to try the sprayer this time around.


  1. says

    Can you explain, for those of us that have not painted double hung windows, how they get painted? Doesn’t the parts of the window that rub together when you lift them to open rub off the paint? And I’m happy to hear an update on the paint sprayer and how you aren’t sure about it anymore…we were thinking of getting one, but I will reconsider after your recent experience!

    • says

      Good question! Thankfully the only part of our wooden double hung windows that rub together are the sides of the windows against the metal window slides. Those are on the left and right side, along the frame of the window – so we don’t paint those, just the wooden windows and panes themselves. So we’re just essentially painting the interior side of the top window (which has six panes) and the interior side of the bottom window (which has nine panes). They slide up and down in front of each other, but don’t actually grind against each other (they’re on separate tracks). We couldn’t spray with the windows open (we would have gotten paint on the screens, storm windows, and the house’s exterior) so when we do touch ups we’ll open all the windows and paint that small crack of blue that’s hidden when the window is closed. Hope that helps!


  2. says

    My hats (respirators?) off to you guys. Just reading that gave me anxiety! :) I think I would’ve gone by hand just because I know me, that sprayer action would’ve had me throwing it across the room. I’m kind of bummed your sprayer is starting to sputter on you because I was going to get that one to repaint our furniture. (Tables, armoires, etc) I’ll be watching your adventures as always!

  3. says

    Ugghhh, sounds like this one was a pain in the tuckus! Between the windows and all that touch-up, it sounds like this one was a beast. But you guys, it was SO WORTH IT – that room already looks night and day better!

  4. says

    Thanks for keeping it real, John! Noting that some projects just outright SUCK help us mere mortals. :) And you’re right, the option of not having any windows wouldn’t really be a fun house. lol Thanks for a great start to the work week!

  5. says

    Wow! What a difference! I wonder however if you could have used alternative tape for the floor paper – why use expensive frog tape for just paper on paper when masking/duck tape would be way cheaper and work just as well for the non-edging portions? Also could you have taped the windows?

    • says

      Good question! We really wanted the seal to be nice and trustworthy when we were taping off the room, so it felt like a worthy splurge (Frog tape is known for blocking bleed better than other tape brands, and that has been our experience with it). Has anyone had luck using things like masking tape or duck tape without bleed or leaving stickiness behind? I’d imagine taping around the baseboards directly onto a hardwood floor (or on the windows like we did) with Duck tape might leave goo behind, and we worried masking tape could bleed or let paint sneak through onto our hardwoods or out into the hallway.


    • Liz says

      I think Robin meant using alternative tape to tape the pieces of paper together, not using duck tape to mask off the baseboards.

    • says

      Thanks Liz! We worried that still could have resulted in over-spray getting into those cracks between the paper (aka: on the hardwood floors) if that tape didn’t hold.


    • Emily says

      I’m sure that I would have taped them off, then covered the tape with paint and then used more tape on the edges. I use a lot of tape… when I’m taping this off, when I’m wrapping gifts… when my Mom would watch me tape something she would say, “well, you are your father’s child.”

      My dad is an auto body mechanic and he’s always spraying cars with paint. He uses the paper/masking tape combo to get all the way to the edge of the windows and cover trim. In my mind, he’s a professional spray painter and I’m planning to take him I’m pretty sure that I’m going to take him anything that we need to have painted with a sprayer. The calliber of a sprayer is going to have a big difference in your outcome and how comfortable you are with it. I doubt that you’ll need to do many more rooms with your spray gun, but maybe the next time you can rent a commercial grade one and see if that makes a difference. My dad’s gun doesn’t overspray too much and he has a lot of control with it.

      The hardest part of my childhood was walking into the garage after school and not being allowed to touch the perfectly sprayed and shiny, wet paint on a car! It was so shiny that you really wanted to touch it!

    • Natalie Waltman says

      Normal masking tape would have worked fine for the paper! I use it all the time in my painting. The only time NOT to use it is where it will be in contact with the freshly painted surfaces as it is even stronger than painter’s tape so it can tear off all your hard work. No bleed through though and a lot cheaper!

  6. Ashley says

    Good morning! Thanks for posting all of your DIY work (mishaps and all). I just wanted to say- I notice y’all get the occasional snarky/slightly mean commenter. And wow- y’all react with such class and positiveness. It’s nice to see that it stops the comments from spiraling into a negative back and forth in the name of defending yourself (I don’t know how you manage to resist!). Thanks for being a spot on the internet that keeps it bright! :D

  7. says

    First, I am so thankful that all of the trim in my house is glossy white and bright. After reading this post I don’t think I’ll ever change it. More importantly, I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a sprayer, but after reading this that decision has been jettisoned from my brain. Maybe it’s because I’m a serious control freak and I trust my hand/brush combination better than I do a sprayer. I was nervous just reading this post!

  8. Becca says

    So this is not anything I’ve ever done…something I literally just thought of and could be totally off base…but would it make sense to put something like vegetable oil on the windows panes? Since grime can prevent paint from sticking couldn’t you just lightly grease them and then it would come right off? I guess you would just have to make sure you don’t get it on the part you actually want to paint.

    • says

      We were wondering that too (in hindsight of course). We also thought “what if we sprayed them down with windex or something?” – I think our main thought was that anything liquid that could drip down and rest on the window frames of each of those 66 panes would have interfered with our paint job, so I would be nervous to try it. Anyone know of anything that you could apply without it dripping onto the windows themselves and mixing with paint spray or making things gooey?


    • Amanda B. says

      Crisco? I use that to rub on glass baking ware if I don’t have PAM or some other spray. NOTHING sticks to Crisco.

    • Cory Laine says

      I had one child “paint” her bedroom window with Vaseline and it was a nightmare to get off the glass so I wouldn’t recommend that route:)

    • Kiran says

      Vaseline works! Just wait for the paint thoroughly dry before cleaning the Vaseline off. But be very careful not to get the Vaseline anywhere you do want paint or the paint will rub off.

    • Emily says

      Rubber cement sounds like it could be a good idea. Maybe a combination, rubber cement to edge the glass and plastic to cover the majority of the pane?

      Vegetable oil and press-n-seal also came to my mind. Sadly, with 66 windows panes, you could have tried them all and given us a breakdown of what worked and what didn’t!

      My mom uses hand lotion when she paints her nails. She applies it around her nails and the lotion doesn’t allow the paint to stick to her cuticles. Any overpaint just wipes off when the nails are dry.

      And would paint thinner and a cotton ball have helped you remove paint from the windows easier? Or nail polish remover?

    • Jules says

      Don’t use press in seal wrap. I used it on the glass shelves of my fridge, when I peeled if off every single gluey dot stuck to the glass shelves of my fridge. It took forever to clean that up, much worse than scraping paint with a razor blade.

    • JC says

      If you try the vaseline/Crisco route, the key to clean up is using blue dawn mixed in your vinegar water. It cuts through the grease. With a 4 year old, 2 year old, and baby, I have some experience getting greasy things off of anything and everything.

    • JG says

      I wonder if liquid soap would work… It would certainly be easy to clean off. And not much sticks to “soapy residue”. Or maybe just rubbing a gooey soap bar on the window-?

    • Jennifer Armstrong says

      Ok. I’m not sure if anyone’s mentioned this because I didn’t read all 480+ comments but… I watch Rehab Addict on HGTV. I don’t remember the exact episode, but Nicole Curtis once used a product she rolled onto the windows to prevent paint from sticking. I have no clue what she used but it sounded like it was made for that purpose. It just peeled right off after the paint dried and cleaned a super grimy window in the process. She used it on outside windows. Maybe something to consider hunting down for your dining room paint job.

    • Lisa says

      I’ve used vaseline as a paint block before. But much like all your other prep decisions, vaseline is not without its issues. I’ve applied it with a thick piece of cardboard, which is fine. But getting it off is kind of a chore all by itself. You can scrape it off with more cardboard, but Dawn is the only thing that cleans the schmear that’s left. (that I know of). Where I’ve used it really successfully is around knobs and keyholes, etc. that I could remove. Then I just rubbed it down with a cloth to get rid of it.

  9. says

    Rosin on the floor, cut up grocery bags for the windows? I’m wondering if the rosin leaked on the windows because the paint was directly sprayed multiple times and the paper started to separate? I’ve had good luck before with plastic bags when painting mirrors and such with spray paint. I’m interested in the outcome because we are thinking about spraying our kitchen cabinets when we install them, but I’m not sure of the outcome.

    I’ve had a horrible time painting our old cabinets by hand. The white coats never seem to be solid. I’m thinking about just doing a gray instead since I’m so sick of trying to get even coverage with white.

    We had the same problem the previous poster mentioned as well, when we opened our windows after painting by hand, all the paint peeled where the windows connected. However, our windows are a hundred years old and do not have nice smooth tracks. Sadface!

    • says

      Oh no, that stinks about your windows! As for grocery bags as paint blocks, I think that could work. We also didn’t tape our rosin rectangles off fully on all sides, but the weird thing was that the areas that were taped off were sometimes even harder to scrape since it was tape + primer + paint (making it thicker and gummier to remove in those spots) so it was hard to tell what would make things easier – although it was painfully clear that not taping them off at all would have been a nightmare! That one window was killer!


  10. Patricia says

    Eons ago (while dinos still roamed the earth) my husband and I spray painted a two bedroom condo we were using for work. He sprayed EVERYTHING. Including himself. After the third trip to pick up even more paint, I told the paint guy I wasn’t going to divorce my husband. I would stay married to him instead, to better make his life a living hell …

    We will never spray again. Tape and paint by hand. And we’re still married.

  11. says

    Having never tried a paint sprayer I can’t offer up any tips, but I am following along in the comments. Do you think a different sprayer would work better? Curious to hear what sprayers other folks have used or if the issues you faced are common among sprayers.

    • says

      We’re beginning to think there are definitely sprayers out there. Jenny on Little Green Notebook has one that she seems to love, so we might have to try that one to see if it’s user error or our sprayer that’s gumming things up and causing those annoying drips that we’re having to sand later (it didn’t seem to be as bad about that in earlier projects, so it’s like it’s oddly getting worse).


    • erin says

      Sherry, you mention Jenny’s sprayer from Little Green Notebook – that inspired me to buy it but my husband and I have had MUCH LESS success than Jenny has. Not sure if it is user error or what, but after many many coats on a dresser that still had to be finished with a roller and calls to the manufacturer (who was wonderful, btw), we are still not convinced it was a worthwhile purchase.

    • Sara says

      I also bought the sprayer Jenny on LGN recommended and I am NOT happy. I could not get it to spray right at all. :(

    • Lisa says

      I only had one bout with a paint sprayer that was borrowed. In researching how to properly clean it, I was blown away by how very exact the process must be. If you don’t clean the tip well, the whole thing can seize (I think that was the word I found? Correct me if I’m wrong…) The one that I borrowed wasn’t cleaned well prior to my use and when I turned it on, it whirled to life and then hit a sudden stop (prior to even pulling the trigger). From all that I read, some paint had probably worked it’s way inside and was clogging the whole thing. There should be a way to know if you are really truly cleaning it correctly. (For some reason while writing this, the process of cleaning my breast pump tubing and attachments popped into my brain… if only it were that easy to clean a paint sprayer! Lol!!!)

    • says

      My dad has a sprayer he loves and has used for numerous projects.

      Unfortunately we discovered it doesn’t work as well with certain types of paint. We sprayed our ceiling using his sprayer and using ceiling type paint gummed it up. We were using 3 sprayer tips in rotation. One in the sprayer and the other two soaking in soap water. Uuuuugh! It was also ending up drippy although since it was the ceiling following with the roller was still easier. We know the sprayer was fine since we started out with the primer and had no issues. So maybe the type of paint is an issue?

      Second thing is that a sprayer does a lighter coat. Maybe only 3/4 the amount of paint. You definitely have to plan to do more coats to get good coverage.

      Also, love the zipper seal!!!

  12. Treah says

    I wonder if you taped around the paper with the painters tape it the windows would have been easier? Looks much better!

    • says

      The weird thing was that the areas that were taped off (we didn’t tape all the way around like you mentioned) were sometimes even harder to scrape since it was tape + primer + paint (making it thicker and gummier to remove in those spots) so it was hard to tell what would make things easier – although it was painfully clear that not taping them off at all would have been a nightmare! That one window was the bane of my existence.


  13. Lindsay Butler says

    Love it!

    A few suggestions I have from using my paint sprayer.
    1) With the windows I think it is easier to tape with tape on both the window pane and the window. Just use your exacto knife to slice off the overlap on the window pane before spraying.
    THEN get a cardboard template of your window pane size (About have an inch less in size) a rotary cutter and some cheap contact paper. Us the contact paper instead of the rosin paper.

    It is just a little bit more prep work but saves you from any of the messy scraping. Plus when you use the tape and exacto knife method you do not have to worry about getting the tape perfectly placed inside all of those little squares.

    • Bonnie K (BornInaZoo) says

      I used this same method on my windows. It worked like a charm. However, use the cheap contact paper. I got mine at the dollar store. I ran out on the last pane & didn’t feel like running out for more so I used Contact brand that I had on hand. I seriously thought I was going to break the window taking that piece off.

    • Linda says

      I was thinking contact paper too (although I’ve never tried it)! Glad to know it wasn’t just a crazy idea of mine but that it actually works :-)

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