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When – and When Not – to Paint Original Woodwork

I get the question all the time, “Should I paint this woodwork?” Invariably, it is someone looking to modernize an older home that has natural wood baseboards and trim around doors and windows. Most times I shutter at the thought, but there are times when it makes sense. Here are some of those instances.

1. When woodwork condition is bad

Not all owners take the best care of their homes, and pets and children can be very hard on delicate surfaces. When wood is damaged it can be incredibly time-consuming and expensive to repair. In these cases, your only option may be to paint or replace the wood.

2. If your neighborhood was built in the last 3o years or so

Let’s face it, the 70s and 80s were not shining decades for home decor. Mass builders and those looking to save money cut costs by using cheap wood or even wood substitutes. In these cases, paint until your heart is content. I have never heard a buyer in a late-century home with natural-colored wood say, “I want to buy this house because the wood hasn’t been painted.”

3. When painted woodwork is the norm for your neighborhood

If you live in an area with pristine Victorian homes or even mid-century homes do NOT touch the woodwork except to clean or polish it. Making modifications out of the character of a home will likely devalue it as people typically live in these areas because of the houses’ original features. On the other hand, if you live in an area where similar homes have been painted, then by all means, go for it. Browse listings in your neighborhood to get a feel for style choices and make your decision accordingly to preserve or increase your property’s value.

The bottom line – whether or not to paint original woodwork is not a decision to take lightly. Once it is painted, going back to natural is next to impossible. At a minimum, doing so will cost you (probably a lot). If you choose to move forward with painting, you must prepare the wood properly so that the paint will adhere. You should also consider paints made for this purpose. If you don’t know what you are doing or doubt your skills, hire a professional painter. No one likes layers of caked-on paint and it’s always best to do it right the first time!



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