How to Fill Wood Trim Gaps Before Painting

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Cutting miters in trim is a difficult and frustrating job, and getting the resulting gaps out of corners is a tedious process, if you can do it at all. A professional trim carpenter spends years practicing his craft, while the average homeowner may install trim only once during the time he owns his house. The good news is that you can get professional-looking results without practicing for years. A little caulk, judiciously applied, can fill those gaps and make your final paint job look professional.

Things You'll Need

  • Acrylic latex caulk
  • Caulking gun
  • Utility knife
  • Stiff wire
  • Small container of water
  • Disposable rags
  • Cut the caulk tube's dispensing tip at a 45-degree angle. Because the tip of the caulk tube is tapered, cutting closer to the tip of the nozzle will produce a smaller bead of caulk. Cutting closer to the body of the tube will produce a wider bead. A 1/8- to 1/4-inch hole is usually large enough.

  • Pierce the inner seal of the caulk tube with a piece of stiff wire. Many caulking guns will have a piercing wire attached to the front end of the frame.

  • Slowly move the tip of the caulk tube along the crack between the mitered pieces of trim while squeezing the caulking gun's trigger. Your goal is to leave a smooth, even bead of caulk along the surface of the trim. If you are caulking gaps between the trim and the wall, do no more than 6 feet at a time.

  • Set the caulk aside. Dip your finger into the container of water and smooth the bead of caulk. The water will keep the caulk from sticking to your finger and pulling up out of the crack you just filled. When the caulk begins to build up on your finger, wipe it off with a rag and dip your finger into the water again before smoothing the rest of the bead.

  • Clean any excess caulk before it dries. Fresh drips and lumps of dropped caulk can easily be cleaned with water and a rag.

  • Allow the caulk to dry before painting.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you've never used a caulking gun, it would be a good idea to practice a bit before tackling your trim job. Nail a couple of pieces of scrap lumber together and caulk the seam between them.
  • Buy a good caulking gun. The cheap ones will save you a few dollars, but will be more difficult to work with.
  • Here's an alternative technique for cutting the tip of the caulk tube: Cut the tip of the caulk tube at a 45-degree angle. Slice the tip of the nozzle off at a 90-degree angle to the body of the tube halfway between the tip of the nozzle and the base of the original cut. The resulting hole will give a slightly domed appearance to the caulk bead and lessen buildup of excess caulk at the tip of the nozzle.

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