Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Great Trim War of 2012

The previous owners of our house clearly did some specific things to ready the house to sell. With the best of intentions, I'm sure, they did things like paint every dang wall of the house a bizarre pinky-peachy-off-white color (I can just hear a realtor saying "buyers like to see neutral colors blahblahblah").  But one of these things has driven us absolutely bonkers and we wish we could go back in time and somehow psychically know that we would one day buy their house and ask that they not do what they were about to do.... this thing would be coating the wood trim, which is found in EVERY ROOM OF THE HOUSE (except the basement) with some sort of heavy duty, glossy lacquer.

Not only is it an eyesore (I hate the color, and the fact that it's so dang shiny just rubs me in all the wrong ways), but that lacquer was meant to survive the apocalypse, I swear.  At the end of the world, it's going to be cockroaches, twinkies and the trim in our house left to repopulate. And we know this was an after-thought and a special add-on, because they told us at closing that they literally SPRAYED all the trim down with this stuff - we found this out after asking about strange yellow coloration on the ceilings in some rooms, and they shared that this lacquer, over time, yellows and clearly some had gone astray and missed the doors and trim. Grrreeeaaaat.

As I mentioned in this post about our stairway (which matched the lacquered wood trim), we had a heck of a time battling with the trim when we painted the main floor of the house.  In round 1 of the epic battle of Us vs. The Trim-From-Hell, our weapon of choice was a liquid de-glosser, because A) we had a bunch leftover from stripping and refinishing our kitchen cabinets (and we are of the thrifty, use-what-ya-got variety), and B) we thought it would be easier and less messy than sanding. Well we learned our lesson big time, and made the mistake of allowing the main floor of the house (which accounts for at least 60% of the total square footage in the house) to be our guinea pig. I'll try to summarize why this was such an epic fail as succintly as possible....

For starters, using the liquid de-glosser is not exactly "easy" or "simple." It involves scrubbing the trim with the de-glosser, [with just as much elbow grease (if not more) than sanding requires] and following with a damp cloth to remove excess lacquer and de-glosser (again, also required by sanding).  Really no fewer steps or less physical labor than sanding would have been. While not as messy in the sense that there was no sawdust flying everywhere, I did have to deal with the multiple heart attacks that came with accidentally dripping the de-glosser onto the hardwood floors. Oh, and because the trim in our house is so old (and not in great shape - if we were loaded I would have sprung to just replace all the trim), there were areas where the wood had splintered, and I ended up with one heck of an epic wood splinter that shot straight through my scrub pad, through my rubber glove and into my flesh while I was scrubbing. Like, all the way. And it was so big, I kid you not, I used PLIERS to remove it from my finger.

So, the process was not so easy or simple.  Blood and tears were both shed.  And the results?! Oy. Makes me cringe. So, the de-glosser did not sufficiently strip the lacquer.  It might have after a few more go arounds with the de-glosser, but we didn't know any better and were into the idea of moving forward with the project, so we ignored the fact that the trim was still quite shiny and smooth (less so than before, but looking back, clearly not ready for paint). When it came time to paint, we quickly realized it was NOT good enough, and the de-glosser had NOT done it's job.  The paint went on super streaky, and required 3-4 coats of paint with built-in primer before it was covered, and it STILL leaves a lot to be desired. If you look closely, visible streaks where the paint has not fully covered the trim are in abundance.


And.... (hold on a sec, talking about this part gets my blood boiling... deeeeeep breeeeaaaaths)... when all was said and done and we started removing the tape around the trim.... the paint PEELED off the trim in MULTIPLE spots.  Like, almost everywhere you look, you can see little spots where the paint peeled off. Now, it's just at the edges, where the tape met the trim, so it's not massively noticeable unless you are looking for them, but I know they are there and they drive me insane.  In addition, the paint chips and peels from normal wear-and-tear crazy easily... just a little ding or scratch makes the paint come off.

UGH. Talk about heartbreak hotel when we realized how shoddy of a job we had done in the biggest, most seen and most used parts of the house (and again, most guests don't notice because it IS just trim, after all, but WE notice and that's all that matters).  SOMEDAY when we recover from this devastation, we will either A) touch up the trim where it has peeled/scratched off B) do another coat on all the trim just for good measure and to get rid of the streaky effect and/or C) just plain replace all the trim with something that's higher quality and that we can paint pre-installation.  But moving forward, we are remembering what we have learned and being sure to conquer new spaces with a whole new strategy.

Us vs. The Trim-From-Hell, Round 2! We have a new weapon in our arsenal this time.... SANDPAPER. 80 grit sandpaper, to be exact.

That's right, after our massive failure with the de-glosser we decided to bite the bullet and try sanding the trim in our bedroom instead.  While the bedroom is a smaller space, so it is inherently a smaller and less aggravating project, the consensus so far is that sanding is the way to go! It's actually no more work than using the de-glosser, and you get MUCH better results, almost immediately.  Just a couple rounds of sanding got the lacquer good and gone.  As for the mess, yes, we ended up with sawdust everywhere but a quick round with the vacuum took care of that.  We haven't started painting the trim yet (we are working on the second coat of the walls right now), but when we do we are 99% certain it will go off without a hitch.  Just the difference in what the trim looks and feels like after sanding, compared to using the de-glosser, tells us that we did it right this time (after using the de-glosser, the trim was the same color and only slightly less glossy and smooth, whereas after sanding, the trim is noticeably lacking a significant amount of lacquer, as evidenced by the significant change in color and texture of the trim). 

Lesson Learned: When dealing with heavy-duty, stubborn stain, gloss or lacquer, SANDING is the only way to go.  De-glosser may have it's place, but this is not it.  We are official converts. We will never doubt the power of sandpaper ever again.

Anyone else have similar struggles with stripping (trim or furniture, etc.)? Has anyone else struggled with de-glosser, or conversely, has anyone had major success with using de-glosser (if so, what is your secret)?


  1. I just want to say thank you for not only being guinea pigs in your home improvement projects, but for then blogging about your experiments so that (hopefully) Sam and I will be able to avoid some first time homeowner pitfalls if/when that day comes!

    1. Oh you are so very welcome. :) Hopefully you really do learn something you can apply to WHEN you have a house yourselves. Our lack of homeowner friends made it hard to learn from others, so hopefully we can pass along our lessons learned and spread the home love!