Proper paint preparation for millwork

finished millwork

Here is the proper paint preparation that I spec for millwork.  This is especially important for wood graining.

1) Medium to fine sanding (depending on the substrate) followed by a good dusting and vacuuming. Repair the most obvious nicks, scratches, and nail holes with a hard spackle compound.

patching a hole

2)  2 coats of oil based primer, I recommend brushing on the stiles and rails and “criss-crossing” the panels or even spraying if the painter is set up for that. The painter should again,  check the surface for small imperfections and patch them, sand and spot prime before putting the 2nd coat of primer

3) Application of the base coat should only start after the primer has been sanded with a 220 sandpaper, dusted and the room completely vacuumed.

4)  Apply 2 coats of base coat (most likely a Satin Oil basecoat).   I recommend brushing on the stiles and rails and “criss-crossing” the panels, finishing in the direction of the longer side. I do not recommend spraying the final coat just for cosmetic reason, because I think a brushed coat looks more natural and interesting than a sprayed look.

Criss-crossing:  This is the most even and natural application of paint in preparation for a decorative finish.   Apply a small area of the millwork with a whizz roller or large basecoat brush.   Then, using a spalter (size 100 to 200) that is not dipped in paint,  and brush against the grain softly.


Finally, using the absolute tip of the same spalter, brush with the grain to finish the section.  This will allow for an even distribution of the paint and a very natural final mark that goes with the grain.   Watch this video on how to use a spalter.

After the basecoat is cured, my crew will take over, sand the surface with 320 sandpaper and degrease the basecoat with whiting.


After a good vacuuming, we’re ready for the decorative finish!

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