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Skim coating wood trim surfaces

Painted wood trim surfaces often receive a lot of abuse. These surfaces include: baseboards, chair rail, doors, door trim, windows, window trim, wainscoting, bookcases, built-ins, and mantles. Crown moldings may show indentation caused by an errant hammer blow. Active children, pets and the movement of furniture all contribute to the carnage.

Imagine having the ability to repair multiple scratches, indentations, small nail or screw-sized holes and surface abraisions with one repair technique. This powerful and time-saving surface preparation technique is skim coating.


Eye protection, either safety glasses or safety goggles, should always be worn whenever preparing surfaces for paint. Respiratory system protection should be worn whenever you are creating dust or working in a dusty environment. Respiratory system protection should also be worn whenever you are applying solvent-based materials. Eye and respiratory system protection products can be purchased wherever workplace safety equipment is sold.

Skim coating technique overview

Begin by removing peeling paint and other loose surface material with a putty knife or scraper. Paint drips can often be removed or “topped” using a putty knife or scraper. After loose material has been removed, sand the surface with the medium-grit side of a sanding sponge or 80-grit sandpaper.

For skim coating, a 4” or 6” flexible blade taping knife can be used to apply a thin coat of spackling compound over areas of small nail-sized holes, indentations, surface scratches and the area where paint has peeled. Visible brush marks and other “cosmetic” defects left from previous painting jobs can also be covered and concealed by skim coating. Allow drying, and then re-coat. Allow to dry, and then sand. After removing sanding dust with a wiping cloth or towel, the surface should be inspected. Re-apply spackling compound to any areas that need additional filling. If the surface looks smooth an uniform, prime and then apply paint.

More detailed coverage of this topic can be found in the book:

The Homeowner's Guide to Surface Preparation for Interior House Painting, on pages 76-84.

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