Hello! I’m Ana, a mother and homemaker from Alaska.
100’s of FREE plans!!
You can make ANYTHING!

Staining Wood Trim

August 23, 2012 |
posted by Ana White
Staining Wood Trim
Author Notes

Now don’t get me wrong, I love crisp white painted trim. When it’s clean and fresh, white trim can brighten any space.

Most of the trim in my house is wood stained. But in a few rooms, I decided to paint the trim high gloss white. I’m sure glad I did not paint all of the trim in our house now.

Because you see, after a few years of use, I’ve noticed this about the white trim. It shows dirt and scuffs easily, and after a few months, no longer looks crisp and clean. I’m a slave in those rooms to wiping down the trim.

But in the rooms that still have wood stained trim, you can go days without wiping down the trim. The wood stained trim does not show dirt, and scuffs might happen, but you would never know it.

It’s like having brown shoes vs white shoes.

I love my wood stained trim.

And I’m glad to see wood stained trim is on the rise in the design world as well!!!

Here's a some stained wood trim inspiration images from Houzz:

I especially love wood trim in a child's room!

And I thought some of you might love wood stained trim because it’s beautiful and practical too, so I teamed up with the folks at Minwax to show you step by step how I stain my trim.

Plans Used in Finish

What You Will Need

Shopping List: 

• Medium or Fine and 220 Grit Extra Fine Sandpaper
Minwax® Oil Based Pre- Stain Wood Conditioner
• Foam Applicator Pad
• Natural Bristle Brush or Staining Rags
Minwax® Wood Finish™ – Early American
Minwax® Fast Drying Polyurethane
• Mineral Spirits for Brush Cleanup
Minwax Stain Marker Stain Marker
Minwax Blend Fil Pencil

Step 1

Preparing Boards

For my house, I’m just using pine boards for the trim. You can use decorative mouldings, or even stack decorative mouldings over boards as well, just make sure you have the same species wood.

Our trim boards are cut to length first, and our walls are already primed and painted in the desired color.

The trim boards are sanded with a power sander using medium grit sandpaper. If you are using decorative trim, use sandpaper to sand hard to reach spots.

Sand until the board is smooth to touch. It’s about to become part of your home! This board has a small blemish on the bottom edge – no worries, it will be covered by the floor.

After sanding, you’ll want to make sure all the sawdust is removed. Use a soft bristled brush followed by slightly damp rag to remove all sanding residue.

Step 2

Pre Stain Application

Before you begin, make sure you have sufficient time to apply the Minwax® Oil Based Pre- Stain Wood Conditioner (Oil Based) and Minwax the Wood Finish as you should apply stain 15 minutes to no more than 2 hours following Pre- Stain Wood Conditioner.

I’m a huge fan of using Minwax® Oil Based Pre- Stain Wood Conditioner. I find I love my stained finish so much more if I take the time to apply it before stain.

Make sure you stir, NOT SHAKE, the Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner before use. I like to use foam applicators to apply Pre- Stain. They are economical and easy to use!

You can’t apply too much, but you’ll find you won’t need a ton of it!

The wood will look slightly wet where the Pre Stain is applied.

Make sure you cover all sides and ends too! Let it sit on the wood for about 5-15 minutes.

Then you’ll want to remove any excess Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner from your boards.

Do not allow excess Pre Stain Wood Conditioner to dry on your boards.

And don't forget, you should apply stain within 2 hours of applying Minwax® Oil Based Pre- Stain Wood Conditioner

Step 3

Stain Application

I’m partial to Minwax® Wood Finish™ in Early American, but you can use any Wood Finish color. But keep in mind, if you use Minwax Water Based Stains, you’ll then want to apply Minwax Water Based Pre- Stain Wood Conditioner. Water based colors are fun too, it’s total preference on whether you go with oil or water based stains. I know the Minwax Water Based stains are available in 50 tintable colors for lots more options!

It’s very important to stir stain before and periodically throughout use for a consistent color.

Normally I brush stain on projects. But because I am staining long, narrow boards with edges, I am going to use a staining rag to avoid dripping stain. I’m also wearing gloves to protect my hands.

I just rub the stain on the wood, in the direction of the wood grain.

Apply the stain liberally to the wood, wiping off excess after 5 to 15 minutes. It is very important to NOT allow excess stain to dry on the wood.

You can add additional coats of Minwax® Wood Finish™ after 4 to 6 hours if you would like to darken the color.

The boards will need to dry overnight before you can apply top coat.

Step 4

Top Coat Application

I’m using one of the most durable protective coatings out there for my woodwork – Minwax® Fast Drying Polyurethane. I know my trim is going to get scuffed and kicked as life happens in our house!

I am working outdoors, on a nice, calm day, so I choose the easy route – the spray can of course! For those of you who may not be comfortable spraying, this awesome product does come in quarts and gallons too, for your bigger projects, and you can apply it with a brush.

First I apply a thin, even coat Be sure to spray using an even, sweeping motion, with slight overlapping strokes.

Let dry for about 2 hours and then apply second coat.

Then I sand it very lightly with 220 Grit Sandpaper.

Then I repeat with two additional coats of Minwax® Fast Drying Polyurethane. The finished product is smooth and durable!

After the last coat, (I usually do between 3-4 coats), make sure you allow at least 24 hours for the boards to dry before installing them.

Step 5


We’ve already precut the boards to fit, so all we need to do is nail it up!

Using 2” finish nails, the trim is nailed up.

The nails leave tiny marks in the wood.

I just use a color matched Minwax Blend Fil Pencil to fill in any holes! I’ll keep it around if we need it for touch up later on.

And I’ve also picked up a Minwax Stain Marker for quick touch ups! Best part is they come in 8 colors, sure to match all the wood in my home.

Who says Mama can’t draw on the walls?

Step 6
Step 7
Step 8
Step 9
Step 10
Step 11
Step 12
Step 13
Step 14
Step 15

Staining rags

Great post Ana. I love all your tips. My tip would be:

Do NOT store stain covered rags in a closed container, in a trash can, even in a big pile somewhere, etc. These rags can spontaneously com-bust or start on fire. I always put my staining materials (paper towels, rags etc) outside to totally dry. And than they are placed in the trash.

posted by DJ Alexander (not verified) | on Sat, 2012-08-25 12:53
Ana White's picture

So glad you brought this up!

Thanks for the tip! We keep ours outside, away from the house, before disposing - I actual know people who have had their rags explode! Great advice!

posted by Ana White | on Sun, 2012-08-26 10:52

orbital sanders are a "no no" for work that will be stained.

At least in my shop they are. I even went out and was taken in by the Festool-aid offered up at my tool supplier. The orbital sanders will ALWAYS leave small swirl marks unless you sand up to a very fine grit. Going above something higher that 150 grit will start to create a surface too smooth for the stain to grab to. I use a belt sander up to 150 grit and finish off delicate corners and details by hand because it's the only way to get results good enough to stain and clear coat.

There are also articles written by experts that say a pre-conditioner, which is essentially a washcoat, has to TOTALLY dry to do it's job. They are meant to eliminate blotching in softwoods, like Pine. I've used Minwax Pre-conditioner for years and I've always followed the cans directions but you will note that there is still some blotching that occurs. One of these days I'll make a few sample pieces that follow the instructions on the can and a few that follow these other experts opinion that the pre-conditioning wash-coat should dry thoroughly. I have a feeling they are right but I think Minwax states to apply the stain within 2 hours because a full dry would not allow the stain to absorb into the wood in a way that matches the color swatch most users expect to see.

posted by John G (not verified) | on Fri, 2012-08-31 13:20

I truly love the color of the

I truly love the color of the painting as it looks like a new wood. I will apply this to my furnitures at home so it will look like a new one. - Rich Von

posted by kayerhone | on Fri, 2013-05-31 22:22

Special Thanks

If you appreciate the free content of this site, please thank our sponsors.


Recent comments


Let's Connect



User login

Not Much >>

What's going on up here in Alaska.

Momplex Cam >>

Momplex Cam >>

We are DIYing our moms a Duplex in Alaska! Check out our progress so far as we owner build a home, step by step. Read the Momplex blog here.

Momplex Vanilla Kitchen Plans and How-Tos

Check out how we DIYed a full kitchen here!

Project Plan
Project Plan
Project Plan
Project Plan
Project Plan
Project Plan
Project Plan
Project Plan
Project Plan
Project Plan
Project Plan
Project Plan
Project Plan
Project Plan
Project Plan