How to Paint Floor Trim

Here’s an easy tip for those of you that are planning on painting the trim in a carpeted room:

Buy one of these:

It’s a 12 inch wide joint compound knife.  Usually people use them to shmear spackle into holes in their wall.  But now it is going to help you keep your semi-gloss off your berber (or shag…or whatever else carpet you may have!).

Step #1 – tape off your trim at the top where it meets the wall….or don’t if you feel extra confident about your steady hand.  Then lay your knife next to your trim so that the edge is butted up against your trimwork. 

Step #2 – Lift your knife to an angle with your non-paintbrush-hand.

You are gonna wanna make sure no carpet particles are trapped between your knife and your trimwork.  You are compressing the carpet so that you can get the best possible carpet protection.

Step #3 – Dip &  Dab

Load your paintbrush and get the majority of the excess paint onto your trim at the top where the wall meets your trimwork.  You want to end up with a paintbrush that has paint on it but isn’t dripping.  This is important prep for the next step.

Step #4 – Attack above the Crack

Now with your still wet paintbrush, run the brush along the trim slightly above the knife.  Make sure to hold the knife firmly against your trim and allow no excess paint to drip down into the crack.  You are going to apply the paint directly…don’t be scared if the knife gets paint on it… 

Step #5 – Finish Painting the Trim

Paint the rest of the trim above the knife so that it is thoroughly covered with a thin layer of paint.  Keeping the knife at the same lifted angle  (around 45 degrees), slide the knife over to the next portion of trim & repeat steps #3 and #4. 

If at any time your knife gets fuzz or overloaded with paint drips – do not attempt to slide & keep painting.  Just continue to step #6.

Step #6 – Lower & Remove

To remove the knife from the trim without having paint particles on your carpet, first lower the handle of the knife to the floor while keeping pressure on the blade.

Then lift & remove at the same time.  This will ensure that no paint from the knife will get on your carpet.

Step #7 – Swipe & Wipe

Sometimes there will be excess paint on the knife.  This is when it is necessary to wipe before continuing with your carpet-protection-painting-technique.  Simply take a paper towel and wipe both sides of the knife firmly until all wet paint has been removed.

There you have it folks…an easy & fast way to protect your carpet while touching up your trim!  I used to use cardboard for this same effect but in the end, preferred the joint compound knife because it had a handle and was thinner – providing a way for me to get right up close & personal with that carpet without changing the hue.  Plus, it was a lot easier to clean up & was reusable!

So that is my painting tip for the time-being…any other tips out there from you DIYers?  Anyone have a fail-safe way (like USE A JOINT COMPOUND KNIFE) to paint better?  Or maybe you are one of those scissor-sporters…you know, if the carpet gets painted, you just trim the carpet down a bit?   Please don’t say that you do that folks.  Carpet doesn’t grow back.



  1. Kristen says

    We just painted the trim throughout our entire house and we used carpet shields. They were easy to use and saved a lot of time. You just have to make sure to move them quickly once you’re done painting…otherwise they’ll pull paint off (just like tape). We bought ours at Sherwin Williams for like $9!

  2. says

    Oooh, this idea is awesome and totally perfect timing for me. We need to paint the hideous oak trim in the nursery, but the hubs said it couldn’t be done because of the carpet. Ha! I’m totally taking care of it this weekend (after I get that handy tool…or carpet shields, whatever those are). Yay!

  3. amy says

    I paint my trim the same way! Only I use one of those painting edgers I picked up at Lowe’s. Works like a charm! But I don’t put tape on top, I’m just that good with the brush…:) :)

  4. says

    Growing up I was the trim lady in my parents household. Anytime they painted the trim (which was a whopping four times in my 18 years living at home) I was the one to do it. Blame it on the steady hand and the obsessive desire to make it perfect. But this little trick could have saved me soo much time! I’m def. going to try this the next time I need to paint the baseboards!

  5. Melissa says

    Thanks for the tip? Doesn’t the carpet touch the wet paint on the trim though once you move the joint compound knife?

    • says

      Actually it doesn’t…not for me anyway. When I pull the knife up and away, it tends to make the carpet stay away from the wet trim. Now, obviously if I went and pushed on the carpet fibers right next to the painted area, it might get a little paint on there…but generally, I avoid an area for a couple areas after painting so I have yet to have any problems.
      Hope this helps!
      XO – Katie

  6. Bree says

    wow…can’t believe I’ve never thought of this before!! haha..thank you so much for this tip!! I’ll finally stop ignoring all the trim that needs to be painted in my house. Thank you! P.S. Love your blog and I just love your style of writing…you crack me up!

  7. Brandon says

    Awesome idea! What color is that on your wall? That’s the exact color I’ve been thinking about for my guest room.

  8. says

    This is great advice. I’ve been trying to paint my trim for over 6 months now. I was using poster board which worked great at first, but cheap lil’ me didn’t want to go buy more. After using the same few pieces about 10 times they didn’t really stick where they were suppossed to. I’m going to go get one of these things tonight!

  9. says

    Great Idea to not paint your carpet!! Oh how I hate painting trim though..
    I was very lucky that when we installed new trim in the entire house my dad painted it first with a paint sprayer (the small kind of sprayer, the large ones are annoying)

  10. says

    I use a similar method but with a cut-up sheet of Bristol/Poster board from the dollar store. I cut the big sheet into wide strips and used them in the same way you used the knife. It cost almost nothing and was quick because I set up the strips one wall at a time.

  11. says

    I have something similar… mine’s about a foot long (that’s what he said…) and I actually found it in the isle with the paint rollers, etc. I’m not sure what it’s called, or if it’s made for that, but it works like a charm. Score!

  12. says

    Ok I have a question for you. You said you use semi-gloss, but I have tried that along with just matte paint as well. I couldn’t get the semi-gloss to not have a million brush strokes in it, where the matte did not. Any suggestions as to what I was doing wrong?

    • says

      Bummer. Maybe this had to do with your paint consistency. Sometimes very thin paint will show more strokes than well mixed paint that is thicker. Also, check to make sure your brush is very clean and has no clumpy bristles which can cause brush strokes. You can also be sure to apply several thin layers which can eliminate the lines. Lastly, it could be that you are looking at the area very closely with direct lighting. Matte paint from the same producer will reflect less light than semi-gloss…and you could just be SEEING more. If the brush strokes continue to bother you, I would try switching to a foam brush with has a more ‘speckled’ result than ‘stroked’ or a spray gun.
      Hope this helps!
      XO -Katie

  13. Sara says

    I just use painter’s tape and put it on the carpet. I don’t tape off the top of the trim. I just use an angled brush and once you get the hang of it, it goes pretty quickly. I think taping off the carpet is much faster. I just did one of my rooms last week.

  14. says

    Thanks for sharing and starting a discussion on this! I am planning on painting all the trim on our main floor this summer, and was totally dreading all of the bedrooms until now…. thanks to the advice from your readers that tape and carpet shields work, I am a lot more confident!

  15. Andrea says

    Yes, carpet shields for me too. That way, you can line the WHOLE room at one time and then just paint away…vs. one 8 inch space at a time. Plus, they’re cheap!

  16. Lilly says

    Hi Katie,

    great tips! Im just wondering what your favorite brand of paint is for painting trim? Last time we painted trim, it was thick and uneven. Do you add paint thinner when you paint trim?

    • says

      I don’t thin mine…in general though I just use regular old paint – not the fancy super coverage stuff…just normal bright white base (some folks call it pastel white base) with no additives or tint added. If your paint is really thick – it might be helpful to thin it a little…but just remember that thinner or not, it’s important to do multiple thin coats.
      xo – kb

  17. says

    Hi there this is somewhat of ooff topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or iif you have tto manually code
    with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding know-how so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!


  1. […] that painting the trim would in turn mean that I would end up painting the carpet, but thanks to this bit of advice I read over at Bower Power, it wasn’t as hard as I thought. She suggested that you use a compound knife and wedge it […]

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