What Kind of Paint to Use for an Interior Trim

When you go to the paint store, you'll see a section for interior walls and another for interior trim; you'll also see similar sections for exterior paint. When choosing paint for interior trim, confine your choices to those in that section for the best appearance, durability and cleanliness.

Characteristics of Trim Paint

Unlike wall paint, you rarely apply trim paint with anything other than a paintbrush, so it's formulated to cling to your brush and spread easily. Because it's thicker than wall paint, it covers and levels better so you can more easily mask brush strokes. Whether you choose semi-gloss or gloss -- flat trim paint isn't available -- you'll end up with a hard, dust-resistant finish that won't smudge or collect fingerprints.

Oil or Latex?

In an effort to reduce ground-level air pollution, the EPA all but banned interior oil-based paints, and in most states, it's illegal to sell them, but there's a catch. The prohibition applies only to gallon containers. You rarely need more than a quart to paint interior trim, so oil-based paint is still an option, but it isn't always the best one. Interior oil-based paint has at least three disadvantages when compared to latex:

  • It takes longer to dry than latex paint, which gives it more time to collect dust.
  • Cleanup is more difficult, requiring volatile solvents.
  • It emits VOCs that are an issue for sensitive people.

Choose latex unless you're painting over an existing coat of oil-based paint.