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white trim vs. wood stained

79173 Views 17 Replies 17 Participants Last post by  rachel d
We are just breaking ground on a new home this fall. I am having a hard time deciding between painted white trim vs. a stained wood trim.

We will be building a home in a craftsman design. My hubby is pushing for stained wood because we have two small children and he has had people tell him they would never do white trim again with small kids. Plus stained wood is probably more true to the craftsman era. I feel white trim has a timeless look and makes wall colors easier to pick.

Any one have thoughts on up-keep/durability of white trim?
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It's more a matter of personal taste. I prefer to see the character of the wood, and in a craftsman design this would be the desired option. With a proper paint, trim can be very durable. Even stained wood can look trashy if it get's beat up.
If the desire is to carry the Craftsman theme, then stained woodwork would be my choice.
I love the look of stained wood. However in a new home unless I could afford to use a good hard wood and pay a trim carpenter to install I would go with painted trim. When stained wood is not done right or with quality wood it looks really cheap. Young children in the home would also push me toward the painted trim. Both will get beat up to some degree but the painted trim is more easily, quickly and much less expensively repaired. One other thought, since I do not have unlimited funds I would rather put the money saved by going with painted trim into energy efficiency, more square footage or outdoor living space.

i have been flip flopping on this same issue as well. however, our home is a old home built in 1917. the existing trim has all been painted white and needs to be repainted. there is missing trim that needs to be replaced. i really want stained trim but for the reasons stated above have finally settled on white for now. plus, i am not in the mood to strip all the existing trim this summer anyway. i will wait untill i have more experience and can afford to do it up the proper way.
What type of flooring are you going with? Crisp white trim next to dark wood floors always looks great.

As far as durability, a semi-gloss finish and some of those magic erasers will keep things clean.
Medium brown stained quarter-sawn white oak is the way to go. But it will be pricey
white trim

What type of flooring are you going with? Crisp white trim next to dark wood floors always looks great.

As far as durability, a semi-gloss finish and some of those magic erasers will keep things clean.
I am putting dark hardwoods in a new house with a very light beige wall paint. I'm wondering if I should go with a crisp white for the trim (doors, ceiling, base boards) or an off-white which is only slightly lighter than the beige wall paint? I've seen the latter in the model and it looks very soothing, but I wonder how it would look with a brighter white? Can you help diy_Mike?
Is a matter of choice and taste I guess. Stained wood trim would be more true to an authentic craftsman style home though. I find a lot of beautiful old oak hiding under white paint in antique homes I work on. Such was the trend once I guess.

I paint a lot of nice white/off white antique trim for people. I do like the way it sets of colors but I would not pick it just for that reason. You will have no color getting nice hues you like to match natural wood trim.

And I lived with a little four year old terrorist that kicked everything in site including his Mom (so I bailed since whe would not let me discipline the little guy) on a regular basis. I just touched up the trim now and then. It was no big deal. He would have done no great good to polyed wood trim either.
you can combine stained and painted trim in the same room is to paint the trim a color other than white. You could choose a color for your trim that matches your furnishings and leave the walls white or off-white.

For your stained wood, consider the color of the other wood tones in the room. Do you have hardwood floors? If so, their original stained color is something to take into consideration. Also, think about the colors of any wood furniture that you have. Your room will feel more cohesive and natural if all the wood tones are similar in shade.

Sisal Rugs
RE: trim

One thing to consider is the method of installation. Are you hiring a pro, or are you installing it yourself?

I have trimmed out many rooms as a DIY'er and it is tough to get every miter and/or coped joint exactly right. With white trim, you can pretty much cover any errors with caulk or some other filler and conceal with paint. But when installing hardwood trim--which is also much more expensive than pre-primed paint-grade trim--your handiwork, whether good or bad, will be on display because the stain won't cover the bad joints or filler products.
This seems to be an old thread, but since people are still posting, someone might want to know...

I live in an old craftsman bungalow, which was built in 1915. My experience living in this old house, as well as the rest of the neighborhood, which is just as old, is that typically, the wood in the "public" areas of the house was stained, nicer wood, typically oak. The more "private" areas were trimmed out of a lesser expensive wood, birch or pine or fir, and generally painted. Same really held true for the floors as well. The oak flooring was installed in the kitchen, dining, and living room. Birch or fir for the other floors.

I also have small kids and I would somewhat disagree not to paint the wood. Painted wood is easy to touch up and get a scratch, you can lightly sand if needed and repaint. If you stain and get a scratch, you are a kind of left with a scratch, unless you strip and refinish! I have a window seat that is all oak and it's scratched to hell from a previous owner, to clean it up, I am going to have to resand the entire 10-12' long 15" deep piece of oak and hope I can match the stain. If it had been a painted piece, a simple quick sand and a fresh coat of paint and it'd be done!!
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Many years ago in the early sixties, Homer Frombe Master furniture refinisher had a 15 minute TV show that came on Sat early afternoon I think on WGN. He got tired of the hundreds of letters every week asking him to repeat his formula. So he bottled it (ok.. Tin Can) and started to sell it.

0000 steel wool / lacquar thinner / mineral spirits / and if needed add a dash of boiled linseed. Clean the OOOO steel wool old aluminum ice tray works well as a work tray for the spot or whole area refinish.

The laquar thinner melts the varnish... allows cleaning, and refurbishing of stains, watermarks, scratches..etc.. . Allow all to dry.. melted varnish
floats to the top.. and all looks good as new. Buff to blend with well washed old white 100% cotton t shirt.

Homer's heirs are still laughing all the way to the bank.

Stained finished trim does not have to be a refinishing nightmare, or the victim of a paint brush.

Stained trim and doors ... besides showing off the bueaty of the wood.. hides the day to day hand prints.

Many a fine tiger oak architectural feature has been lost to the paint brush and the percieved need to modernize.

"It's your house, do what you want to do !" hmmm. sounds like an old song I used to sing:wink::whistling2:
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Big Bob, thanks for the advice. I agree stained woodwork looks great. I'll try what you say on my window seat, but I really think it'll need sanding, because the scratches are pretty good. I don't plan on painting it, I plan on sanding and re-finishing, was just saying if it had been a painted wood, it would have been a very, very easy fix. As for the rest of the house, I don't believe it was ever stained. Could be wrong, but haven't seen any trace of stain on any of that wood as of yet and I've sanded a lot of it so I could apply a nice coat of white paint. Once again, in my area, it seems to be stained oak in the more public rooms, painted in the rest. I just figure if he's trying to duplicate the feel, that's how I would do it....
I can honestly say from first hand experience that white trim is a total pain! When we moved into our home (built in the 80's) all the trim was brown. We painted all the trim white in the downstairs and left it brown upstairs. The white trim gets very "beat up" in high traffic areas (where we come in from the garage, near the fridge, near the kitchen table, etc.) It seems like every 6 months it needs to be freshened up (painted) again. That may not be the case for people who don't have kids. We have four!. In the not so high traffic areas (like the powder room) it is always in need of dusting!. I don't just mean, come in with a dry cloth and dust, I mean come in with soap and water and clean! Once the dirt and grime has been removed it shows the bangs and nicks and needs to be painted, again. Ugggh!

On the other hand, when I clean my brown stained doors, baseboards, and trim with a lemon oil - they are shiny and clean and gorgeous!

I have a friend who built a beautiful home in PA. She used a light to medium stain on all her doors and trim and she LOVES it. All of her friends come over and say, "I wish I didn't have white trim and doors". She says it's so easy to maintain and she is very happy she went this route.

My trim is a much darker color than what I would have chosen. If I had to do it all over again from scratch, I'd use a light to medium stain over white any day of the week! I hope this helps.
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this was a very interesting and informative thread. As a long time painter, I've stained new wood, painted new wood, and painted over stained wood, some of it past due and some criminal. I painted a brand new, custom built oak grand staircase not originally intended to be painted. the carpenter was furious. But the customer changed their mind last minute. I'll echo what I think I've learned over the years and mention something i didn't see mentioned. For stained trim to be truly impressive, it must be premium wood installed by a master carpenter, nothing less, and those two things will cost you. What I didn't hear was who is going to stain the wood. Both paint and stain are coatings, and painters apply coatings, but not all painters are coating specialists. The stainer must be as skilled and meticulous as the carpenter or the costs incurred to date are wasted. I've seen too many times where painters have destroyed finely crafted woodwork with what they thought was skill. I was recently hired, after the last guy was fired, by a lady who didn't understand that, until he destroyed her new French doors and frames. He was a painter, who knew. I've done some serious staining work over the years, but I'm far from a specialist, so I've sweat a lot of bullets over the years too. But I do know it requires a different understanding of wood and coatings, and another level of skill not possessed by the everyday painter. Screen carefully, you only get one shot.
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Most of it also depends on what color you are painting the walls. Colors such as white, ivory, beige are usually ok with wood, but darker colors often look better with white.
I would go with stained wood. If you don't like it you can always paint it white.
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