Home Improvement

How to Paint Skirting Boards & Architrave: Complete Guide

Painting with gloss is one of the more challenging aspects of painting and decorating but with some care you can achieve great results.
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A smooth, glossy finish on the skirting boards and architraves can make a real difference to the look of a room.

Painting with gloss is one of the more challenging aspects of painting and decorating, but that is no reason not to give it a go yourself. With patience and care, it is relatively straightforward to get a finish you can be proud of and get your room gleaming.

This step by step will guide you through the whole process, from picking your paint and brush through to the final finish.

Pick a paint and brush

The first job is to choose the paint you want, and then this will dictate what type of brush you require. For a gloss finish, you have a choice of either oil-based or water-based paint.

Water-based paints are easier to use, can be cleaned with water, and are better for the environment, but do not usually have such a glossy finish. Whichever you choose, you need to make sure the undercoat or primer (use primer on new wood, and undercoat on previously painted timber) has the same base as the gloss, as the two do not combine well and can lead to problems further down the road.

With the paint chosen, you will then need a brush. It will usually say on a brush which type of paint it is for, but as a general rule, you need natural fibers to work with oil based paint and synthetic fibers for water based.

The brush you choose will make a significant impact on the quality of the finish, so if you are going to splash out anywhere, spend the money on a good quality brush.

Preparing the timber

With your paint and brush ready you can begin preparing the wood for the first coat. If you are working with new timber, it is best to do as much preparation as you can before fixing it to the wall, so that the most you will have to do is quickly fill and sand off any nail holes you make.

If your skirting and architraves are already attached, it can be a bit fiddly to do all of the preparation, but it is worth the extra time to get it right.

  • The first job is to sand down the timber with coarse sand paper (around P80 grit) to give yourself a smooth surface and to find anywhere that might need some filler.
  • Once sanded, fill any cracks and holes that stand out, before sanding off the wood again with fine sandpaper (around P240 grit).
  • At this point, the trims need to be attached if they are not already, and the edges caulked to ensure all the joints are full and prevent ugly cracks appearing over time.
  • Finally, you need to fill and sand any holes made by attaching the timber to the wall.
Sanding the skirting board
Sanding the skirting board

Clean up and mask off

You are almost ready to go.

  • Before you start painting, remove any dust from the timber and around the flooring as this will show through in the final finish if it ends up mixed in with the paint.
  • Sweep everywhere carefully with a soft brush to get the majority of the dirt off; wait an hour or two for any disturbed dust to settle before wiping off the remainder with a dry cloth.
  • Then, mask the edges with masking tape to make sure you get a clean, straight line where the timber joins the wall.

Undercoat/Primer first

Time to crack on with the paintwork! You will need to move around carefully so as not to disturb too much dust, and make sure all the windows and doors are closed, so a sudden breeze doesn’t destroy your good work.

  • Then, starting from an end if you can, or a corner if not, carefully work your way around the room.
  • The best technique to get a good finish and avoid runs is to use a small amount of paint on your brush and start each section slightly ahead of where your last painting ended.
  • This technique allows you to spread the paint out to an even coat while the already-painted area is still wet.
  • Finally, always make sure nothing touches the paint after a couple of minutes on the timber, as it will quickly begin to go tacky, which can result in visible brush marks, and sometimes, a rough finish where bits of paint peel away.

You will almost certainly need (at least) two coats of the preparatory paint, so after each is completely dry, remove the masking tape and carefully rub over everywhere with fine sandpaper to eliminate any brush marks or runs that may have gone unnoticed.

After each sanding, clean up again to make sure no dust gets on the timber or paintwork while you are working on it, and re-mask any areas that need it.

Painting the skirting board
Painting the skirting board

Finish with gloss

Hopefully, at this point, you have a nice, smooth, primed surface ready for the gloss finish.

  • The first job is to sand the timber gently in preparation for the gloss, and again make sure the whole area is dust free and masked off.
  • It is then an identical process to the first few coats, taking as much care as possible to provide an even spread all over the timber.
  • As with all paints, you will probably require at least a couple of coats, so in between each one, you will need to do the usual sanding back and cleaning up.

Gloss paint can be a little harder to work with than the undercoat, as it is less viscous and more prone to runs. However, this runniness is what allows gloss paint to self-level to the smooth finish required.

As you are painting you will notice that you will always leave brush marks in the paint no matter how hard you try!

The trick is to be as careful as you can to minimize the marks and let the paint smooth itself out. If you are doing it right, you should be able to look a few meters behind where you are working to see a smooth, glossy surface on the area you have already painted.


For many, gloss painting is one of the toughest jobs they will undertake on their home.

It can be soul-destroying when it doesn’t work out right, but with perseverance and attention to detail, there is no reason why anybody shouldn’t get professional standard results.

The key is in the preparation of the timber, and in preventing dirt settling on the paint. If you can get these right, then the rest of the job should follow.

Brian Jackson

Brian has worked in the construction industry for over 30 years, He brings this experience to HomesOutline where he advises and edits the content in our home improvement sections. Contact Brian@HomesOutline.com

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