Stained or Painted?
September 29, 2011 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Baseboards - Stained or Painted? My boyfriend and I are buying a house, and the builder has installed lovely paneled wood interior doors. He said that he would like to stain them to match the cabinets (a medium stain called "spice") and will also stain the baseboards. I love the look of the stained doors, but am concerned the baseboards might look...I don't know, old fashioned or something. Does anyone have stained baseboards, and do you love or hate them? Also, if we later decide to paint them white, how much of a pain is that?
posted by odayoday to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's way, way easier to go from stain to paint than vice versa.
posted by contraption at 2:46 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, also, the house has sort of pinkish-tan ceramic tile floors.
posted by odayoday at 2:48 PM on September 29, 2011

I would definitely go with stained and I tend to be more modern/transitional when it comes to interior spaces. Every new cookie cutter construction on the block is going to have painted white trim (my house). The stained baseboards will look rich and warm with the paneled wood doors. The spice stain sounds nice against the color of the tile.
posted by Fairchild at 2:55 PM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Re: How easy is it to paint trim later? It's not.

We ripped out all of the cheapish big-box special oak veneer trim when we painted and redid the floors this summer. We are re-installing white, painted MDF trim. With the MDF you have to raise the grain of the board with wood glue and sand (twice+) before priming. If the trim is Actual Wood you can skip that step but you will still have to sand, prime, sand, prime, sand, paint, (very lightly sand?), paint. Since all of our trim is currently in long pieces, we can do this quickly outside (especially since you may or may not need an oil-based primer to bond to the wood). But I would imagine it being an even bigger pain to do this with the trim already installed.

I think wood trim can look very classic, especially if it is thicker (taller) and not the really thin crappy stuff we had before. My suggestion - Google image search a bunch of "wood trim" and "white trim" rooms and see what inspires you the most.
posted by sararah at 3:10 PM on September 29, 2011

stained wood trim much better. Hides scuffs and marks that painted white trim won't, and is a much more classic look.
posted by cosmicbandito at 3:15 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hmm. My experience painting stained wood trim is the total opposite of sararah's.
How easy is it to pain trim later? It's easy, assuming you think painting is in general easy.

Our house, with white-painted trim everywhere else, had a bathroom that was entirely finished in "country oak", except that the boards used for doorframes were actually oak-stained pine (not even the nice pine but the low-grade with knots). So when we painted all the bathroom walls, we also painted the doorframes and baseboards and door to the linen cabinet, all white. Yes, it took a special primer to make sure it stuck to the varnish. Then we painted a coat of our white paint. Then I went back and touched it up in a couple of spots, or maybe I did a whole second coat, I can't remember for sure. But we were in a painting frame of mind, primer plus 2 coats is just the way it goes.

in re: you think it might look old-fashioned, there are a lot of things that "old-fashioned" could describe. Some of them are positive and some are negative. Your kitchen sounds like it might look very nice. Wood generally looks warm and cozy, especially matching all the cabinet work, I could see that really working. But if your description of the ideal kitchen involves words like "crisp, clean, modern, cool", then wood trim may not suit your vision. This isn't about the wood, it's about what you want.

Is he asking about just the kitchen, or is this all the baseboards? It's not required to have matching trim in every part of the house, but that's kind of another can of worms.
posted by aimedwander at 3:39 PM on September 29, 2011

I prefer stained, with a light coat of varnish. Painted wood is very popular right now, and if you want painted trim, it might be better to get pre-primed wood - saves a lot of painting effort.
posted by theora55 at 4:44 PM on September 29, 2011

Stained wood. This is my personal opinion of course, but if your doors and cabinets are stained then painted trim breaks up the consistency of materials*. I also don't care for the way white trim puts a very strong, obvious line around the bottom of most rooms (though it's less of a problem if all wood trim is white and your walls and floors are light), while stained wood is more visually neutral and recedes. In rooms that often have white fixtures or appliances, such as kitchens and bathrooms, white trim can seem more appropriate.

* you might not care about this, and that's okay. I like to see distinctive materials in the same room treated the same way. It drives me nuts to see white baseboards in the craftsman houses around here that have no other white trim, and I suspect it's because the baseboards have been replaced and don't match the original wood, so it looks extra cheap.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:57 PM on September 29, 2011

You can't go from paint to stain without a huge amount of work: removing, chemical/heat stripping, sanding, etc... In even a small apartment, that would be a multiple weekend restoration project. Going from stain to paint is quicker: a scuff of the surface then prime with the right primer (a latex-on-oil, for example) before painting. Two days work, tops, mostly waiting for the paint to dry.

But sararah is right, in either case, I'd just replace the trim. I've done a whole house, baseboards, doors, windows in two days with a double coat of paint. The trick is to prime the boards first, then install, caulk and finish paint the second day.

A single paint or stain/varnish application always looks best, IMO. It's multiple layers that look really horrible.
posted by bonehead at 5:46 PM on September 29, 2011

In our 110 year old victorian we went with a different type of wood in every room. The latest one was hemlock that all we did was linseed oil to. Very easy and looks pretty good. Our office is now the Hemlock room all around. We did go with PVC trim pieces in the bathrooms due to mold/rot issues. Good quality wood is always a good choice unless you are furnishing with chrome and steel and glass.
posted by bartonlong at 6:18 PM on September 29, 2011

That white, extruded MDF stuff is trendy right now, but wood will always be classic and warm. It also has character. So many houses these days have vinyl siding, white vinyl windows, fake plastic/MDF interior trim, MDF cabinets, etc. Wood, at least, is real.
posted by Ostara at 6:38 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Cosmicbandito's comment about stained baseboards hiding scuffs and marks better. We have painted baseboards, and they show everything. It makes them always look grubby and cheap, no matter how frequently I clean them.
posted by Janta at 7:00 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Try to stick with a style that encompasses all of the elements you want including furniture, flooring, lights, and doors and woodwork. If the style you choose is older, whether it is victorian or arts and crafts or mid-century then match everything to that style.
posted by JJ86 at 7:31 PM on September 29, 2011

I actually took the easy way out when combining new trim and baseboards in a new half-bath. I painted it all in a faux dark wood grain pattern which matched the existing antique window and door. Unless you pay close attention you would think it is stained wood.
posted by JJ86 at 7:34 PM on September 29, 2011

Stained trim is generally in style for longer periods than painted trim. When I see old homes where the trim has been painted, I always think it looks kind of shabby. When I see modern houses with painted trim, I assume it's cheap mdf and I start to assume other aspects of the contruction are probably substandard as well. I'd think about going with stain just for resale.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:31 PM on September 29, 2011

Agreeing go with stain. White's great the first couple months, but then gets nasty dirty from scuffs and stains--not to mention if you get a ding from the vacuum or whatever, it's impossible to hide.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:32 PM on September 29, 2011

I have stained baseboards, and initially I didn't like it. I painted the baseboards in one room white, and it was enough of a hassle that I didn't bother to do it for the other rooms. (We had to do three coats, and didn't remove the boards to do it - if I were going to do other rooms, I think I'd remove the baseboards and either paint them while off the wall, or replace them with pre-painted boards).

I still think the white looks slightly more modern, but the (in our case dark, walnut) stained baseboards don't look terrible with the rest of the decor, which is generally very modern and minimalist. I think we just got used to it, to tell the truth, but I've also had friends look at both rooms and say they like the stained boards better.

The other factor in our house is that the window frames match the stain of the baseboards, so the rooms with the stained boards look a bit more matchy. If I really cared, I'd paint the window frames too, but clearly I'm too lazy :)
posted by lollusc at 1:16 AM on September 30, 2011

Thanks for the comments, everyone! I now feel much better about the idea of stained baseboards. I do think it's going to be pretty, I just needed a little reassurance!

For aimedwander, it will be throughout the house.
posted by odayoday at 9:33 AM on September 30, 2011

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