Is your crown molding looking ever so dull and glum? Does it feel like a perfect background for an old black-and-white movie setting with chipped edges and a peeling surface? Has it been the same old way for eons and this feels like the time for a change is nigh? Or does it just seem as though it is calling out for a …face-lift.

This sounds like the perfect time to embark on a repainting project. In this article, we will explore the tips and steps to a great crown molding repainting job.

Just like the famous detective Sherlock Holmes follows clues, facts, and information to solve a mystery, we shall be giving you the same intel to solve this mystery. So, let’s get our hat and magnifying glass and be on our merry way.

Fact #1: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

You cannot start repainting the crown molding before you prepare it and expect a good finish. To do this, here are a few clues.

Clue: Identify the paint

Know the existing paint on the crown molding so you know how to deal with it. Paints are either oil-based or water-based. 

Oil-based paints are made of various ingredients including natural oils like linseed oil or synthetic alkyd. Linseed oil helps to bind and dry the paint when it is applied.

Water-based paints are made of microscopic plastic particles of pigments, binders, and water. They are water-soluble but may become water-resistant when they dry. Water-based paints are either acrylic; which is made of a pigment suspended in an acrylic polymer solution and acrylic resin, or latex; which is similar to acrylic paint in that it is also constituted by acrylic resin. 

So, how can we identify the existing paint on the crown molding?

Peeling paint 

Naturally, a water-based paint will tend to peel especially if it was layered upon an oil-based paint as its formula does not affix well to the glossy surface of the oil-based paint.

If the paint is peeling on the crown molding surface, a quick bending test will tell you if the paint is oil-based or latex. If the strip of paint snaps and breaks on bending, it is probably oil paint. Oil paint is brittle unlike its pliant counterpart, latex (water-based) paint.

Unpeeled paint

Put a few drops of paint splatter remover on the unpeeled crown molding surface and observe. If the paint becomes soft and gooey, it is latex paint.

You can also use alcohol denature as an alternative to paint splatter remover. Denatured alcohol will cause latex paint to leave an impression on a rag when you rub the crown molding. No impression on the rag means it is not latex paint.

Another test for latex paint

Take your preferred latex solvent and dab it onto the molding. Watch and note the reaction. Latex solvent causes latex paint to bubble. If the reaction produces bubbling, it is latex paint. If not, it is not latex paint.  

With this knowledge in mind, you will be better placed to decide upon the type of paint for the repainting task. Oil-based paint is said to last longer, but it takes longer to dry, and the clean-up afterward will involve removers such as turpentine. 

Water-based paint will dry easily and it is easier to apply. It is easier to apply an oil-based paint over another oil-based painting and water-based paint over another water-based painting. However, you can apply a water-based paint over an oil-based paint if you so desire.

Clue: Keep calm and keep clean

Whatever the type of paint you choose to use, the molding needs to first be clean. Use the preferred household cleaner, warm water, and a clean rag to remove dirt, stains, grease, oil, and grime.

Rinse the clean molding- Soak a clean sponge in clean water and rinse the molding well.

Tip: Shifting all movable furniture and items from the wall surface and covering them before starting your work will make things a lot easier.

Fact #2: You cannot bring in the new if you have not done away with the old

Depending on how badly the old paint is doing, you can opt to simply paint over the crown molding surface and be done with it. With a good paint job, this should just as easily bring out a whole new sheen to the trim.

Alternatively, and especially if the paint is peeling, it is better to completely remove the old paint before applying a fresh coat.

Clue:  A sharp scraper is better than a blunt scraper.

Use a sharp scraper to scrape loose, peeling, and flaking paint on the crown molding. A blunt scraper will not easily slide beneath the paint surface, will not do a clean job, will probably dent your trim, and will end up taking longer to finish removing the old paint.  

Tip: Cover your nose by using a mask in order to prevent inhaling scraping dust.

Clue: Sand is not only for the beach!

After the paint is applied, roughly sanded molding is conspicuous. You will want to overcome this by smoothing the crown molding surface.

Determine the type of sanding equipment to use depending on the area you have scraped and the molding. There are a variety of sandpaper grit sizes ranging from 24 to beyond 2000. Household projects require grits from 60 to 220. 

The higher numbered grits get rid of the scratches left behind by the lower numbered grits when sanding.

Tip: Remember to remove painting chips and the sanding dust from the molding and environment.

Fact #3: If you are going to paint, you might as well do it right

Painting is more than just flicking a brush across a surface. It is a delicate task that requires focus and attention to detail to avoid creating a total mess.

Clue: Masking will help with the shaky hands

Let’s be real- Even with all the attempts at precision, a spill-over here and a smidge there are likely to happen. This is why masking tape is a painter’s ally and loyal companion. The purpose of masking tape is to prevent painting unwanted areas such as floors, windows, walls, ceilings. 

Tip: If you hadn’t up to this point, place drop cloths or plastic sheeting over furniture, carpets, floors, and other items to protect them from paint droplets.

Clue: Be generous with the caulk

Apply caulk in gaps between the crown molding and the wall or the ceiling using a caulk gun. Wipe away the excess caulk so it does not cake on any surface. Use caulk or a non-shrinking filler to hide small imperfections such as nail holes on the crown.  

Clue: Paint like a master

Make a cut bucket by removing the rim of your paint bucket for efficiency. Choose an angled sash brush for effective painting. Gently tap your paintbrush on each of its sides on the paint bucket to avoid drips.

Use long even strokes to paint your crown molding. Apply two paints of coat on the trim to ensure good coverage giving each coat of paint ample time to dry.


Repainting crown molding is a sure way to give the trim and the whole room a fresh look. Armed with the clues and tips for a nice, clean job, repainting your trim is as easy as 123; 1. Remove the old paint. 2. Clean and prepare the molding. 3. Apply a fresh coat. 

Last tip: Get good quality paint. A meal is only as good as the ingredients.



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