Rejuvinating Trim

jennk1October 23, 2011

My home was buit in the early 90's and is filled with scratched trim. I'm not sure what species the wood is, but it has very little grain, is VERY soft and is finished in a golden pecan looking stain & non-glossy finish (almost a satin/matte finish). I'm not looking for a full restoration, but merely something that looks better than how it looks currently. I certainly don't want to fully sand down the wood and refinish. I just don't want the eye to be drawn to the scratches - the scratches look whitish compared to the non scratched areas.

I took a piece of the trim into Lowes and the color very closely matches Miwax - Wood Finish - Penetrates, Stains & Seals - Golden Pecan. We tested the stain out by lightly brushing the stain over a damaged area, blending the stain over the existing finish. It looks pretty good to me. Is there a problem with just going around my house and doing this to all the trim? Will this stain cause the current finish to bubble or any other undesireable result (i.e areas that still have the original coating - not sure what that would be - laquer, urethane, etc.) My test piece looks fine where the stain was wiped over the current finish, including the scratched areas.

Is there any other solution that would be easier?

Can I apply polyurethane over the trim after I touch up the scratches with stain?

Also, in one area where I tested it, the wood was scratched VERY deeply - next to the back door where the dog scratches to get out - it was basically about 50% scratches... This area sucked up the color of the stain more intensely (even with just barely a coat that was immediately wiped off). Can I dilute the stain with anything - or pre condition the scratched area so it doesn't suck up the stain so intensely?

Thanks in advance for your help.

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Stain will not adhere to finishes. What you did was stain the scratches. The stain on the finished areas will wipe off if any finish is applied.

What you did is acceptable if you can accept the look. If you would like to add a finish, use regular varnish, but buy it at a paint store or Ace Hardware(I have used Ace products, so feel confident in recommending them).

For the severely scratched areas, replacing the damaged trim is a better solution. I used to do just that job for customers, repairing/replacing/matching colors on damaged trim.

To match the final color, I used stains and shellac. But, I used several colors of shellac made by buying shellac flakes of the various types and mixing batches myself.

Then use Sherwin Williams Classis Fast Dry varnish----not the Classic Poly varnish. Why? Because poly dries too hard and chips, making spot repair almost impossible to make look decent. Always looks like what happens when someone tries to repair fingernail polish without removing the damaged.

It takes time, patience, and practice, but you can find a very good match. Most of my customers could not tell if I repaired or replaced trim and where it was done.

Here is a link that might be useful: Non poly varnish

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 12:39AM
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Thank you for the reassurance that my method will work. I also agree that complete repalcement is optimal, unfortunately it is just not practical. Pretty much every piece of trim in the whole house is scratched up. The trim is very soft and just a light fingernail scratch will leave a whitish scratch mark - so, the scratches are not that deep, just very noticable - the stain almost completely hides the scratch marks (unless you really look at it closely). I do have some original trim in very good shape that was removed recently from a remodel in another part of the house - you just reminded me that I could just substitute in that reclaimed trim for the extra bad spots.

I am tempted to use wipe on poly to quickly seal in the new stain (after letting it dry for a few days, of course). You suggested varnish - is varnish easier to work with, as well as providing a more forgiving surface? What is the odor comparison. I have a baby in the house and don't want to be killing off brain cells! Thanks

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 2:18PM
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On such a new build, you can likely still get this moulding profile, and I would consider simply replacing it. Given what you say of the scratches, are you absolutely sure you are not dealing with MDF? Sorry if that sounds iffy, but I have hundred-year-old fir moulding - and fir is a soft wood - that even at the bases where it looks like tricycles were ridden past frequently, is not so bad that it requires as much work as you are considering doing. Some pieces of wood are simply not worth rescuing.

If it would be easier and relatively affordable to replace and match, I would do that.

Karin L

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 2:57PM
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I've used that SW varnish in homes with children/dogs/and folks with allergies. With minimal ventilation(open window) there were no complaints.

Poly cannot be spot repaired---varnish can. Spot repairing is simply sanding the affected area and adding finish to only that area and feathering the edges. Poly has plastic in it and will not feather. Varnish will be enough protection and poly is overkill, IMHO.

What is probably on the existing trim is lacquer. Builders love sprayed on lacquer because it dries very quickly. That is a huge plus when a house full of trim can be installed in days instead of a couple weeks.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 3:53PM
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Hmm, my idea to quickly wipe a bit of stain over the scratches and then wipe on a layer of poly or varnish actually sounds WAY easier and less expensive than replacing an entire house full of trim! Am I missing something?

Oh, and I definitely know the difference between MDF and real wood. It is solid wood trim. My guess as to why the scratches show up so easily is that the trim was originally sprayed with laquer w/ toner instead of actually stained. When I did a bathroom remodel, I had the trim replaced and the door jams were sanded down and restained. The staining REALLY pulled out the grain in the door jams and they had to spray on some toner to even out the color to match the new trim.

I'm actually very pleased with the areas that I wiped on the stain. From a distance it looks great. The only trouble is that one area that had a lot of scratches (where the dog scratched next to the back door) looks more dull than the surrounding trim, so I think I will try the varnish that was suggested so I can do touch ups in the future and not have to recoat the entire thing. In most places, I don't think it even needs a coat of finish - just the quick wipe of stain makes the scratches disapear.

If the trim was originally finished with laquer, is there any incompatability problem with overcoating with varnish?

Thanks again for all your help & advice.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 7:54PM
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I never ran into a problem. A quick sanding(by hand) to rough up the surface so the varnish will adhere and go to town.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 1:53AM
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I guess I was finding it difficult to believe that every piece is scratched - say, the tops of the doors? So I was thinking replacement would be only a handful of pieces if you really got down to it. But how practical is such soft trim? This kind of refinish will be a constant job, or?

Anyway, it was just a thought. Happy staining :-)

Karin L

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 12:37PM
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Thanks Karin and Handymac for your responses - I guess it was an exageration that every piece was scratched, but most pieces have at least one scratch that is distracting. Most of the scratches are not deep, really just on the surface - kind of like when you lightly scratch leather. In most places, if the scratch is wet, it completely disappears. Today I experimented with Minwax - Wood Finish - Natural. It's a stain that is basically clear with a slight amber tone. When I put that on the trim, the scratches disappear. I did a test section and I will see what it looks like in a few days to make sure it doesn't just evaporate out and go back to the way it was.

The reason there are so many scratches in some areas is that our previous golden retriever like to "play ball" and would bat the ball around like a cat and scratch up the trim like crazy. I was always hiding the balls from the dog but the kids and hubby felt sorry for the dog and would give her back the ball...

I'm having an appraiser out for a refinance and I just want the house to look it's best - I need to accomplish this without spending a ton of money or time. I'm sure someday the trim will be replaced, but for now it's just not worth it. I have a puppy and 3 kids and replacing the trim would be like throwing money down the drain.


    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 5:58PM
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