I don’t feature a lot of guest posts here, but when Home Depot contacted me about doing one on how to repair damaged molding yourself, I thought that many of you would be interested in learning these tips. From door frames to baseboards, there is no doubt that the moldings and trim in our homes take a beating, and sprucing them up can make a whole room go from tired and worn to looking like new. However, it’s the kind of project that always has me nervous to try it myself, but it also doesn’t seem big enough to hire a contractor to fix. But after this post I think I can now tackle it on my own!

Photo: Shutterstock

From dogs’ teeth to cats’ claws to energetic little feet, the wood molding in your home is likely to endure its fair share of abuse over the years. Generally made from softer wood, baseboards and trim need a bit of love now and again. Fortunately, this does not have to be an expensive or time-consuming endeavor. With the proper tools and a little know-how, fixing damaged molding is often easier than it seems – and can save you big bucks in the end.

Before tackling any such project, always use your best judgment. If you can pinpoint the damage, chances are that you can get away with some minor repairs rather than replacing a whole section. Know what to look for, evaluate your options, and decide if you are indeed up for the task. If so, here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind.

Get familiar with your tools

The tools needed for minor molding repairs are surprisingly simple and inexpensive. A trip to the garage might even be all you need!

  • Wood putty/filler – for small dents and scratches, wood putty will work just fine. For larger or heavier damaged sections, you might want to go with epoxy filler.
  • Putty knife – this flat, metal scraper is great for spreading putty into holes. It can also be used to scrape away paint dripping or bits of damaged wood.
  • Sandpaper – be sure to go with medium or fine-grained sandpaper that won’t damage the wood.
  • Caulk – this hardening putty is great for sealing gaps.
  • Wet sponge – a trip to the sink should suffice!
  • Paint – be sure to use paint that matches the existing surface.

Fixing dings and dents

Mending damaged molding yourself – as opposed to replacing entire sections – can end up saving you a bundle! Start by sanding down the damaged area to get rid of excess wood bits. Using a putty knife, smear a generous heap of wood putty into any gaps or holes. It’s better to use too much than too little – wood putty tends to shrink as it dries. You can always sand it down afterwards.

After the putty dries (be sure to read the instructions – some brands take up to 24 hours to dry out) simply sand it down and paint over it. Voila!

Filling gaps and cracks

Sometimes there will be sections of trim that have cracked or come disconnected from the wall. If this is the case, caulking will seal these up just fine. Use a caulking gun to patch the gaps, making sure to get in there deep. Sliding a wet finger across the area will get rid of any extra caulk and even out the surface. Caulk will dry pretty quickly, and can be painted over quite easily.

Tips for painting

When painting over a recently repaired section, make sure your new paint matches what is already there. Outline the area with masking tape to avoid splatters and uneven brush strokes.

Paint is bound to splatter now and again. For paint splotches that have already dried, denatured alcohol works wonders. Dip a thin rag in the alcohol and wrap the rag around a putty knife. Gently scraping the area should get it right out!

General maintenance

Moisture can be molding’s worst enemy. Always keep baseboards and trim – or any wood surfaces for that matter – clean and dry. Using a damp sponge to wipe down molding works great, but be sure to dry the area immediately. Also, consider a dehumidifier for keeping moisture at bay. This will keep your trim in tip-top shape (not to mention your floors and furniture)!

House repairs can often be intimidating. Fortunately, fixing up baseboards and trim isn’t always a job for the professionals – a few simple tools and do-it-yourself attitude can go a long way! Do know your limits, though. Some jobs are, after all, best left to a specialist. Evaluate your damage, consider these tips, and decide if you are equipped to take on the job. You might just surprise yourself.

Angelo DiGangi is a Home Depot on-the-floor sales associate in the Chicago suburbs and a frequent contributor on DIY door topics for Home Depot’s website. You can view Home Depot’s molding page here.

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