Select the Right Fastener
When installing trim, use the correct size nail.  Add the thickness of the trim, any drywall and add ¾”, this needs to be the length of the finish nail and should give sufficient holding power.  Using too large of nail creates a large hole which is harder to fill.  New trim guns and brad nailers work well.  The heads of the nails are small and countersinking is accomplished during application.  If you don’t happen to own one, hand nailing works fine.  A good tip here is to use a nail set the same size or slightly smaller than the nail applied.  This will keep the hole size to a minimum.  The smaller the hole the easier to fill.

Fill the Holes First on Painted Trim
Steps for completing the filling process of painted trim and stained trim with a clear finish are different.   On painted trim, filling the hole must be completed prior to painting.  Once you have the nail head just below the surface of the trim, fill it with caulking, wood putty, spackle or even car bondo.  Each of these materials has benefits and disadvantages to their use.  Caulking and wood putty normally require two coats because they shrink.  Bondo can normally be completed in one application, but is difficult to work with, difficult to sand and dries quickly.

Sand it Smooth
Once the material of choice has dried, sand it smooth with fine grit sandpaper. This is critical step for a blemish free paint job.  If the holes are not completely filled flush after the first application, you must apply another, as any slight indentations will be noticed.

Apply the Top Coat
Top coat the primed trim with two coats of semi-gloss or gloss paint. This paint is normally more durable and cleans easier than flat paint. Oil based paints also tend to be harder than latex paints.  However, latex paint is water-based and is easier to apply and clean-up.  A good alternative could be to use enamel or acrylic paint. This would give you a slightly harder paint than just latex.  Adding a paint conditioner to the paint extends drying time and decreases unsightly brush strokes.

Putty After Finish is Applied on Stained Trim
When your trim is stained with a clear finish, apply colored wood putty matching your stain color. Put some on your finger and press into to hole.  Wipe it clean with a cotton cloth. You need to have at least one coat of your clear finish applied to the trim prior to filling the holes.  If you don’t or if you putty the holes prior to staining, a blemish will usually be left behind.  Most colored putties have an oil base and will stain the wood if a finish isn’t applied first.

Pro Results
The secrets to professional looking trim aren’t difficult.  Just take your time and make those unsightly nail holes disappear.  

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