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Tips for Painting Quarter Round Trim

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Matt is a professional painter and freelance writer, sharing his knowledge, house-painting tips, and product reviews.

See that strip that covers the gap between the baseboard and the floor? That's what we call quarter round trim. Sometimes it's painted, but sometimes (as in this photo) it's not.

See that strip that covers the gap between the baseboard and the floor? That's what we call quarter round trim. Sometimes it's painted, but sometimes (as in this photo) it's not.

Should Quarter Round Baseboard Trim Be Painted?

Quarter round, also commonly referred to as base shoe, is the small trim piece that covers the gap where the bottom edge of a baseboard meets the flooring.

A common question is whether quarter round trim should be painted or stained to match the color of the floor. While this is really a matter of personal preference, in all my years of painting, I've painted quarter round more times than not.

The main advantage to using stain instead of paint, though, is that the darker color hides dings and dirt, unlike white paint. But personally, I think quarter round looks best painted to match the rest of the baseboard.

Painting this little piece of trim is very easy. Pre-primed base shoe is the fastest to paint, but stained shoe is easy to paint too with a little prep work.

Prepping Quarter Round Trim for Paint

Stained, unpainted quarter round usually needs caulking along the crack where it meets the baseboard. Caulk makes the shoe and baseboard look like one seamless piece when painted.

What kind of caulk should I use?

White, paintable caulk is best for trim. Always wipe excess caulk off with a damp rag. A thin bead of caulk is all that's needed to fill the narrow crack. Always allow caulk to fully dry before painting.

How do I prep the quarter round?

Nail holes in the trim should be filled, too. Paintable wood putty is fine, or you can mix a little joint compound with water and dab it over the holes. Once the compound dries, lightly sand to get a flush finish.

To prime... or not to prime?

Pre-primed quarter round doesn't have to be primed again before it's painted. Two coats of durable paint is fine, but if the wood is stained and unpainted, the shoe should be primed.

Any solvent-based primer is fine for priming stained quarter round trim. I always use the product Cover Stain, an oil-based primer that seals stained wood and forms a strong bond with paint. Never use latex primer on raw, unpainted, base shoe. Oil primer dries harder and seals the surface better to prevent problems.

Priming and Painting Quarter Round

I usually paint quarter round trim without using tape, but if you don't have the skills to carefully cut-in without making a mess, using masking tape for painting is the easiest way to do it.

What kind of tape should I use?

The best masking tape to use for baseboard is green Frog tape, or blue tape, but Frog tape forms the best seal to prevent primer and paint from bleeding underneath the tape onto the floor. Apply one to two strips of tape onto the floor in front of the base shoe.

What kind of brush works best?

The best paint brush for base shoe is a smaller 1-inch, or 2-inch, angled brush. Purdy paint brushes are excellent, particularly the Purdy XL brush. If the base shoe is stained and unpainted, apply two coats of oil-based primer, followed by two coats of paint. My trim paint of choice is Emerald urethane enamel, either in the satin or semi-gloss finish.

© 2018 Matt G.