Q: My fiancé and I just bought our first house together. We are doing some painting before we move in, but whoever did the previous paint job was really sloppy with the ugly wall color, and it's all over the beautiful wood trim. I can't scrape it off without scratching the wood. If we paint over the sloppy areas, it'll look like we messed up. What should we do? - W.
A: How frustrating. I've had to deal with cleaning up sloppy paint lots of times, especially in older houses. It probably explains why a lot of homeowners started to paint their trim.
Sometimes, I've had the budget and time to have the trim refinished. That's a huge, messy job I don't recommend when you're living in the house. Paint and other finishes in old houses may contain lead. Talk with the staff at your local paint store for additional considerations, or hire a licensed professional.
Here is a fun hack that will preserve the trim for now, and make the old color much less noticeable. It's not exactly a time-saver, but it is easier than a lot of sanding.
Mask off your trim where you want to keep it as is. Painting ceilings causes a lot of splatter that's hard to clean. Paint neatly next to the trim because paint can seep under the tape. You want as little mess to fix as possible.
Paint everything else first, starting with the ceilings, then the walls. Do the trim last if you're painting that, too.
Clean your own drips with a damp cloth as soon as possible. Touch up over the old paint and smudges with brown paint in a color that closely matches your trim. You'll probably need only a quart, or even one of those inexpensive samples. Test in a small spot first. You might need a primer.
Good luck, and send me pictures when you're done.
Jennifer Adams is an award-winning designer, writer, and TV personality. Send your questions to AskJennifer@ JenniferAdams.com