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What are these weird spots on my trim?

Did you recently convert your wood trim from a stain finish to paint? It probably looked great when the paint first went on, but now something is going terribly, horribly wrong. There are now spots on the trim that look almost like coffee stains. What are these weird spots on trim, and what can you do about them? 

What are these spots on the trim?

We actually see this quite a bit, and it’s a common problem with jobs that aren’t done properly. These “coffee stains” are actually the original tannin stains from the wood showing through the paint. This phenomenon is called bleed-through. 

Bleed-through is also a common problem when painting furniture built from stained wood. But what causes this problem?

Poor prep leads to bleed-through

This happens a lot to DIYers or inexperienced painters. Most interior paints are acrylic water-based paints. If you don’t properly prime a wood stain, the tannins will be released by the water-based paint and push through the new layer of paint. A truly professional painter will use a stain-blocking primer like an oil base or shellac primer (if you want maximum protection). Not only does a good primer add to the life of the paint job, but it will stop that original stain from coming through as well. 

What can you do to fix it? 

Unfortunately, nothing short of redoing the job will permanently fix the issue. The whole area will need to be resanded to ensure proper bonding between the primer and paint, primed with an oil base or shellac primer to stop the tannin stain from showing through, and then get a new coat of finish. 

The good news is, that doing it right will last you for a long time. High-quality paints are also protective coatings that resist mold and mildew. 

If you want your trim done right, make sure you hire a professional painter that uses high-quality paints and primers. Going cheap on the paint is another guaranteed way to make sure the paint fails. 


If you need help fixing your trim or want to get it properly painted the first time, fill out the form below for a free estimate from Heritage Custom Painting. Our professional consultants will walk you through our process and let you know exactly what it will take to fall in love with your home again. 

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