All Replies on Worried about my contractor's finishing process for poplar trim...

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View JILLYMCNILLY's profile

Worried about my contractor's finishing process for poplar trim...

posted 09-09-2016 12:03 PM

18 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile (online now)


5869 posts in 3227 days

#1 posted 09-09-2016 12:29 PM

The poplar shouldn’t have any knots. Stock for molding should be clear.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View weathersfuori's profile


96 posts in 2006 days

#2 posted 09-09-2016 01:01 PM

I just recently completed a mudroom project for a customer, and as it was my first job of this type, I had some of the same questions for myself regarding what to use for trim, etc. I chose poplar and also used the exact same paint you have. The trim work I did included board and batten on the wall above a bench, which I finished with one coat of primer and two coats of paint, and trim around the cubbies in the bench, which were not primed first. The white paint was also applied to the bench itself which was made of birch plywood.

I used a small paint roller with these roller covers on all of the trim and I (and the customer) was very happy with the results, but spraying would have probably been even better. I did not notice any significant difference between what was primed first and what wasn’t.

As for the knots, Bondo is right, the stock used for trim should knot have knots (see what I did there?). I’m a newbie to woodworking still, but most of the poplar I’ve bought is either completely clear or the knots are smooth or can be filled with wood filler enough to hide them. In my rookie opinion, your options include making sure the contractor only works with clear stock (best option, but might require replacing stuff you’ve already purchased), trusting him that the paint will cover the knots (IMO, it should be fine as long as the knots are smooth), or if the knots aren’t smooth, fill them up with some wood filler and sand them smooth.

-- Weathersfuori, Texas,

View Kelly's profile


3147 posts in 3820 days

#3 posted 09-09-2016 01:08 PM

I built my kitchen using poplar for the styles, rails, door frames and door fronts or banding. I primed everything, then light sanded (320) and applied a couple coats by way of my HVLP.

Two years later, no bleed, but then there were no knots. Even if there were, the primer would have sealed them. Any holes were filled with latex caulk (sometimes it took two shots).

View UpstateNYdude's profile


965 posts in 2859 days

#4 posted 09-09-2016 01:08 PM

Best place and advice I can point you to is where I’ve gone for the mouldings in my house and they’ve all turned out great with his advice and his plans. He uses mostly MDF for his but the same can apply for Poplar it’ll just take a little more prep to get the finish as smooth.

Priming by the way, is absolutely essential if you don’t want any bleed through or for the paint to look even. I don’t care what your contractor says but even spray on can still have bleed through and you’ll end up seeing wood grain and or it just won’t look even in some spots.

-- Nick, “I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.” – Vincent Van Gogh

View isotope's profile


177 posts in 2500 days

#5 posted 09-09-2016 01:33 PM

I’ve never used that paint, so can not answer specifically. But, I do have a couple comments.

1) The paint is labelled paint/primer, so in theory priming is unnecessary.
2) Poplar trim should not have any knots.
3) When I prime my poplar mouldings with a water based primer, this raises the grain. Therefore, it needs a sanding after priming, before painting.
4) Your contractor is responsible for the work, so it’s his call. BUT, you should do one of the following things before he completes the job: ask him to prepare a test piece OR make it very clear that if the results are sub-par you’ll insist that he redo the work at no cost to you (labor and materials).

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1796 days

#6 posted 09-09-2016 01:52 PM


I too have used poplar painted with Behr Ultra pure white semi-gloss on various projects, which has only been brushed on (I have no sprayer). This seems to be a high quality paint and the painted surfaces look very good and have held up very well. The semi-gloss has a nice reflective sheen, which makes dusting and removing spills with the wipe of a damp rag easy. However, the glossy sheen will reveal imperfections like poorly filled nail holes. But when the nail holes are properly filled, it looks very nice.

Since you are quite concerned about the final look and since you are right, fixing the trim should you not like the look would be expensive, you may benefit from preparing a sample board. Sanded 1” x 2” poplar boards as short as 3’ are available at most home centers and are of similar grade to the poplar used in the manufacture of mill work. Alternatively, you could purchase an extra piece of poplar trim. Applying paint to the poplar bought at the home center with the Behr paint should give you a good idea of the appearance of the trim before the trim is prepared and installed. And while at the home center, looking at the unprimed poplar mill work should allay your concerns about knots.

I do not know for sure, but Behr may claim the paint is primer and top coat in one. While the primer mixed with top coat may represent a labor and material savings, I am skeptical about long term performance. My fear is that down the road, the top coat only will fail. As a result I apply a good quality primer base coat on raw wood. My belief is that primers are designed to adhere to unpainted surfaces and provide a good substrate for the top coat to bind. The problem with applying a primer to the bare wood is the additional cost. A quality primer is about $20 per gallon and the contractor will have to apply the primer, clean the sprayer, and then apply the top coat, adding to the cost. An alternative is to purchase pre-primed poplar mill work, at a slightly higher price but saving what I suspect would be the much high cost passed on by the contractor.

View ArtMann's profile


1483 posts in 1692 days

#7 posted 09-09-2016 02:24 PM

I have used Behr premium semi-gloss paint/primer for many years. I stopped using primer long ago. It is just a useless extra step in my opinion. Primer might be of some value if you were using a top coat that doesn’t cover very well and you are trying to save money (primer is cheaper). Some of the trim in my house is done that way and it hasn’t failed in 20 years.

View 01ntrain's profile


259 posts in 1946 days

#8 posted 09-09-2016 02:34 PM

As someone who does this for a living, as well…..

Your contractor has his bases covered, because that paint is an acrylic-latex, which is designed for trim.

I agree with JBrow about using it in a paint/primer combo. That may be OK on MDF, because MDF-trim usually comes pre-primered.

I wouldn’t use it alone on clear poplar, unless that trim was also pre-primed. My biggest concern with poplar is bleed-thru. If he’s using 100% clear trim, then that’s fine. But, my experiences are that there will be some heartwood in there, too….which could be dark green, purplish, or even black. That will certainly bleed-thru over time.

View waho6o9's profile


8946 posts in 3453 days

#9 posted 09-09-2016 02:53 PM

I prime twice and paint to suit.

“That said, because of my inexperience, I know what I want but don’t know if what I’m asking for is unreasonable?”

That’s difficult because of the price point that was agreed upon and what the contractor wants to do within
said price point. Few things are unreasonable if discussed in detail before hand.

“My contractor never went into detail about what exactly I should get”

That’s bothersome ^^

“I’ve been trying to learn when a piece of poplar would not work for the end result I’m after, such as being too knotty or having raised knots you can feel, etc”

Get some poplar and finish it in different ways while putting the recipes on the back on each test piece. Then ask
the contractor to do it that way and pay the freight.

Good luck and welcome to Lumber Jocks

View GR8HUNTER's profile


7894 posts in 1588 days

#10 posted 09-09-2016 02:55 PM

ask him to make you a finished sample ….. this way you can sign off on it ….... and you both will be happy … they rest said no knots

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN :<))

View Cooler's profile


299 posts in 1719 days

#11 posted 09-09-2016 03:32 PM

Just a note. Sometimes the finger joints will ghost through a painted finish.


I painted over the “pre-primed” trim from Lowes and it is the only area where adhesion was an issue. Of course that was before the paint/primer as one was available. But still I was painting over “primed” material. I’ve since read that you should top coat primer shortly after applying the primer for best adhesion.

-- This post is a hand-crafted natural product. Slight variations in spelling and grammar should not be viewed as flaws or defects, but rather as an integral characteristic of the creative process.

View Kelly's profile


3147 posts in 3820 days

#12 posted 09-09-2016 04:20 PM

If the contractor balks at priming and cleanup, he/she might want to consider another profession.

Re ”’pre-primed’ trim from Lowes,” elsewhere in life, it’s said primer has about a six months before you must apply a fresh prime coat.

View JILLYMCNILLY's profile


2 posts in 1501 days

#13 posted 09-11-2016 02:32 PM

Excellent, thanks for the feedback everyone. I like the idea of having him do finished samples. I also see there seems to mostly be an agreement that the wood should be clear of knots, etc. It’s possible for that to be worked around, but more of a risk to attempt it.

First step is to confront the lumber yard that delivered my materials from 40 miles out to my house to see if they’ll replace the knotty/green pieces. It sucks because my pieces are 16’ in length and most of them have small knots or something going on. If I can clean that up best as possible, then I can have him do a sample of the final pieces and arrive at a finishing agreement.

Thanks again!

View mike02130's profile


170 posts in 1549 days

#14 posted 09-11-2016 04:40 PM

No knots.

-- Google first, search forums second, ask questions later.

View runswithscissors's profile


3118 posts in 2901 days

#15 posted 09-19-2016 04:37 AM

“If the contractor balks at priming and cleanup, he/she might want to consider another profession.”

I think it’ depends on how you wrote your contract. If you asked for the best possible result at the lowest possible price, you’re not being very realistic. To meet that price point, the painter will have to keep his labor costs as low as possible. If you insist on the trim being painted up to your standards, it might be reasonable to renegotiate the contract to reflect that.

If, on the other hand, the painting is being done by a sub contractor, that raises a whole ‘nuther issue.

It doesn’t sound to me as if you have much confidence in the professional opinion of your contractor. Did you ask for references from other, satisfied clients? I think it’s interesting that on the question re paint/primer combo vs. separate primer and finishing coat, the answers are all over the place. So whose advice are you going to trust?

I would certainly find out what other clients have to say about his or her work. Or, just suck it up and say,”What the hell? it’s only trim for crying out loud.”

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View canadianchips's profile


2632 posts in 3873 days

#16 posted 09-19-2016 04:53 AM

My advice to YOUR contractor. WALK away from this NOW !
You are already talking RE-do at no cost…........

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View dhazelton's profile


2839 posts in 3173 days

#17 posted 09-19-2016 11:29 AM

First coat acts as a primer. It will dry so quickly they probably plan on immediately recoating so you don’t waste time cleaning the gun and line out and switching product. I think you have nothing to worry about. Although any time I install pre-painted trim I paint it again in place as I have nail holes to fill and gaps to caulk.

Someone above said you will have bleed through on clear poplar – that makes zero sense as clear poplar is knot free.

As far as painting pre-primed trim from the box store you need to sand it – pre-primed MDF is almost too smooth for good adhesion.

View Robert's profile


4024 posts in 2357 days

#18 posted 09-19-2016 01:12 PM

I don’t make a living painting, but I’ve done my share of it.

IMO on raw wood the primer should always be brushed or rolled, never sprayed and sanded between coats. This will probably mean you doing it yourself.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

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