update oak trim

A Crazy Easy Way to Update Oak Trim

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I apologize in advance that this isn’t an official DIY tutorial with official tutorial photos. Instead, just think of it as one friend talking to another friend letting her know about this awesome house thing that worked for her and wants to share with hopes that it will work for others too! And that awesome house thing is this crazy easy way to update oak trim.

Like most houses built in the 70s, my home has yellow orangey basic trim. And like most people, it’s not a style that’s really wanted, but the thought of changing it with paint seems like an incredibly huge task and at the same time, the thought of replacing it all seems pretty expensive too. And guess what, both of those are true!

I knew I didn’t want to replace the trim. This is not a forever or super long-term home (this is where we’d like to end up) and though the visual impact would be nice, the cost is not worth it for the years we’ll be here.

I also knew I didn’t want to paint all the trim. We painted all the trim in our first home and it’s so.much.work. Plus, you have to really be careful and take your time if you want it to look good. I simply did not want to put in the time and effort needed to paint all the trim. And also, a lot of the windows have been replaced in our current home (before we got here) and most of the window trim is now a vinyl type material in a medium brown. I don’t actually mind that really and I was not about to go paint over new windows to get everything to be your classic white!

So basically, I was just going to live with it. Until I came across Minwax gel stain

Now gel stain is not a new product to me. I’ve used it before but never considered using it on trim before. I saw online that someone used it to darken a door and then a lightbulb went off in my head. I picked up a can of Minwax gel stain in Aged Oak and thought I would just give it a try…

I’m not an expert and please do your own research before attempting this! I’m just sharing something that worked for me 🙂

A Crazy Easy Way to Update Oak Trim

First, I cleaned the windows really well. I didn’t sand. A light sanding is recommended, but since this was window trim and nothing with high traffic, I didn’t bother. Plus, I was going for a really light look and wasn’t too worried about color evenness. Buttttt proper steps from Minwax say to sand and use a wood conditioner! I’m considering doing this on the rest of the trim around the house. It’s still work, but it’s easier than painting. If I did, then I would for sure want to sand as baseboards and door jams get a lot more of a beating!

minwax gel stain update old trim

Then I wiped on the stain with a rag. That’s it! The photo above is more for show because I definitely did not do it all right in the photo haha. I would recommend wearing gloves. The stain will soak through the fabric and get on your hands. If it gets on your hands the only good way to get it off is to soak your hands in a food oil and then scrub, scrub, scrub with a hard bristle brush. It will come off though! Speaking from experience. 😉

I recommend starting with thin coats and layering. Gel stain is pretty thick and glumpy so you don’t need much to start with and if you try to layer too soon, it will get gunky and not spread as well.

I did two coats but you can definitely do more. I wasn’t looking for anything drastic. Just enough to tone down the orange color and it achieved that perfectly. I’m so pleased! Minwax says to wait 8-10 hours before you do another coat and then another 24 hours before you seal.

At first, it feels a little sticky/tacky to the touch, but as it dries it soaks in more. Now, when I rub my hand up and down it feels smooth, and nothing rubs off! I guess this could be a little bit of a “wait and see” project, but so far it achieved exactly what I wanted and I don’t see why it shouldn’t wear well either, seeing as window trim doesn’t really get any traffic/action! Plus, as I said before, I was just looking to change the color tone slightly and I really can’t believe how easy and inexpensive it was to do that in the end!

Here’s a photo from my living room update last year that “shows off” the orange color in the trim:

french country living room

This photo was *just* taken to show off my maternity outfit, haha, but you can see the new trim color in the back! By the way, I’m pregnant if you didn’t know! I know it’s hard to tell because I’m so small and all. 😉 Ha! Wishful thinking…

maternity fashion

Now side by side:

Much better, right?

Maybe you noticed our new floors! Do you follow me on Instagram and watch my stories? Because we have been knee, no, neck-deep in house projects but I have soo many reveals I can’t wait to share! We’ve been doing flooring upstairs, flooring downstairs, appliances, fixtures, countertops…so much! Come January/ February this place is going to be looking pretty different and I can’t wait to photograph these spaces and share them with you!

Back to the trim. The above photos are edited (though I tried to keep colors to as real life as possible), so below are some unedited cell phone pics to show the difference too. Not the best quality/lighting, but I hope you get the idea.

update oak trim easily
how to easily update oak trim
update oak trim

And now, just some extra shots of the pretty new trim color!

The lighting is a tad different, but here’s one more before & after side by side:

I hope you enjoyed this little home hack! If you like DIY home posts, then check out the ones below:

Update Your Home With These DIY Wooden Baseboard Heater Covers
How I Limewashed my Brick Ranch Exterior (for under $30!)

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how to update oak trim
Carolyn Arentson
Carolyn is the founder and creator behind My Chic Obsession. When she's not dreaming up new content, you can find her watching a funny tv show with her husband, raising her two boys, or planning her next trip to Paris.