Production Killer Nail Holes

This guide outlines in brief how to prepare MDF trim for paint to achieve top quality finishes fast with emphasis on nail holes.

Chipping factory primer, puckered holes and glue strands caused by nail gun installation on MDF trim can cost painters thousands of dollars in short time and without them even knowing it. Here are a few tips to prevent wasting labor regardless where the MDF was manufactured or who or how it was installed.

Step 1 – Identify Scope of Work

Are any or all of the following visible?

  1. chipped primer surrounding nail holes
  2. puckered nail holes
  3. glue strands


If any of the above are visible then proceed with Step 2 If not, I typically do not recommend pre-sanding MDF unless unusual circumstances

Step 2 – Pre-Sanding MDF Trim

In order to make certain labor is not wasted painting MDF a few steps should be followed before re-priming, painting, filling or caulking MDF trim. Factory primed MDF is not the ideal surface to produce top quality fine finishes.

Step 3 – Shop-vac All MDF

Shop-vac all trim to ensure powdery sanding dust residue is removed. Removing any dust film will assist with filling nail holes and caulking efficiently

Observations working with MDF

There are many variables associated with producing nice results on MDF, many of which can consume labor filling nail holes on MDF. Avoid the common scenario below

  1. re-priming or painting over chipped primer, glue strands or puckered areas will require unnecessary sanding and/or re-priming

Various ways to complete the above tasks to maximize efficiency include:

Not following the above steps can lead to unwanted surprises after the first coat of finish paint is applied. Sanding the puckered area around the nail hole seen below will expose bare MDF and the 2nd coat of paint will not likely fully cover the exposed bare MDF.

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One Response
  • Lewis Reply

    Great article here, most main contractors think that using primed MDF pretty well eliminates the need for painters to prep trim but as you have shown it is not the case and still requires a fair amount of work to produce a high quality finish.

    We had a job recently where the carpenters had fixed the skirts and architraves using large general purpose screws leaving huge craters in the MDF which took a huge amount of work to put right and the finish was still less than satisfactory!

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