How to Paint Expansion Joints
Yesterday I shared with you how to deal with tricky ceiling angles and proper colour placement. The same interior paint job happened to also provide me with the opportunity to share another colour placement dilemma that I often see handled the wrong way.
If you are unfamiliar with the term, expansion joints (or control joints) are installed between two pieces of drywall to deal with areas, where if they were only taped and mudded, would likely crack under foundation settling or structural shifting. You find expansion joints most often on large walls or large open rooms with high ceilings. You also see them in stairways. In residential construction, expansion joints are mostly covered with trim boards.
The dilemma in painting is whether those boards covering expansion joints considered wall or trim? And how to you paint them?
The answer is – it depends.
Sorry. But it really does.
It depends on a couple of things. Mostly it depends on what the expansion joint is connected to.
So when should you treat an expansion joint as part of the trim?
When the expansion joint becomes part of baseboards or other trim. This happens mostly on staircases. It is exactly what I have on my staircase so I treated it like trim. When we first bought our house the expansion joint was a 2 1/2 inch wide board and it looked out of place. When we replaced our baseboards, I had our carpenter replace these boards to match our baseboards so I have a seamless transition.
Here is another example of when you are going to treat an expansion joint as trim.
This is a house we painted last year where the expansion joints connect directly to the skirt and trim on the stairs. Originally these boards and the stairs were all stained wood. the right call was to paint the expansion joint boards white. I do think it would have been better if it was a bigger board so it joined seamlessly to the baseboard.
So to recap on how to treat expansion joints:
Treat like wall and paint it wall colour when
- the expansion joint is corner to corner on a large wall that isn’t connected to any other trim
- you want to minimize the noticeability of the expansion joint
- the expansion joint board is thin
Treat like trim and paint out in trim colour when
- the expansion board butts into other trim such as baseboards on second floor, stair skirts or crown
- the only way to switch the board from wall to trim would be to create a line with paint on the board (you never want to do this).
- the trim board is big enough to standout as trim