Tuesday Tips: Painting a room

— by Donna Mitchell

We have been working on our house for about four years now, and we only have two rooms (the guest bedrooms) completely finished. Actually, the doors still need to be stained, but we pay someone to do them and he works full time during ski season. It also doesn’t help that we travel so much.

I am in charge of the finished surfaces, though I give my husband choices and we usually decide on wallpaper and paint colors together. Our Victorian house lends itself to wallpaper. If you are going to wallpaper, you need to pick out the wallpaper first, then match or coordinate the paint color. The same goes with basing the color of a room on a favorite painting or piece of furniture. It is much easier to match the paint to the inspiration item than to pick a paint color and then try to find something to match it.

I love the difference paint makes. It’s the cheapest way to update a room or make it really special. I have done a lot of painting over the years, on previous houses and my children’s houses (My specialty is theme rooms for my grandchildren.).  So here are a few tips and a great reference resource.

Detailed instructions for all steps of painting can be found at thisoldhouse@thisoldhouse.chtah.net , in the post for January 31. It’s called Painting Tips the Pros Don’t Want You to Know.

Prepare the surface:

If there is wallpaper on the wall, remove it. It’s practically criminal to paint over wallpaper (or to put on another layer of wallpaper), in spite of the fact that lots of people have done it in the past. The seams show and it makes removing it that much harder when someone who wants to do it right eventually takes it off. See the link above for directions.

Patch holes and imperfect joints. After you patch, be sure to sand the patch. If the hole was small, you can fill it with your finger and wipe the excess off with a damp sponge. (Too much touching the plaster will dry out your hands.) Larger areas may require spray texture to make them match the rest of the wall. If your walls are plaster, they are probably smooth and you don’t have to worry about the texture spray (available in a can). Large holes and wallboard seams need a lot of “mud” (more than you think you will need to do it right) and reinforcing tape or mesh of some kind. I’m sure This Old House has a separate set of instructions for large patches.

Kitchen and bathroom walls should be degreased with a special cleaner. Instructions for painting often tell you to sand the old paint, especially if it is glossy. Or you can just do it in one step by washing with TSP (trisodium phosphate), which will take off grease and roughen the surface sufficiently for the new paint to stick. You can buy it in liquid or powder (cheaper) and mix with water. Use gloves when using this to wash the walls. I figure if you need to wipe the wall after sanding anyway, why not just do it in one step?

Remove hardware from cabinets and doors; remove nails from the walls (if you want to save your place to position pictures, etc., in the same location, stick in a small piece of broken toothpick).

Use the right tools:

Buy decent brushes. The cheap ones fall apart and leave bristles in the paint. For trim, an angled brush works best (usually 2-1/2″). I also use an angled brush to cut in the edges (the website recommends 3″). The brushes and rollers need to be washed right after painting, unless you are coming back in a day or two at most, in which case they should be wrapped tightly with plastic. Soaking brushes for a long time encourages them to fall apart because it loosens the glue. Use a metal brush comb to get out the hard-to-get paint that’s stuck in the middle of the bristles. Don’t use a wire brush to clean brushes, but you can use a nylon scrubber. Don’t let the general public use your good brushes (those who will not wash them properly) or you will find yourselves buying them again and again after they turn into “clubs”.

Masking tape: There are many kinds for different surfaces; the website discusses them in detail. Personally, I don’t like taping because it takes so long. I have a good eye and would rather take my good brush right to the edge without having tape which encourages bleeding over the line. However, there are times when it is absolutely necessary, mainly when doing a faux finish. Faux finishes require going beyond the edge to ensure getting a good result at the edge, which means tape is needed to cover whatever is beyond that edge (usually trim, sometimes ceiling).

A few tips on the actual painting:

The website says strain your paint before you start. I have never done this, but there have definitely been times when I should have (after the paint can had been sitting for months). Instead, I have had to pick off blobs with my fingers and then paint over the spot again to cover the resulting smear.

Don’t dip your brush in the paint can. You can’t possibly use it all before it starts drying out. Drying will make your paint increasingly thick and leave blobs on your walls (called boogers or snots by professional painters!). For the same reason, don’t pour too much into your smaller bucket or tray.

I like to use a half-gallon plastic milk bottle when I am painting trim and edges. I take the clean bottle and cut it down from the top edge along the ridges for the handle space. I want the handle, so I carefully cut across from one side to the other (opposite the handle!) about halfway down the bottle. Voila! –a cheap and lightweight painting bucket. If the edges get too rough or broken, I can easily replace it. I also have a couple store-bought ones, one of which has a magnet in it so I can stand my brush upright without it touching the paint (again, not very full–only about an inch and a half or so).

You will need at least two coats of paint, no matter what the paint can says. If you are using a very dark color, you need a coordinatig dark primer or it will take you many more coats than you expect or want to put on to completely cover the pale color underneath. Red is one of the worst colors as far as coverage goes. Not knowing about the importance of primer, I once painted red walls in my daughter’s house. She and her husband helped; it took us five coats before the streaks all disappeared! Later, of course, I saw a display at Home Depot which showed how primer made a difference. Now I know better…

I am not going to go into the actual painting process; the website does that, as well as lots of other sites on the internet.

Good luck with your painting projects! Feel free to call me if you need advice or help.

 

 

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