The goal of every painter is to paint neatly and quickly. Fortunately, there are dozens of tricks, shortcuts and trade secrets devoted to painting, many more than for any other home-improvement activity.
The goal of every painter is to paint neatly and quickly. This can be challenging. My neighbor recently spent an entire week painting his bedroom, and ended up with nearly as much paint on himself as on the walls and ceiling. And in the end, believe or not, his wife decided she didn't like the color. He's now spending most of his time outside working on the lawn. Fortunately, there are dozens of tricks, shortcuts and trade secrets devoted to painting, many more than for any other home-improvement activity. Listed below are my five favorite painting tips, gleaned from years of personal painting experience and by watching pros on many job sites. Try one or all of the following techniques and I'm sure you'll end up with a paint job nice enough to show off to the neighbors.
1. Tint the Primer
Whether you're painting interior walls or exterior siding, a coat of primer is key to obtaining professional-looking results. This goes for previously painted surfaces as well as raw wood and new drywall. Unfortunately, most homeowners never bother with primer, which explains why they end up with blah-looking paint jobs. Primer serves three main functions: First, it blocks stains and resinous knots from bleeding through; second, it provides one-coat coverage for the paint topcoat; most importantly, it improves adhesion, which greatly reduces blisters and extends the life of the topcoat.
To further enhance the coverage of the topcoat, try this pro tip: Tint the primer toward the finished color by mixing a small amount of topcoat paint into the primer. (Be sure the primer and topcoat are both latex-based or both oil-based; never mix coatings with dissimilar solutions.) This will greatly enhance the ability of the topcoat to hide the prepped surface completely, especially when painting a lighter topcoat over an existing darker color.
2. Invest in Canvas
I used to buy cheap plastic drop cloths to protect the floor from paint spatters. At the end of the job, I'd just roll up the paint-smeared sheets and toss them out. Then I noticed that pro painters always use canvas drop cloths. When I found out why, I made the switch. Here are just a few of the benefits of canvas:
Canvas drop cloths are durable, and rip- and puncture-resistant. They lay flat as you walk across them, presenting less of a tripping hazard; seldom, if ever, must you tape canvas to the floor. Canvas also absorbs paint drips, unlike plastic drop cloths that become slippery when spattered with wet paint. You're much less likely to pick up paint on your shoe soles from canvas. Canvas drop cloths can easily be folded around corners and doorways--something that's virtually impossible to do with plastic sheeting. Plus, canvas can be reused countless times. I always felt bad about discarding plastic drop cloths after just one use, but reusing them was messy because the dried paint drips and splatters would flake off and get all over the room. Several years ago I bought a 10-oz canvas "runner" that measures 4 ft wide x 15 ft long for about $16. It's perfect for lying on the floor against the wall or spreading outdoors over shrubs and flower beds along a foundation wall. Now, I've never had paint soak through my drop cloth, but you can buy plastic-lined canvas drop cloths that offer better soak-through protection.
3. Roll With a Pole
When painting rooms, forget the ladder and get a telescoping extension pole for your paint roller. Extension poles come in various sizes, but one that extends from about 18 in. to 30 or 36 in. offers plenty of reach for painting rooms with ceilings that are 9 ft or lower. There are also extra-long extension poles that telescope up to about 18 ft for painting cathedral ceilings and loft spaces.
To attach the extension pole to the paint roller, simply thread it into the hole in the paint-roller handle. Check to be sure your paint-roller handle has a threaded hole in its end; most of them do. The shaft of the pole telescopes out and can be locked anywhere along its length with a twist of the wrist.
When shopping for extension poles, look for one that has a soft, nonslip rubber grip and a rigid metal core. And be sure the threaded end of the pole is metal, too. All-plastic handles are too flexible, making them hard to control, and the plastic gets fatigued over time and can snap under pressure. Also check to be sure the telescoping shaft locks securely in position and doesn't collapse when forced.
4. Paint Off a Grid
When it comes to poorly designed hardware items, it's hard to find one that matches the futility of the paint-roller tray. Here's a device meant to hold paint for paint rolling, but it spills easily, only holds a small amount of paint, is hard to carry from one spot to another, and is difficult to clean. Plus, you must place the tray on the floor, where someone--okay, me--invariably kicks it or steps in the paint.
I stopped using paint trays years ago, and have never regretted it. Now I roll paint directly from a 5-gal bucket using a paint grid, which is a rectangular, rigid metal screen that hooks onto the rim of the bucket. Start by filling the bucket about halfway with paint, then hang the grid in the bucket. Now dip half of the roller sleeve into the paint, and roll it against the grid to remove excess paint, which drips back into the bucket. At the end of the day, just drop the grid into the bucket and snap on the lid.
5. Record the Color
After painting a room, it's important to keep track of the brand name and color of the paint used, so you can buy more when it comes time to touch-up or repaint the room. I've tried a few techniques to remember paint information, including recording it in a notebook, which I promptly lost, and writing it on the side of the leftover paint cans, which I'd eventually toss out along with the information. I've since found a better way:
Before replacing the light-switch covers and electrical-outlet covers in a newly painted room, I write the vital information (brand name, paint color, paint number) onto a piece of masking tape and stick it to the back of a switch plate. And there it'll stay until it's time to repaint, when it'll be discovered by me, or--with any luck--the next homeowner
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