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House Painting: Getting Started

Painting a room or an entire house can be a challenge.
Learn the basics and do it right the first time.

Most everyone has painted some part or all of a room, doors, trim, or an entire house. Some of these ventures may have met with success while others were probably not so successful. You may have asked, What did I do right or wrong?

A few handy tips will surely make your next project go to your satisfaction.

What you should do

-Choose the right brush - any old paint brush will result in any old finish. For instance, if you are staining a deck, you'll need a tapered brush, which is specially designed for the job.

-Buy the best brush you can afford. With proper care, it will last a very long time. Quality brushes will be identified for their designated use; i.e., water-based paints, stains, oil paints, varnishes, and polyurethane. Look for sales - sometimes an obscure box of good brushes will be sitting on the paint counter at your home improvement store.

-Brush size is also important. Painting a large area with a 2-inch brush is like trying to cover a football field with 12-inch-wide rolls of turf.

-Select paint rollers in the same manner as brushes. You can purchase the cheap throwaways and get pretty good coverage, but for a professional appearance, look for the roller that is designed for the job. Stucco requires a roller with a deep fuzzy felt; solid walls need a smoother covering.

-Begin with printed paint swatches; study the colors only to get a comparison of shades and an idea of complementary colors. These small printed squares are not adequate to make a final decision and, due to printing processes, may not be an accurate representation of the exact shade.

-Once you have narrowed the choices, determine which sheen you need: flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, or gloss. For exteriors, additional choices include porch and floor paints and stains. Talk with the paint expert at your home improvement store to determine which type paint is best suited for your particular task.

-Before you commit to a gallon - or several- of paint, purchase your chosen color/s in the smallest quantity possible. Paint a swatch in several different spots. Look at it from different angles and at varying times of day. If it is not what you want, choose another color and paint a swatch next to the first. This will help you pinpoint differences in the tones; for instance, you may see a surprising pink or yellow emerge from one and green from another when they are side by side.

-Make sure you purchase enough paint to finish the job. Leftover paint can always be used for touchup. Each gallon container will state the coverage area. Deduct 15% and you are safe.

When it comes to painting, preparation is 90% of the work:

-Prepare the surface. Remove old paint/stain. A clean surface is critical for paint adhesion. One note of caution: if the paint is old, test for lead content, it is dangerous to scrape or sand lead-based paint.

-Caulk and fill all voids. Make sure the caulk is "paintable."

-Tape off all areas that are not to be painted. Painter's tape in the wider widths is best, but do not leave any tape on a surface for more than 24 hours. Taping is time-consuming if you are doing it correctly, but will save a great deal of re-work later.

-For new and bare wood, apply a quality primer. It will be a fast dryer, but test before adding a topcoat of paint.

When you purchase paint, don't skimp.

-Never use old paint if you want a perfect finish. However, if you do not have a choice, strain the paint through a fine mesh, such as an old tea strainer.

-Buy quality paint. It will cover more area with fewer coats and last longer between paintings. Do not try to save money here.

-Use even strokes when painting. Make an "M" with the first pass, then spread paint in the opposite direction. Remove excess paint from the brush and lightly smooth the entire area.

-Never dip a brush more than 2 inches into paint. Lightly press the excess out against the side of the paint can.

-When beginning with a full can of paint, mix well. Use a power stirrer if possible. Then, pour out one quarter of the paint into another container that is sealable. The extra room allows you to remove excess paint from the brush with much less mess.

-For exterior paint preparation, use a power washer to clean and dislodge peeling paint.

-If mold is present, spray with a 3:1 water/bleach solution.

Work safely. Use sturdy ladders and be sure of the footing before you climb. Take your time getting to and from higher spots and enlist a helper if you are working with an extension ladder.

Do-it-yourself painting is a satisfying experience. The results can look professional if you do it the right way.




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