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38 Tips For Painting Around The House

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  1. Painting is one of the easiest and most economical ways to spruce up your home, inside or out. Fresh paint makes everything seem new, and changing colors can lift spirits and give tired old spaces a blast of new energy. Start with the fun part -- shopping for colors. Look in magazines and brochures for ideas that appeal to you. When you start to zero in on some possibilities, take paint samples home to look at them during the day, the evening, and again at night under incandescent light. Different lighting conditions make colors appear differently -- you'll want to be sure you like them at all hours of the day.

  2. It's easy to get a great paint job -- the key is in the preparation. Sure, it helps to have a steady hand when painting the trim, but you'll get the absolute best results if you take time to scrape off loose paint, fill holes and cracks, and clean surfaces thoroughly before you begin. To clean surfaces, use a solution of TSP (trisodium phosphate). TSP is the old standby when it comes to painting prep work, and it's available in no-rinse varieties to make it easier to use. If you prefer, ask your dealer to recommend a good phosphate-free cleaner.

  3. Painting is best on nice warm days so that paint dries quickly, minimizing chances for accidents. Remember that sunny spring days can cool off in a hurry, leaving paint gummy.

  4. Doors and windows get a lot of use, so you'll want to make sure you use a good-quality paint that will last for many years. You can buy paint that is made especially for trim -- it's formulated to withstand lots of use and repeated cleaning. Brand new doors or windows should first get a coat of primer to seal the wood. The techniques you use for painting with primer are the same as for the finish coats.

  5. If you're thinking of choosing a bold, strong color, consider going one or two shades lighter. There's a world of difference between seeing colors on a small paint sample and on a big wall. Generally, big surfaces tend to intensify color, and you might end up with something a lot louder than you intend.

  6. Before painting, check all surfaces for defects with a strong side light. Use a flashlight, or take the shade off a table lamp and hold the bulb near the wall. Rough spots and imperfections will be clearly visible so you can sand or patch them.

  7. To start, don't get your mind in the wrong gear and think that the job is mainly applying the paint. The truth is that planning and preparation account for most of the work, so set your expectations accordingly. Once you get into the project, there are several ways to save time on preparing surfaces, on cleaning up, on repainting, plus some tricks to keep from spending more money than necessary to get the job done.

  8. The best exterior painting projects start with a little planning. Painting the outside of a house is a big job that will go smoother if you know in advance how you're going to proceed. Generally, paint your house by starting at the top. Do the soffits, then the main body, then the trim. If you're working with ladders, you'll probably just move right around the house, bringing each step to completion before moving on. However, if you have a tall house that requires scaffolding, you'll want to subdivide the job, completing each side of the house before packing up scaffolding and moving on.

  9. Getting all chalking, flaking, or peeling paint off the surface you are about to repaint is a must. On the outside of the house, consider using your garden hose or a rented pressure washer. Unless you are using latex, wait until the surface is completely dry before starting to paint. If you have mildew problems, use a bleach solution (one pint per gallon of water), to kill the mildew and bleach out the stains. If you don't kill mildew, it can grow under the new coat of paint.

  10. Inside the house, you can use shellac to seal water stains. Water-borne stains will bleed through latex paint. (If you try to just use latex to cover a water stain, you still may be at it after 15 coats.) Shellac dries quickly.

  11. Use alcohol, not mineral spirits, to clean shellac from your brushes. Remove the wall items you don't want painted, such as electrical plates. This is quicker and easier than trying to mask everything with tape. Then cover up what you can't remove. For example, tie garbage bags over fixtures such as chandeliers. Use care when painting around exposed wiring.

  12. Glass can slow you down. Some do-it-yourselfers don't bother covering glass, believing it is faster to scrape the paint off later. You can stick wet newspapers on glass, but they can dry out and fall off. A better solution is to use dry newspaper over glass, applying masking tape around the edges.

  13. Try to avoid unnecessary cleanup when your painting is interrupted or finished. Line roller trays with plastic; you can even slip a plastic garbage bag over the tray. A lining not only makes cleanup easier, but also prevents the high pH of latex paints from interacting with the aluminum tray. If you use plastic lining, buy a grid-like roller screen that fits inside the tray over the plastic. The screen will keep the plastic from wrinkling and the roller from slipping.

  14. Put paint tools and trays inside a garbage bag to keep them from drying out if you stop painting for a few hours or overnight. Small plastic sandwich bags work great for brushes and also help them keep their shape. For rollers, you can use Ziploc storage bags, plastic wrap, or large, plastic food-storage bags.

  15. To speed brush cleanup, try not to get the bristles wet beyond about half of their length. When painting overhead, paint will drop down into the brush. To remove this paint, wash the brush, then comb it out with a bronze wire brush, the kind used for cleaning barbecue grills.

  16. A trick for cleaning rollers is to roll off any excess paint on a scrap of gypsum board; you will be able to use the same scrap board for years. Then clean the rollers using the stream of a hose nozzle. By turning the hose on full blast and directing the spray to the side of the roller, it will almost spin itself clean.

  17. One thing professional painters learn early on is that it is easier to cover up than to clean up. When mixing paint, prevent spattering by putting the can inside a cardboard box or a garbage or grocery bag. Any flying paint will be neatly confined. To prevent paint from running down the side of the can, you can buy special plastic lid devices that fit over the rim. You can also fashion your own by cutting a semi-circle in a coffee can lid to within about one inch of the edge. Then use the inside edge to wipe your brush.

  18. Buy plenty of drop cloths. Canvas lasts longer than plastic and soaks up paint, but 3-mil plastic works fine. Make "paths" with newspaper to and from the work area so paint sticking to your shoes won't be dragged through the house. Also get enough masking tape. You are buying it to save time, so buy a good brand that is at least an inch wide. If tape comes in contact with some paint solvents it can glue itself to the surface. Pull it off as soon as the paint has set. Between jobs, store tape in the refrigerator to prolong its life, or at least keep it out of direct sunlight.

  19. To clean solvent-borne paints off your hands, try ordinary salad oil. (Solvent-borne paints include oil-based paints, varnishes and urethanes.) Salad oil will take the paint off and won't irritate your hands like other solvents. It also can help you remove solvent-borne paint spilled on wood finishes that are sensitive to other solvents.

  20. There is no point in painting if it isn't absolutely necessary. For example, if you have small water stains on a ceiling, experiment to see if you can remove them without painting. Mix up a water-bleach solution and apply it with a small spray bottle, using normal safety precautions. The stains may disappear, saving you a paint job.

  21. Lay screens on top of sawhorses to confine splattering while you are painting them. Or use two sponges, pads, or rollers at the same time directly opposite each other on each side of the screen. You also can set boards across the second rung on a stepladder to support screens or storm windows while they are being painted.

  22. Attach a carpenter's nail apron to the top of your stepladder to store small painting supplies such as putty, nails, or screws that you may need while painting.

  23. Quart-sized or smaller paint cans are hard to carry and easy to tip over. To avoid these problems, put the small can inside an empty gallon can. It will be easier to carry and, if it spills, you can pour the paint back into the little can.

  24. If you are looking to really speed up interior home painting projects, buy or rent a power roller. Some do-it-yourselfer find that with a power roller they can paint a living room, dining room, hallway, and bedroom all in one day.

  25. There is no need to throw away expensive solvent after only one use. Pour it into a metal can and cover it. After the paint particles settle out, pour off the clear solvent for reuse. You can do this a number of times. Occasionally rub some of the solvent between your fingers. When it begins to feel sticky, throw it away.

  26. Brushes can be expensive to replace. If you have brushes that are dried out and hard, try soaking them overnight in water-washable paint remover. Then clean and comb them out with a bronze wire brush. This overhaul works best with brushes that have been used with oil-based paints.

  27. When storing paint, blowing into the can before sealing will increase its shelf life. The carbon dioxide in your breath reduces the oxygen level that causes paint to skin over. You even can throw in a small chunk of dry ice to increase the carbon dioxide level. But don't blow into cans of moisture-cure urethanes (most of today's polyurethanes) because your breath also contains moisture.

  28. A trick for storing paint is to use plastic wrap. Push it into the can, down to the paint, and seal it around the edge with your finger. If paint does get lumpy, strain it through old nylon stockings or pantyhose. Just hang the nylon above an empty can and pour the paint through it.

  29. If you want to keep full cans of paint for long periods, store the cans upside down for a month, then right side up the next month, then upside down, etc. This will move the paint's pigment back and forth and keep it from settling out.

  30. When should you throw paint out? Some corrosion-inhibiting pigments can react with paint over time, turning it into a semi-solid gel. Once this happens, the paint is finished. Also, once latex paint freezes and looks like cottage cheese, you may as well throw it away and save your time.

  31. When using latex, for example, be sure the temperature is above 50' F. (Latex won't form a film at lower temperatures.) With solvent-borne paint, be sure the temperature is at least 5° F. above the dew point. If it's not, water may condense on the surface as it cools while the solvent evaporates. This can result in uneven color.

  32. Painting over new galvanized metal can be a problem. If possible, let the metal weather for a year. The next best alternative is to treat it with a preparation material such as Galva-Grip. Never use solvent-borne paints such as alkyd resins. They will turn into soap on a galvanized surface and lose their adhesion. Use an acrylic or vinyl-acrylic paint instead.

  33. When buying brushes, get nylon bristles for latex. (The high pH of latex will ruin expensive hog-bristle brushes.) Good nylon-bristle brushes can be used for solvent-borne paints, but hog-bristle brushes are best if you can afford them. Also, don't be casual about buying roller covers. Spend the extra money and get quality covers with a nap length to match the surface.

  34. One fear many do-it-yourselfer have is that they will buy more paint than they need. As a result, they often end up a little short. Assume that almost all paint will cover about 400 square feet per gallon at a normal 4-mil thickness. Latex goes on so easily it is tempting to stretch it too much. For example, you could cover 700 square feet per gallon, but you will need to put on a second coat to complete the job.

  35. The approximate paint coverage you can expect is usually listed on the paint can label. Adjust these figures for the application method you are using. For brush or roller applications, the waste factor will be about 10% of the paint; with airless sprayers, it will be about 20%, and with air sprayers about 40%. Also keep in mind that rough, textured, or porous surfaces will take more paint than smooth, sealed areas.

  36. It's best to clean up your painting equipment as soon as you are finished with it. To clean brushes used with oil paints, work the appropriate paint solvent into the bristles. Squeeze out as much paint and solvent as possible. Repeat this procedure until all the paint disappears. Give the brushes a final rinse in clear solvent, then wash them in soapy water, rinse, and allow to dry. To preserve the shape of a brush, carefully wrap it in heavy paper. To clean brushes used with water-based paints, follow the same procedure, but substitute soapy water for the solvent.

  37. It's best to clean up your painting equipment as soon as you are finished with it. To clean rollers used for oil paints, remove the roller from the handle and submerge it in paint solvent. When most of the paint has been worked out, wash it in a mild detergent solution, rinse in clear water, and hang up to dry. Use solvent to remove any paint from the handle. To clean rollers used with water-based paints, substitute soapy water for solvent.

  38. It's best to clean up your painting equipment as soon as you are finished with it. Use the correct solvent to clean up equipment. Check the can label. Generally, use mineral spirits for alkyd enamels, acetone for epoxy paints, lacquer thinner for lacquer, water for latex paints, mineral spirits or turpentine for oil paints, alcohol for shellac, and mineral spirits for varnish. Use all appropriate fire, ventilation, and safety precautions. Most solvents except water are flammable, poisonous, irritating to the skin, and produce hazardous fumes. Lacquer thinner and acetone also may damage finishes and dissolve plastics.
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