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Painting like a pro is all in the prep

You don't have to be a professional painter to get results like one

October is the number one month for painting, so it may be likely you've given some thought to adding a little color to your life. Preparation is nearly 90 percent of the job, so when you're ready to start the project, consider these professional tips:

Preparing the surface
Anything in the room not being painted should be removed or covered up, including furniture, light fixtures, vent covers and outlet covers. Apply a good masking tape to protect baseboards, door and window trim, crown molding and any other surfaces not receiving paint. To protect flooring, lay down a canvas or thick-mil plastic drop cloth.

When painting over an existing semi- or full-gloss finish, the surface must be sanded to give the new paint something to adhere to (paint adheres better to rough surfaces than smooth ones). Smooth over cracks and other surface imperfections with spackle and a putty knife, and then sand smooth. Viewing the surface from an angle will reveal any spots that may have been missed.

The entire surface to be painted should be washed with tri sodium phosphate (TSP) or a mixture of water and bleach (or other detergent) in a 2:1 ratio. This should dry completely before working with the surface again. Finally, apply a primer coat such as Ace Stain Halt to round out the prep process.

Choosing a paint
Latex paints are the primary paints used for painting non-metallic surfaces inside the home such as walls and ceilings. Be aware of the differences in finishes:

  • Flat - Ideal for low-traffic areas; matte coating shows a color's "true hue" and hides imperfections well. Ace Sensations(TM) with Scotchgard(TM) Protector is the flat paint that cleans like a semi-gloss, so you can use it in higher-traffic areas. What's more, it's mold resistant, so it can be used in high-moisture areas such as kitchens and bathrooms, too!
  • Eggshell - Smooth, washable finish with a very slight sheen; ideal for living rooms, hallways, bedrooms and dens.
  • Satin - A bit more washable than eggshell with a similar sheen; ideal for most rooms.
  • Semi-gloss - Smooth and washable medium sheen; ideal for bedrooms, kitchens and children's rooms.
  • Gloss - The highest shine of any finish, very washable; well-suited for trimwork, doors and windows and areas that receive frequent abuse.

Tools of the trade
If you have all necessary tools "at the ready," you won't have to leave halfway through your project because you forgot a crucial item. For latex paints, synthetic-fiber bristle brushes in a variety of flat and angled tips will take care of the trim and detail work.

A good hard-core roller cover and roller cage will speed the job up and reduce the appearance of brush strokes. Don't forget a good paint tray for that roller, an extra roller cover and a 6-in-1 tool for cleaning up these items when the job is done.

It's good to invest in the highest quality roller covers and brushes. These are worth the extra cost in the money and time you will save down the road. Quality roller covers will resist matting down and will hold more paint without dripping, reducing the amount of paint used and the number of coats required for even coverage. Brushes will also apply paint more smoothly, requiring fewer layers to conceal brushstrokes. Higher quality rollers and brushes resist "shedding" and last longer as well.

Painting is a process
Cutting the edges involves outlining the area to be painted with a 2 1/2" angled-bristle brush and is a crucial step in "framing the canvas." Edges should be cut around doors and windows, above baseboards and at the line where the ceiling meets the wall. From there, a roller can be used for most of the rest of the job.

When painting with a roller, it's important to work in three- to four-foot square sections to make the job more manageable. This also works as a guide for "roller loading" - a roller should not be reloaded until the section has been finished.

Work in a zig-zag pattern: A "W" should be painted on the surface from top to bottom and left to right. From there, the section should be filled with horizontal strokes. To finish off, the section should be smoothed with all-vertical strokes - this will maintain the same "pattern" and help to fuse the smaller sections into one finished surface when the paint is dry. For complete coverage, two coats are almost always recommended.

If you read through this and decide you still need some help, don't despair - ask the helpful folks at your neighborhood Ace store! And remember, if you have home improvement questions and need a little advice, send me an email at asklou@acehardware.com - I'd be glad to help!

Enjoy the new colors in your life,

-Lou

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