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To paint or hire a pro—that is the question facing homeowner

QuestionWe have a new home with oil painted doors, baseboards, and trim. Can you offer any information on how to care for it? I noticed it does mar if the surface is wiped down, scraped up against, or threatened at all.

AnswerThanks for your letter and for taking time to give me the history and the name of the paint product used.

As I researched your question, I discovered something that will impact individuals who applied latex or oil paints in the new deep rich dark accent color families after watching reality home and decorating shows. Those homeowners will probably have the same problems that you are now experiencing.

The "mar" you refer to is known as "burnishing" in the painting industry. Basically, if your oil paint has cured properly, you shouldn't see any type of surface marring unless there is something unique about the paint that was applied. In your case, it's the extra dark accent paint.

Burnishing is the change in the paint's finish after the surface film has been rubbed. Rubbing causes the paint's finish (sheen) to look dull and this affects the color you see; it may not be the paint's true color. Depending on the darkness of the paint's colors, painted surfaces will look marred after a simple wipe-down, which won't do justice to the finished product.

To achieve those beautiful dark deep rich accent colors, paint manufacturers mix a lot of universal colorants (pigment with liquid additives) into both latex and oil paints. Unfortunately, the large colorant volume doesn't allow the wear layer to cure as hard as it should. Because the film surface is soft, any rubbing will yield a burnished effect.

The key is to protect the paint's film surface by applying a clear protective coat over the paint. One product I've used and can recommend is Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane in a clear satin finish. Not only will it yield a hard protective surface, but it will also help bring out the richness of the paint's true color.

Before you apply spar urethane, it's a good idea to prep the surface, even if you used a semi-gloss paint (it's a must for proper bonding to gloss paint). Because the paint is soft, use a rubber hand-held sanding block with 3M's 400-grit TRI-M-ITE (white) sandpaper to lightly knock down the sheen to insure proper adhesion. Depending on the design of the trim, you may have to work without the sanding block.

The key to success is to make sure that the surface is free of dust after each sanding. Remove the dust with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a bristle attachment, taking care not to drag the attachment across the paint surface. Then use a compressor set to a very low air volume to blow off any remaining particles. The secret to using the compressor's air is to turn on the vacuum and hold the attachment so the sanding particles blow directly into it. If you don't have a compressor, use canned air, holding the can in an upright position.

Alternatively, you could use a premium cotton tack cloth designed to assure complete removal of particulates without leaving a harmful residue on the surface. Gerson has different levels of tack cloths that will pick up and hold sanding residue (a very fine powder). To learn about the different products they offer, go to www.gersonco.com.

I recommend that you apply at least two coats of spar urethane using an angled brush with high-quality 100 percent Chinese bristles. Test the clear finish in an inconspicuous area first before doing the entire project.

As you apply the product, do not play with it. Brush it on and get off it. It is also better to apply two thin coats rather than one thick coat. If you find the product too thick to work with, thin it a bit using mineral spirits.

The next day, or after it has dried for at least six hours, sand the first coat with 3M's 220-grit or 320-grit TRI-M-ITE (white) sandpaper and remove the dust using the method described above. Sand the final coat to remove any brush strokes, and follow it up by a rubbing (with the wood grain) with super fine #0000 steel wool. This will dull and blend the surface for a uniform appearance. It's not necessary, but I prefer the look.

I like to remove doors from their hinges and work with them laying flat across sawhorses with protective cross-members. This makes it easier to spread the clear finish and it won't run.

If you have a lot of doors, woodwork, and trim, this will be a time-consuming project, but the durable deep rich colors and surface protection you achieve will be well worth the effort. The million dollar question that remains is: do you want to do the work yourself or bring in a painting contractor?

Copyright © 2006, & 2007 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.
Question answered by Leon A. Frechette.

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C.R.S., Inc. · Spokane, Washington · USA

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