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A great paint job takes time!

by Leon A. Frechette

How many of you have painted a room over a weekend? When all was said and done, how did it look? Like a room painted in a weekend? Existing cracks suddenly reappeared, nails that were not removed now have hardened paint "tails," mouldings sport globs of paint on mitered outside corners, carpet nap is glued to the face of the base mouldings, and roller and brush strokes are painfully obvious.

Before diving into your next paint project, consider the following steps to achieve professional results.

Time—You have to be willing to spend time on each step outlined below. Paint needs to dry between coats, for example, one step that simply takes time.

Removal—First (and this might be difficult if you don't have space) empty the room, or move all furnishings to the center and cover with a painting tarp or 4- to 6-mil plastic. Remove all items from the walls (including nails or other hardware used to secure an item on or to a wall), all electrical fixtures, outlet covers, and window treatments. Finally, remove the room and closet doors.

Cleaning—Vacuum the dust from the tops of casings (mouldings) above windows, doors, and base mouldings. Run your putty knife between the carpet and base moulding to remove any carpet nap that may be stuck to the moulding from previous paint jobs. Look for paint drips around nails, moulding edges, and on mitered outside corners; sand with 100-grit sandpaper to remove. Finally, vacuum around the perimeter of the room including around all casings and any areas where sanding took place. If walls are dusty, vacuum them as well.

When walls are saturated with grease and dirt, it's time for some chemicals and a lot of elbow grease. You don't want any stains or oils to bleed through your finish paint. Wash walls using a mixture of 1 cup trisodium phosphate (TSP), 1 quart liquid laundry bleach, and 3 quarts of warm water. When the surface is clean, use a sponge and rinse with fresh water.

If TSP is not available in your area or its use is prohibited because of regulations, your paint dealer can suggest an environmentally safe product. If you have any concerns about possible bleed-through of stains or oils, plan to apply a stain killer such as the one mentioned below before priming.

To clean walls that are saturated with cigarette smoke, wash them down using a mixture of 1/2 cup of ammonia to a gallon of warm water for general cleaning. Increase the ammonia to perhaps a 50:50 solution and even use it full strength for tougher jobs. Test the solution first in the worst areas to determine the proper mix for your project. When the surface is clean, use a sponge and rinse with fresh water.

If you are concerned about the possible bleed-through of nicotine residue and cigarette odors, apply a stain killer before priming to seal them with a solvent system such as Zinsser's B-I-N, a shellac-based product. All surfaces must be sound, clean, and dry before you apply primer or your base coat.

Prepping—Look for cracks, especially where the walls meet the ceiling and in mouldings. If you find cracks, tape these areas with drywall joint compound and use a wood filler/putty on the mouldings. Taped areas will need one coat of joint compound and two (or possibly three) topping coats to bring the area flush out to the existing walls and/or ceiling.

Where base mouldings and casings meet the walls, you can sometimes find a hairline crack or a deep crater. Try filling these areas with white latex caulk (not silicone). Use your finger to blend and finish with a soft sponge and warm water. Two or three thin coats may be required. Fill small nail holes with joint compound; larger holes will require taping.

Water leaks, especially in lath and plaster, will cause calcimine to bleed, and it will bleed clear through the joint compound to the finish paint. If the room has experienced water leaks, cover the area with stain killer or white shellac before priming.

Finally, remove any plastic from the floor, vacuum the area, and install new plastic. When you are completely satisfied with the prep work, you can move on to the single most important step in the process—priming.

Priming—To achieve great results for latex finish paint, use a heavily pigmented white latex primer (not a wall sealer). If your house originally had smooth walls, you may find that they have acquired texture over time, caused by painting with a roller.

If you had to repair any portion of those walls, the repaired area will exhibit no texture. Look carefully where the new drywall compound meets the existing texture. If this area is extremely rough, sand using a wallboard sander and then blend the two using a soft sponge and warm water. It's simple to blend smooth portions into textured walls using a 3/4" lamb's wool roller. Saturate the roller with paint and roll it over any smooth (repaired) areas. Wait about five minutes and backroll the area using the same roller without putting additional paint on it. You want to raise the paint surface while it is tacky in order to create texture. You might have to repeat the procedure a few times, allowing a day between coats to dry.

Once you achieve the desired texture, paint all wall and ceiling surfaces. Paint the base moulding and casings too but use a 2" trim (tapered) nylon polyester brush. Where carpet meets the base moulding, use a 6" taping knife and a 1 1/2" trim (tapered) nylon polyester brush. Just place the knife between the two, pull back on top of the carpet, and paint. It's a little slow but effective in protecting the carpet.

Finish Coat—Most likely a week or two has elapsed from clearing the room to finishing the primer coat. This last step is very important to pull it all together: the finish coat.

Always start with the ceiling, then paint the walls, and finish with the mouldings and doors. In many cases the ceiling may be a different color than the walls so begin by using the 2" trim brush and paint around the perimeter on the ceiling side, also known as "cutting the inside edges." Be sure to blend the paint on the outside edge of the brush toward the ceiling's center so you don't leave any brush strokes. Then take your 3/4" nap lamb's wool roller and begin to paint, overlapping the roller marks and brush strokes. I find I achieve better results by applying a full roller in one direction. Do the same for the walls.

Now, sit back, relax—and watch the paint dry. While the job is technically complete, don't rush to put everything back into the room. Instead, wait at least 2 to 3 days for the paint to cure. This is one project that you and your family will benefit from for many years to come!

Copyright © 2001 & 2006 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.

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