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Ask the Painter

April 2009 - Ask the Painter

Q.Whenever I paint I find that paint has crept past the tape I've applied to the moldings in my room. Am I doing something wrong?

A.This is a common problem that even professional painters grapple with. Do not buy cheap tape, the expense of the national brand blue tape is well worth it. These tapes come in medium adhesion for most uses and light adhesion for delicate surfaces such as veneers and some wallpapers. Both can be removed up to 14 days with no problem, which can be important when doing your project in stages. Many people take the time to apply the tape meticulously but forget to run their finger over all of the applied tape to be sure it has adhered well with no breaches.
Do not drown the tape line in paint. After dipping your brush in the paint do not make the tape line the first place your brush lands. Start the brushing away from the tape line so that you will have less paint on the brush when you paint the taped area. Another common mistake is to remove the tape too soon after painting. Don't wait days to do it but don't rush it. Remove the tape SLOWLY in small sections. Don't stand back and rip. On rough surfaces some paint creep often can't be avoided. If needed, run a putty knife or painters tool with a rag over it along the taped line for a clean look remembering to reposition and rinse the rag often.

May 2009 - Ask the Painter

Q.The plywood siding on my house is faded and the coating is chipping. I'd like to repaint it but am not sure whether to use solid stain or paint. I've done some repair and replacement so some of it is new. What’s the difference?

A.New wood siding and any scraped areas of the old siding should be cleaned and coated with a good quality exterior primer. Alkyd (oil based) has traditionally been considered best because of its linseed oil base and tannin sealing properties. Once primed, you can apply acrylic latex stain or paint to the surface. Alkyd based solid stains are a one step solution but are more costly and much less resistant to fading than latex based stains.
Solid Acrylic Latex stains are thinner than paint, and have little or no sheen. An advantage is that they soak in to the wood and allow more of the natural wood grain to show through. The flat finish of solid stain tends to show more dirt and staining over time. They usually don't last as long as a good quality paint which dries with a thicker film and is available in a variety of sheen levels.

June 2009 - Ask the Painter

Q.Our deck is looking bad; we'd like to refinish it. Any suggestions?

A.Deck refinishing can be a labor intensive job, but many people find they can do it themselves. I suggest renting or borrowing a power washer for the cleaning if you don't have one. The first decision will be whether to use a deck cleaner or a stripper. Cleaning is sufficient if the old finish has deteriorated completely and there is no evidence of the old finish remaining. If areas of old stain remain they will have to be removed with a deck stripper for best looking results. Both products are applied to the deck with a pump garden sprayer. After applying, allow it to remain on the surface for the recommended time to do its job. If it’s sunny it may dry up, just re-mist to keep it moist. You can also do the cleaning in smaller sections if necessary. Adjust the tip or use the proper tip to achieve a 3'-4' fan so as not to damage the wood. Pull the wand up away from the surface at the end of each stroke to avoid scarring the wood. Rinse thoroughly and mist the surrounding vegetation to rinse off any residue from the cleaner. Several days of drying time is essential as most adhesion problems can be attributed to incomplete rinsing and wet wood.
A basic rule for deck stains is you get what you pay for. Sikkens and Cabot make excellent stains; avoid low priced home center stains. Transparent stains have a short life, 2-3 years. semi- transparent stains, the most popular stains should last 3-5 years depending on exposure and wear. Apply the stain to railings and trim first, using a drop cloth on the surface. Apply the stain to the full length of each floor board without stopping. Plan to do the floor all at once and do not work in sections to avoid dried overlap lines. Plan to stay off of it for a few days while it dries and stops "out gassing" (emitting fumes.) Then enjoy the beautiful results of your work!

September 09 - Ask the Painter

Q.I’ve got my new color picked out for a painting project but I’m unsure which sheen to buy. There are many of them and I’m a bit confused.

A.There are many more sheen levels available than in the past. What’s more confusing is that there is no established industry standard for the terminology. Different manufacturers may have a similar product but market them with different terms for the gloss levels.
Basic flat paint is the least confusing. It’s economical, good for ceilings and walls in poor condition because of its hiding qualities. Next on the scale are Matte flats, also called flat enamels. They’re newer on the market and may be a bit more expensive but offer the look of a flat paint with good washability. They’re great for living rooms etc. but still pick up dirt much like a flat paint. Eggshell is a very popular choice for general use with not too much sheen but enough to allow some cleaning. Satin, also called low lustre or pearl finish perform like semi gloss but aren’t as shiny. Semi gloss is still a good choice for bathrooms and high use areas. Every paint manufacturer offers a sample of their sheen levels and what they call them in their literature so be sure to look at them before ordering your paint.

October 09 - Ask the Painter

Q.We’re just getting around to some outside painting that we’d like to get done before winter. How long do we have to complete it?

A.There are a few factors to consider, but with proper timing and a little cooperation from the weather, exterior projects can be completed during October in Michigan. Most exterior paints can be applied at temperatures of 50 degrees and higher. Some can be applied at 40 degrees, but it’s not a pleasant task at that temperature. Plan to do the work on sunny days with little or no precipitation in the forecast. Naturally the working time window is shorter in the fall. It’s important to allow surfaces to get warm enough and dry before application, but it’s most important to stop applying paint at least two hours before dusk. The evening dew can wreak havoc on paint that hasn’t had time to dry.

Dec 2009 - Ask the Painter

Q: We’re planning on replacing our carpet and painting some rooms after the holidays. We’ll be doing all of the trim as well, including the floor moldings. How should we proceed?

A: It’s best to delay the carpet installation until after the painting is done. You won’t have to worry about damaging the new floor covering. Painting floor moldings with carpet in place can be difficult. I suggest carefully cutting and removing a strip of carpet 4”-6” away from the moldings before you paint. You won’t have to worry about seeing an unpainted area if the new carpet doesn’t have the same pile height as the old. This is especially true if you’re going from carpet to wood or tile.
Use a sharp utility knife and position yourself so that you’ll be out of the way if the knife slips while you are cutting. Be sure to vacuum all of the debris away from the moldings before you paint. You’ll then be able to paint the floor molding and the bottom of the door trim moldings down to the sub-flooring.

Jan 2010 - Ask the Painter

Q.We’ve completed painting most of our rooms, but we have a foyer in our 2 story home with high walls in the stairwell and hallways. How do we go about painting those areas?

A.This is an area in many homes that presents a challenge. You’ll need to be climbing an extension ladder to do the edging, so if you’re not okay with that you may want to call a professional. Professional painters are often enlisted for this part of the painting project because of the height.
If you’re going to do it yourself there are a couple of tools available that will help. The ladder will need to be used on the stairway in several positions. A device called a Pivit available at most paint stores ($75) that will help with that. It’s shaped like a pie wedge and has rubber grippers. It’s placed on the stairway and provides a bridge over the lower step to enable one leg of the ladder to rest on the step; the other leg is supported by the Pivit. Alternately there is also a spring loaded extension available which is installed on the bottom of one side of the ladder base to accomplish this task. You’ll also need to have a long extension pole for your roller handle to roll out the high walls.

MARCH 2010 - Ask the Painter

Q.I’ve just finished painting a room with eggshell finish paint. I didn’t prime the room because it was going over a similar color and finish. There are some areas, especially where I patched that have a flatter look than the rest of the wall. What is the reason for this?

A.In the paint business this is commonly called “flashing”. It can be caused by a few things, such as poor rolling technique, and one coat painting but the most of the time it is because the patches were not primed. This step when overlooked can make those patches stand out because of a change in sheen in those areas. You may need to prime them and re-roll the wall to solve your problem.
Before any painting begins be sure to sand patches smooth, especially the edges and apply latex primer to the area of the sanded patches. It helps to apply the primer liberally with a medium or long nap mini-roller. The mini roller will help restore the “stipple” finish to the smooth patch for a better blend with the previously painted walls that surround it. A few minutes before you roll out the wall, pre-rolling over those areas with your wall paint will also help restore the stipple and give you a good blend with the surrounding area.


Our deck need to be re-stained. It's not a job I look forward to, especially working with the oil based stains. The cleanup is difficult and I'm concerned about the toxic fumes. Are there any good eco friendly alternatives out there?

Yes. Until recently the oil based products have been the only real choice. The latex based deck stains on the market have not performed well, and were not therefore recommended by professionals or knowledgeable salespeople. There's been a big focus lately on developing products that are eco and user friendly. Major paint manufacturers have been hard at work on this. Benjamin Moore has a new system which looks very promising called Arborcoat. It's Acrylic and cleans up with water. Toxicity and VOC's are very low. It's a two step system consisting of a base color stain, color of choice and a clear satin UV resistant topcoat. When recoating becomes necessary the deck is cleaned and you only need to re-apply the clear coat. The down side is you'll have to take the time or pay to have two products applied, (Traditional oil based stain is done in one.) and they're priced a bit higher.

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