Paint Is One Of The Quickest And Cheapest Fixes. Your house is going to look better instantly, and if you’re selling, you’ll get back more money than you put into the paint. The question is, what paint to use?

Oil Vs. Latex. Latex has swept most of the market. It’s water-based, durable, and easy to clean up. Oil (also called alkyd) is still available in most parts of the country. It’s a little harder to work with and isn’t as easy to clean up or dispose of, but still has its uses.

Sheen (Gloss). The glossier the paint, the easier it is to clean. The more flat (or less glossy), the more it hides mistakes. Use flatter sheens on most walls. Use glossier sheens on trim and in kitchens and baths, all of which get a lot of splatters, fingerprints, and other abuse.

Color. White is not the only color, and white on white is not the only color scheme. It may feel safe, and probably is, but you can do so much more. Check manufacturers’ literature for recommended color schemes. Then choose a color, buy a quart, and put it on a section of wall. Paint the trim too, and then live with it a few days. If it’s a disaster, try again. If it works, do the entire room.

Decorative Paint. Sponging, dragging, stippling, and texturing add a lot to a room and are easy to master. Have some fun before you start: Get a sheet of drywall, prop it up in the garage, and try different techniques and color schemes. The practice will give you the confidence you need.

Painting Right

Paint will not cover a multitude of sins. It will cover the wall, the door, or the trim, but that's about it. It will change the color of the bumps, nicks, dents, and cracks that are part of the wall, door, or trim, but it won’t make the blemishes go away. That's your job. Prep work or, to put it more simply, wall repair is the key to painting success. Plan on spending at least as much time repairing as you do painting.

Start by washing the wall. Wipe it down with trisodium phosphate (TSP) or one of its phosphate-free wall cleaning substitutes. Then rinse the wall with a sponge and clean water until the water runs clear. Once the wall is dry, look for and repair each and every imperfection you find. Get suggestions from the staff in the paint department on the best products to use for your wall's problems, but count on using each of these:

Caulk. Caulk small cracks, caulk transitions from wall to molding, and run caulk down the corner of the room. Smooth it out with a wet finger so you have a nice transition from one surface to the next.

Surfacing compound. This compound is designed for repairing walls. Joint compound isn't (it's designed for drywall construction). Patch with surfacing compound. If you have holes, gouges, or wide cracks, patch with lightweight surfacing paste, which has more body and will fill and stay put easily.

Glazier’s compound. Glazier's compound is the putty that holds windows in place. It’s designed to stick in place and dry quickly so you can paint it, and it’s perfect for filling nail holes.

Buy the best paint you can get, along with the best brushes and rollers. Cheap paint turns powdery after a couple of years. Cheap brushes and rollers leave fuzz and bristles on the wall. Once you're ready to paint, protect any surface in the room you don’t want stray paint on—especially floors, trim, and woodwork.

Prime surfaces before you paint. On the molecular level, at least, primer is really sticky. It sticks to whatever is on the walls, as well as to whatever paint you’re putting up. If the walls are stained, apply a primer sealer to keep the stain from bleeding through. (Water-based sealers may not be adequate—be sure you get the right product.)

Sand between coats. This doesn't take long—just wipe the wait down with a piece of 120-grit paper, and then brush off the dust with your hand or an old paintbrush. If you sand, the finished wall will feel like velvet. Don't sand, and the finished wall will feel like sand.

Test decorative techniques on a sheet of primed and base-coated drywall or poster board and practice until you achieve the look you want. Paint during the day in strong light. Bare patches, drips, spatters, trapped brush fibers, and insects are easy to avoid when you can see what you're doing.

The Homeowner's Field Guide To Paint

The aisles in paint departments offer alkyd, enamel, latex, primer, stain blocker, gloss, semigloss, satin, and flat paint. When all you want is to redo the bathroom, it all seems pretty complicated. But actually, there’s less to it than meets the eye. The world of paint is divided into two camps: latex and alkyd. Everything else is just a variation.

Eighty percent of the paint sold in the United States is latex. In the past, latex paint truly contained a naturally occurring rubber. These days it contains any number of manufactured resins, with acrylic being the best. A good part of latex’s popularity is convenience. It’s a water-based paint, so drips and spills wash up with a wet sponge. Cleaning brushes can be done with soap and water, followed by a thorough rinse.

If you’re applying a coat one day and another the next, however, you don't need to clean the brush in between. Wrap the brush in a plastic bag, leave it overnight, and it will be ready for work the next day. Though it’s not strictly necessary, some people like to stick the wrapped brush in the freezer for good measure.

Few people like the smell of fresh paint. The fumes from latex aren’t, however, nearly as strong as those from alkyd. (Stir in a few drops of vanilla to make the paint smell better.) Once dry, the latex paint is durable, washable, and as good as anything on the market.

Alkyd was once known as oil paint because of its linseed oil base. New formulations have led to its new name, but in simplest terms, alkyd is called oil paint. It isn’t water based, and it isn’t water soluble. If you spill it, you’ll need to clean it up with mineral spirits (paint thinner). You’ll need to clean the brushes with mineral spirits too, and rinse them with soap and water.

Professional painters still love alkyds, especially as a primer. Alkyd is better than latex at sealing in stains, and it provides a better vapor barrier too. Painters also like it because when they sand between coats, it leaves a powdery dust that wipes off with tack cloth or your hand. (Latex, because of its rubbery content, gums up a bit as you sand.) Be sure to sand between coats too: your surface will look better and feel satiny.

As with latex, you don’t need to clean the brush while the paint dries overnight. Simply soak the brush, paint and all, in water. The next day, shake the brush vigorously to get rid of the water. (Do this outdoors, as it makes quite a mess.) Once the water is out, the brush is ready for the day’s work. Whatever else you wonder about— primers, stain blockers, enamels—know this much: Whatever it is, it comes in alkyd or latex.

The Prime Directive. Whether working with alkyd or latex, always use a primer. Primers are specially formulated to stick well to whatever is underneath them, be it bare wall or paint. Likewise, whatever you put on top of a primer will stick well to it. It’s like molecular hook-and-loop fasteners: The hooks in the primer grab the velvety layers of paint and hold them firmly.

Priming usually takes the place of a second top coat, so a coat of primer isn’t really extra work. Just tint the primer with about half as much color as you will use in the top coat (so you don’t fill in all those molecular hooks) and apply the top coat.

Latex primers work well in most situations. Faced with a difficult wall, however, professionals will use alkyd. No matter what you’ve heard, you can apply latex over oil—painters do it all the time. Once they’ve solved the problem on the wall, they’re just like anybody else: They prefer the convenience of latex. You can be pretty sure it sticks too. Having paint fall off a wall pretty much ruins a painter’s reputation.

No matter how good—or expensive—the paint, however, some stains can bleed through a regular primer. Water stains, for example, are almost guaranteed to reappear once the paint has dried. If you’re painting wood, the color of the knots bleeds through sooner or later. Smoke stains, oil stains, and the red chalk used in chalk lines are guaranteed to bleed through too—unless you use a stain-blocking primer.

Stain-blocking primers come in alkyd, latex, aerosol, and liquid. Shellac, which is neither alkyd nor latex, works as a stain blocker all by itself and is the base in some stain blockers. Get a stain blocker that’s alkyd- or shellac-based; it’s about the only stain-blocking primer that will seal in tough stains with a single coat.

Read The Label On The Paint Can

Generally speaking, the quality of paint can be judged simply by the price. It’s one of the few products in the world where you actually get what you pay for. The more expensive the paint, the higher quality it is because more expensive ingredients are used in ratios that produce better color and adhesion.

The Four Basics:

• Liquid (water or mineral spirits) allows the paint to be applied and then evaporates.

• Pigments are finely ground, naturally colored solids that produce color when mixed. The higher the percentage of TiO2 (titanium dioxide), the whiter and brighter the paint will be.

• Additives are chemicals added to the paint to enhance its mildew resistance, ability to stick, and ability to flow.

• Binders are 100 percent acrylic or vinyl acrylic. Generally, the higher the percentage of acrylic resin, the harder and more durable the finish.

The other things you see listed are largely filler. High percentages of filler tend to dull colors. If you are sensitive to chemical vehicles in paint or will have trouble ventilating the room as the paint dries, purchase a brand that is labeled low in volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). The label provides more than instructions for use and drying times. It lists ingredients, general instructions for cleanup and disposal, and a toll-free number for help and advice.

Closer Look - Enamel Paint

Real enamel is a mixture of quartz, silica borax, lead, and feldspar; it is the finish used on things like stoves. Enamel paint just looks like enamel—it forms a hard, shiny, easy-to-clean surface. Like other types of paint, it can be either latex or alkyd based and will have all the advantages and disadvantages of whichever base you choose. Either kind is thoroughly washable, making it a preferred paint for trim and doors. Once only available in a gloss sheen, it is now available as a flat enamel.

Log in to comment