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Painting Woodwork

Painting woodwork is hard work. Next to prepping, it’s the most time-consuming painting job. If you master the tricks shown here, however, you’ll minimize the tedium and speed your progress. If at all possible, learn to paint freehand. With practice, anyone with a fairly steady hand and good brushes can master freehand techniques and save a tremendous amount of time compared to applying masking tape.

A coat of paint will probably emphasize rather than cover imperfections. Before you begin painting, patch holes with wood filler. Let the material dry overnight, then apply primer. If you’ll be using the same paint on the woodwork as on the walls, paint the woodwork as you come to it. Generally, however, you should use a higher gloss on woodwork. If you do, or if the woodwork will be another color, paint the walls first.

Windows and raised-panel doors are the toughest assignments because of the amount of cutting in and the fact that you can’t use full brush strokes. If you can’t paint freehand, cover the glass with masking tape or use a painter’s shield. Some people find it efficient to paint windows somewhat sloppily and then scrape the excess afterwards. Use a razor blade scraping tool to clean off smeared paint.

Tools: Sash brush, masking tape, painter’s shield, putty knife, and a drop cloth.

Painting a sash window. Paint double-hung windows in the sequence shown, starting with the muntins, then working outward. Move the sashes several times while the paint is drying to make sure the sashes do not dry shut.

Casement window sequence. Use the same sequence shown at left for casement windows. Keep the window slightly open until the paint is dry.

Mask window panes ... Painter’s masking tape protects windowpanes from paint. Peel off the tape immediately after you finish painting; if you wait until the paint is fully dry, you could crack it as you remove the tape.

… or use a shield. A painter’s shield keeps paint off the glass, too. Keep a damp cloth handy to frequently clean the shield’s edge as you work around the muntins.

Panel door sequence. Start painting panel doors at the molding edges. Then fill in the panels, the hinge stile, the rails, and the latch stile. To apply a gloss finish, use a cross-brush method: Apply paint on the door horizontally, then make vertical finishing strokes. Always finish a door once you’ve started it. If you don’t, the lap marks may show.

Roll flush doors. Flush doors are easier and quicker to paint. Either a brush or a roller will give good results. If you use a roller, be sure to roll the entire surface, because any brush marks will look very different.

Painting baseboards. Paint the top edge of a baseboard first. Next cut in along the floor, and then fill in between. Painter’s masking tape helps if you don’t have a steady hand.

Clean as you go. Have on hand a rag dampened with water or mineral spirits, depending on the type of paint. Clean up overlapping paint smudges as soon as they occur. If you don’t, the paint will set up and be much tougher to remove.

Keep the floor clean. A cloth wrapped around a putty knife works well to clean up paint drippings on hardwood and resilient flooring along baseboards.

Seal a stain. If a woodwork stain bleeds through the paint, spray or brush on a stain-killing primer, let dry, then repaint.

Painting Cabinets

This is an inexpensive way to make a dramatic improvement in the appearance of a kitchen. It requires painstaking, methodical work, but it is well worth the effort. Purchase paint made especially for cabinets. Alkyd paint generally outperforms latex, but many types of latex paint are durable and washable. For two weeks after application, handle latex painted cabinets carefully and certainly do not scrub them. While you’re at it, you may choose to install new shelf paper on shelves and drawer bottoms.

Tools: Screwdriver, putty knife, drop cloth, and a trim brush.

Remove doors and drawers. Before painting cabinets, dismantle them as much as possible. Unscrew and remove all hinges and knobs or pulls. Lay a drop cloth or newspapers on the floor; you may need to use an adjacent room as well. Stand the drawers upright, or prop them so no edge touches the drop cloth. Paint the drawer faces and doors with a roller or a brush. Aim to make the roller stipple or brush strokes consistent for all the drawers and doors. Place doors on small scraps of wood. Paint the insides first, wait a day, then flip and paint the outsides. Paint the edges of doors first, then the faces. Check all around each piece to make sure there are no drips or sags.

Work from inside to outside. Begin painting cabinets at their least accessible points and work outward. Do the inside edges first, then move toward outer surfaces. You may be able to use a roller for the faces, as long as you can roll all the surfaces; any brush strokes will be noticeable.

Prop a piece to paint both sides. To paint both sides and the edges of a shelf in one session, drive in four small nails to serve as legs. Paint the underside, then the top.

Strip the hardware. Clean previously painted cabinet, door, or window hardware by soaking it overnight in paint stripper. Rinse with mineral spirits. Buff the surfaces lightly with steel wool. Alternatively, buy and install new hardware.

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