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Filling nail holes, caulking around trim, sanding out rough spots, and more make the difference from a decent paint job to a great paint job.  When following another painter’s work you have two choices. You can follow the previous painter’s mistakes and have a finished product that resembles their work, just a different color.  Or you can do a thorough prep job which can include sanding, caulking, spackling, wall repair, and more to have a finished painting project that looks like a professional painting contractor did it.  Repainting the ceilings and trim, in addition to the walls, are sometimes the only way to cover up bad paint jobs.

Some of the suggestions below are from our painting experience; however, they are what works for us.  Other professional painters may do things differently because it works for them.  As a painting contractor in Louisville, KY we are still discovering ways to improve our painting processes either through some else’s experience or especially as new painting products become available.

Patience is most important when preparing for a good paint job.

It takes a little time but is well worth it. Scraping – Usually scraping is for exterior painting work.  How much to scrape depends on the project at hand. A repaint on wood siding or the like, usually calls for scraping off the loose paint and then sanding the rough surfaces, paint peels, and cracks. Some surfaces call for repair work, especially older wood or damaged stucco. Replacing rotten wood and crumbling surfaces is recommended over simply patching the area.  As painters, we will call on a carpenter for any but the simplest wood replacement.

A heavy-duty scraper is a must and the ones with titanium blades seem to perform better.

There are always surfaces to sand when taking on painting projects.  Whether sanding a painted surface to better hold paint or smoothing out a wall in between paint coats.  There are often areas where paint drips have dried, caulk has accumulated and walls were not sanded before being painted.

Many painting contractors use palm sanders for projects as it saves a lot of time.  However, palm sanders do not work well for sanding spackling, or drywall repair.  A pole sander is a must if doing a lot of drywall repair.  A palm sander will leave a finer finish with a heavier grit than hand sanding with heavier grit.  Several different grits (roughness) of the paper should be on hand regardless of the method used.

Caulking – “With enough caulk and paint I can build a house.”  Caulk will fill gaps between trim, keep out weather, and more.  A tube of caulk should be on every paint jobs material list. There are several types of caulk to choose from.  Most professional painters use paintable 45+ year caulk (usually contains some silicone, but make sure it is paintable), the brand you choose is not as critical but 20 or 25-year caulk does not perform like 45+ year caulk.

A bucket of water and a rag is a must when caulking.  Lay bead of caulk in the cracks to be filled and then smooth with your finger (wiping your finger off with the wet rag).  It takes some practice.  Sometimes it helps to wet your finger before smoothing out the caulk.  Sometimes it helps to run a damp rag over the bead of caulk and then smooth with a finger (I do not use this method if the caulk is being used for keeping out weather or water).  It takes a little patience while perfecting your own method.

Spackling – For small nail holes or nicks in the wall a quick-drying lightweight spackle will do the trick.  For larger holes or dents (1/2” or bigger) we prefer a regular spackle or even drywall compound, the finish is better, though it does longer to dry.  It takes a little practice to fill a hole smoothly, it may take a couple of applications and some sanding.  Different products perform differently, so once again some practice and patience are called for.

A lot of Painting Contractors use a glazing compound mixed with whiting for filling nail holes in wood.  There are lots of products out there that will work, but this what we use. Pressure Washing – Paint does not adhere well to dirty surfaces.  Anytime one paints the exterior of a house, we recommend pressure washing to clean the surfaces.  They can be rented from several different sources or purchased at any hardware store or home improvement box retailer.  If you cannot reach all surfaces from the ground, then hiring a professional painting contractor is highly recommended for safety reasons.

Taping – Taping off surfaces can save a lot of headaches and clean up after painting.  Paint Contractors use tape a lot when painting around stained trim.  Drips and specks are often unavoidable when rolling paint on walls.  When the trim is painted, a lot of professional painters find it faster to come back and touch up the trim or paint the trim last to take care of any specks or drips.  This is not a hard-fast rule and different circumstances call for taping.  Some painting contractors use painter’s tape on just about everything.  Taping any adjacent area to the surface being painted will save later headaches or touch up.

Some cheaper painting tapes bleed more than others so buy the good stuff.

Wallpaper Removal  We get many calls from people wanting us to prepare their wallpapered walls so they can paint them.  We obviously prefer to remove the wallpaper and then do the painting as well. Wallpaper removal can be easy or it can be near impossible.  So many variables will affect one room to the next; it can be the paper, the wall underneath the paper environment, and more.  Many professional wallpaper hangers and painting contractors will charge by the hour for wallpaper removal.  There is often no way to judge how long it will take until it is done.  There may be wall repair, it may require sanding and priming to cover the glue, or it could come off easy and take minutes rather than hours.

Hot water will break down the glue.  There are also chemicals that work well, but they have known carcinogens and cost money.  A pump chemical sprayer or hand sprayer is needed for using hot water or the concentrated chemicals mixed with water.  A three to six-inch wall scraper or taping knife is needed to scrape off the paper and glue.

One starts by saturating the paper to break down the glue.  Sometimes the front of the paper will come off easily by hand or by scraping (this is ideal), the backing and glue will then scrape off easily once the glue is broken down. Sometimes the paper can be removed, but the glue won’t come off without ruining the walls.  If this is the case wait for the walls to dry and sand the glue as smooth as possible.  Then an oil or shellac-based primer must be used to cover the glue.  Once primed, water-based paint won’t be affected by the glue.

If the paper proves too difficult to take off we use the following method.  Paint the paper with a shellac-based primer which seals it.  We then use a thin layer of drywall compound (mud) to cover the seams.  A light sanding and the walls are ready for paint.

Hiring a professional painting contractor for wallpaper removal will save a lot of headaches.

Clean All Surfaces  The topic says it all.  As with pressure washing outside, any interior surfaces should be wiped clean before applying paint.

General Painting Tips
A Discussion On Prep Work
Tips When Using A Brush
Selecting A Brush
Holding And Loading A Brush
Painting Trim (Cutting In)
Cleaning Brushes
Tips When Using A Paint Roller
Selecting A Roller
Selecting A Roller Cover
How To Use Extension Poles

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