Preparing the surface is the key
Good surface preparation is at least 50 per cent of a quality paint job. It’s also the boring, no-fun part—but really there’s no gain without the pain. So make sure you always:
- Check the condition and bond of old paint by doing a tape test. This is done be making an X-shaped cut through the paint with a sharp utility knife and placing a piece of masking tape over it. Remove the tape straight away and then examine if paint has come away from the edges of your cuts. If it has, some extra surface preparation may be required, such as stripping or sanding.
- Clean the surface to be painted thoroughly; sugar soap is ideal for interior and exterior painted surfaces. Apply sugar soap with a sponge on interior walls; exterior walls may need the extra cleaning power of a scrubbing brush to remove dirt, moss and mildew. You may also consider using a high-pressure water cleaner on exterior walls; this will not only give the surfaces a good clean but will remove loose and flaking material (just beware if you have rendered walls that the pressure is not so high that it removes the render!). Make sure the surface is completely dry before you start painting.
- Remove or mask up any wall or ceiling fittings if possible, e.g. light fittings, light switches, powerpoint covers, and glass if you’re painting windowframes.
Difficult-to-mask fittings can be protected with a coat of petroleum jelly. Simply wipe it away once the painting is over.
- Scrape and remove any remaining loose and flaking old paint from surfaces and sand, particularly if you’re painting over gloss or semigloss paint surfaces, to ensure the new paint adheres to the old.
- Similarly, sand off any lumps or bumps.
- Fill any surface gaps or cracks, and then sand these to ensure a smooth finish. Fill any edge gaps with a flexible caulking compound.
- Remove all dust from the entire area before you start. Use a VERY slightly damp cloth to ensure every speck of dust has been removed and then wait for it to dry. Vacuum and mop the floor as well so no dust flies up and settles on your handiwork!
Pick the right weather!
The weather can make all the difference to the quality of the job:
- Don’t attempt a paint job if it’s very hot (over 35°C) or very cold (under 10°C), or if it’s raining or super-humid.
- If you’re painting outside, don’t attempt it in the evenings (after dew point) as there’ll be too much moisture in the air.
- If you live somewhere where it’s ALWAYS hot, you can buy a hot weather additive to add to your paint which will ensure it has a slower drying time.
- Save your exterior painting for the spring or autumn months.
- Try to follow the shade; painting in the shade will be easier on your paint and easier on your body.
|STOP PAINT BUILD-UP
To stop paint building up around the lip of the tin when you’re painting, punch some small nail holes through the lip so the paint drains back into the tin. Place a layer of plastic wrap over the tin before you close it to improve the seal and make opening it easier next time.
Where to start painting
With walls and ceilings, always start your paint job by ‘cutting in’ around all the corners, edges, details and fittings with a brush, then finish up with a roller to cover the main flat surfaces.
Painting ceilings can be tricky, and if you’re painting a whole room always start with the ceiling:
- Remove furniture from the room or cover it with drop sheets.
- Cover floors—if you have a lot of painting to tackle, purchase a goodquality canvas drop sheet. For one-off jobs inexpensive plastic drop sheet will be fine. You should use drop sheets even if you’re painting walls.
- Painting overhead and on tall walls will be easier if you use a telescopic roller pole.
- Wear safety glasses to prevent paint drops from falling in your eyes; the safety glasses or your prescription specs can be protected from paint by stretching cling wrap over them. VERY attractive.
- To protect your hair from paint, wear an old hat or a disposable shower cap (even MORE attractive), and to keep paint from sticking to your hands and face rub a layer of petroleum jelly over them before you start.
- Make sure you don’t answer the door looking like this.
Ceilings are often painted with white ceiling paint, although when painting new white over old white it can be difficult to see what areas you’ve already covered. Some new ceiling paints are pink in appearance when they’re wet to assist with this, but don’t worry, they dry white. An interior decorator friend of mine gave me a good tip: if you want to have pale walls and ceiling, but not stark white, choose a pale shade for the ceiling and then double strength of the same shade for the walls. Very effective.
‘Horses for courses’ (or understanding the surface you want to paint)
Understanding the type of surface you’re attempting to paint and selecting the right equipment and paints for the job is vital. Here’s the lowdown on how to attack some of the more common surfaces.
|MAKE YOUR OWN PAINT TIN HOLDER
If you’re working high on a ladder painting, it’s always a problem as to what to do with the paint tin. You make a simple holder like this:
- Take a piece of dowel or an old broomstick and put it through the top rung.
- Attach firmly with tape, rope or wire.
- Cut a small V-shaped groove into one end of the dowel.
- Put the handle of the paint tin into the groove.
Plasterboard (often referred to by the brand name Gyprock) or plastered walls are the most likely surface you’ll find yourself painting, whether it’s applying a new colour to an entire room or creating a dramatic feature wall.
Acrylic paint is the best choice for interiors, applied with a brush and roller. In most cases, interior plasterboard walls are painted with a flat or low-sheen finish. A roller cover with a 10–12 mm nap (the length of fibres) is ideal.
If the walls have been painted before, the new colour can go straight over the old (once prepared as detailed above) unless you’re making a radical colour change, in which case you should apply an undercoat. Undercoats can be tinted, which will give you a better chance of getting the topcoat colour looking nice and solid. Your paint supplier can give you advice on tinting your undercoat to a shade that’s right for your topcoat.
If it’s new (i.e. unpainted) plasterboard work, the first coat applied should be a plasterboard sealer. The sealer evens out the porosity of the plasterboard and provides a key for subsequent paint.
Usually you’d apply two coats of paint after you’ve applied the sealer and/or undercoat. For very bright or dark colours you may you need three.
Probably the second most common surface you may find yourself painting is timber—windowframes, doors, architraves, skirtings, floors, furniture and sometimes walls. In most situations there’ll be an acrylic paint suitable for your timber, but on doors, doorframes and windowframes and areas that take a lot of knocks and bumps you still can’t go past hard-wearing enamel paint. I like to apply paint to timber with a brush, as the subtle brush marks fit with the timber’s grain.
If timber is unpainted:
1. Sand it smooth and clean away the dust.
2. Apply a coat of primer, such as PrepCoat. The tannins in timber knots will bleed out through your topcoat if not sealed, so use a knotting solution or coat the knots with shellac to seal them. If you’re painting hardwood (usually used in floors, decking or structural timbers), which tend to be rich in tannins throughout, you’ll need to seal it with an oil-based or shellac-based hardwood primer.
3. After the primer, any holes and blemishes in the timber will become more evident, so you can now fill them.
4. For internal timbers apply an undercoat and at least one topcoat. For external timbers apply at least two coats of modern exterior-grade acrylic paint, which requires no undercoating.
If timber has already been painted:
1. Work out if the original paintwork is acrylic or enamel paint. If you did not do the original paint job then this can be tricky! You need to do a test using a solvent to see what will dissolve the paint. Methylated spirits will dissolve acrylic paint but not enamel, so give the surface a good scrub with metho and see what happens. If the paint is acrylic, the paint will start to soften slightly after about a minute or so of rubbing, a small amount of it may come off on the rag or the surface will start to become slightly tacky. If the paint is enamel, neither of these things will happen.
2. If it’s acrylic paint you can simply sand lightly and do any filling that’s required, then paint the new coats of acrylic or enamel straight over the top. If you’re sure it’s enamel paint you can paint the walls again directly with enamel, but if you wish to change to an acrylic finish some precautions are necessary (see box).
|PAINTING ACRYLIC OVER ENAMEL
Acrylic (water-based) paints are now so good that they can be used for many of the jobs that enamels used to do, like laundry or bathroom walls. They’re also very popular as the clean-up is so much easier. And with the aid of a good undercoat you can put the acrylic over the old enamel without fear of it scratching off:
Before repainting exterior timber work:
1. Remove all loose and flaking old paint.
2. Check and repair any rotten spots and fill any gaps with exteriorgrade acrylic gap fillers.
3. Thoroughly clean the whole area.
PAINTING A TIMBER FENCE
I’d recommend applying a protective coating on your timber fence, either paint or oil. Without protection it will become dry and splintery or start to shrink and split, and protective coatings can also keep excess moisture out, warding off the onset of rot.
Acrylliic on tiimber fences.. Modern exterior acrylic paint formulations are so good now that priming is not necessary in most cases (though new treated pine should still be primed), and most of the best brands claim to last at least ten years. To paint an old, dried timber fence:
- Wet the timber down. This will prevent the moisture being drawn too quickly from the new paint, though you must allow the excess water to dry off the surface before starting.
- Use a bucket and sponge and a stiff scrubbing brush to remove any loose fibres, splinters and moss from the timber surface.
- Dilute the first coat of paint with up to 10 per cent water to help it spread over the rough surface. Use two brushes to paint with; keep one in a bucket of water while you work with the other, and every half an hour or so swap the brushes so that the paint doesn’t start to dry and harden too much in the bristles of the one you are using. Fence painting is one occasion where it’s fine to use inexpensive brushes that can be disposed of when you’ve finished.
- On hot sunny days, add a hot weather additive (available from paint stores) to subsequent coats to slow down the drying time.
|HAVE A GOOD OLD SPRAY
For particularly large areas of fence, use an electric spray gun, which you can hire from equipment rental outlets. It’s a lot easier to spray but you must protect the surrounding areas from overspray. Spread plastic sheeting over the ground and any trees or structures directly behind the fence. Practise your spraying technique on the most obscure part of the fence first. A series of short sharp bursts of the spray gun made with a horizontal sweeping action will give you better results than keeping your finger on the trigger constantly.
Oiill on tiimber fences.. Oils are easy to apply and will maintain the natural timber look. Any of the staining oil formulations that are sold for use on decks and outdoor furniture are also suitable for use on fences. Be aware, though, that the oil will burn off in the sun and will have to be applied fairly regularly to keep it at its best. If you oil an old fence that has already ‘silvered off’ in the sun it will turn the timber an almost black colour. To avoid this you’ll have to prepare the timber with a timber wash product applied with a stiff scrubbing brush, which will help remove the old dried cells from the surface, removing the silvered layer and revealing the natural timber colour below.
PAINTING MDF OR CHIPBOARD
If you’re painting composite boards such as MDF or chipboard, apply a water-based primer for the first coat to even out the porosity of the surface. Finish with two coats of your final finish paint, but sand the surface between each coat. Unframed MDF panels such as cupboard doors will tend to bow if you only paint one side, so be sure to paint both sides with an even coverage of paint.
Floors sustain a lot of wear and tear, so you should choose a tough, gloss enamel paint. You can paint floors with acrylic or traditional substances like milk paint if you like, but they should then be protected with a couple of coats of a water-based urethane (see below).
PAINTING CONCRETE AND BRICKS
There are slightly different approaches required when painting masonry (e.g. concrete and bricks), depending on whether it’s a horizontal surface such as a path or driveway, or a vertical surface such as a rendered wall. Horizontal surfaces (concrete or brick):
- These surfaces will take a lot of wear, so you should use tough pavement paint; this is available in fast-drying enamel versions as well as acrylic.
- Wash the surface first with a stiff scrubbing brush to remove any grime, dirt and mosses; allow this to dry for at least 24 hours.
- Coating concrete or brick with white vinegar is a good trick to help the paint stick and last longer, particularly if it has a smooth surface. The acidic vinegar will slightly etch the surface of the concrete to create a better key for the paint; alternatively a mild hydrochloric acid mix can be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- You don’t need a primer, but the first coat should be diluted by 20 per cent to help with coverage. As concrete usually has a rough surface, you’ll need a roller with a longer nap.
When painting a horizontal area with high traffic or a lot of moisture around, be aware that it’s likely to become a slip zone. You can add a nonslip additive to assist with this problem. Experiment with adding washed sharp sand to the paint; this can be purchased from a hardware store or you can go to a marine supplier or ship chandler to buy commercial nonslip additives, which may be made of crushed walnut shell.
- You can apply ordinary weather-resistant exterior acrylic to bricks and rendered walls.
- Once again, clean the surface thoroughly and allow to dry for 24 hours before applying two coats of paint, with the first one diluted by 10 per cent.
- Use a long nap roller to help cover the texture.
You can coat brick or concrete details such as retaining walls and fences directly with acrylic paint, but a coat or two of a bagged render finish will give you a much smoother, easier-to-paint surface. Better still, painting on thick render-style coatings will colour the surface and achieve the effect of bagging or rendering in one application. Some products give you a roll-on render effect, specifically designed for homeowners to tackle small rendering projects straight from a paint bucket. These products are usually thick enough to cover brick mortar joints.
GETTING PAINT OFF BRICKS
If the acrylic paint on the brickwork is fairly fresh, you’ll probably be able to remove it by soaking it with methylated spirits and scrubbing it with a stiffbristled brush.
If it’s old paint, or oil-based paint, small amounts can be removed from bricks with simple paint stripper. Wash the final application away with some warm water and a stiff scrubbing brush. A little methylated spirits added to the water will help neutralise any remaining stripper in the surface of the porous brick.
If this gives you no joy, try one of the graffiti removal products available at most hardware stores.
For large areas of painted brick, such as entire buildings, you can try a chemical poultice system. This uses an alkaline gel that’s painted on and then covered with a special plastic coating. The chemical is given time to work and then the plastic is peeled away, taking many layers (up to 30 coats!) of old paint with it.
You’ll need to prime raw metals with an appropriate primer—galvanised metal primer for galvanised metal for example, or rust-proofing primer for iron and steel work that’s been affected by corrosion. Brand new steel can be primed with a product called ‘Cold-Gal’ paint, a zinc-rich epoxy coating. Aluminium is prepared with an etch primer.
You’ll need to scrape or wire brush corroding metal surfaces before repainting. Wrought-iron features may have developed rust spots, which should be treated with rust converter before using a rust-resistant paint.
Once primed, paint the metal with a paint of your choice applied with a brush. Small metal items can be sprayed with an aerosol paint can. For an extra hardwearing protective coating, use epoxy paint or hammered metal finish paint.
PAINTING A METAL FENCE
You can use exterior acrylic paint on fences made from fibre cement, galvanised iron or even Colorbond—with the right preparation. Before painting a Colorbond or powder-coated aluminium fence, clean it with liquid sugar soap and scrub it with some large nylon scourers to slightly abrade the surface before applying high-grade exterior acrylic straight on to the surface.
You can achieve great tinted or frosted glass effects with spray-on glass paints. These are easy to use and require no special equipment. Just clean the glass well and let dry before you begin. Mask off the areas you don’t want painted and protect them from overspray with tape and newspaper. To protect the paint from wearing off, paint the interior side of windows (not exterior) or the underside of glass tabletops (not the top). Prepare an entire pane or experiment with stencils and spray the paint on.
PAINTING LAMINATES AND TILES
In recent years, dedicated enamel laminate and tile paints have appeared on the market to allow you to recoat melamine and laminate surfaces (benchtops excluded) as well as tiled walls.
The paints are part of a system that includes a special primer that needs to be applied first. A detail roller or quality brush is good for this job, as you’ll most likely be painting a series of small surfaces. Follow up with two coats of the laminate or tile paint with a light rubdown with 600 grit wet and dry between coats.