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Painting and Finishing

Nothing improves the looks of an old house like a new coat of paint. But before deciding to repaint, consider washing the surface or spot painting. Excessive paint build-up increases the chance of chipping and peeling from incompatible paint layers. Paint film that’s too thick is likely to crack. The only remedy for cross-grain cracking or intercoat peeling may be to strip the surface down to bare wood. Areas sheltered from the sun, such as eaves and porch ceilings, don’t need to be painted as often as exposed areas. Instead of repainting the entire surface, spot paint only in areas showing the most wear. Matching colors is easy with modern optical paint-matching equipment. Most paint suppliers can match nearly any sample you bring in.


Guidelines for Recoating

Nearly all surfaces in a home can be recoated successfully with the right surface preparation. The challenge is to identify what’s on the surface so you know what treatment to use, and then to select the appropriate coating.

•Kalsomine (also called calcimine) is a whitewash made from zinc oxide and glue. Kalsomine turns to powder as it ages, which makes it an unsuitable surface for any type of coating. Either remove the existing surface by sandblasting or cover the surface, such as with new siding.

•Grease falls in the same category as kalsomine. No paint will adhere to walls or ceilings coated with grease. This is a common problem in kitchens. Remove all grease before recoating. If paint has been applied over grease, remove all coatings down to the bare surface.

•Non-compatible paints can result in intercoat peeling. Adding another coat on top of peeling paint will only compound the problem. You’ll generally need to remove the existing paint. If the surface you’re to paint is incompatible with the paint you’re going to use, apply a coat of primer between the non-compatible paints. That will usually solve the problem.

Guidelines for Re-coatingGuidelines for Re-coating


•Stains caused by water damage, smoke or a foreign substance need special attention. Be sure the surface is dry and clean, then coat with a primer-sealer such as Kilz®.

•Plaster cracks should be repaired with fiberglass tape and joint compound before recoating. Don’t think that paint will fill the cracks for you.

•Varnish should be cleaned with a strong tri-sodium phosphate solution and then painted soon after drying. Heavily-alligatored varnish must be removed before coating.

•Metals should be wire brushed to remove loose material and then coated with a metal primer.

•Hardwood floors of oak, birch, beech, and maple are usually finished by applying two coats of sealer. Sand lightly or buff with steel wool between coats. Then apply a coat of paste wax and buff. Maintain the finish by rewaxing. For a high-gloss finish, instead of applying two coats of sealer, make the second coat varnish.

•Wood trim and paneling are usually finished with a clear wood sealer or a stain-sealer combination and then top-coated with at least one additional coat of sealer or varnish. Sand lightly between sealing and top-coating. For a deeper finish, apply one coat of high-gloss varnish followed by a coat of semi-gloss varnish.

•Painted wood trim requires a primer or undercoat and then a coat of acrylic latex, either flat or semi-gloss. Paint with at least some gloss resists fingerprints better and can be cleaned with soap and water.

Kitchen and bathroom walls need a coat of semi-gloss enamel. This type of finish wears well, is easy to clean, and resists moisture.

•Drywall, in rooms other than the kitchen and bathroom, needs a coat of flat latex. New drywall, since it’s highly porous, should have a coat of primer before the final coat of latex paint.



Paint Color and Gloss

Paint comes in an infinite range of colors. Your paint store probably stocks a few of the basic colors, such as white and black, but can mix any color you want. You buy the tinting base and the paint technician adds just the right amount of pigment to yield the color needed. Any color you select will be the same price. However, you’ll pay more for high-gloss paints and less for low-gloss (flat) paints. High-gloss paint resists fingerprints and holds up better when scrubbed. Use high gloss in kitchens and bathrooms where you need a washable surface. High-gloss paint tends to reveal surface imperfections and any application defects. Flat paints cost a little less than high gloss and hide flaws better, but don’t stand up as well to scrubbing. Use a flat paint in bedrooms, halls and living rooms. Eggshell paint has slightly more gloss than flat paint. Semi-gloss and satin finishes have more gloss than eggshell, but are still not as glossy as high gloss.

Exterior TrimExterior Trim


Paint is also classified by its reflectance value – how much light is reflected off the surface. Light colors have a light reflectance value (LRV) of 50 or more and are a good choice for interiors. Darker colors are better for exteriors.

Paint selection isn’t the place to try and save a few bucks on materials. Top quality paints made by well-known and respected brands will yield better results. Lesser quality paints may require additional coats, which will end up costing more in the end.


Exterior Trim

Expect wood trim on the exterior of an older home to be in poor condition. If the finish is worn but the surface is smooth, another coat of paint should be enough. Trim that’s damaged or badly chipped may need to be replaced. Matching old trim isn’t easy. Patterns popular 50 or 100 years ago may no longer be available at your local lumberyard. You can have trim pieces custom made to order, but the cost may greater than replacing all similar trim.


Wood Preservatives

Remove blotchy discoloration and signs of rain spatter on wood by wire brushing. Brush with the grain. Then treat the surface with a water-repellent preservative. Applying a coat of water-repellent preservative every few years will prevent nearly all decay.

Wood treated with water-soluble preservatives can be painted the same as untreated wood. The coating may not last as long as with untreated wood, but there’s no major difference, especially when the treated wood has weathered for several months.


Penetrating Stains

If the surface hasn’t been coated previously, consider a penetrating stain. These stains make a good finish for most wood surfaces, especially rough-sawn, textured wood and knotty wood that would be difficult to paint. Penetrating stain doesn’t form a film on the surface. Because the surface isn’t sealed, the coating won’t crack, peel or blister. Use pigmented penetrating stains to add shades of brown, green, red, or gray to the wood. To avoid lap marks, coat full lengths of siding or trim without stopping. On smooth surfaces, apply a single coat. Two or three years later, when the surface has weathered, apply another coat of penetrating stain. This time the surface will be rougher and will absorb more stain. That will protect the wood longer – up to eight years.

Paint Application MethodsPaint Application Methods


On rough-sawn or weathered surfaces, apply two coats of penetrating stain. Both coats should be applied within a few hours. Don’t let the first coat dry before applying the second. A dry first coat will keep the second from penetrating into the wood. Rough wood that’s been double-coated with penetrating stain has a finish life of ten years or more.

Refinish a stained wood surface when the color has faded and bare wood is beginning to show through. Prepare the surface by brushing with steel wool. Brush in the direction of the grain. Then hose down with water. When the surface is thoroughly dry, apply another coat of stain.


Paint Application Methods

The three most common paint application techniques are brush, roller and spray. Brushwork takes the most time per square foot coated. Productivity is highest when a spray rig can be put to good use, but not all paints are suitable for spraying. Sprayers generally require the paint to be thinned, and some paints are designated "Do not thin." Applying paint by roller takes less time per square foot than brushing, but more time than spraying. The cost of a painting task will differ depending on the application method used. That’s why labor estimates and material costs are separated in this chapter. Labor estimates come first, followed by material costs. The labor estimates include figures for each of the three application methods.

The best tool for applying paint depends on what’s being coated and what’s not supposed to get coated. Spray painting isn’t as precise as painting with a brush or even a roller. Spray painting requires much more attention to masking and covering adjacent surfaces, such as the floor, doors, windows, hardware and trim. When painting a wall or ceiling with brush or roller, it may be enough to lay down several drop cloths. That takes only a minute or two. Coating the same surface with a spray rig will require masking off everything in the room that’s not supposed to get coated – and then closing off openings to adjacent rooms. When spray painting, as much as 80 percent of the job may be masking and protecting adjacent surfaces. That’s especially true in an occupied building where it’s impractical to remove every ornament and piece of hardware – and where overspray poses a major risk to the dwelling contents. If spray painting a large room can be expected to take an hour, expect painters will spend two to four hours on masking and protection from overspray.


Brush, roller and spray don’t necessarily produce equivalent results. For example, paint brushed on a metal surface makes better contact with the metal than paint sprayed on the same surface. Contact and adhesion affect the life of the coating, especially on metal. So most metal surfaces are coated with brush or roller, at least in home improvement work. Likewise, when applying semi-gloss to doors, most painters prefer to brush coat four sides (front, back, hinge edge and latch edge) while the door is hung in the opening. That results in a much smoother finish. Even when paint is sprayed on, some jobs are back-rolled. The spray coat is smoothed out with a roller immediately after application.

When a spray job is complete, good practice requires that someone inspect the surface carefully, looking for voids, imperfections and painter’s holidays (areas missed). Assume that about 10 percent of the surface will require brush or roller touch-up after a spray application is complete.

When working with a roller, most jobs require hand cut in. Paint is applied by brush at corners, where different materials intersect and around obstructions such as hardware, vents, cases, trim and fixtures. When hand cut-in is complete, the remainder of the surface is rolled.


Brush, Roller or Spray?

•Spray application is usually impractical (takes longer than brushing or rolling) in small rooms with multiple openings and installed hardware or fixtures.

•Bedrooms and bathrooms are seldom candidates for spray painting, especially if the home is occupied.

•Even in larger rooms, such as a kitchen or living room, spray painting isn’t usually practical in an occupied home.

•Building exteriors are good candidates for spray painting, especially stucco, masonry and panel exteriors where less masking is required.

•Interiors of most occupied homes are usually painted with a brush (hand cut in) and roller. 

•It’s safe to assume that recoating railings, trim, doors, windows, metals and cabinets will be done with a brush.


Includes moving furniture, fixtures, wall hangings, objects of art, etc. All assume that loose contents are moved to the center of the room or removed entirely before painting begins. Reduce productivity by 30 to 50 percent if painters will be moving furniture, removing and rehanging pictures, and removing and replacing drapery valances.

Straight, uninterrupted walls with square corners are quick and easy paint jobs. Painting cut-up surfaces with alcoves, soffits, light wells and offsets takes longer


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Phone: (734) 812-3884
43812 Leeann Lane
Canton, Michigan 48187
Written "By Ron Parko"