13 Secrets the Pros Won’t Tell You

13 Secrets the Pros Won’t Tell You

Painting isn’t easy—whether you’re changing the color of an entire room, or just updating a piece of furniture—but as long as you follow these trade secrets, you’ll be able to avoid any mistakes.


sand defects

You need to start with a perfectly smooth surface and finish with perfectly painted walls or woodwork. A professional tells Popular Mechanics that a sander would be a more appropriate job title than a painter because he spends a lot of time pushing sandpaper. Sanding levels smooth out common cumulative or compound stains and smooth out edges around nail holes. Sanding also removes burrs and rough spots in your trim.

Sand the walls from baseboard to ceiling with fine sandpaper on a sanding bar. Then sand horizontally along the baseboard and ceiling. Don’t apply too much pressure to the sanding shaft, or the head could tip over and damage the wall. Sand the wood with a sanding sponge to get into the crevices.


Use a colored primer

Before the professionals paint the walls, they fill holes and patch cracks with joint compound. But if you paint directly over it, the compound will absorb moisture from the paint, giving it a dull, flat appearance (a problem called “flicker”). These spots will look noticeably different from the rest of the wall. To avoid this, professionals prepare the walls before painting.

Instead of using a white primer, professionals usually dye it gray or a similar color to the final paint. A tinted primer does a better job of covering the existing paint color than a regular primer, so your final coat will be more vibrant and may require fewer coats. This is especially true with colors like red or orange, which may require three or more coats without a primer.


Press the tape with the putty knife

There’s nothing more discouraging when you’re done painting than peeling the tape off the wood and discovering the paint has gone through. To avoid pain in the neck from scraping paint, do careful work of sticking the duct tape before you begin. “Put masking tape on the wood, then run a putty knife over the top to press the tape down to get a good seal,” says the painter with over 16 years of experience. “This will stop any bleeding paint.”

Use blue painter’s tape instead of masking tape. Masking tape can leave a sticky residue that is difficult to clean. Additionally, the paint can cause the tape to warp or ripple, allowing paint to run underneath. Painter’s tape can be left on for days (some up to two weeks) and still peel cleanly. It also stops paint bleed without warping.


Get rid of brush marks and overlap with the Paint Extender

The secret to a tack-free, brush-free finish is mixing a paint extender (also called paint conditioner), like Floetrol, into the paint. This does two things. First, it slows down the drying time of paint, giving you a longer window to overlap areas just painted without the unsightly lap marks that occur when you paint over dried paint and the color darkens. Second, the paint extender aligns the paint so brush strokes are virtually eliminated (or at least less noticeable). Professionals use expanders when painting drywall, woodwork, cabinets, and doors. The manufacturer’s instructions tell you how much rugged material to add per gallon of paint.


Ridge scraping in textured ceilings

The problem with painting along the edge of decorative ceilings is that it is almost impossible to get a straight line along the top of the wall without getting paint on the ceiling protrusions. The pros have a simple solution. They run a screwdriver along the perimeter of the ceiling to scrape the fabric. “This allows you to cut without applying paint to the ceiling fabric,” says one of our professionals. “The screwdriver creates a small bump in the ceiling, so the tips of the paint bristles naturally get into it. You’ll never notice the missing texture.”


Use a drop cloth

The professionals don’t use bed sheets as a snuggly piece of cloth, and you shouldn’t either. Thin sheets will not prevent splashes from seeping onto floors. And while plastic can have spills, the paint stays wet for a long time. This wet paint can (and usually does) find the bottom of your shoes and trace it around the house.

Use what the professionals use – a cheesecloth. It’s not slippery and absorbs spray (but it can still wipe up big spills or it can bleed through). “Unless you’re painting a ceiling, you don’t need a bulky canvas to fill the entire room,” says a pro. “A piece of cloth that’s only a few feet wide and runs the length of the wall is perfect for floor protection, and it’s easy to move.”


Finish one wall before starting another

It might seem easy to do all the corners and trim the room, and then go back and roll the walls, but don’t do it. Professionals get a seamless look by cutting into one wall, then wrapping it right away before starting on the next. This allows the polished and rolled coatings to blend together better.

Cover your paint bucket, tray, or container with a wet towel when alternating between brush and roll to prevent paint and tools from drying out when not in use.


scrape windows (do not stick)

Don’t bother plastering windows when painting the sash – it takes a long time and the paint usually finishes on the glass anyway. Go ahead and let the paint fall on the glass. Once it dries, scrape it off with a razor blade. Paint peels off in seconds. “Just be careful not to break the paint bond between wood and glass,” warns a professional. “Otherwise, moisture can seep onto the wood and cause mildew.”


Paint box for coordinating color

The “same” paint color can vary between cans. “This difference can be starkly obvious if you open a new gallon halfway through a wall,” a retired painter told the PM. To ensure color consistency from start to finish, professionals mix cans of paint in a 5-gallon bucket (a process called “boxing”).

Some professionals then paint directly from the bucket. This eliminates the need to pour paint into the roller tray, although the heavy bucket can be difficult to move.


Wash the cylinder covers

Whether you buy cheap or expensive roller covers, washing them before you first use them gets rid of the fluff that inevitably fluffs once you start painting. Wash them with water and a bit of liquid soap, and run your hands up and down the covers to pull out any loose fibers (a practice called “pre-conditioning caps”). You can start using the roller covers right away – you don’t need to let them dry.


Clean dirty walls with degreaser

The paint won’t stick to greasy or dirty surfaces, like kitchen walls above the stove, or mud where kids kick their muddy shoes and scratch walls or areas around light switches their dirty hands get into. “I always use a degreaser to clean dirty or greasy surfaces,” a professional told the prime minister. “It cuts just about anything you have on the walls to improve paint adhesion.”

Make sure you read the label and follow the directions – these work. Rubber gloves and eye protection are required.


Start with a loaded brush

Professionals take the “carry-and-go” approach to painting. They load the bottom 1 1/2 inches of their brushes with paint, tap each side on the inside of their container to get rid of heavy drips, and then begin painting. By contrast, homeowners often take the “load and unload” approach of dragging a loaded brush along the sides of their container and wiping off most of the paint. “It doesn’t do you any good to dip your brush in paint, then wipe it all over at once,” says a 16-year-old veteran painter.


Push the paint to avoid running

When the brush is loaded with paint, it’s easy to create runs by applying lots of paint in the corners or along the cuts. To avoid this, start brushing about 1/2 inch from the cut area to apply the paint. While emptying the brush, move and slowly pull the brush along the edge or corner. Let the bristles gently push the paint against the cut area where the walls meet. You may have to do this a few times to get full coverage, but it will avoid excess paint along the woodwork and in the corners.


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