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PAINTING IS @#%$#@!!!

There is no way around it, when you’re painting a room in your home, you’re likely to use a lot of four-letter words. But the most important four-letter painting word is P-R-E-P, prep. (Remember this from my last column?) Now, I know it’s really tempting to just dive right in and slap paint on the walls, but it’s also really tempting to drink five or six cosmos. And don’t you always regret it later? So trust me on this, without a lot of prep, your paint job is going to come out like another four-letter word - one that rhymes with “sit.”

So what am I talking about when I say prep? Well, basically, it means everything before the actual application of paint. So here are some steps you should take:

Stick it. If you want the paint to adhere to the wall and not flake or chip off, you need to make the surface you’re painting “inviting.” First, wash off any dirt or dust with a mildly detergent solution. Then rinse off any soap with water and let the surface really dry.

Flush it. Take some spackle and fill any holes or cracks. When the spackle is dry, sand it smooth and flush with the surface. But make sure to wash off any dust. I hope you didn’t forget already!

Tape it. Do yourself a big favor, tape off all the edges. Get the blue painters’ tape which is adhesive enough but not too adhesive. That means, it will stick to what it’s supposed to stick to but it will pull off easily enough to leave you a neat, clean edge. This is the step that everyone tries to skip thinking, “I’ll be really neat.” Well you know what, you’re not that neat. This step is so important that I’m going to repeat it.

Tape it. Did you hear me? Really, I mean it. Tape off anything you don’t want to paint but can’t remove: cabinets, baseboards, trim, windows, etc.

Remove it. This is the other step people usually skip. Take off the switchplates and outlet covers. It’s two screws for goodness sake. Two little screws. This applies to thermostat covers, light fixtures, smoke alarms, anything you can possibly take off. If you don’t do this, you end up with paint on them every time. Every time. Without fail. So just take them off.

Seal it. If there are any water stains, discoloration, or particularly dirty areas, make sure to seal them with a coat of primer so they don’t bleed through the paint. In fact, prime the whole surface. This can save you a lot of time and hassle because you may get away with fewer coats of paint. And, even if you think you’ve covered a stain, over time, it may show up through your paint if you haven’t primed. So prime.

Spend it. Don’t skimp on quality paint or tools. You’re already getting the painter for free, so use decent paint, which will cover better and decent tools, which won’t shed bristles or roller fuzz on your walls.

Cover it. Please be smart and cover your floors with dropcloths. If you have furniture in the room, move it out or at least push it all to the center of the room and cover it. Cover it. I’m serious, here.

Now that you’ve cleaned your surfaces, filled any holes or cracks, taped off the edges, taken off the switchplates and outlet covers, primed, purchased high-quality paints and tools, and covered anything that could get dirty, all you have to do is paint. (See how easy this part becomes once you’ve done all the rest?)

In general, you “cut in” the edges of the surface with a brush and fill in with the roller. This is true for walls and ceilings. “Cutting in” means painting around the edge (which is taped, right?) about two to four inches. Then switch to the roller and make a zig-zag pattern or “W” about three to four feet wide. Fill in this section with the roller until you’ve made a three-to-four-foot-wide square. Then move on to the next section. Don’t stop in the middle of a wall or you’ll be able to see a line. If you have to take a break, take a break between walls – and if you’re doing a ceiling, don’t take a break.

For doors, paint any raised panels first, then paint horizontal sections horizontally and vertical panels vertically. Use a brush, rollers don’t leave a smooth enough finish for a door. And, make sure to paint the top and bottom of the door too. Why? Because if you don’t, over time, the humidity in the air will affect the unpainted edges more and the door will no longer fit right. Ideally, you want to take the whole door off to paint it, but re-hanging a door is a %$#@! So, remove the knobs and other hardware if possible, tape off the hinges, cover the floor and paint.

As with doors, use a brush to paint trim and paint horizontal trim horizontally and vertical trim (like door and window casements) vertically.

But remember, no matter what you’re painting, make sure to prep, prep, prep first. If you don’t prep and you end up with a paint job that looks like %#@$#, don’t come to me. I hate it when people don’t listen to me!

If you have any home repair questions for Sarit, please e-mail them to To find out more about the wonderful Sarit Catz, visit her website at / Issue 115 - September 2645
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