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Home Improvement : Tips and Tools to Paint Both Faster and Neater

March 05, 1989|A. J. HAND

Remember back when you were just a kid, watching your father paint? It looked so much fun you begged him to let you help.

Chances are he gave you a brush, a bucket of water and instructions to paint he sidewalk or the driveway, just to keep you out of his hair. Then he'd go back to work, a cramp in his hand, paint in his eye, wondering how anyone could possibly want to paint when he didn't have to.

Today, it's a safe bet that you feel the same as your father did. The painting tips that follow aren't about to restore your boyish enthusiasm for painting, and they certainly won't add any excitement to the job. But I can promise that they'll make your painting go faster, easier and neater.

Part of what makes painting such a drag is the tedious need to be neat. It slows you down, makes you tight and nervous. Removing that need gives you more freedom and speeds the work along.

Preparing for Speed

How do you remove the need to be neat?

First of all, move furniture out of the way and put down drop cloths on anything you don't want to splatter. If you have to paint around hardware such as doorknobs, curtain rods, switch and outlet plates and so on, grab a screwdriver and remove them all before you start painting. I've actually run comparison tests with a stopwatch and proved to myself that this is faster than trying to paint carefully around such obstructions. It's also easier and produces a neater job.

Still on the subject of neatness: Do your painting in the proper sequence. If you are painting a room, for example, do the ceiling first. If you drip on the wall, so what? Hit the drip with a rag. Any slight stain will be covered when you paint the wall.

After the ceiling, paint the walls and the door and window trim. If your trim color is the same as the wall color, paint the walls first. While you are at it, paint all the outer edges of the trim. Later, when you paint the trim with semi-gloss enamel, you can skip those outside edges. This will save you the bother of trying to neatly put enamel on the edges while keeping it off the walls.

If your trim color does not match wall color, it's easier to reverse the procedure. Paint the trim, outer edges and all, first. Then paint the walls, cutting in around all trim before doing the main field of the walls. You'll find it much easier to "cut in" a neat, clean line when painting a wall up against trim than you will when painting trim up against a wall.

Using Proper Tools

There are two reasons for this: One, you can steady your brush hand against the wall when you paint up to the trim. Two, if you do slop a little wall paint onto the trim, it will easily wipe off the semi-gloss enamel with a clean rag. But trim paint slopped onto flat wall paint is not nearly so easy to wipe off.

Use the proper tools. You'll work faster and neater if you use high-quality tools of the right type and size. Whenever possible, use a roller. It is much faster than a brush. In many cases, it pays to use a two-man tag team of roller and brush. Say you have a paneled door to paint. Roll all the flat panels and all the stiles and rails, then use the brush to hit any spots the roller won't cover and to remove any objectionable roller marks. To do the trim around a door opening, start with the roller. In three bold strokes you can lay paint on 95 percent of the trim. Then go over the rolled paint with a brush to hit any bare spots and smooth out the roller marks.

To paint baseboards along a carpeted floor, use a paint shield (sold at paint stores) or simply a wide putty knife as shown in the sketch. Hold the shield against the baseboard, press down the carpet pile, and paint the baseboard above the shield as shown. Carefully pull the shield away from the wall, wipe it on a clean rag, move down the wall and repeat.

Use Quality Brushes

Always use quality brushes, looking for bristles with soft, fuzzy-looking tips. To keep things simple, I prefer good synthetic brushes for all paints, but some people like synthetics for latex paints, and natural bristles for oil paints. You can decide for yourself, but whatever you decide, always try to use the right brush, and the largest brush that will comfortably handle the job.

In practice, this may mean two or more brushes at a time. For cutting in, you will probably do best with an angled sash brush about two inches wide. You can use the same tool for trim and windows, but for wider work, such as over-brushing paint you just rolled onto a door, a wider wall brush will save time.

To save time between coats or rooms, never clean a brush or roller until the whole job is finished. Wrap brushes in foil whenever you have to stop for more than a few minutes. Slip your roller--pan and all--into a large plastic trash bag and tie it shut. These tricks will keep your tools in good shape for days between uses.

Finally, if you suffer from kids underfoot, do what your father did. Give them a brush and a bucket of water, and send them outside to paint the driveway.

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