House Painting Tips

The Kelly household has had its share of painting disasters. There was the time we didn't mix all the cans of paint together and, after hours of painting, ended up with a mauve wall next to a lavender wall. Or the time a can of black paint with a loose lid flipped off the kitchen counter, spewing black paint across our new wood flooring. We've also had run-of-the-mill problems, such as paintbrushes that yield streaky work. Despite previous mishaps, we'll be donning our painters' hats soon, so I thought I would gather some advice on brushes.

Professional painter David Sporleder (619-440-2169) has been perfecting his technique for 18 years. "There are about three to four good-quality name-brand brushes out there," he told me. "I use Purdy and Dunn-Edwards, and there are also good brushes made by Wooster and Bestt Liebco. You want to buy a brush that is going to last, clean up well, and do the job. I bought my current brushes about two years ago. With a good-quality brush, you are not going to lose bristles and it is not going to fall apart. For a homeowner, I would suggest buying a couple of good brushes to do the job right."

What kind of brushes should you have on hand for home painting?

"You will need a three-inch straight brush [$19.80 for the Purdy brush at Dunn-Edwards] for cutting-in the walls and the ceiling," said Sporleder. "Anything smaller than that you'll wear yourself out dipping into the paint all the time. For wood windows use an angular brush. I use a three-inch, but for somebody who doesn't paint all the time, I'd recommend a two-inch angular [$10.07 for the Titanium-Pro Angular Dunn-Edwards brush] or two-and-a-half-inch angular brush for wood sashes and for the base molding all around the room."

What about rollers?

"With one good lambs' wool roller cover you can do all your rooms in your house. After a person cuts in then go back over the wall using the nine-inch roller. Lambs' wool is a lot more expensive, but it will not throw paint; it accepts the paint better than a synthetic roller cover. So you don't want to throw away your lambs' wool covers because you are paying $10 to $12 a roller. A homeowner should also have the six-inch-long cigar rollers [$4.62 for FoamPro at Dunn-Edwards]. These are the small ones that you use on doors inside the house. If the plaster on the walls is a heavy plaster, don't use a real thick roller cover; you can be putting a texture on the wall with a heavy roller cover. You just want enough paint on it to cover the surface that you're working with. For bathrooms and kitchens, use a fine, 3/16- or 3/8-inch nap roller cover, because the surfaces are smooth."

At the Kelly household, we are accustomed to wrapping wet brushes that are not being used at the moment with cellophane. Sporleder warned against this practice. "No," he said, "I wouldn't recommend wrapping a brush with cellophane. Leave the brush in an inch of paint in the bucket. Just dip it down and put a rag cover over the top, and that should keep the brush for the half-hour lunch break."

Sporleder also doesn't recommend roller trays. "I stay away from roller pans. A person has to refill them all the time. And if they are coming down off a stepladder with it, many times it falls and then the paint is all over the place. I use a bucket and a grid. I use a two-gallon bucket for doing doors and trim, and a five-gallon bucket when I am doing the walls and ceilings and large areas. Be sure to roll down into the paint when you are refilling your roller cover, don't roll up because the paint will get all over you."

For cleaning brushes, "use warm soapy water for latex brushes and continue washing it until the brush comes clean and the rinse water is clear. I use a little bit of laundry detergent in the water. I wash brushes with the bristles down, in a little bucket. Brushes come out much softer if the water is a soft water, rather than hard water that we normally get in our pipes here. If you have hard water, after cleaning latex brushes, put a little bit of Downy in the finish rinse and the Downy acts as a softener and it'll make your brush nice and soft for the next use. Spin the brush out by hand or use a spinner. You can buy a spinner at the paint store. You slide your brush onto the unit and spin it by hand and it eliminates all the water from the brush. After you've got the water out, put the brush back into the sleeve that it came with and that will preserve the bristles and also keep them with a point that you want to start with the next time you start painting. With oil paints, the first rinse is a lacquer thinner, then a paint thinner. Work with a little bit of paint thinner until it comes out clear. Work the bristles back and forth in your hand as you clean it. The varnish brushes are cleaned with paint thinner."

For rollers, "clean them with soap and water in a five-gallon bucket outside. Fill the bucket about a third full of water and swish the cover around and dump out the water and then put new water in, continuing until the water is clear. Then set the roller cover upright, standing up like a little soldier and let it dry out naturally. Or you can spin a roller out with the spinner in a five-gallon bucket.

"Stay away from using newspaper as drop cloths because it's porous and the paint will go right through it. Lightweight plastic drop cloths will tear and pull away from your walls and floors. Use canvas drop cloths, like a 4-by-15-foot canvas runner [$10.72 for the Dunn-Edwards] for a bedroom painting job, and pull it along ahead of you as you paint."

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