DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Paint & Decorating FAQ's

How do I pick the right paint brush material?

There are two types: synthetic and natural bristle.
Natural bristle brushes are used with stains and varnishes.
Synthetics are good for any kind of paint.

Can I combine several different faux finish techniques?

Yes. However, be sure to try out the various techniques first on a scrap piece of drywall to make sure they will look good before applying them to the wall.

Is there any way to easily separate a joint where an epoxy has been used?

Although it is not easy, it can be done. Apply an oven cleaner, such as Easy-Off, to the bond and let it sit for 10 to 15 minuets. The epoxy will eventually start to soften and can then be pried apart with a stiff putty knife.

What type of scraper should I use to remove the peeling paint on my exterior wood siding?

If you have a lot of scraping to do, opt for a larger one with a carbide blade. While these cost more, they will last longer and do a better job.

Is there a way I can test my exterior paint to see if it contains lead?

Yes. There are several do-it-yourself test kits that are approved by the EPA. Go to www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/kits.htm for a listing of test kits that have been approved. Approved test kits generally come with verification cards, while many non-approved test kits don’t.

Is there a good time to paint outside?

Always check the paint can for specific recommendations. But for general guidelines, you want the paint to dry evenly, so try to paint in the shade and when the temperature is between 60 degrees and below 90 degrees. Also, avoid windy days because they might make the paint dry too quickly or blow debris onto your wet paint.

Once I mix the epoxy base with the hardener, when can I start painting the floor?

It varies by manufacturer, but some of the more common products require a 30 minute set up time minimum before using. They, you have 2½ hours to use it or the product must be discarded.

Do the paint flakes that you shake on when the garage floor epoxy is still wet help with slip resistance?

A little, but they are mostly designed to hide imperfections and offer a custom look.

I have a painted concrete floor in my garage. Can I still apply an epoxy coating?

It depends on the shape it’s in. If it’s in good shape, you can forego the etching process, give it a good cleaning with an all-purpose cleaner and rough it up with a floor sander before apply the new epoxy finish. If it’ flaking, however, you’ll have to completely remove the old finish before applying a new one.

My garage floor has cracks. Can I still use an epoxy finish, or is it primarily for relatively new floors?

You can use an epoxy floor finish on your garage, but you must first fill all the cracks using cement crack filler or a hydraulic cement patching compound and let it set completely before starting.

The inside of my grill needs painting. What type of paint should I use?

If you need to touch up the paint on the non-porcelain surfaces of your grill, such as the endcaps or the cook box, use a high heat-resistant Barbecue Black or Fireplace Black spray paint that is rated up to 700 degrees F. First wash the surface and use some fine sandpaper to rough up any bare spots. Then be sure to mask off and cover the porcelain hood so you don’t get paint on it. For the cook box, first cover any other parts of the grill with paper or cardboard, then use the spray to touch them up.

Do I need to prime my ceiling before painting it?

While it’s always a good idea to prime before painting, unless you ceiling has stains, you probably don’t need to because it doesn’t take the abuse and get as dirty as walls typically do.

What type of primer should I use on ceilings?

It depends on factors such as whether or not there are stains that need attention and if you are painting the ceiling white or giving it some color. If you don’t have stains and you will be painting the ceiling white, there are specially formulated primers that go on pink or blue and turn white when dry.

How do I caulk baseboard and trim around window and doors before painting?

First, cut a small hole 1/8th of an inch from the tip of the spout at an angle. Don’t cut off too much of the tip. Then, most caulk guns come with a swiveling pin used to puncture the tube. Engage the ratcheting plunger and squeeze the handle. When finished, disengage the ratcheting plunger, and have a rag handy, as caulk will probably continue to ooze out of the tip.

What type of masking tape should I use before painting?

Use tape that is designated as painters tape. This tape is usually blue or green in color. It is designed to provide excellent masking capabilities, yet it won’t mar the surface when peeled off, even after several weeks.

I can still see the seams where I patched a hole in the drywall. How do I get rid of it?

It might take several applications to get it right, sanding smooth between each one. Also be sure you are feathering out the seams well beyond the patch, which will help hide the patch and the seams.

I have stains on my wall that keep bleeding through the paint surface. How do I prevent this?

You need to prime the area first with a shellac-base primer. The resins in shellac –base primers seal out stains so they can’t bleed back through.

What type of caulk should I use on trim before painting?

Use siliconized acrylic latex caulk. It tends to be more flexible and has better adhesion. This will prevent cracks later on.

What are the differences in paint gloss types?

Semi-gloss and higher are more durable and can be lightly scrubbed down if the walls get dirty. For large areas of wall, such as a hallway, flat or satin-based paint will better hide surface problem areas.

What is the difference between two paints?

Different types of paint with have different amounts of solids and resins in it. Some even come with warranties from 15 years to a lifetime.

What type of paint is best for my project?

Price matters. The more expensive it is, the better performance you will get. You want to understand the types of binders and solids in your paint because they affect the coverage.

Less expensive paints may only cover up to 200-feet, but more expensive ones will go further with fewer coats.

Can I paint my aluminum siding

? Yes, it needs to be cleaned and rinsed well. Then, it needs to be scuffed up and primed with a special primer. It can then be painted with a premium acrylic latex house paint.

Can I paint the vinyl siding on my house?

Some experts don’t recommend painting vinyl siding because it expands and contracts. Some siding manufacturers void their warranties if the siding is painted. However, if you decide to paint it, make sure that you clean it well with a strong cleanser such as TSP. Make sure it is also rinsed off. Don’t use a primer and use a premium 100 percent acrylic latex paint that is a light shade to prevent the siding from warping.

What is a tack cloth?

It’s a cloth that picks up and holds dirt, sand and other debris. You should use one on any surface before you apply a coat of paint or any other finish.

I’m going to be painting a table that has a gloss finish. Do I need to prepare the surface?

You should use a liquid deglosser, which works without sanding and also produces a slight tack for better adhesion of the new finish.

How long will I have to wait between coats of paint?

While drying times can vary based on factors such as humidity, plan on waiting about four hours when you are using latex paint. If you are using oil-based paint, you will probably need to wait up to 24 hours.

What tools do I need to remove old wallpaper?

A wallpaper remover, a 3” wallpaper stripping tool, a bucket and a sponge. You can also buy a tool that will score the paper before you apply the remover.

Should I use a primer?

In most cases, you need a primer if the surface has never been painted before. If you are repainting something, you will need a primer if the old paint is worn down and the surface is exposed.

Can I store unused spray paint?  Sometimes I have paint left in an old can of spray paint but the tip is clogged.

Paint dries in the tip if you do not flush it out. When you are finished with your project, you can turn the can upside down for a few seconds and spray. The propellant will blow out the remaining paint that is in the tip.

Do I need to apply anything to the wall before papering?

You should apply wall sizing to all old or new walls. It prepares the surface and acts as a first coat. It makes a smooth surface and prevents paste from soaking into the wall.

How long will I have to wait between coats of paint?

While drying times can vary based on factors such as humidity, plan on waiting about four hours when you are using latex paint. If you are using oil-based paint, you will probably need to wait up to 24 hours.

Is there a good time to paint outside?

Always check the paint can for specific recommendations. But for general guidelines, you want the paint to dry evenly, so try to paint in the shade and when the temperature is between 60 degrees and below 90 degrees. Also, avoid windy days because they might make the paint dry too quickly or blow debris onto your wet paint.

What is an eggshell finish?

It’s a paint that has a little more sheen than a flat paint, which makes it easier to clean and gives it a more lustrous appearance. It can be used in place of semi-gloss to provide a less shiny finish. Some manufacturers market a satin or silk finish, which is usually a little shinier than an eggshell but less shiny than a semi-gloss.

What type of paint should I use in my kitchen?

High-gloss paints are great for high-traffic areas because they provide a tough, washable finish that also resists water and grease. Use them on kitchen and bathroom walls, kitchen cabinets, banisters and railings, trim, furniture, doorjambs and windowsills. However, the gloss will make surface imperfections more noticeable, so you will have to work a little harder to ensure a good finish. A semi-gloss provides a little less durability but is a little easier to work with.

Where should I use a flat paint?

These are also called matte finishes and they are good for walls and ceilings in lower-traffic areas.

What does the term gloss paint mean?

It refers to how shiny the paint is. Manufacturers use terms such as flat, satin, semi-gloss and high-gloss to describe their paint, but there are no specific industry standards.

What is an oil-based paint?

These paints have resins and thinners in them that evaporate when the paint dries. This process forms a hard coating and provides heavier coverage on the first coat, effective penetration and excellent adhesion. They are particularly good for chalky surfaces and those that already have several layers of oil-based paint.

How do I recognize a good paint?

Paint has three components: the binder, the pigment and the liquid. The best paints contain a higher volume of solid materials. Pay close attention to the solid content. For example, a $13 gallon of paint with a solid content of 19 percent might cover about 200 square feet, while a $20 gallon of paint with 41 percent solid content will cover about twice that amount. The binder is the most important factor in the durability. Some paints also have additives to enhance their performance, such as mildewcide.

How much of an area will a gallon of paint cover?

For many paints, a gallon will cover 400 square feet. However, the quality of the paint can affect how much it will cover. The label on the paint can usually provides some guidance.  In addition, there are a number of factors that affect how much paint you will need. These include the type of surface being covered, the color currently on the surface and the color being applied.

What is meant by “open” time when using glazes?

Open time refers to the time it takes for the glaze to begin setting up. This is generally the amount of time you have to reach your desired effect. Most of the time you have up to 15 minutes, depending on the product you’re using. However, be sure to read the directions carefully to make sure. You can also mix Floetrol to the glaze to extend the open time.

Should I apply a protective coating over a faux finish?

While it isn’t mandatory, it will enhance the durability. Just be sure to let the glaze dry for two days before coating.

Other than walls, where are faux finishes generally used?

Faux finishing is quite popular on furniture, lamps, bowls—you name it.

Can I paint over a wall where a faux finish has been applied?

Yes. Several coats of a latex paint should do the trick.

How much glaze will I need for an average room?

It depends, but generally one quart of tinted paint to six quarts of glaze is common. When using acrylic glaze, the ratio increases to one quart of tinted paint to eight quarts of glaze.

What type of precautions should I take when using paint stripper?

When using strippers, be sure to read the safety and usage instructions on the label. Wear chemical-resistant gloves and protective clothing, ventilate the room if using indoors and avoid exposure to the skin and eyes.

What is the difference between a solvent and a thinner?

A thinner is generally used to thin a liquid finish while a solvent is used to dissolve an existing finish that has been cured.

My house has plaster walls. Is there something specifically designed to patch cracks in plaster walls as opposed to drywall?

Yes. Patching plaster is designed specifically for patching plaster walls. Like spackling, it may be sanded and painted and can be textured to match the existing surface.

Can putty knives be used as a scraper for drywall?

While putty knives with stiff blades can be used to scrape loose materials, a paint scraper is a better tool for the job. It has a sharp blade designed specifically for removing old paint and other materials.

What spray tip is best to use with my pressure washer when cleaning exterior siding?

Choose a tip that won’t damage the siding. A 15-degree tip is a good choice.

Can I avoid scraping the peeling paint off the exterior of my home by using a pressure washer before painting?

It is not advisable. Pressure washers should only be used for removing dirt, mildew and algae that can lead to premature paint failure. Flaking paint should only be removed by scraping and sanding.

Do I need to apply a waterproofer on top of the stain?

No, that won’t give the fence extra protection. The waterproofer must penetrate the wood to work and it can’t do that if there is already a coating on the wood.

What is the difference between a square-cut and an angle-cut paint brush?

Straight-cut paint brushes are traditional and have been used for centuries. While both provide good coverage, angled paint brushes cover a bigger surface area in one stroke. They also allow you to cut in on corners to provide a smoother, cleaner edge.

What’s the difference between transparent, semi-transparent and solid stains?

The difference lies in the amount of pigment in each. Transparent stains, although they appear clear, have some pigment in them for UV protection. Semi-transparent stains have more pigment, but still allow some of the wood grain to show through. Solid stains are basically like paint. They hide most of the wood’s character, but they offer the best protection from moisture and UV rays. The general rule is that the more pigment in the stain, the better protection it will provide.

What is the difference between a wood stain and a varnish?

A wood stain is used to change the appearance of the wood, such as to bring out the definition in the wood grain or match the look of another species of wood. Semi-transparent stains provide a color to the wood, but still allow the texture and natural grain to show through. Solid-color stains allow the texture to show, but not the grain. Varnish, which may be water- or oil-based, provides a clear, transparent coating that is durable and hard. Varnishes also come in a variety of shines from flat to high gloss, and they may be water or oil based.

What’s the best way to apply varnish?

The best type of room is one that is not too humid and is about 70 to 75 degrees. To protect against debris from getting onto the finished piece, the room should be free from dust. You might even consider mopping the room or covering the floor with paper. Make sure that the surface to be varnished is clean, dry and free of any finishes.Try to have the piece horizontal. In addition, to mix the varnish, stir it. Don’t shake it, because air bubbles can get into your finished piece.

Should I clean my roller cover or throw it away?

It depends. When used with latex paint, roller covers can be easily cleaned and reused. First, use the curved part of a 5-in-1 tool to scrape out as much paint from the roller as possible. Then, use the same tool to wash out the paint using a sink or bucket until the water runs clean. Put the roller cover back on the roller handle and spin as much moisture out as possible. Then put it back in its plastic sleeve. If used with oil-base paint, go ahead and discard it.

Where do I start when painting an interior wall?

Use an angled brush to trim the perimeter of the room and around door and window frames.

Should I use a brush with synthetic or natural bristles?

As a general rule, you should use a synthetic bristle brush with latex paint and a natural bristle brush with oil-base paints. However, many synthetic bristle brushes can also be used with oil base paints.

I have textured ceilings. What nap of roller cover should I use?

It depends on how textured the ceiling is. If it’s slightly textured, a 3/8-inch or a ½-inch nap roller cover should work well. If it’s heavily textures, you might need a 5/8-inch or a ¾-inch nap.

How often do I need to stain my deck?

It’s a good idea to reapply stain once a year on wooden decks, especially if the deck is located in full sun most of the time. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are one of the most harmful environmental factors for wooden decks. UV rays destroy the lignin in wood that holds cellulose fibers together. This causes the fibers to eventually wear away. Better quality deck stains have UV inhibitors that either reflect or absorb the sun’s damaging rays.

Water is the other environmental factor that destroys wooden decks over time. When not protected properly, wooden deck boards absorb water and expand and shrink across the width of the deck boards, especially at the ends of the boards. Quality deck stains contain penetrating finishes to slow the water absorption process.

What’s the difference between transparent, semi-transparent and solid stains?

The difference lies in the amount of pigment in each. Transparent stains, although they appear clear, have some pigment in them for UV protection. Semi-transparent stains have more pigment, but still allow some of the wood grain to show through. Solid stains are basically like paint. They hide most of the wood’s character, but they offer the best protection from moisture and UV rays.

Should I apply the deck stripper by spraying it on or with a roller?

If It’s a windy day, they you should use a roller to control overspray. However, if it’s a calm day with no wind, they you can probably apply it faster by spraying it on.

I’m going to apply an oil-base stain to my deck. Do I need to strip the existing finish off first before applying the new stain?

If the existing finish was a water- or latex-base stain, then you should remove it before re-staining. If it is an oil-base finish, then you can probably skip the stripping step and just give a thorough washing before re-applying the stain.

What should I look for in a quality paint brush?

Look for the tips of the bristles to be a different color than the rest of the bristles. This shows that the tips have been machined to be flagged, which will apply the paint easier. The ferrule should be copper or stainless steel so it won’t rust. The handles should also be made of hardwood and should be unfinished for a better grip.

Do I need to stain or paint my cedar fence?

Cedar is naturally resistant to decay and when it weathers, it will turn a soft silver gray and even black in some areas. To protect its color and protect from mildew, use a penetrating stain. You can use a transparent stain, a semi-transparent stain or an opaque stain.

What can I use to thin epoxy?

Use acetone, it will soften most paints and plastics so you must exercise caution when you are using it. Acetone is the active ingredient in many paint strippers.

What should I use to thin shellac?

Denatured alcohol, which can also be used in many shellac based products?

What is the difference between solid-color and semi-transparent stains?

Semi-transparent stains provide a color to the wood, but still allow the texture and natural grain to show through. Solid-color stains allow the texture to show, but not the grain.

How many coats of varnish do I need to apply?

Generally, from two to four coats, applied in thin layers.

Should I use a natural bristle brush with a latex paint?

No. Just remember that humid weather can make someone’s hair turn frizzy. Water-based paints do the same thing to natural-bristle brushes, so you will want to use a synthetic brush with latex paint.

What are the quality features in a good roller?

Good roller frames have a compression-type cage, which is also convenient, because their covers can be removed quickly and easily. Also, look for a handle that has a threaded end so you can use an extension pole for painting floors and ceilings.

Should I use a different type of roller cover for oil-based paint and latex paint?

Yes, just as you would with a paint brush. Natural fiber roller covers made with mohair or a blend of polyester and lamb’s wool are usually recommended for oil-based paints, varnish and stains. Synthetic fiber roller covers, on the other hand, are most often recommended for applying latex paints.

How wide of a brush should I use?

The best answer is whatever you feel comfortable with. A bigger brush holds more paint and applies it more quickly, but it is also harder to control.

Should I buy a paint brush with angled bristles or cut square?

An angle-tipped brush allows you to put the tips of the bristles on the work at the natural angle that the brush is held. In addition, an angle-tipped brush puts slightly more bristle area on the work than a square-tipped brush of the same width.

Can I use the same brush for both latex and oil-based paint?

Yes, but you must make sure you clean them extremely well. It’s best if you just buy two sets of brushes. One for latex and one for oil-based paints.

What type of brush is best for rough surfaces?

A synthetic brush is your best choice, because the rough surface can quickly damage the flags on a natural-bristle brush.

What is the advantage of a natural-bristle brush?

Bristle has naturally split ends called flags, which help hold the paint in the brush so that it is released throughout the stroke instead of all at once.

What type of brush works best with oil-based paint?

Natural bristles are best for most oil-based finishes including varnishes and stains. Their soft tips leave fewer brush marks.

What do I use if I want to stain something that has already been stained before?

Because of their excellent adhesion properties, latex stains are often recommended for surfaces that were previously stained or painted with oil-based products.

What’s the best type of stain to use on my wooden deck, an oil or latex base stain?

There are pros and cons to each type. Oil base stains generally offer better penetration into the wood to offer more protection from water absorption. However, they have a higher VOC content and require the use of solvents for clean-up.

Water or latex base stains are better at retaining color longer, but generally sit on top of the wood like paint, and don’t penetrate as deep into the wood. This generally requires stripping the finish off before applying a new stain.

Hybrid oil/latex base stains offer the best of both worlds, including better absorption into the wood, but lower VOC content and easier cleanup with soap and water.