Friday, 7 January 2011

Confessions of a slovenly householder, no. 1: How To Paint

Everyone has roles in relationships and life. For some, their role is to be the supportive one, the one who deals with social occasions, the one who drives after evenings out, the one who catches spiders, etc. My role is to be the one who always does the decorating. This is not a role I consciously chose; if I were to choose, my role would be to be the one who spends all the household income at ascension online, but, here we are and now I have built up a degree of skill in it and I think I am trapped. As my mind is on this having spent today emulsioning the bathroom, I thought I would do a how-to of the correct way to paint a room. Most of you are probably better at this than me, and if you are, don’t hesitate to tell me where I am going wrong as I have to do the kitchen next and will incorporate your advice gratefully.

1/ Painting is very boring but it is not difficult. If you are up to balancing with one leg on various unsafe structures, then there is absolutely no need to pay someone else to do it although I can absolutely see why you might want to, so don’t feel bad.

2/ Painting is like sewing, it is all in the preparation, which takes oh god yawn forever, and the actual painting is very quick. As a rule of thumb the more time you spend preparing the better your room will look, so although it is counter-intuitive for me to say this, don’t think, oh I can’t be arsed, and dive straight in. No! First range your tools! You will need:
I have run out of masking tape, oh no
3/ Paint: listen carefully. DO NOT BUY CHEAP PAINT. While I am all for saving money, cheap paint is a hideous false economy. Does anyone remember the first Adrian Mole book? Where he tries to paint his bedroom black and it won’t cover his Noddy wallpaper so he has to do coat after coat and then scribble over the bells on Noddy’s hat with a marker? Adrian had clearly not bought Dulux, as this is what you are dooming yourself to if you buy cheap paint. This is the only time you will ever hear me say this, but, buy a named brand, and if it says ‘one coat!’ or something, so much the better. You will still need 2, though.

4/ A small brush for edges – all of them lose bristles, so you can buy a cheap one – and something bigger to cover more space. Do not buy a roller. They spray everywhere, and the hairy cylinder flies off and hits the carpet/ toddler/ afghan hound, it all goes wrong. Buy a Paint Pad with a small handle. If you are painting your hallway you can use the handle to tie it to the (non-hairy) end of a brush for greater length. Also you need a paint tray (these are very cheap).
Paint pad, tray and brush. Keep that mess contained. Lock up the cat
5/ Masking tape and polyfilla. These do not have to be wonderful quality, just buy the cheap ones. Buy polyfilla in a tub rather than a tube as otherwise you are forever squeezing.

6/ Now prepare your room. Have a wipe/ hoover round all the walls (because you would be surprised how cobwebs can accumulate), and clean with a damp cloth the tops of door frames, skirting boards, or anywhere that is liable to be dusty, because if dust gets on your brush, your surface ends up gritty. If you have any cracks/ holes anywhere, stick some polyfilla on (I just use a spoon and then smudge it with kitchen roll). It only takes about an hour to dry, and then you can sand it down.

7/ Now, stick masking tape all around every edge that will come into contact with paint: every single one. Skirting boards, tiles, doors, cupboards, light switches, overhead light fittings, everything. However tidy you are generally, assume you are going to be throwing paint at this room like a drunken monkey. Because you are.
Can you see? Like a drunken monkey. Buy that masking tape and use it!
8/ After hard-won experience I can tell you that: emulsion comes out of most things, and you can get gloss off hard surfaces, but the combination of gloss + carpet is a difficult one. So, if you are painting a carpeted room, put down dust sheets, at least next to the wall you are painting.

9/ This is just a tip which was passed on to me by my mother and which I now pass on to you. If you paint everything in your house white, you can use leftover paint easily and also you never have to be too accurate. My mother hyperventilates however if she is in a room which is painted anything other than white or magnolia so this is a better tip for her than for people who like colour, however everything I have ever painted I have painted white* and I can vouch for it working.

*Because partner only likes white. Yes, we have had the argument, we have had it many times.

10/ Now you are ready to paint, ha! Open your tub, stir it round with a spoon. With your small brush, paint lines along all the masking taped edges for a couple of inches, also in the join between the wall and the ceiling, around every light fixture and all the skirting boards. Also, if there are any angles between walls or on walls, paint there as well. This is because your paint pad will only do flat surfaces and cannot cope with corners or detail, so you do all the edges first and then just fill in the big bits.

11/ Fill in the big bits with your paint pad. Have a damp cloth ready and wipe up any bits of paint that go awol (wipe them up properly otherwise you end up with a smear and that is worse).

12/ Wait about 3 hours and give it all a second coat.

13/ The first time you leave the house either after or during a painting session, look at yourself in the mirror. You will have a large splodge of paint somewhere surprising. It is best that you find this out yourself, rather than have to have the bus driver tell you.

Make sure to have plenty of cups of tea and biscuits, and – and this is important – stop before you are exhausted. Painting is surprisingly tiring and you can’t just lay down your brush and walk away, you have to wash it (emulsion: wash under running tap, brush brush on newspaper to dry, squeeze water out of paint pad then lay on paper. Gloss: fill jar with white spirit, put brush in, later brush newspaper until dry) and sort everything out. Oh God, and I have got to gloss tomorrow! Anyway, the bathroom is looking much better. It’s white, since you were wondering. With white tiles. And a very pale grey floor.

All this does is prove to me that you can never escape your upbringing.


martine said...

Thanks for that, very timely. Do you rub down your glossed surfaces with sandpaper before putting a new coat on? I don't bother with skirting boards but recently repainted a door and in spite of rubbing down the paint started peeling very easily if scratched, any thoughts?

Moomin Mamma said...

Ah hahaha Adrian Mole!

Damn this post makes me think about how I need to redecorate the bathroom and the living room! Maybe this year I'll get around to it!

Susie said...

Hi Martine! Right, I think when gloss flakes, it is because the surface you painted it on wasn't entirely free of grease (I know that sounds awful. I'm sure your doors aren't greasy. You know what I mean). When I have had this problem, it's been on the part of the door that gets touched to open it all the time, or on the stair rail. So, I think, as well as sanding it, which should work but doesn't always, you need to rub it down very, very thoroughly with sugar soap, which is what I will do when I gloss tomorrow, so we will see if it works. (Heat sources also make paint flake).

Moomin Mamma, now that's sounding ambitious! (But I only ever do our house up when something actually falls off or drips on my head, and you can see how well this is working out ;-) ).

Wool Free and Lovin' Knit said...

I guess going all white would make the process much easier. I can't bear white walls myself. We don't have a white wall in the house. But I bet it makes a great neutral backdrop for all your crafting!

West/CJ said...

Your knowledge of painting- considering that it is not your profession- leaves me rather stunned... and grateful that I have a bad shoulder (aka- the built in excuse to hire someone).

Marushka C. said...

Here is what I learned about the masking tape ... Put the tape on press the edge down very thoroughly where it goes next to the paint you're putting on. Some of my bad edges were because the paint ran under the tape. The paint store guy also told me to peel the tape up as soon as the paint goes on rather than waiting for it to dry. It seems risky every time but so far it has always worked!

#13 is too, too true. When I was about 16, my mother and I painted a room in my grandfather's barn. We were covered in white paint at the end, including in our hair, when my grandfather said, "You know that's enamel paint and it won't wash off with soap & water." Um no, but it would have been nice info to have WHEN WE STARTED. It made for an interesting story though when we went to a neighbor's bridal shower that night, still looking like we'd been dusted with powdered sugar.

Old painter's joke for your mum -- What's a house painter's favorite color? (Answer: "Match existing.")

Susie said...

Wool Free, I like colours too, I just seem to always end up living with people who twitch when I produce a pot of Buttermilk ;-). If you do white you have to treat it as a colour and style your room appropriately. That is my other tip.

CJ, I stun myself ;-). Bad shoulder - ok you're excused. Also anyone with mobility or balance issues. Get the decorators in,

Marushka, Ha! at painter joke, and also at the thought of you going to a bridal shower like that ;-), that is exactly what I would do. Also excellent masking tape tip, thank you.

OK, off to do third coat and gloss door, shoot me now.

Mumma Troll said...

I hate painting with a passion, but my dad was a builder so I grew up with it.
The peeling gloss is down to putting on layers which are too thick.It's tedious but several very thin layers, rubbed down in between is the way to get it not to peel. Who has the time for that,lol, shabby chic is a far better way to go.x

martine said...

thanks for the advice Susie

Susie said...

No probs Martine. Also see Mumma Troll's comment though because I suspect this might be the answer too.

*Goes off to weep in a corner at thought of having to gloss again tomorrow* ;-).

Denise said...

I would love to decorate, but partner is a confirmed life long bachelor. Think college frat guy forever. Every time I make something cozy and pretty, he bachelor's it all up. *heavy sigh*

He wants to paint this apartment as he hates white walls. Except he is also the absent-minded, disorganized professor. I'm afraid he'll slop it all up.

Vivianne said...

Susie, you lied: there's nothing slovenly about this at all :-)