There are no secrets to getting a good paint finish — just patience, care and attention to detail. Get this right and you’ll be rewarded with paintwork that’s almost as good as a car’s and will give tough protection for years.
It’s an old but nonetheless true saying that successful painting is very little about apply-ing paint, but more about preparation. Filling and rubbing down isn’t very exciting, and so it often gets skimped. Unfortunately. Without it, the finish is likely to be second-rate. After all, the paint only puts a gloss on what is there already — if it looks like the surface of the moon, so will the surface of the paint.
More importantly, the paint will not bond very well to a poorly prepared surface. And that means that in a short time it will start to lift and flake — forcing you to repaint much sooner than you should have to.
For the best results you should also use the best quality materials and tools. None of the things you need is particularly expensive, and if you pay a little extra you should find that the results justify it. The choice of paint colour is a matter of personal taste and will probably be influenced by the furnishings it has to go with. But before you check the paint makers’ shade cards, think a little about what the paint has to do.
The paint system
There is no one paint which will go straight onto a surface, provide tough protection, look good and last for a worthwhile amount of time. Instead paint is built up in a system of layers, each designed to contribute one or more of these properties. You don’t always need to use all the stages of the system; it depends on what you are painting over.
The first stage is the primer. This is formu-
lated to stick to and seal a bare surface — and to provide a key for the next stage to stick to, The second stage is the undercoat, designed to coat thickly and smoothly to cover any under-lying colour and provide a good base for the final stage — the topcoat. Topcoats are formulated to be tough and good-looking. There is often a choice of finish — gloss is the most popular, but there are matt and semi-matt finishes too.
Primer: This is necessary only on bare, exposed wood, metal or plaster. You can get special purpose primers to suit particular materials or general purpose ones for most common uses. Consult your paint dealer about any unusual problems you might have. Things you may need include knotting (not strictly a primer but used to seal the resin in knots), and an aluminium primer. This last can be used on wood that is resinous or has been stripped with a blowlamp.
Undercoat: You buy this in a colour to suit the topcoat you are going to use. It isn’t always necessary to use one, but you should do so over primer on newly painted areas, or on top of existing paint when you want to change the colour radically.
Topcoat: Apart from choosing the colour you want, there is a choice of types. Mainly this is between oil-based or water-based gloss. The advantage of water-based paint is that it is easier to clean the brushes — you can do them under the tap instead of using white spirit. However, water-based paints are not quite so tough and long-lasting.
You may also find a choice of non-drip (thixotropic) and conventional paints. Non-drip paints are in a gel form and cling together to resist splashing. Otherwise, this doesn’t affect their properties noticeably and !lie choice is a matter of personal taste.
Tools and materials
Always make sure that you buy enough paint for the job: it is frustrating to run out and you may not get a perfect match in a second batch. Paint coverage varies with individual technique and the surface, so the maker’s estimated coverage is only a guide. If in doubt buy more than you think you need.
To prepare the surface and rub down the paint you need plenty of abrasive paper —mostly fine grade, though medium may be useful. Wet and dry paper lasts longer and works better than glasspaper. Use it with a sanding block. For washing down you can use household detergent, but sugar soap is better.
If the surface is in poor condition you also need cellulose filler for the cracks and dents, a filling knife to apply it and scrapers or shavehooks for dealing with loose paint. And if the paint needs to be stripped, you may need chemical stripper, a blowlamp or hot air stripper, or an electric sander — depending on which method you use.
To protect the furnishings you need plenty of dustsheets. Cast-off sheets will do or you can buy them specially, but don’t use news-paper or you’ll get in a mess.
If you are going to work at any height, you need a sturdy stepladder or stool. On stairs, you may need to hire a special stairway ladder — obtainable from local hire shops.
To put the paint on, you need paintbrushes — paint pads are an alternative. You need at least two — a small one (12mm to 25mm) for mouldings, thin sections and awkward corners, and a larger one (50mm, say) for large flat areas. You may also find a cutting-in brush useful for edges. And a radiator brush is helpful if you want to paint down behind your radiators. Buy the best quality brushes you can — a small amount of extra expenditure will pay dividends in the quality of the finish. To keep the brushes in good condition buy plenty of white spirit (this isn’t necessary if you are using a water-based paint where brushes can be washed out clean under the tap).
Although you can apply paint straight from the tin it is easier to use a paint kettle, particularly if the brush is wide and the paint tin is narrow. A small basin or pan will do just as well as the shop-bought article.