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Painting Your House

Few jobs are as tough, or as satisfying, as painting your house. Professional painters really do earn the high fees they get. The areas are always larger than they seem. The quantity of materials is always greater than the initial estimate.

But few other projects around the home can be carried out by do-it-yourselfers without special expertise or long experience. Some simple guidelines can lead anyone to a very satisfactory painting result.

Paint selection is task #1

Naturally, everyone has difficulty picking out the desired color. It's hard to visualize a whole wall from a single, small square. Paint color changes after application, too. It always dries a slightly different shade than what appears in the can. But with some research and a little experimentation you can pick out just what you want. Today, every shade the eye can perceive can be mixed up.

The type of paint chosen is equally important. Latex has some inherently desirable properties. It cleans up easily, dries quickly and breathes to evaporate any trapped moisture. On the other hand, oil-based or alkyd paints last a very long time, produce very vivid colors and can cover a discolored wall with a single coat. Which is best depends on the intended application and, to a degree, personal taste.

Whether or not to use primer also depends on the specific circumstances. For new surfaces, or those that won't absorb a topcoat well, a coat of primer can save money and grief. It covers discolorations and old colors. It provides a good surface on which to lay the final paint. The alternative would be many more coats of topcoat paint, raising the final costs substantially.

Preparation is equally important for producing a quality final result

In many jobs, preparation is 80% of the work. Scraping off old, peeling paint is a must. Applying new paint over it would cause the effort to be quickly wasted. Patching gouges is important. Sanding edges and rough spots is essential to producing a smooth, professional appearance. Any surface irregularities left are amplified many times by the light reflections from new paint.

Masking and covering, with paper or plastic, using materials designed for painting is key to providing a satisfactory result. Nothing looks shoddier or more unprofessional than globs or streaks of paint where it isn't supposed to be.

Using cheap materials (not just inexpensive, but of poor quality or design) just won't do. A few dollars extra for blue tape and professional paper or plastic covers intended for painting work is a good investment. It's a very small percentage of the total and makes a huge difference to the end look. Using quality brushes and rollers of the right size and material is equally important. They will make the job easier and spread paint more effectively.

Painting technique improves with experience, just as with any task. But a very fine result can be produced even by those undertaking a painting project for the very first time. Careful attention to selecting the proper tools and a willingness to take the time to do the job right is 90% of the total. With a little bit of practice, you'll be painting like an old pro in no time.