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  • Writer's pictureSusie

7 Tricks I learnt painting my house

Updated: Aug 15, 2020

I think I've painted at least one wall in every room in our house, sometimes twice, occasionally three times. Mostly, it was a reaction to moving into a place with so much wood on show! Batten ceilings, batten walls, wood door frames, wood doors, wood windows, wood trim - you name it, it was wood! So.Much.Wood it hurt your eyes (not to mention made most of the rooms terribly claustrophobic)

And before this house, I've reno'd my way through 8 other houses, mostly with paintbrush in hand. So I've definitely picked up a few tips along the way. But before I offer them up, let me just disclaim, disclaim, disclaim and say I'm only a self-taught-home-painter, and have no pretence of being a professional. I'm just a renovator, standing before another renovator, offering some advice to save you some of the troubles and wasted time I went through!

1) Get an angled cutting-in brush. I swear this can be your best friend; I love these so much, I've probably painted most of my house with this brush alone!

They seem to fit in your hand so ergonomically you don't get as tired, and so help you paint with a steady hand. I prefer the 50mm size. You'll also be faster with one as you'll handle edges and cutting in quickly.

I've used different brands and recommend the PAL range, but really you just want a non-moulting brush (which applies for all your brushes) and you're good to go.

2) Get an angled sanding sponge/block. These are cheap, but they do last, and they are way better than sandpaper for getting right into corners, and into valleys in elaborate-shaped trim. Even once they're sanded off, you can wrap sandpaper around them and keep going.

3) Always have Frogtape/masking tape/painters tape to hand. I never use this for its intended purpose, i.e. to stop you painting what's next to the area you're painting. This is because I'm always painting previously painted or wallpapered walls/ceilings, mostly in old houses, and too many times it pulled off the old paint/wallpaper, creating way more trouble than I started with.

Instead, learn how to paint free-hand into that edge! It's easier than you think after some practice at having a steady hand and using your trusty angled brush. I've painted high and low, light and dark colours, like this and no-one has ever commented that any lines look wavy.

Also, you put frog tape anywhere near plastic floor coverings and before long, the wrong bits will stick to themselves leaving your floor exposed and your shoes and ladder will start collecting balls of plastic and sticky tape. It's not fun.

Where I do use frog tape is everywhere else - I write on it on the paint lids to remind me which rooms the paint goes in, I wrap it around roller arms when I've bought roller heads that are too big for the arm (happens more than you think) which stops them falling off, I use it to space out for picture hanging, I use it to stick plastic onto my paint trays for easy clean up...etc etc. It's very useful.

4) Make your paintbrush last for years, by doing these things:

a) Spend a little more! More expensive brushes will not shed their bristles into the paint, will not go scratchy with time, & will keep their shape so you can get right into those edges. Especially if they are only used for water-based paints.

b) Before first use, wet the bristles with water and wipe mostly dry with a clean rag to remove any dust. There's no issue using the brush slightly damp.

c) When loading with paint, try and keep the top of the bristles (near the handle) free from paint i.e don't overload. This helps the brush maintain its form.

d) Use a light touch and don't press down too hard. This avoids damaging/breaking the bristles, and makes such a difference.

e) If you're stopping painting for a cup of tea or longer, take a few seconds to rinse the paint out using the comb of the multi-tool on the bristles under running water. This again stops the brush getting overloaded which will damage the bristles.

f) Never use soap or other product when rinsing. Water (of any temp) works plenty. Products will make the bristles dry oddly and splay out, rendering it unusable.

g) When rinsed, arrange the bristles into the same position as an unused brush looks, then hang it with the bristles facing down. Note: this is probably the most important tip on this page!

Do not place the brush on its side to dry, or with bristles up. This is why every brush has a hole at the handle's end - for hanging. (Took me years to figure this out...) Have an elastic headband (or any circle of elastic) to hand, thread it through the hole, loop through on itself and hang. Remember it will drip dry, so be sure to be over a sink or in the shower, or have a bowl to catch the drips.

When starting again, remove the elastic so it doesn't get into the paint, wipe until mostly dry on the clean rag and start painting.

h) When you've finally finished the job, really make sure you remove every last trace of paint from the bristles & that the brush has fully dried with bristles down before storing. Some brushes are designed to be stored in the cardboard surround they came in. After this you can store them bristles up.

5) Make your roller & tray last for years, by doing these things:

a) Remove excess paint before running under water. Using the hole part on the multi-tool, which widens to fit all sizes, and slot it over the end of the roller and pull it down - you will see it pushing huge amounts of paint down - collect this in a tub and use it, don't waste it watching it go down the drain.

b) Then start rinsing under the tap, still pushing the hole tool up and down the roller. This will allow you to remove the rest of the paint fast. If you don't get all the paint off, the roller will dry crusty and will drag across the surface when you next paint. Wash until the run-off is mostly clear. Spin the roller on the arm a few times. Also leave hanging if possible. Pat dry before use or storage.

c) Or you can skip the cleaning and simply wrap the roller in alu foil or cling film, or a plastic bag. As long as it's air tight, you can unravel it and go straight back to painting. This will last hours/days/even weeks. (You can do this with brushes but I have found the bristles get squashed or mis-shaped, and washing them out takes only seconds anyway, but it can be done if needed.)

d) Paint left in roller trays can also sit for ages as long as air-tight. You can cover the entire thing in all foil or clingfilm, or you can just rest either directly onto the paint and poke it in enough to get that seal.

e) Tray inserts are available but are a waste of money - cut up a plastic bag, or similar and frog tape it over the well and the scraping end. After use you can throw it away. It's waste sure, but saves water waste from endless washing out the tray.

6) Invest in a top quality primer. It's not going to be on show, but there's only a handful of primers that truly work for scratchability and durability. It doesn't matter how pricey your topcoat is, or how many layers you put on, if the primer isn't up to the job, you'll be spotting scratches within months. And that's really annoying, believe me.

The best for the job is always oil-based primers, despite the lingering, noxious smell & the hard clean up. Every time for me, it's the Dulux Precision High Opacity Stain Blocker, because it's great for nicotine-blocking (often found in old houses) and great for coverage over varnished (but never before painted) wood trim & frames, like our entire house has, because it stops bleed-through from tannins in the wood in their tracks.

NB: You can use water-based topcoats over most oil-based primers (check the label) so at least the smell will only be there once.

But, despite knowing how great that is, I'll usually opt for a water-based primer as the smell is minimal and I do worry about the chemicals around the kids of oil primers. The best ones I've used over and over are the Zinsser Bulls Eye 123 or the Dulux 1step prep.

Know that even the best primers will sometimes need two layers.

7) Make your topcoat do its job properly:

a) Choosing the topcoat & the colour is bamboozling so get to know your local paint store guy & ask a million questions - even take them photos of your room. Let them lead you to the right paint. Choose the right paint. I'm a Dulux fan so use Wash & Wear in kitchens and Aquanamel on trim.

b) Stir that paint thoroughly. Reach the bottom of the can, scrape along it and cycle the paint round until your arm hurts. Especially if the paint has been tinted. This is your only chance to get even coverage. A ruler or wooden spoon work just fine.

b) Always pour paint into something, never dip your brush in and out of the can. Don't put unused paint back into the can, it just clogs it up. Professionals sieve paint as they pour but I never have.

c) Put the lid on as soon as you've poured. Paint does not last as long if the air gets to it. Knock the lid down with a mallet before you store it.

d) Always plan on 2 layers, even if the can says it'll give full coverage on one. It won't.

So that's it! Hope that helps. Happy painting!

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