Your Paint Questions Answered!

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You asked, and we answered. Last month we asked you to send us your painting questions, and we’ve tried to answer as many as we could. Check out our answers below:

1. Question from Matthew: “I see stripes everywhere…I’ve read the blogs but, when I try, the tape always pulls up the edges of the finished stripe. Also, stenciling, same color, high-gloss over matte finish… how do i keep high-gloss from bleeding beyond stencil? Do i use a stipple, brush, or roller application? Do I clean stencil adhesive between each application? (Note: not my photo, merely my inspiration.)”

Answer: We hate taped stripes and do all of ours free-hand, but you need cold hands, a warm heart and a perfect brush. There are whole websites devoted to stenciling. We leave that to the experts, but we think, yes, it is a stipple brush and a light touch.


2. Question from Kara: “We’ve never painted our interior walls before and are apprehensive about approaching the task. Part of the reason for our reluctance is because of the prep work, which we’ve heard is at least 85% of the painting job. We’ve heard sanding is a significant part of the prep work. If our drywall is in pretty good shape, can we go straight to priming and painting? Or do we need to sand the walls regardless to remove any imperfections, etc.? And if we do need to sand, do we do it with a vacuum sander, or will a regular wall sander suffice using tack cloth afterwards? Specific product recommendations would be appreciated!”

Answer: Depends on the level of perfection in your walls your looking for, you can spend 30,000 to paint one room or have it done for $75 and, yes, the difference is in the amount of prep work, etc. The reason to sand would be to get lint from the previous job’s cheap rollers off, or old little bumps from bad plaster jobs. Assuming everything else is basically ok, no need to go too nuts, just sand around eye and lamp level, like you’re wiping a table. Also, you can patch and repair nail holes and sponge those down to avoid dust. Lastly, prime the walls or use a flat or matte finish paint to hide any flaws.


3. Question from Monica: From Monica: The ceiling of our upstairs hall badly needs painting, but we are flummoxed about how to do it. We can’t reach the part of the ceiling over the stairs. If you stand on the stairs it’s too high and it’s too far to reach across from the landing. We can’t put a ladder on the stairs. We just can’t figure out how to do it. This must be a common problem, but no one I’ve talked to has known how
to deal with it.

Answer: You know, you’d be surprised how close to that edge you can get with a tall ladder and a pair of long arms. Or, make a catwalk with two ladders, one horizontal leaning on the normally placed other ladder and one of the steps. Or get a six foot painter’s pole to reach the ceiling, and one of those square foam pads to do the cutting and attach to same. Or rent a scaffold, or hire someone to deal with the nonsense.


4. Question from Jeanette: “My husband and I just purchased our first home. Until this point we had always rented places that did not allow us to paint. I’m very excited to try some color – but I don’t know where to start. The house is a brand new build and the walls are all white, so would we need to prime? The walls are lightly textured, does that have an impact on re-painting? Thanks!”

Answer: Probably no real need to prime over a new paint job, you should be good to go, and if walls are textured definitely stick to flat finish. Some places to try color: bathrooms that are often plain and ugly, and bedrooms that are contained and you can shut the door on; guest rooms, which may be transformed into something exotic but you don’t have to sleep in yourself; and kitchen back splash areas. It’s helpful to have the whole palette coordinated before you start, as then you’ll know you have an impressive foyer, a charming living room, a dark den, a sexy bathroom, a party kitchen and a cloud or a cave to sleep in, depending on your preference.


5. Question from Leo: “I live in a 1960’s high rise in Chicago, almost 3/4 of the wall are glass windows facing the west side (lots of sun in the afternoon), and the walls are plastered with lots of irregularities.  I don’t want to re-plaster or anything too complicated ($$$$) so can I wall paper the walls to conceal the roughness and them paint over? Also, what are the new trends in color?”

Answer: We’re not sure what you mean by “paper” the walls to paint, though there was a technique in the 50’s where one would cover old bad walls in canvas, then paint, which we see still in old brownstones. Unless walls are just dreadful, you can usually get away with a standard patch and repair, especially around eye level, just to take the curse out of it. Yesterday’s bright oranges and turquoise are now more muted, we’re still in a “gray decade,” look for earthy blues and escapist travelogue colors, no one’s afraid of black, and everyone loves hidden luxury, whatever that means to you.


6. Question from Brendan: “I have this metal pole that runs right across one wall in my loft. The previous owners had painted it the same colour as the wall and I decided that I wasn’t going to do that as it definitely didn’t blend in, even in the same colour. I wanted to try to get it to look a bit more like the metal water pipe that it is but haven’t managed to figure out what to do, what kind of paint, what colour (cast iron black, or closer to that metal colour that connects the beams). Any tips for making this look more like metal?”

Answer: Find an off-black that rinses out bronze and look maybe at outdoor paint colors, though we feel like we’d paint it wall color to make it go away. You can also use a glaze to complete the “metal” look, or maybe go for a “rusted” look. Or you could have the paint removed and leave it bare, but that’s the most tedious work in Christendom.


7. Question from April: “I have painted a desk with interior satin paint, but i find that it’s still sticky one week later, to the point where the paint is peeling up on items that were placed on it. Any thoughts on what product to use to ‘seal’ the paint to the desk, once and for all? Also, I have decided on an avocado green color for my bathroom…and thought it would be brilliant to use exterior paint so i can avoid water damage from steamy showers and the vintage radiator in the winter. Is this my best bet?”

Answer: You might want to use an oil paint on the desk, or seal it w/ an oil polyeurothane. Regarding the bathroom, either try an oil paint there, or try a bath and spa paint specifically for the bathroom, which repels moisture and mildew.


8. Question from Frances:“We have an open space area that covers living, two dining areas and kitchen. One wall extends into wall way with french doors and one large window. Which wall should we paint as the focal point of his large room?”

Answer: Hard to say from your photo. Usually when we do an accent wall it’s the wall that we want to curl up under, or one that leads us into the room, or is the thing we want to stare at. Start there.


9. Question from Brooke: “Is it a good idea to use exterior pant in high moisture places to prevent water damage and mold growth, like the bathroom, garage, etc?

Answer: You’re the second one to ask: how about yes to garage; bathroom—we’re not sure, but you might be better off with an oil paint there, or something in a bath and spa finish.


10. Question from Alexis: “I have recently purchased a Henry Link bamboo dresser and night stand from eBay. I was looking at recent posts for suggestions on how to paint and it seems spray painting is the most effective method to achieve the clean sleek look I desire. (I want to spray it white.) I have a friend who is a professional interior painter coming to paint it. However, I live in a NYC apartment and cannot take the large dresser (69 L x 32 H x 19 W) out on the street to spray paint and my friend advised that it will leave a strong odor if I spray it in or outdoor. We’ve looked into the Krylon low VOC spray paint but the reviews were
pretty bad. I will be out of town for one week while my friend paints the dresser and night stand. Will it be okay if my apartment is properly covered and ventilated, for him to spray paint indoor allowing 5 – 7 days for the odor to clear? I really do not want there to be any heavy brush stroke pattern on the dresser and can’t seem to find a solution. Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: We really don’t think you’re going to notice odor after a week just from spraying two little pieces of furniture after a week. Or you can have it sprayed off-site in a shop somewhere. Or if brushing, use an extender/leveler in your paint.


11. Question from Hope: “Should you use a brush or an edger to paint where your walls meet the ceiling?”

Answer: We swear by an extra firm 3 ½’ sash brush.


12. Question from Erik: “I have started to use foam pads with fine bristle tops. They’re quick streak less and almost drip free. I don’t want to say the name of the brand but it is pretty specific to what they are. The only thing that drives me nuts is that i can still see some of the bristles on the paint once it dries. They are minute but I do see them left over on the wall like a thousand little eyelashes. Anything I can do to prevent this from happening?”

Answer: We’ve never used those before, and we’re not sure by your photo, but if you’re talking about the wood molding we would get the paint on there however you want and then finish by brushing it out. Try removing eyelashes from your pad w/ painters tape before you get going.


13. Question from Jenn: “I love the idea of painting colors all over the house. Unfortunately, we have rounded corners that connect all the rooms in the downstairs area. Basically, we are stumped as to where to end a color from one room to the next. I’m not keen on the idea of painting every room the same color either. We have ‘accent walls’ where we are able (i.e., a definitive end wall with nothing rounded). Any ideas for handling the rounded corners? PS: Our walls are very textured, so it would be difficult to draw a straight line down the corner to start a new color. I hope that makes sense.”

Answer: We’re with you. We tend to follow the architecture. We think in your case we would install quarter rounds or corner moldings to finish off the round corners, and end your colors on or under them.


14. Question from Monica: “I live in a rental, but my landlord will allow us to paint over the apartment. The apartment is a one bedroom with a kitchen/living room area. Its a second floor attic apartment. The apartment is wall to wall dark wood paneling. I wanted to know the best approach to painting over the wood panels. Thanks in advance.”

Answer: Substrates such as pressed wood paneling resist paint, and we can’t quite tell if its top coat is a varnish or a factory finish or something like plastic, though we’ve painted same before. Try either an oil based primer, or something like Bin primer, which is a stain killer and has excellent adhesion. If the woodwork needs repair, you’ll need to prep the surface properly before priming and painting. Once the surface is ready, you’re off to the races.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)