Design & DIY

6 mistakes you’re making while painting

painting-boards-at-the-cottage Photo by exopixel/Shutterstock

For the unprepared, painting can feel like a descent into the hub of Hades, with brush-streaked finishes, drips and drools on the window trim, and paint on floors and furniture. Very often there are tears and vile epithets. Here’s how to avoid some devilishly common problems.

Paint job looks like an alligator’s back

You applied the second coat before the primer or first coat was dry. Read the label. The information on a can of paint is like a FAQ list for whoever’s holding the brush. Coverage guidelines, prep requirements, drying and recoat times, and optimum temperatures are all right there. Ignore at your peril.

There’s paint everywhere

You didn’t use a drop cloth. Disposable plastic ones are slippery, rip easily, and let paint pool where your feet will pick it up. Traditional cotton drop cloths lie flat, drape evenly, and absorb small paint spills, so shoes, floors, and furniture stay clean.

A puddle of paint is spreading on the floor

You’re not organized. Cut down a large cardboard box to serve as a tray-like headquarters for all paint cans, brushes, rollers, and mixing sticks that you’re not actively using. The box keeps things together, minimizing your chances of knocking over a can of high-gloss eggplant paint.

Bubbles or tiny craters on finished surface

You’re rolling too quickly, too much, or too hard, or your roller nap is too long for the paint and surface type. Slow down, ease up, and read the can.

Wall paint on ceiling; brush marks on trim; drips on arm

You have been cursed with a cheap brush. Quality brushes have chiselled bristles with split ends that allow them to hold lots of paint and accurately flow (not smear) the paint where you want it. They cut clean lines and don’t let paint drip down the handle onto your hand. A good brush costs $15 to $20 and will actually make you a better painter.

Ghost image of Aleister Crowley appears over fireplace

You didn’t clean the surface properly or use the correct primer, the base coat that sticks to walls so that regular paint can adhere better and last longer. Priming is not a fussy step that you can skip to save time. Some primers are designed for new drywall, while others are designed to cover dirt, stains, and smoke, and prevent those nasties from bleeding through.


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