Every painting project is unique, and we look at each one with a view to customizing the entire project based on our client’s individual needs. In some situations, there might actually be some structural replacement work needed before the painting or cleanup occurs. In other cases, it’s relatively straightforward, where we simply have to clean and dry the surfaces before the first coat goes on. And yet other cases, we might score the surfaces to prepare them for better reception of the paint. In almost all cases, there is some surface cleaning required, especially in places like kitchens and bathrooms where surfaces are constantly under attack by everything from soap splashes to chili sauce. If the paint surface is in good shape, there’s less prep work to do – or it’s at least relatively predictable – and if there is flaking or deterioration of the surface and structure, then there’s more prep work to do. One thing for sure is, the preparation stage is the most important. We know that if that preparation stage is done right, the actual painting stage becomes perfectly predictable and the results excellent. Filling in nail holes might be an easy enough task for us to do during that prep stage, but if the nails inside those holes have any movement at all, the first step would be to secure those so that the paint does not flake out later when the movement occurs after the painting project.
The stages of a successful painting project:
We like to stick to what we do best, and that is the painting itself, as well as the preparation of the site before it, and the cleanup after it. When we discover a structural problem, we will most likely work with a trusted partner to take on that stage for us. For example, years ago we worked with a client who was unable to successfully paint a particular wall in the business. It would look fine right after the painting, but within months the paint would start peeling. For some reason, the paint was not sticking fast to the wall. They had stripped it several times, using different paints and different contractors, but each time, the paint would fail within months. It took us a while to work out what was going wrong, but we discovered that the business shared a common wall with a pizza franchise. On the other side of the wall was a counter where food was prepared. Over a period of years, the wall had absorbed countless gallons of olive oil, sauces and all manner of condiments too many to list here. On that other side of the wall, the surface was not properly prepared to repel foodstuffs, and probably cleaning agents, too. The wall behind a food preparation station should be impervious to pretty much every imaginable liquid you might find in a kitchen. Everything from hot water to ice flakes, olive oil to ice cream should have no effect on the wall’s integrity. What we ended up doing was, outsourcing the replacement of that dry wall, working in tandem with the franchise owners, where the entire was replaced. Once it was completed, it could be prepared and painted on both sides – but especially the ‘food’ side – and the problem was solved.
Sometimes preparation, therefore, involves the replacement of damaged surfaces or structures. Most of the time, however, cleaning thoroughly is all that’s required. And for most paints, you need a completely dry surface. If it’s 100% clean is is bone dry, the paint will last longer and will be more resistant to whatever life throws at it.
The other part of the prep work is every bit as important. Painting is about what you want painted with paint, and not getting any paint on what you don’t want painted. That means covering or removing objects that will not get painted. Some areas a masked with masking tape while the ‘main’ paint is applied. Once that is dry, masking tape is removed and trim is painted. This is planned on a case by case basis, depending on what mix of colors, paint types and drying times we’re working with, but suffice it to say, the more thorough the masking step, the better. When what you need protected is properly protected, the painting is easier to do, takes less time, and produces a better result. Nothing slows a painter down more than the distraction of unprotected areas near his or her area of work.
If you’ve ever done your own home painting project, you might remember the urge to ‘get started’. Everyone naturally feels that the actual painting stage is where progress is made, but this should be done only when you are absolutely satisfied everything is protected, the surfaces are clean and dry, and all tools and equipment are ready for work, including such things as paint brush cleaners. You don’t want to have to rush off to the home supplies store while the paint is hardening on your expensive paint brushes.
Finally, cleaning up means, to me, leaving the home or business without a sign of the actual work process itself. Of course, the paint work itself must look perfect.
The more attention that was paid to the prep stage, the easier the cleanup stage. If the masking was done with care and attention, there are very few paint spots or splashes that need to be now cleaned or removed. Protective drop cloths are gathered up and taken away, all empty cans, masking tape, and everything involved in the project are taken away. There will normally be some lingering paint vapor smell – to some, it’s like a ‘new car’ smell – but I always prefer to leave the windows open, and extractor fans running, for as long as possible. Although paint dries within hours, it doesn’t fully cure for several weeks. This is not a drying process but rather, a chemical process. Although there are strong federal laws protecting consumers, I prefer not to leave anything to chance. If I can smell paint, even a tiny bit, I like to keep the windows open.
A successful painting project is mostly about sticking to the process. It’s not rocket science, but does require patience. But once it’s done, it can transform a grubby room into the favorite one in the house.
More next week!