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Time To Re-Paint: A Fresh Start For The New Year - Part II

Originally Posted: March 14, 2011

Cindy Lee Bergersen

Sourcing the best paint possible is an important step in painting your home. (iStockphoto.com/iofoto)

Southampton - It's just paint, you think. Fancy brands are just more expensive but not better, you surmise. For your benefit, this premise deserves investigation.

Europeans think about house paint in the same way it is said that a chic French woman buys clothes. She will purchase infrequently, but always buy the highest quality and style she can afford. The initial cost is amortized over time because the clothing holds up beautifully for years, and she is always elegantly turned out. The savvy European will purchase premium quality paint despite the higher cost knowing that a great paint job will last many years (with appropriate cleaning and touch-ups) rather than only the three to five year wall life of a lower quality paint, which by then necessitates a non-negotiable re-do. Along with buying time, high quality paint is also easier to apply and adheres better. Fewer coats are required for color depth and uniform appearance. These paints are more resistant to the wear and tear of daily life and hold up to repeated cleanings like the champs that they are.

When choosing between oil and latex, the choice is one of tradeoffs. (iStockphoto.com/Brad Killer)

How many coats does it take to achieve maximum color depth as well as coverage? There is a Cost/Time Equation here. A cheaper paint doesn't cover as well as a better quality, albeit more expensive paint, and could take several coats. A higher quality paint will cover more quickly, more easily and with fewer coats. Better results are a given too. Either way, you will need a minimum of two coats to see the color accurately. A primer is must, especially if you are painting a light color over a darker one. On new surfaces, a good primer will keep your paint from cracking and peeling.

Oil Or Latex?
The choice here is one of trade offs.

Oil Based Paint: It has long been true that oil based primers and finish coats offer the toughest scratch resistant surface and are the most easily cleaned. However from an ecological standpoint, the solvents that are needed to keep the formula liquid are both highly toxic and flammable while the odor is choking while drying. Oil based paint color yellow over time
also, especially in dark areas like closets with no sunlight.

Latex and Acrylic Paint: The finishes, while not as tough as oil based, are still tough enough for high traffic areas. Additionally, it's no longer true that oil based paints have to be used in areas given to high moisture like kitchens and bathrooms. High quality latex paints have evolved to be on par with oil based paints in resisting moisture, dirt and stains and will hold up through repeated cleanings. Water is used as the primary solvent so they don't have the "green issues" of oil based paint. Nearly odor free, the colors stay true over time.

Finishing School
The standard finishes recommended per area have been satin or semi-gloss for doors, molding and trim and flat for walls and ceilings. This short glossary of finishes will better help you make more modern and creative choices over customary.

Think of paint as a film. The shinier the finish, the tougher it is and the easier it is to clean. The shine factor is a determinant of moisture resistance too. On the other hand, the flatter the finish, the less any imperfections in the wall surface will show.

Flat paints - also known as matte - have no sheen. As stated above, a flat finish hides imperfections but mars easily and can't be washed without removing the paint.

The "work around" is to look for the companies that offer a "Washable Matte." It hides imperfections and you can wipe it down as needed.

Eggshell paints have only slightly more sheen than a flat paint, but are still matte enough not to pop out the wall flaws. They are more durable than matte finishes and give the walls a kind of glow that doesn't shout "Shiny"!

Satin, semi-gloss and gloss paints are successively shinier, such that you choose one of these based how much abrasion you expect, wash ability you need and shine preference.

While oil based paint isn't a necessity in high moisture areas such as bathrooms, there are varying opinions on finish ranging from, "no flat finish ever," "flat finish for walls are OK, but no flat finish on the ceiling," "eggshell finish is permissible" to "only satin or semi-gloss finishes will hold up."

To decide where you stand on the matter ask these questions:
 • Will the surface be wiped down as part of regular cleaning? If so, it needs sheen.
 • Are the walls largely tile and the painted surface minimal? Flat is a possibility if good ventilation is available.
 • What's your comfort level with bending the "sheen rules"? When in doubt, shine it up.

Using the right tools when painting is as important as the paint color itself. (iStockphoto.com/Mall Susib)

Tool Time
While you may hire painters to do the deed for you, there may come a time when the "Do-It-Yourself" bug may bite you for a smaller project that you might be able to knock off in a few hours. In any case, your pet projects are best served with the right brushes, just as a pro would use.

For latex paint, an all purpose polyester and nylon blend brush will suffice. Oil based paints are best applied with brushes made of natural hog or ox bristles. For cutting paint lines, use a straight edged three inch wall brush and a two inch straight edged trim brush for woodwork. On the large flat surfaces, a roller will save you a lot of time. You want a roller with a threaded end to screw on an extension for high walls and ceilings. As for the roller cover, a three-eighths inch nap works for most applications. If the surface to be painted is an especially rough surface, a longer nap such as one with a one-inch thickness will help.

This is an area where you get what you pay for. Spring for at least the medium priced brushes and rollers. Go cheaper and you risk leaving loose fibers on your paint surfaces.

Paint Like A Pro
To "get it right" a lot of thought and time goes into selecting just the perfect shades of color for your home, but there is more to the story of a beautifully painted room. All artists know that the right tools are just as important as the right medium to express a moment of inspiration. Here too, the right paint, finishes and brushes are as important as the right paint color. After all, when it comes to painting your home, a job well done is its own best reward.

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