Pay attention to detail, buy good quality brushes and don’t be afraid to try something different
The moment you first notice your home is beginning to look a little shabby is when you should start thinking about redecorating.
I’ve put together an alphabetical list of things to consider when you’re about to begin painting. The list doesn’t cover all you need to know, but it does include basic tips and advice. Paint is not cheap so you don’t want to waste money.
I have always worked on the principle that internal painting should be done in winter, and work on the outside in summer.
It’s pointless to paint internally unless you have completely weather-proofed your external surfaces. Ensure you do a thorough internal damp test before applying paint.
Attention to detail Nothing spoils a paint job more than a badly finished product. No one wants to see paint dribbles on window panes, skirtings or light switches, or adjoining surfaces of different colours. It takes years of practice to keep edges straight, so wherever possible tape edges to avoid paint over-runs.
Brushes You will need these most important tools, so spend serious money on them. There is nothing worse than picking loose hairs off the wet paint. Hardware shops are full of gimmicks to help you paint like a pro, but you never see a pro with anything in his hand but a paint brush,
Colour With modern technology you can take a picture of a room and then, by using apps, change the colour of the walls to see what your choice will look like. Colour swatches abound and the walls of paint shops are covered with sample colours. The main problem is to get the same colour on your wall. Small samples are useless – you want to paint a trial area at least 500mm x 500mm, let it dry and then look at it in different lights and at different times of day. Avoid fads that are not going to last – changing colours is not easy.
Decoration This is one of those things that can lead to divorce, or at least a week of monosyllabic conversations. I have learnt over the years that choices are best left to Mrs Mac, and if I don’t like it I will learn to like it. I believe in having our own ideas rather than those of an interior designer who spends your money on their tastes.
Enamel paint This is paint that air dries to a hard and usually glossy finish. It is used for coating surfaces that are outdoors or otherwise subject to hard wear or variations in temperature. It should not be confused with decorated objects in “painted enamel”, where vitreous enamel is applied with brushes and fired in a kiln.
Finish coat The last coat of paint to be applied to whatever surface you are painting. It is important that the preceding coats are dry and clean. Ensure you have enough time to complete the entire area.
Grit This is usually the sand on sandpaper. Sandpaper is classified by numbers, so the lower the number of the grit, the rougher the paper will be. To get a perfect surface, you start with a low number working up to a very fine high-numbered paper for a satin-smooth finish.
Hardware Remove door handles, curtain rails, light switches and plug covers before starting to paint. Keep everything that you remove together in a packet so you don’t end up with missing screws and fittings when the painting is finished.
Innovation Don’t be afraid to try something different. Mrs Mac and I have learnt over the years that if we like something, we don’t really care what other people think. If we want burgundy walls to remind us of our favourite red wine we don’t care what others think, we are happy in our space. Make sure you are happy in yours.
Job jar Don’t over-commit to doing too much at once because you won’t finish as quickly as you expect and this could lead to trouble in the home. Divide the job into manageable chunks, make notes and put them in the job jar.
Kickboards The bottoms of cupboards and pieces of furniture are fitted with recessed boards, and changing their colour can give dramatic effects.
Ladders Professionals can paint from a distance with brushes attached to the end of broomsticks, but we mere mortals need to get closer, so a ladder is essential. Ensure your ladder is always in good condition, well-anchored when in use and light enough to carry around without putting your back out.
Masking Cover areas you don’t want to get paint on. Professionals do this with thin tape, but the average DIY painter will need wider tape. Never put masking tape on a wet surface because when you strip it off the paint will come with it.
Neutral colours In the context of interior design, neutral means without colour. Neutrals such as beige, ivory, taupe, black, grey and shades of white appear to be without colour, but these hues often have undertones. Be aware of these underlying tones when you match colours or choose paint.
Oil-based paint This is more durable, but it takes longer to dry, and cleaning requires turpentine or paint thinner (mineral spirits). Oil-based paints are made with either alkyd (synthetic) or linseed (natural) oils. Alkyd paint is more common because it is cheaper and tougher.
Preparation This is the most important part of the job. If you don’t get the surfaces properly prepared it is a waste of time applying good paint. Check that all surfaces are dry, clean and free of anything that could cause the new paint to peel. Ensure you use the correct base coats.
Question Always question what you are told by so-called experts and buy paint from a proper paint shop. I don’t think it is fair to expect a salesperson to know about every can of paint in a general hardware store, where many different brands are sold.
Rollers As with brushes, there are cheap and expensive rollers, with different types for different paints and applications. Make sure you have the right combination and practise first. Have a well-secured tray that does not hold too much paint, and never overload the roller.
Stripping This not an easy task and one, in my opinion, best left to an expert you are willing to pay. It is labour-intensive and once started you have to finish. Paint strippers, heat guns, steel wool and blowtorches all come into play here, followed by hours of sanding.
Touch-ups This, too, is not an easy task, especially when using paints with a shiny finish – you will always be able to see where you’ve tried to repair a scratch or chip in the paint. It is best to stipple the affected area with a short-haired stiff brush. Never wash walls with creamy household cleaner – a soft cloth and a bar of Sunlight soap works best.
Under-coat The importance of undercoats is second only to preparation. Undercoats act as the go-between, between the underlying surface and the new top finish. Different materials require different primers or undercoats, so ensure you get the correct advice.
Varnish This is a transparent, hard, protective finish or film primarily used in wood finishing but also for other materials. Varnish is traditionally a combination of a drying oil, resin and thinner or solvent. It is mainly used indoors as externally we tend to use wood sealers, which penetrate and protect wood better against the elements.
Whitewash This is a great product to use on old external walls when you want the walls to breathe. It does tend to break down and powder easily but due to its lower cost it is more economical to use than having expensive paint coatings peel off.
Xylography This can be used as a painting technique: either carvings on wood are filled with different colours or the raised surfaces can be painted, and the block used as a stamp.
Yellowing White paint in particular is prone to yellowing, especially gloss and enamel paints. Eventually your walls get that nicotine patina, like walls did back in the day when we all smoked. When paint starts to yellow it is time to start again. Working over gloss paint involves some serious preparation.
Zinc primer Zinc-rich primers are used to protect steel surfaces from corrosion. Unlike regular paints or epoxies which resist corrosion by forming an impermeable barrier between the metal and atmospheric moisture, zinc-rich primers provide corrosion protection by electrical means.