The Loft

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Perfect Your Paint Job

Follow these tips from the professionals about prep, tools and technique …before you lift a brush


We’ve all visited the paint section of the local hardware store and been mesmerised by the seemingly endless kaleidoscope of paint chips.

Maybe you’ve decided to repaint your entire home, since a fresh coat of paint in the season’s fashion-forward palette is one of the cheapest and easiest makeovers imaginable. Or perhaps you have only one room that you want to freshen up.

While it is possible to paint without the help of an expert, no DIY paint project will reach its full potential without proper preparation.

Master Painters and Decorators Australia’s David Anderson says there are lots of prep tasks to be completed before colour can be applied.

“Be aware that while going DIY can save you money, professional painters and decorators undertake significant training and some may specialise in certain application methods and finishes, so sometimes it can pay to spend a bit more and get an expert in,” he says.

But if hiring help is completely out of your budget, then research, thorough assessment of the area to be painted, and plenty of patience can deliver a good end result. David says top of the list of priorities is to establish the condition of the substrate, or surface to be painted. Then it’s time to repair any problems with the surface to make it smooth and take care of any peeling or unstable areas.

“Preparation is the most important part of the process because that forms the foundation for subsequent paint application,” he says.

“It is just like building a house, the foundation supports everything on top of it so you need to get it right.”

Perth painter Mick Houghton from A. Painter, says the next most important thing to consider is protecting all the surrounding areas that won’t be painted.

He says while applying masking tape and drop cloths might seem like an annoying and time-consuming task, doing it properly will save a lot of time in the long run.

“There’s nothing worse than finishing a job and stepping back to admire your handiwork only to realise there are spills and splashes and crooked lines to deal with,” Mick says. “Do the preparation in the first place and you will definitely reap the rewards in the long run.”

Once the area is prepped, marked out and surrounds are covered, it is finally time to start painting. Mick says an undercoat should be applied, with a proper brush or roller, and it should be left to dry for the entire time specified by the manufacturer. “Don’t be tempted to move to the next step too soon,” he says. “Patience is important. Don’t be fooled by an undercoat that feels dry to the touch. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions properly.”

When the undercoat is dry, it is time to apply the colour. Using the correct brush or roller is really important and Mick recommends visiting the hardware store armed with as much information as possible about the surface in order to get the right tools for the job.

“There are different rollers for different surfaces and different brushes for different jobs,” he says. “If you get the right tool, the job will be easier and the result will be better. It’s simple really.”

Armed with the right equipment, the next step is to make sure the paint is stirred properly and there’s a tool for that job too. Mick advises that you stir for as long as you can, preferably a good few minutes, and ensure you mix right at the bottom too.

Decant a portion of the paint into a painting tray or a smaller container if using a brush. Always cover the paint left in the tin. “Pouring into a paint tray is compulsory if you’re using a roller because you need to be able to get the paint on to the roller,” he says. “If you are working with a brush, it’s also a good idea to decant some paint and keep the rest covered because it keeps the rest of the paint from developing a skin and it stops spillages.”

Mick says patience is still a virtue at this stage. “Don’t be tempted to overload the brush or roller just to go faster. Apply even coats, make sure there’s not too much paint or it will run and leave ugly drip marks,” he says. Allow the first coat to dry and apply a second and a third if needed.

“Make sure you leave plenty of drying time in between,” Mick says. He says in between coats, you can usually get away with covering brushes or rollers with cling wrap.

When it is time to do a proper clean-up, ensure you take care of the equipment as it will save money when you start a new project.

“It can be tempting for some people to just throw their rollers away or let their brushes get hard but there’s no need for that if you take a little bit of time to rinse them thoroughly and allow them to dry,” Mick says.

“If you can hang the brushes or the rollers to dry that’s the best option. Otherwise lay them out on an old towel.”

When the paintwork is fully dry, gently remove the masking tape. “Pulling it off too fast can leave chips in your newly painted surfaces,” he says.