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Good morning and welcome to SMHRB, our home away from, outside of, and within, home. I'm CodeTalker, and I'll be your host today. SMHRB is where all manner of Kossaks drop by for all manner of advice concerning all manner of domiciles and learn about all manner of, well, stuff. Mostly DIY, but then, we never know. Everyone is welcome, and invited to pose any kind of fixit question to our intrepid family of amateurs, DIY'ers, semi-pro and pro folks of every stripe; we promise to offer our best advice - this is our place to give of our collective experience.

Today I'm reminiscing about painting, my first real trade, so grab your cuppa, settle in, and follow us over the KosKurl, into the great indoors/outdoors/behind doors world of howto, and ask away - you may not get the answer you want, but I know you'll get the answer you need.

A long time ago, I was a journeyman painter - a "mechanic" - in IBPAT, the Painter's and Allied Trades Union, and over the course of that career I applied thousands of gallons of all kinds of paint under all kinds of circumstances. The old timers I learned the trade from really did say "the difference between amateurs and pros are - the pros know the shortcuts." I say: anyone can paint, but a pro will do a better job in less time with less effort, and probably use less materials to boot; so here are tips, tools and other things to help you work faster and more "professionally" - starting with choosing and using tools, and I hope you'll chime in with your own tips and tricks. Or questions.

Tip #1: Always buy good quality painting tools - NEVER, EVER, try to use cheap brushes or rollers; the money you might save will never make up for the poorer work, extra effort and time cheap tools will cost you. For example, a 3" to 4" wide flat brush for cutting in walls before rolling, a 2" to 2 1/2" angled "cutting" brush for trim work, maybe a 1 1/2" flat brush for little spots, a heavy-duty roller handle and quality roller skins, plus a few other tools to help with prep and cleanup, should cover 90% of your painting needs. I got brushes for both water and solvent based coatings back then, polyester for "latex" and "china bristle" for solvent-based, but now almost all finishes you'll apply will be water-based, so one set of poly's should do. It helps to figure out what size angled trim brush "fits" you and stick with it; I still prefer a 3" cutter, because I can use a wide brush for trim, but trying to paint anything with a too-narrow brush is a big time waster. Make sure it's the best quality one you can afford: smooth wood or hi-density composite handle, s/s ferrule, tight and sturdy, "tapered" and "flagged" bristles - that's the shaped and shredded ends of the bristles that hold paint well and produce smoother finishes, so it's worth the extra cost. Cheap brushes are often cut off nearly flat, with little flagging, and have loose, plated ferrules, so it's virtually impossible to get a smooth finish with one or keep them clean and rust-free; or the bristles may be flagged but thin - again, you can't carry enough paint, or spread it out well enough for a good finish. Our local auto parts plant had an interesting test for prospective painters - the interviewer would ask applicants to paint a sample board using a can of paint and a really cheap brush. The job always went to someone who simply refused to use the cheap brush and pointed out pros would never use one!

Tip #2: Get a screen and paint out of 5 gallon buckets for big jobs, instead of using roller trays - saves tons of time. I have used trays with throwaway inserts on small jobs, but IMO anything over a couple of gallons goes faster from a bucket. A good roller handle is stiff and sturdy, with stiff splines to hold the skin, and it feels tight and smooth when you spin it - cheap handles let skins walk off, bend, or even split when you screw a pole in and lean on it. Also, you can mix the gallons in the pail for consistent color and save refilling time; they are less likely to spill, and screens let your skin carry more paint when you roll the excess off, plus cleanup is easier. A good painter's scraper has a curiously shaped blade, but the semi-circle cutout side is for scraping paint off a skin before you wash it, a big help. Good wire brushes have wood or compo handles and tight wires, making prep work go faster, and they come in handy when cleaning "goop" out of a brush, plus they don't rust for a longer time - never get a cheap one because the wires will come out, and they rust quickly. Speaking of cleaning tools, I have 2 favorites - a "spinner", which is a device you can slide a skin on or a brush into and push/pull the handle to make it spin at great speed, very helpful for getting paint or cleaning solutions out of your tools. They work great inside a bucket, but if you're working outdoors, you might prefer my other choice - a good spray nozzle on a water hose, which you can use for the same result. Either way, the job isn't done until the tools are properly cleaned, rinsed, dried, and stored; skins in their plastic bags and brushes in their sleeves. Why? Because left out of their packages, brush bristles will spread and rollers will get flat spots; so clean, package and hang brushes or stand skins upright as the case may be, and they'll stay more like new for much longer.

Tip #3: A pole sander is another consideration; with good sanding screens they make preparing walls easier, quicker and less messy than using sandpaper, plus you can reuse the screens forever. Tip: you can actually "wet-smooth" joint compound with large damp sponges, cutting dust to a minimum and getting a great, thin edge; use your sanding pole for the high spots and finish with sponges before priming. I have numerous poles for rollers, from a foot-long shorty for little jobs, to a 12' exterior-wall extension, and I always attach a pole to a roller - it will save your hands and wrists by putting the effort on your arms and shoulders. As far as tape, YMMV, but I think if you can drag a pencil down a sheet of paper and get a reasonably straight line, you can cut with a brush without it. Practice helps a lot here! Good drop cloths are NOT plastic, but heavy canvas in different sizes from runners about a yard wide in various lengths to 12x12 or larger room-sized - the offset for the extra cost is they absorb drips and don't slide when you work on them, plus they work indoors as well as out and last forever. (I still have a runner over 40 years old!) One other class of tools I came to use and appreciate are the pad-painters, flat, angled, siding-style, and the small edgers with little wheels on them - they work great for stripes and other graphics on walls, two-tones, and many other types of edging work; plus they're fast and accurate. Just don't think you'll be able to trim everything with them - I know, I've tried!

Tip #4: Decide on a paint system and stick with it; there are brands, for example, that match primers and topcoats for many situations and they will perform better than a mix n' match approach, so if you have more than a simple wall or trim painting chore, do a bit of research and you'll be better prepared to get a lasting job. Above all, READ THE FREAKIN' LABELS! There is seriously helpful information on them, honest!

OK, I could go on all day about other helpful tools, like ladders and pail hooks and pouring spouts and drip-catchers and trim helpers and all sorts of others, but these are the basics that will get you through many types of painting jobs. If you like this diary I'll do more about painting itself, such as how to prep properly, paint better, choose types of paint, and more, and I hope this little bit on tools helps get you off to a better start on your own project. LMK in your comments if you'd like future installments.

Now, a word - we're nearing our 8TH YEAR of SMHRB, on August 10th. IMHO, that would be a great time to pause, be thankful, and reflect about what a long and rewarding journey it's been - from Claude's humble diary singing the praises of GFCI testing, to his wonderful adobe creations, the valuable diaries you've all posted about so many things, to the generous and experienced group that carries the ball today - you all deserve a hand, a voice, a pat on the back, SOME kind of recognition for all of your hard work, your many contributions, and your selfless devotion to helping others. So what I'd like to suggest is a kind of group diary, where everyone interested can contribute a paragraph or so about what SMHRB has meant to you, someone you want to thank, a favorite tip you'd like to share, perhaps a short story about a project you did, or anything related to our effort here. To make it easier, if we decide to do this you could simply message them to me in KosMail; I'd be happy to collate them into a quasi-comprehensible form and post it then - we have over a month to work on it. I'm open to anyone who has another idea, too.

I just think that each new year deserves a special day for us to recognize one another, and generally celebrate everyone's efforts. LMK what you think in the comments and we can organize it later.

Enough of my rambling - it's your turn. What tips have you come up with (not just about painting!) that make your life easier and your work better? Any questions? Need help with something? Jump in and share - that's what we do here, and every shortcut or trick that we add helps someone, somewhere, do a better job.

Take it away,the floor is open!

Originally posted to CodeTalker on Sat Jun 29, 2013 at 06:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Saturday Morning Home Repair.

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