What You Need to Know Before Your Next Paint Job

When selecting paint, the selection usually begins with a choice between water-based and oil-based paints.

Water-based paints (also called “acrylic paints” or “latex paints”) don’t use solvents and the main pigment carrier is water. These paints have really improved a lot from the times when they were thought of as inferior in comparison to oil-based paints & are now set to start dominating the market as well. There are many benefits of latex paints. Drying time is much shorter as compared to oil-based paints, which may require sometimes require around forty eight hours to dry which means that the room will be unusable for that period of time. Latex paints release far fewer VOC’s while drying and have minimal odour. Since fewer VOC’s are emitted, this paint is far less harmful to occupants. It also requires much less care than when applying oil-based paints and solvents which are flammable. Latex paints can even be thinned using water, instead of the special thinner which is required by oil-based paints.

Oil-based paints have been in use for 100 of years because of their toughness and impermeability. Oil can’t dry through evaporation like water. Oil-based paints dry through oxidation which converts the oil to a polymer chain. This ensures that a resilient & long lasting layer is formed which will withstand any degenerative effects from water & air for a longer period than water-based paints. But oil-based paints have many disadvantages as well. They take a lot longer to dry and leave a strong odour which can linger for a long time even after the paint is applied. It also contains VOC’s (volatile organic compounds). Paint pigments are suspended in this solvent. VOC’s are also found in the solvent & are released while the paint dries. VOC’s are harmful to your health and to the environment as well. Indoor air pollution has also recently been identified as 3 times more harmful than outdoor air pollution. This is largely because of VOC’s that are released while drying from oil-based paints, finishes and furnishings. The Government too is becoming stricter while dealing with VOC’s and this could be considered as the main reason why the popularity of VOC’s is decreasing so fast.

Choosing the Right Finish

Apart from water-based and oil-based categorization, paints are also classified on the basis of their function (like primers, binders, finishing paints, sealers, etc.). Another way of classifying them is by the pigment which is used such as titanium, lead or zinc (each having different properties). But the most important method of classifying paints is by the finish that they provide.

During traditional applications of paint, it is the finish which reveals how the paint is going to reflect after it has dried. Though, there is an exception to this rule when special techniques like faux painting are used which provide a different finish altogether. But generally, in most commercial offices, the finish is based on the paint used.

There are certain finishes which are suited for certain rooms and as each of them have unique properties which set them apart from the others, it is important that you choose the right one for each room. Some finish options include:-

1. Matte – This finish reflects light very poorly. It is quite a rough finish which is considered warm & comfortable. It isn’t slippery and therefore, doesn’t wash well. It is because of this reason that it isn’t recommended for use in rooms which have frequent visitors (like the conference room or reception area). This finish is much better off being used in boardrooms or executive offices which only some people frequent & the chances of the wall getting dirty are minimal. This finish is also great when it comes to hiding imperfections in walls since the highly reflective nature of other paints tends to form cracks in uniform light reflection which is something that matte paints don’t do.

2. Flat enamel – If you want a matte finish in someplace like a cafe or a bathroom, you could consider using a flat-enamel finish instead. This paint has almost identical properties to matte finish apart from the fact that is washable. The only bad thing though is that these paints contain strong chemicals which exude odours for several days after drying.

3. Eggshell – This type of finish has a rather decent sheen to it. Just imagine looking at an eggshell in light and how light would bounce off it. This is exactly how this finish works as well. It is also quite easy to clean because it is slight gloss.

4. Satin – This finish is glossier than the eggshell finish and is even easier to clean. It is because of its ease of cleaning and dirt resistance that this paint is preferred to be used in stairways and halls. It doesn’t hid imperfections but gives a velvety shine to the walls.

5. Semi-gloss – These paints are extremely durable and have a lot of sheen as well. They are ideal for doors or trims. They are also highly water resistance and this makes them easy to clean as well. This is why they are also preferred for walls in bathrooms and kitchens.

6. Gloss – These paints are rarely chosen when it comes to painting interior walls because of the large amount of shine they give out. This shine also ensures that any imperfections will stand out. They are recommended for painting trims and floors instead. The finish is very durable too.

Preparing the Surface

When you are painting a room, there is a lot of preparation that goes in before you can actually take out your brush and start painting. It is well known that 80 % of a good paint job lies in the preparation. This is true irrespective of whether you are just painting office walls or a building. Just try to paint a ceramic tile by simply applying paint on it. You will notice that the paint does not stick because of the smooth and glossy nature of the tiles which don’t allow the paint to grip. The top layer of any paint is to be used primarily for giving colour to the wall. This layer may not have very good protection value or adhesion. If you want paint to stick to difficult surfaces likes tiles, then you have to first use primer. Primer is the layer of paint which is applied prior to the top coat. It is designed in a way that it sticks to most surfaces. Only after applying primer and letting it dry will you be able to apply the top layer of paint on these surfaces.

But, getting yourself good primer is only one aspect of the preparation process. You need to prepare all surfaces for receiving paint. How to prepare the surfaces will depend on what they are made of. Wood has to be sandpapered. Also, based on whether it is softwood or hardwood, you may also have to get rid of any unwanted knots in the wood which will release resin which in turn will ruin the paint job.

If you are going to be painting metal, then the most important thing to remember would be to get rid of any grease from the surface. There are liquid de-glossers available for just this purpose. Any rust deposits too must be removed from the surface. There are rust cleaners with oxalic acid available for this. If you are painting pipes which contain hot water, then you need to use special paint which can withstand heat.

Applying paint

It is more or less compulsory that you apply multiple coats of paint on a surface. The biggest reason for this is because otherwise, you will not get the complete colour that you were looking for. With only one coat of paint, you’ll only get a glimpse of the colour you were looking for underneath. Two coats are much more durable as well. Also, an additional layer of paint gives you an opportunity to cover up areas that might have been missed while painting the first layer. The general observation is that an additional layer of paint can increase the life of a paint job by a factor of 3. The thumb rule is that a couple of layers of paint are acceptable for most surfaces.

As we mentioned above, different paints taking different amounts of time to dry. While using latex paints, it may dry in as little as an hour because it used to evaporation process. Oil-based paints don’t dry this way and hence, take longer. Since you have to wait for the first layer to dry before you can apply the next one, you may either delay or speed up your paint job depending on the type of paint you are using.

Now different surfaces require you to use different painting techniques as well. There are some surfaces which respond well to certain paints too. It is quite simple when painting drywall surfaces. Drywall (also referred to wallboard, plasterboard or gypsum board) is basically a gypsum panel which is lined with or surrounded with paper. These surfaces respond well to latex paints and almost any finish apart from a glossy one will look nice on it.

When it comes to painting block surfaces like stone or masonry, the job is a lot more difficult as the surface is quite uneven. There are even pores and cracks to deal with which make the application of primer a little difficult. In such cases, you need to use something known as a block filler. This is a paint-like substance which can smooth out even porous surfaces. You can also use it for concrete blocks. It might not be that durable and you can even consider using it as a finish although a semi-gloss or an eggshell finish should be preferred.

When it comes to metal surfaces you should use latex paints. These paints have recently become viable as alternatives to oil-based paints & are usually preferred as they do not harm the environment. If you are looking at painting metal which already has a coating of oil-based paint on it, they you must properly de-gloss it and coat it with a latex-bonding primer before moving on. These surfaces are usually painted with glossy finishes such as full-gloss or satin paints. The reason for using these paints is because of their ability to resist against mould and water. You could also consider an epoxy coating for metallic surfaces.

Even with the above education on painting if you are still interested in hiring a contractor here are a few tips that you should always keep in mind while doing so:-

1. Reputation – The best way in which you can check the quality or the production of a contractor is by speaking with some of their former customers. Even if a contractor is offering you an unbelievable price for a job, it is best to stay away from him if his past clients have only bad reviews about his work. Otherwise you too may end up with poor workmanship & countless unanswered calls.

2. Experience – Every painting job isn’t the same. It is important that you check how much experience a certain company has doing the job that you need to be done before hiring them. You need to be confident that they know what they are doing. For example, if you hire a contractor that specializes in exterior remodelling or landscaping for painting your bathroom walls, you may not get the best results.

3. Approachability – At the end of the day, you are the owner of the property and are entitled to have it painted however you want. You need to ensure that the contractor you hire understands this and doesn’t block out your inputs once you hire him. If they don’t follow your instructions, you may end up being frustrated or worse may have to do the whole job again.

4. Scheduling policies – There are quite a few contractors that are willing to do anything before they land the job, but become very different people once the papers are signed. You need to check on the manpower that a contractor has and whether they are skilled craftsman or just helpers and college kids. Also, you need to ensure that you use a licensed, insured and bonded painting contractor.

5. Contracts – Always ensure you know exactly what you are getting yourself into. Read each and every word of each and every paragraph in the contract before you sign it. The last thing you need is to sign a contract without reading it and then get a surprise once the work begins.

At the end of the day, you need to understand that there are 100′s of contractors who are willing to do an honest job at a reasonable price. All you need to do is to have enough patience and put in enough effort in order to locate them.

This post was written by

Khalid – who has written posts on Dust Sheets - Buy online, individual or wholesale quantities!.
Managing Director of Dust-Sheets.co.uk, an online retailer of quality dust sheets for builders and decorators. Dust sheets can be bought in individual quantities or in wholesale amounts for re-sale.

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