How to Paint and Painting FAQs

Wondering how to get started on your painting ideas? Questions about painting in general? Look here for answers to help make your projects easy!

 

What are the best paints to use in my kitchen, bathroom, and other high-moisture areas?

Due to the high levels of humidity and condensation that both kitchens and bathrooms are subjected to, they become prone to paint cracking, peeling and mildew. In order to avoid these problems, painting with a semi-gloss paint is recommended. A semi-gloss paint has a higher sheen value, meaning it provides a harder finish that proves more moisture resistant. Along with this, a semi-gloss finish is also very washable and scrubbable.

How long does alkyd/oil paint take to dry between coats?

The majority of alkyd/oil paints when applied at room temperature will be dry set-to-touch within six to eight hours and may be recoated within 16 hours. Poor ventilation, low temperatures, thick films and high humidity will increase these times.

How long does latex paint take to dry between coats?

The majority of latex paints when applied at room temperature will be dry set-to-touch within one hour or less and may be recoated within four hours. Poor ventilation, low temperatures, thick films and high humidity will increase these times.

What do I do about mildew on painted walls?

Mildew is an exterior surface problem that takes the form of black, gray or brown spots formed on paint and other surfaces, particularly in damp, shady areas. Mildew is caused by warm, humid conditions, poor air circulation and little direct sunlight, like under eaves or overhangs. Shrubbery planted too close to a building is an ideal place for mildew to grow.

Mildew must be removed before painting or it will come through the new paint. Remove all mildew before painting by scrubbing with a solution of household bleach and water. Mix 1 part bleach to 3 parts water, and remember to rinse the surface thoroughly with a garden hose after washing. (Power washing is recommended for larger areas.) Always wear appropriate safety equipment (rubber gloves and eye protection) when using this solution, and protect your shrubbery and plants with plastic sheeting.

After getting rid of all mildew, priming before painting is essential for better adhesion, sheen uniformity, mildew control and durability. Select a top quality exterior paint in the color and sheen of your choice.

Can paint that has been frozen be used after it thaws?

As long as the paint is not clumpy or doesn't have a foul odor, it is usable.

What can I do to minimize paint odor?

Ventilation! Ventilate well any rooms being painted. Warm air movement is the most effective paint-curing mechanism. Remove any drapes and furniture, if possible, before painting. Paint fumes, even from latex paints, can permeate drapes, carpet and furniture. Cover furniture if it can't be removed.

Can plastic shutters be painted?

Before painting, make sure that the shutters are dirt free. Apply a single coat of "Gripper." Follow with a 100% acrylic latex, satin or semi-gloss paint, in your choice of color. One to two coats will be required. Base that decision on how well a single coat covers the primer.

What is sheen?

When beginning your painting project, you'll want to consider the sheen of the paint — or the gloss level. The higher the gloss level, the shinier the appearance and the more scrubbable the finish.

There are different types of sheens for different areas of your home.

  • Flat sheens are ideal for low-traffic areas such as formal dining rooms and master bedrooms. They provide a beautiful matte coating that hides minor surface imperfections. Ideal for living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms.
  • Eggshell paints provide excellent coverage that is washable and scrubbable. They have a slightly lower sheen than satin but offer the same type of durability. Eggshell paints are ideal for living rooms, bedrooms and family rooms.
  • Satin paints go a step above flats in scrubbability, providing a nice balance between washability and subtle gloss. They perform and look great in just about any room.
  • Semi-gloss paints ensure maximum durability. They are commonly used in children's rooms and high-moisture areas, such as bathrooms, as well as for trim.
  • High-gloss paints are highly reflective and work well for highlighting details, such as trim and decorative molding. They are also the best choice for doors and cabinets — or any area that sees a high volume of abuse.
  • Ceiling flats are designed specifically for ceilings. These are usually extra spatter-resistant.

How can I safely dispose of any leftover paint that I may have?

If you have any leftover paint, thinner or other chemicals, they should never be poured down the drain or otherwise disposed of carelessly. Leftover paint in usable condition can be donated to churches, schools or other organizations.

To determine if old paint is still usable, stir it with a paint stick and if the paint is smooth, it is still good! Empty cans or those with a small amount of water-based paint in them should be left open and allowed to dry in a ventilated area, out of the reach of children and pets. In most states, cans with dried latex paint may be discarded with household trash. Oil-based or alkyd paints should be allowed to dry by adding absorbent material such as kitty litter. Leftover paint can become dangerous if not disposed of correctly.

Become familiar with the disposal procedures recommended in your municipality. Some make regular, scheduled pickups of household hazardous waste; some have recycling programs.

Should I use an oil or latex paint?

Usually, a quality latex or water-based paint will be sufficient to fulfill your painting needs. However, in some circumstances, it may be better to use an oil or alkyd-based paint. Here are a few suggestions and some strengths and weaknesses for both:

Latex

Quality interior latex paints provide better long-term flexibility, that is, resistance to cracking and chipping. Latex paints also tend to resist yellowing with age in areas protected from sunlight. They emit fewer odors, clean up with water and are not flammable. Latex paint takes a shorter amount of time to dry than oil paint.

Pros

  • Low odor
  • Faster dry time
  • Water cleanup
  • Long-term flexibility
  • Non-yellowing
  • Not combustible

Cons

  • Relatively small open-time (amount of time paint can be brushed before it sets)
Oil

Oil-based paints offer superior one-coat hiding and better adhesion to difficult surfaces (such as those not thoroughly cleaned). Oil-based paints allow for greater open-time (or length of time the paint may be brushed before it sets), superior resistance to "blocking" (or face-to-face sticking) and resistance to abrasion, once cured.

Pros

  • Hard, durable
  • Moisture resistant
  • Greater flow and leveling
  • Greater open-time

Cons

  • Yellows with age
  • Strong odor
  • Requires solvent cleanup

Does paint expire or have a specific shelf life?

When stored properly, an unopened can of latex or oil-based paint should have a shelf life of 2 years. The best storage for paint is in a cool, dry area, away from extreme hot and cold temperatures. Paint should never be allowed to freeze and should be stored away from furnaces and other heat-generating appliances.

What prep work do I need to do before starting an exterior painting project?

  1. Remove loose, flaking, chalky or blistered paint with a paint scraper, putty knife and wire brush. Loose paint can also be removed with a power washer. Sand the edges of the areas where paint has been removed to create a smooth surface.
  2. Fill gouges or holes in wood siding with an exterior-grade patching compound. If damage is more extensive, replace the damaged piece(s) altogether before painting.
  3. Seal cracks, seams and gaps with paintable exterior caulk.
  4. Clean the outside of the house from top to bottom. If you use soap, rinse the siding well. Allow the surface to dry.
  5. Mask off areas that are not to be painted. You can put newspaper or plastic drop cloths over things like windows, doors, sidewalks and driveways to protect them from drips.

In what order should I paint the outside of my house?

Paint in the following order overall: 1) gables, 2) main siding, 3) windows, 4) siding trim, 5) doors.

When painting siding, always paint from the top down, and paint next to the trim first, creating a border about two to three inches from the edge of the trim. Then begin painting the rest of the siding, remembering to paint under the edge. (Hint: Paint in small sections of three to four clapboards and a few feet at a time, applying a fresh brush full of paint to unpainted areas and working back into the areas you've already done. Be sure to paint in the direction of the siding.)

When the siding is dry, paint the windows, siding trim and doors.

What should I use to clean my paint brushes and supplies?

For latex paint, use soap and water. Oil-based paint requires turpentine or paint thinner. Be sure to clean brushes thoroughly at the end of each day.

Are there any tricks to painting windows, doors and trim?

Generally, use more delicate strokes with less paint on the brush when painting any kind of trim or details. Below are some more tips for each specific area.

Windows

Mask off the glass panes. Use a small trim brush to paint the dividers from top to bottom. Paint the window surround areas next. Then use an angled trim brush to paint the face trim around the window.

Siding Trim

Paint trim from the top down. Use the largest brush that fits the trim you're painting. Take care that paint doesn't "glob" or drip as you work in crevices and joints.

Doors

If the door has raised inset panels, paint those first. Then paint the door surface surrounding the panels.