Home Decorating 1 (Painting)


Probably the quickest way to Pimp up your home would be to decorate and like all other forms of home improvement there are a certain set of procedures to follow to ensure a trouble free and professional finish.

The two main forms of interior decorating are to opt for an all paint finish or the use of wall papers. Depending on your choice, the procedures will vary but in both cases the first step remains the same and of prime importance to the end result.
This is the art of surface preparation.

Virtually any surface to be decorated should be flat and free from grease and dust. Never be tempted to skimp on this important stage as it will later assist you in completing the job. This will in most cases require a quick light sanding to the walls and ceiling, the application of fillers to any obvious cracks and a light sanding to all woodwork (skirting and architraves etc). A quick tip here based on our own experiences is to use a powder based unmixed filler rather than any of the available premixed fillers as it doesn’t dry as hard and is therefore a lot easier to sand flat afterwards.

So we have filled all the obvious cracks, keyed all our woodwork and had a quick tidy up. What do we do next?

The general rule in all decorating is to start at the top and work down.

Let’s imagine for a minute that we break this rule. We papered our walls and now want to paint the ceiling. First off, we now need to be really accurate in painting around the tops of the walls (more effort), the paint we use for the ceiling splashes over the walls and ruins what we have already done and by taking this route, none of our surfaces have overlapped leading to missed areas and ‘dark lines’ in internal corners.

The greatest enemy of any decorator is the black line. No matter how good your finish, a black line, be it a crack on an internal corner or a raised overlap in wallpaper will always catch the eye first and spoil the overall effect of our efforts. And it is for this reason alone, that a decorator sees his primary objective as the removal of all black lines, cracks and hollowly shadows rather than the blanket coverage of large surfaces.

So let’s get decorating.

Starting at the top, the ceiling is our first objective and we have decided to paint it. For that we would usually use an emulsion based paint as it is best suited for this task and it tends to be a lot more flexible than a gloss based paint, therefore it is less prone to cracking later. Our choice of paint doesn’t finish there though; we now have to choose between a matt finish and a silk (shiny) finish. This is a choice down to the individual but again, experience tells us that shiny finishes tend to exaggerate any flaws in what should be a relatively flattish surface. Please bear this in mind.

Painting can now commence. When painting any large areas we generally opt for two main tools to complete the job, brushes and rollers, although paint pads or other options are available. The weak points in any large area are the edges as our eyes are naturally drawn to the extremes rather than the bulk. It is for this reason that we ‘cut in’ the edges with a brush as it tends to carry a lot more paint and can be better used in corner situations. So now for the scary bit, let’s cut in our ceiling.

Using our brush, we paint round the edges coming into the ceiling by about 5 or six inches enabling our roller to stop short of the corners whilst still ensuring a good overall coverage. Flood all the corners where the ceiling meets the walls and don’t be afraid of coming down the walls by as much as two inches. Emulsion paint has excellent filling qualities and its liberal use in the corners will help ensure that any hairline cracks will disappear and none of those intrusive ‘black lines’ will be visible when we are done, a much better job all-round.

If you have a papered ceiling, it will do no harm in running along the joints with your brush whilst cutting in. Again it will help fill any cracks along these joints and should you be unfortunate enough to have a papered ceiling where the paper is coming away, you can normally re-fix the paper at the same time by tearing back the paper, flooding the back of it with your paint and then painting the paper back into place. The more paint we use here, the better. All we have to do now is cut in the lighting and the objective here is to paint away from the light fitting sufficiently enough to allow your roller to cover the bulk without touching it. Have a damp cloth at the ready here so if you do touch the fitting with your paint you can clean it off immediately.

And that’s the cutting in finished.

With all the edges cut in, it’s time to hit the bulk and for that we use a roller. Our roller choice is dependent on the texture of the ceiling. Generally speaking, the more texture we have, the thicker the pile on the roller. Another rule here is that the thicker the pile on the roller, the more textured the effect of the paint finish. We are talking orange peel here not mountains and the differences are somewhat negligible to the untrained eye but it is still worth mentioning.

When rolling a paint surface, there are a few rules to bear in mind. Firstly, keep the roller wet. The more paint we use the better the finish. And don’t try to finish the whole ceiling with just one loading of the roller, it just won’t happen. Regularly refresh the paint on your roller. Then keep your pressure even when rolling. The harder you press, the more your roller will spit. Likewise the faster you roll the more it will spit too. Work in an orderly fashion starting at A and progressing to B where B is a completed ceiling but whilst being methodical, don’t be too regimented in your coverage as again, a straight line draws the eye and a too regimented application will lead to a tram lines effect in the finish. It is better to apply the paint in one direction then go back over it in a perpendicular direction and finally use broad strokes to help ‘feather in’ the coverage. The other and probably the most important rule is to do the whole area in one hit, trying to keep the whole area wet as this always gives a better finish than doing two separate halves with an obvious join in the middle.

One completed ceiling later, we do it all again. It is impossible to get a perfectly even and solid finish with just one coat. There will be misses and believe me, they will show. Look at it this way, our first coat merely seals in the existing surface with all its aged dirt, nicotine stains and dust. Let’s face it; if it wasn’t dirty it wouldn’t have needed painting anyway. Our second coat is the decoration then. Its purpose is to help bulk up the coverage, cover any misses and consolidate the whole finished effect. There’s no getting away from it, so just knuckle down and get it done.

It is also worth mentioning here that the best time to do any kind of painting is during daylight hours.

It is only then that you can see the finished effect to all its glory and the lighting is at its most unforgiving which means it will show up more easily any flaws in your work. If it looks right in daylight, it will never look any worse. This cannot be said about artificial lighting though because it is always a lot more directional in the way it projects.

So there we have a completed ceiling. The two hardest parts of our decorating job are now completed and the rest is plain sailing by comparison.

So we have prepped our surfaces and painted our ceilings, where do we go from here?

Following our general rule of thumb of starting at the top and working down, it seems that the walls should be next but that will depend upon what we intend to do with them.

If we intend to wallpaper (see Home Decorating 2), then the walls will come last believe it or not. In this case we should now turn our attentions to the woodwork. If we have still got our emulsion brush at the ready, it is a good idea to run around the tops of the shirting boards with our emulsion, deliberately flooding and thereby filling any cracks (black lines) where the skirting meets the plaster of the walls and at the same time priming any bare wood as unlike an emulsion paint, gloss paint will be absorbed by bare timber rather than cover it.

And then we can leave it to dry.

Once dried, the woodwork can then be finished off with the ubiquitous one coat of undercoat and 2 coats of gloss with a light sanding and removal of dust between dried coats. Again our arch rival the ‘black line’ is still lurking in the background so don’t be afraid to run your paint up the walls a little to alleviate this foe and the painted plaster surface will later assist with the wallpaper’s adhesion too.

If we intend to paint our walls however, then the walls are the next place to go.

Ensuring that the ceiling is fully dried we are ready to proceed with the walls tackling each wall individually. Starting at the top we must carefully cut in the wall but because we ran our ceiling paint two inches into the wall previously, our wall covering paint will ‘glide’ more easily on the fresh paint below it making it a lot easier to attain our straight line in the corner between wall and ceiling. How good is that?

Once we have cut in the top, coming down by at least 5 inches to again prevent our roller touching our newly painted ceiling, we can now continue down the sides and across the skirtings and architraves, again flood filling as we go to kill those ‘black lines’.

Bish bash bosh, just slap it on. The top was the only part requiring any degree of accuracy. Any next coatings will clean up the rest. Again, if we are painting over wallpaper (Anaglypta for example), feel free to run up the joints whilst cutting in and re-stick any loose seams by first painting behind them then over them as we did with the loose ceiling paper.

Any sockets or light switches on this wall? The best way to tackle these is to first unscrew them and gently pull them away from the wall but only sufficiently enough to paint behind their edges coming away from them enough for your roller to miss them (remember the damp cloth?) and once again, our cutting in is completed.

Take it all just one wall at a time remembering that we are endeavouring to keep the whole surface we are working on wet as we complete the wall’s coverage. Then get rolling employing the same tactics as we did earlier on, with the ceiling.

If all the walls are to be the same colour, you can proceed from one wall to the next adjacent wall working your way around the room. And then, when you have completed your first lap of the room, and your base coat has sufficiently dried, remember our two coats rule and set off again not forgetting your best friend, natural daylight.

If your walls are to be different shades, it is always good practice to complete the lighter walls first, moving on to the darkest shades last.
Then, having gone twice around the entire room our walls are now complete and it’s looking good my friend. Go put the kettle on.

When all the walls and window reveals are dry just the woodwork remains to finish our room but before we do that, how about putting all the sockets and switches back together again? Having done that, we can now undercoat the woodwork. One coat will do for this as the worst areas should already have had a liberal coating of emulsion with its wonderful filling qualities whilst cutting in the walls.

Other than the cutting in of the walls where they meet the ceiling, the glossing procedures are the only remaining precision parts of the whole decorating process and where it is possible to do this without the aid of masking tapes and safety nets, it might be beneficial to use them depending on your levels of competence. If you do use a masking tape, opt for the ‘low tack’ variety as these are specifically designed to not rip off your wall coverings when you remove them. Other than that you will just need patience and plenty of time for drying between coats as a much better finish is achieved by giving the woodwork surfaces a light sanding between the undercoat and two top gloss coats.

When glossing, it is good practice to apply the paint sparingly and in direction of the grain of the wood being painted as this helps eliminate the possibility of paint runs. Start near the door and work methodically around the room till you return to the starting point and then go round again looking for paint runs and work them away with your brush.

During the whole decorating process, the most important tools you will ever use are your eyes.

Take time to step back and peruse what you are doing as you go. Your eyes are the key to the success of a decent finish as it is those very eyes that will later be the judge of all your efforts every time you enter the room in the future.

Other than the time it takes for your paint to dry, if your room was a fully painted room it is now finished. Congratulations.

If not, take a look here for tips on hanging wallpapers… Good luck!!

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