Pete Martin The Painter

A fresh coat of paint can change the mood of a room.

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Keeping up with New Technologies (An Educated Painter)

My grandfather use to paint. He painted steeples. I could never paint steeples for a living. I do not mind heights, but I have my limits. The painting profession has changed very little since the time that my grandfather painted…on the surface. But in reality better paints, better prep tools, and better safety tools are constantly being developed, and I want to try them all.

I am now working on my seventh year on my own. And, I have learned that there are essentially two types of painters when it comes to new technologies. Those that refuse to try new things, and those that are eager to try anything that makes their job easier and better. I am the latter. I am not saying that you cannot get a quality paint job from those that are set in their ways, but there is so much out there that can make painting easier on the painter and home owner, and hopefully make the job last longer.

Not everything that I try work. I have a lot of equipment in my storage garage that has not seen the light of day for quite some time. There are others that are game changers. I am going to talk about a couple of these briefly,


Festool is a German tool company. Although I am not a fan of Cadillac cars, the saying about them is apropos…Festool is the Cadillac of sanders. From what I have been told all of the tools that the company makes are top notch. I have a cousin that bought one of its sanders specifically designed for autobody shops. And, anytime that I have run into a carpenter that uses its tools they have high praise for them. I use the sanders. The reason that I use them is three fold. They are workhorses, they design a sander for almost every possible situation (I will soon purchase my sixth sander) and they are clean. The sanders attach to extractors (vacuums) that turn on when the sander is turned on and turn off five seconds after the sander is turned off. The extractor sucks up almost all of the dust…99% if the entire surface of the sandpaper is in contact with the surface being sanded. This means a much cleaner work site, and a lot less time spent cleaning.

Mad Dog Primers

Mad Dog Primers are a game changer. Essentially the primers are glue like. I use this primer on exterior jobs when the surface is in rough shape, or is difficult to prep properly. Such an example would be lead paint. Whenever I run into lead paint that is a really bad state of affairs I use Mad Dog. Mad Dog can be used over glossy paint without being sanded, and it can be used with somewhat weathered wood. When lead work is done, workers have to wear Tyvek suits, and plastic has to be laid out to keep dust from contaminating the ground. So, the less sanding the scraping the better. The company also claims that its primers allow the paint job to last up to twenty years. I have not been using it long enough to verify, but I have used it on wood that was so beat up that I felt it should not have been painted. Five years later and it still looks great.

Coffered Ceilings

Well, this was supposed to be a much bigger post about a recent job that I did in my own home removing wallpaper that was not installed properly. This resulting in a very time consuming removal and a lot of repairs before the walls were ready to be painted.  However, I posted the pictures on my phone on Facebook as a video, and for some reason I can no longer find them on my phone, nor can I get them in picture format from Facebook. I tried posting the video here, but I just could not get it to work.


Well, the other big part of the job was fixing the coffered ceiling. A coffered ceiling is a ceiling that is broken into sections by trim. When painted properly they look great. When the trim is painted the same color as the ceiling their is really nothing special about them...the trim blends into the ceiling and is lost. To make matters worse on this job was that that last time the trim was painted it was rolled and the stipple from the roller was on the trim. Trim is supposed to not have stipple on it.


Finley and Marlboro Blues

Here are a bunch of pictures from a recent repaint.  This is the job that I spoke about in my last blog concerning using paint samples which you can view here. As you can tell from the pictures, this was a fairly big job..a lot of the joint compound tape had to be removed and replaced.  I use Fibafuse which claims to be 70% stronger than paper, and has the added advantage of being porous.  This means that air bubbles under the tape, which can happen with paper, are not an issue.

Benjamin Moore Regal Select Finley Blue was used in the bedroom and Benjamin Moore Aura Marlboro Blue was applied in the bathroom.  Both were done in eggshell.  Advance white was applied to the trim and Benjamin Moore 508 ceiling paint, which is an ultra flat pain, was applied to the ceiling in the bedroom.  Aura eggshell white was put on the ceiling in the bathroom.

Paint Samples--Use Them to Avoid Disaster (well not quite a disaster)

I just finished a job that took a bit less than two weeks.  The job consisted of a bedroom, what I have been calling an entrance hallway. and a medium sized bathroom.  The hallway is attached to the bedroom, so that when you walked through the bedroom door you have to walk about 10-15 feet before you actually get into the bedroom.

In the bedroom, where the wall meets the ceiling, all of the joint compound tape, was failing. The ceiling was slanted going from about seven feet to about 12 feet. There were also several areas in the hallway and bathroom that had failing joint compound tape. Plus the room was full of furniture..not easy to move around in.

Before any paint was put on the wall the joint compound had to be fixed. This involved removing the old tape, sanding the ridge resulting from the removal of the old tape.  I am not sure if all painters do this step, and I generally only do int on corners.  I find it often very hard to apply the new tape without applying too much mud. I also had to add the additional step of putting Durabond into the gaps between the wall and the ceilings. This job was very similar to a job that I did in the fall of 2014.  You can check out the blog on this job here. The gaps were most likely the reason that the tape failed. Once the new tape and mud was applied everything had to be cleaned, then sanded. All of the new joint compound had to be primed before it was painted (no paint in primer in one will not work). On the ceiling areas that were primer were painted with ceiling paint, and then the entire ceiling was give a coat of Benjamin Moore 508 ceiling paint...great paint...usually one coat will do.  All of the trim was give one coat of Benjamin Moore Advance semi-gloss.

All of this work took me about 5 1/2 days.  then the walls paint went on.  I am not sure of the total surface area...I usually guesstimate and adjust the price of paint based on what I used.  The first coat in the bathroom and hallway took one gallon, so I am guessing the wall surface in was about 800 square feet.  I put on the paint on the largest of the walls before my morning break, and the the homeowner looked at it after it had dried a bit, and she did not like the color! Obviously, I had suggested to her that she might want to try a color sample, but she said that it was not needed. 

The home owner commented that she thought that the color would be darker, and it was a bit darker once I applied the second coat, but still not as dark as she thought it would be.  When first viewing the color she told me that she would get used to it.  And, I did go back several days later and she told me that she did like the color, and was very happy with the way the job turned out. She was lucky.  I have had customers learn that they dislike colors very much after I apply them.  This particular customer did tell me that she still was not overjoyed with the bathroom color, but she would get used to it.

When you factor in the price of labor and materials, paint is a small fraction of the overall cost of most paint jobs. However, if it is not the color you you expected, it can ruin the entire job. And, even though paint is not overly expensive, applying it can be costly.  Also, if you have a very large room that requires several gallons of paint, and the painters bought all of the necessary paint already, replacing it with a color you like can get expensive. Therefore, it is always a good idea to get a sample of the paint that you want to put on the walls. And, put it on several walls.  The walls in the room will not get the same light, and therefore will look different from one wall to the next throughout the day.  It is also best to view the color throughout the day.  The color will not look the same in the mid day light as it will in the evening when the only light source will be artificial light. 

What are you paying for when you hire a painter

I thought that this might be a good time to explain, for those that care to know, what goes into running a small painting company. And then perhaps they will better understand what goes into the cost of hiring a legitimate painting company.

Paint companies are not simply a DIY guys (or gals) that you are hiring to paint your room.  What I mean by this is that painting a room for a professional painter is more than just purchasing a couple brushes, a roller, drop cloths and a couple gallons of paint and then painting your room for a fee.

Painters have a ton of equipment that they do not charge home owners for directly.  When I write up a contract, the expenses that I charge to home owners go into four categories: labor, expenses, paint, and materials.  Labor and paint are pretty straight forward.  The difference between materials and expenses might need a little explanation.  Materials encompasses the sundries that can be easily quantified and charged to the home owner.  Such items include such things as sandpaper, blue tape, and joint compound.   Expenses, although they sound much like materials, are costs that really can not be directly charged to a home owner, but must be accounted for in order to ensure that a painting company can make a decent profit.

 I try to only take the equipment that I need to a job.  This way I take up as little space as possible space in the clients home.  However, even as a one man show, I own fifteen ladders. Why? different jobs require different ladders. I own a three piece, sixteen foot extension ladder.  Since it has three sections, instead of two, it is very compact when it is not extended, which makes it easier to move around the inside of home.  It is very useful when I paint stairwells. I also own a couple of ladders that allow me to set them up on stairs.  Even though I own these ladders, I do not use them on every job. 

Ladders are a fairly durable item, and they will last a long time. But there are many tools that will eventually need to be replaced. And, pros do not like to purchase cheap equipment.  Paint brushes can cost anywhere from $15 to $40 and not every paint brush is appropriate for every job.  Many painters, including myself, have certain paint brushes that they use for each type of paint they use.  Paint brushes have a fairly short life span if used a lot.  There are also tools that last longer, but will need maintenance and eventual replacement.  These include items such as sanders, dusters, brush cleaners...ect

Other expenses that must be accounted for by paint contractors, in order for them to run a profitable business, are the costs such as insurance, fees, and rental space costs.  Registering a company with the state cost money.  If a contractor is certified to work with lead, he must figure in the cost to take the class and the license from the state.  Liability and vehicle insurance, and workers compensation (if he has employees) are all necessary if he runs a legitimate company.

Thus, when a paint contractor gives you an estimate, he is giving you a price based on what it will cost him toto cover his expenses and make a profit.  He cannot simply only figure in the costs of the specific items (roller cover, paint brush, blue tape, paint) used on the job, and the amount of time that it will take to complete the job.  Doing so, would quickly lead to the painter to look for employment in another field.

Dirty Tongue and Groove Ceiling

This exterior ceiling was cleaned about a month before I started the rest of the job.  When I cleaned it, it was very dirty.  House is near a heavily used road and the ceiling was essentially black.  There was no intention to refinish the ceiling, but when I came back to do the other work, I noticed that most of the urethane was almost gone.

The grime had stained the wood, and it was a lot of work to get it looking good again.  I was not able to get all of the stains out, but I was very happy with the end result.

The images progress from the condition that I found it when I arrived, partially sanded, totally sanded, and two coats of spar urethane (it still needs one more).


Why Sand?

At a recent job the client that I was working for wondered out loud why the walls in the house looked so bad--the paint came off very easily.  I asked her if she had sanded before she painted. She said no. 

The purpose of sanding is to create a surface for the new coat of paint to grab on to.  The only time that it really is not necessary is when painting over flat paint, but even then I sand just for extra piece of mind--except on flat ceilings of course.

At another job, i was working on a stairwell and the paint on the skirts was peeling off very easily.


Oil paint was not sanded before painting with a latex paint

Oil paint was not sanded before painting with a latex paint

There really is only one solution to this problem: scrape, wash, sand, clean of dust and paint.  I could have just sanded and painted.  However, the substrate, the old paint that I would have been painting over, was still unstable--it was not adhering properly.  And the new paint would not look good long.  One ding, which is easy on stairs, and the peeling would start up again.

Luckily there was only a little bit of scraping to do.  Imagine if I had en entire wall, or many walls that this was happening.  An, easy repaint will quickly become very expensive.

Wallpaper Removal

Some before, during, and after pictures from a recent wallpaper removal that I did in Rockport.  The wallpaper came off easy--did not have to use any Dif, but as you can see from the pictures some of the gypsum board did get damaged, which required a skim coat. I forgot to take a picture of the areas skim coated.  I only painted the walls and the ceiling in this room.

Painting Azek

Azek plastic is becoming a very popular alternative to wood on many home improvement jobs, repair jobs, and new construction.  The reason--it lasts longer than wood.  Since it is plastic it does absorb water and thus does not rot, which is often a major problem with wood.  This is especially true with north facing walls of houses.  Almost every time that I see wood on a home that should be replaced before I paint I recommend to the Home Owner that they use Azek.

However, If you choose to have your contractor use it on your next project, and you intend to paint it, then you must consider that any paint that goes out it must be 100% acrylic and have a Light Reflective Value (LRV) of 55 or above.  This means that most dark colors are out. Usually LRV can be found on paint fans.   I am assuming that the reason for this is that if the paint absorbs too much light it will lead to the paint heating up, which will then lead to paint failure. 

Azec, which is white, does not have to be painted.  However, it is the only way to cover the nail holes and make the edges of the Azek that has been cut look nice.

So, if the trim on your home is painted black or brown and you decide to use Azek for a repair of rotten wood, you will have to change the color of the rest of the trim to make it match the new lighter color that will be needed to paint the Azek.

Fixing DIY Drywall

Did some work for a women who had some cracks in her walls and was tired of looking at them.  The worst areas were in the ceiling.  Once I got up on the ladder and began the worked I quickly learned what the problem was.  There was no sheetrock in the corners on the ceiling.  The person that had done the work put the joint compound tape on nothing--air.  Fixing this issue is somewhat time consuming.  The holes first had to be filled with Durabound, and then the seams had to be retaped.  Not all of the cracks, and there were a lot of them were so severe that they required mud.  The less severe one's were opened up a bit with a utility knife and then filled with Crack Shot.  Once everything was cleaned up and repaired two coats of Benjamin Moore Regal Select Gossamer Blue, and one coat of Benjamin Moore Waterborne ceiling paint.


Size Doesn't Always Matter

Many home owners, when hiring a painter, assume that the price that it will cost to paint a room or a house is determined by the size of the area to be painted.  To some extent this is true.  A 60ft x 20ft living room will almost always cost more than a 12ft x 12ft room.  However, very often this simple rule of thumb does not apply.  Following are two examples that demonstrate my point.

I recently painted a small bathroom with unpainted tongue and groove.  It took three days to complete. This is longer than it often takes to complete a standard 12 x 12 room.  Why?  One reason is that small spaces are hard to move around in, and thus harder to paint than large, wide open spaces.  Also, bathrooms have a many items to cut around such as toilets, sinks, and pipes, that are not found in rooms such as bedrooms.

When painting outside, it is also not always clear-cut formula size equals price.  Many factors are considered.  One of the biggest issues is whether or not there is vegetation (trees, shrubs, plants) to work around.  Setting up ladders becomes much more difficult and time consuming when when a painter has to work around vegetation.  I recently did a job painting windows on a fairly small building  that had a lot of plants and trees to work around.  Each window required seven steps: remove storm windows and clean, scrape and sand, first coat frame, first coat sashes, second coat frame, second coat sashes, replace storm windows. For each step I had to move the ladder.  When I painted the windows, the ladder had to be lowered halfway through the coat to get easier access to the lower half of the window.

So, remember when you get a price to paint your house, size is only one factor in determining the amount of time it will take, and thus the price that will be charged.

It Might Take Longer than Expected

It has been a very cold and wet Spring in Northeast Massachusetts, which has put a lot of exterior paint jobs on hold.  Which brings me to a brief blog on ensuring that you read the back of the paint label. Whether you are planning a DIY job, or you are hiring a professional you need to know that there are limitation to what can been done in less than perfect weather conditions.

All paints and stains have a range at which a paint should be applied, which is usually between 50-90 degrees, and they all have a time a drying time, which can range anywhere from one to twenty-four hours.  It is very important that you adhere to the temperature range, and it is not just that air temperature that is important, it is also the surface temp.  If the air temp is hovering around either of the extremes of the temps it is best not to paint.  However, if you have a infrared thermometer, or a willing to purchase one you can easily find out the surface temperature before painting.  Just point and shoot, to get the temperature.

Moisture can cause two problems.  First if the air has a lot of moisture in it the paint will take longer to dry, which in turn means that you will have to wait longer to apply a second coat of paint.  Second, if the surface is wet you cannot paint.  And it is not as easy as looking or feeling the wood.  There are specially designed moisture meters that have prongs that are pushed into the surface to determine if there is to much moisture.  If the wood, or or another type of surface, has too much moisture in it, the paint or stain will not adhere properly.

Wallpaper to Paint--Transformation of a Room

I am not going to try to tell you that removing wall paper and then applying paint it a easy job.  The pictures form the job below, which included a small bathroom that did not have wallpaper on it, took over a week  to finish.

First, you must remove the old wallpaper.  If sizing was used, which is the proper way to put wallpaper up, then it should be a fairly easy, but time consuming, process.  If sizing was not used, it becomes much more time consuming and the wall will get much more damaged.

Second, if there still a lot of paste on the walls you should sand them to smooth it out.  Then you have to either use  Gardz or an oil primer to seal the remaining paste on the wall.  I used Gardz.  If you do not do this, the waterborne paint that you put on the wall will reactive the paste, and the paint will not go on properly.

Third, you need to make repairs to the wall. Fill the holes and skim coat the damages caused when you removed the wallpaper.

Forth, you need to prime all of the repairs. If you make a lot of repairs it might be easiest to just prime the entire surface.  This ensure that you will not miss any of the repairs which will cause flashing when you apply the finish coat.

Fifth, you finally get to paint the walls the color that you have been dreaming of all of those years that you looked at the aging wall paper.

Take a look at the pictures below.  The are organized from start to finish.  The bathroom did not have wallpaper on its walls.  the room is obviously not completed.  The home owner is going to have new doors put on the bathroom and closet, and crown molding and baseboards will be installed.  This made cutting the ceiling much easier.


The Reality of Paint and Primer in One

I am often explaining why paint and primer in one paints are not necessary and really not a good idea to home owners.  Most home owners, when they paint, are repainting a room.  When you are repainting a room, you will usually not need a primer.  Primer will usually only be needed when unpainted surfaces such as wood or plaster are being painted, a latex paint is being put on top of a oil paint,  a previously stained wood will be painted, or a clear coating, such as polyurethane will be painted.   Sometimes it is also recommended that a tinted primer be used when a dark color is being repainted with a light color.  This is done to save money as primer is cheaper than paint ( I am using the term "paint" to refer to paint that is not primer). 

So, the question is "why use a paint and primer in one."  The answer is you don't need it.  If you read the back of some of the more popular paint and primers in one that are sold by the box stores you will notice that you will be instructed to use the paint to "spot prime." This is when you prime repairs in the walls that you might have repaired with joint compound, or raw wood in the trim that was exposed when the paint job was damaged.  Then once you have spot primed with the paint and primer in one, you should paint the entire area.  In other words, the paint and primers in one are not magic.  There is not a paint and a primer in the can that magically separates and creates two layers of paint when it is applied to the wall and thus eliminating the need to prime.  Therefore it is much better to purchase a primer, and use it to spot prime, and then use a paint to paint the walls.  Primers are better to prime with than the "magical" paint and primers in one because primers are formulated differently than paints.   They have more binders in them, which allows for better adhesion to the raw material.  They often are formulated to hide stains and tannins (those colors that bleed through the paint from the wood) better.

I have had a couple experiences dealing with paint and primers in one.  A home owner supplied some paint and primer ceiling paint to me for a job that I did.  They had the seams on the blue board redone.  So, I was painting raw joint compound.  I called the 1-800 number on the can to determine if I would need a primer to seal the joint compound before I painted.  Joint compound is porous, and if it is not sealed with a primer, the paint will be absorbed by the joint compound, which will result in what is called flashing.  The area will appear more dull then the paint surrounding it.  I was told be the representative that I would have to use a separate primer.  One another repaint, I ran into the problem of paint bubbling when I put on the new paint.  Although I was not able with complete certainty to determine that the paint was a paint and primer in one (it might have been just a paint), but the paint that same off was the same color on both sides and painted on raw plaster.  If a primer had been used, the underside of the paint should have been white.  The best way to fix this this is too take off all of the paint.  However, most home owners don't want this done.  So, I fix it as best as possible and explain to the home owner that they may have problems in the future.


And, it does not matter if the paint in primer in one is from one of the box stores or is manufactured by one of the higher end paint companies.  If you asked an employee of a paint store with knowledgeable employees (99% of the employees at box stores know how to do little more than mix paint) they will tell you that you will need a primer if you are painting over raw plaster or covering up the ugly paneling in your living room.  In fact, I have been told my many that many of the paint companies are doing nothing more than changing the label on their paints.  In many ways this upsets me.  Now I have to explain to home owners even if the better companies are doing it, the paint and primer in in one is a myth--that they are only doing it to compete with the box stores.


Good Paint versus Bad Paint

If you are a professional painter. it is pretty easy to tell the difference between a good paint and a lower quality paint.  Quality pants are just easier to work with than lower quality paints.  They are easier to cut with, they cover better, they go on smoother, and they just look better when they dry. 

However, It  is not always easy to convince home owners that going with the higher priced paint is worth the cost.  Some think that "paint is paint," and there really is no difference between a $25 and a $50 can of paint.  From my point of view, and that of most professional painters, I often find it hard to understand why a home owner would spend their hard earned money to pay a professional painter and then use a sub-par paint.  This is especially true when a home owner is only painting one or two rooms.  The price difference between a good paint and a inferior paint need for an average sized room is almost negligible.

And, I do understand the perspective of the home owner.  A wall painted with a inferior paint looks just as good as a wall painted with a quality paint,  The big difference for the home owner is that the wall painted with the quality painter will look better than wall painted with the low-quality paint much longer.  And, if there needs to be touch ups, they will look better (sometimes almost not even noticeable) if a quality paint is used.

To understand what makes a high quality paint check out the document  created by the Paint Quality Institute



You don't have to always change the Color

Sometimes you just need a fresh coat of paint, and not a new color.  If you love the colors in a room, but the room just looks dingy no matter how much cleaning you do, and there are dings in the trim, and a bunch of holes where pictures used to hang,  you might just want to consider putting a fresh coat of the same color on the walls and trim.  I recently did a repaint of a great room in the original color on the walls, and put a white on the trim that was a bit brighter than the original color.  Even though the walls were the same color the fresh coat (along with repairing all of the holes and other imperfections) made a huge difference.  I also did the hallways and entrance, which were changed to a light grey.  The colors used were C2's Architectural White on all of the trim (however it was mixed using Benjamin Moore's Advance Satin) C2's Linger in LOVO eggshell, and American White on the walls in the hallways and stairwell in Benjamin Moore's Regal Select eggshell.


Adding Color and and a lot of Elbow Grease can make a huge difference

I just finished this job, and I am very proud of the work that I did.   This foyer had not been painted since 1988, and needed a ton of work.  It took over a week to fix the cracks, sand, wash and all the other work necessary before I began to paint.  I convinced the home owner (although it did not take much) to use the the color she chose for the trim on the crown molding.  This would allow the crown molding to be more prominent.   She was very happy with the results.  The wall paint was still wet when I took the "after" shots, and a new rug still needs to be put down, which explains the red padding on the stairs.