Add a Splash of Color
THERE is something very satisfying about the effect of a fresh coat of paint. In a room that looks dingy or faded, a splash of color can make all the difference. Would you like to brighten up a room or two in your home? If you have never tried to do your own painting before, you may find that it is easier than you think!
Let’s go to work alongside Fernando, his wife, Dilma, and their eight-year-old daughter, Vanessa, as they repaint part of their home. Then we may be in a better position to do some painting ourselves. Before we put on our work clothes, though, let’s learn something about choosing colors.
It is important to choose paint colors carefully. Color can do more than add beauty to your home. It may even have an effect on your mood. Bright, shiny colors are more exciting, whereas pastels with nonreflective finishes are more likely to relax you. A certain color may appear to be dark when applied to a wall inside a building, but the same color may look lighter outdoors. Fernando and Dilma have chosen wattle-blossom yellow and warm white for their home. Later we will see where they use them.
Notice the color wheel above. Colors that are directly opposite each other on the wheel are called complementary colors. They appear to gain in intensity when placed side by side. For a color scheme that is more conservative than adventuresome, choose various shades of the same color. This is called a monochromatic color scheme.
Before they get to work, our friends have some questions. Fernando would like to know what types of paint they will need, and Vanessa wonders how paint is made. So it seems a good idea to pay a visit to a local paint factory to see what we can find out.
How Paint Is Made
Gerard, the owner of the factory, has agreed to be our tour guide. One of the first things we see when we enter the paint factory is an enormous mixer churning away at the sticky paste contained in a 200-gallon [800 L] bowl. Gerard shouts above the din: “Making paint is just like making a cake—all the ingredients are weighed out and blended.”
“But what is the recipe for producing a modern paint?” we ask.
“There are four basic ingredients,” Gerard replies. “Pigments, binders, liquids, and special additives. This batch you see being mixed has titanium dioxide as its base. This white pigment is dug from the earth and is now used in modern paints instead of lead.” The mixture looks like flour used in baking.
Gerard continues: “The mixture is being sheared or ground to a fine paste along with a small amount of the binder—in this case, acrylic resin. When the paint maker is happy with the consistency, he will add the remaining resin, then liquids such as water or mineral spirits, and finally any special additives.”
We want to know what sort of paint we will need for home maintenance. Our guide explains: “There are two basic types of house paint. Oil-based paints use such oils as linseed or a modified soybean oil as a binder, while water-based paints use vinyl or acrylic resins as a binder. Oil-based paints will dry very hard, so they are suitable for high-traffic areas, such as doors and wood trim. However, oil-based paints tend to yellow and become brittle with age. On the other hand, good-quality vinyls and acrylics hold their color well and have a less-offensive odor. Exterior 100-percent acrylics will also endure better in the heat of an Australian summer or the cold of a Canadian winter.”
We hope to remember what Gerard has taught us. But he still has a little more to tell: “There are four basic sheen levels in both types of paint: gloss, satin, low sheen, and flat. Gloss is better where a hard-wearing surface is needed. Satin is good for bathrooms and hallways. A low-sheen or flat finish suits living areas well, and flat paint is most practical on ceilings.” We thank Gerard for the enlightening tour and return to the house to begin the hard part of our project—preparing the surfaces to be painted.
Thorough Preparation Essential
The success of attractive and lasting paintwork depends to a great degree on how thoroughly the prepainting preparation is done. So it is time to roll up our sleeves and get ready for some hard work. Perhaps we’ll pick up more helpful tips along the way. Fernando has two projects in mind—painting the dining room and the front fence. Let’s tackle the inside job first.
After clearing the room of furniture, we put some old bedsheets on the floor. First, we need to scrape the old flaky paint from the window frame, the wood trim, and the ceiling. We will help Fernando with that job. Notice that he places his ladder on a level place on the floor. Additionally, he will take care never to stand on the very top rung of the ladder, which would greatly increase his chances of falling. The plaster walls are in quite good condition, but they will need to be washed down with water and detergent before they can be painted.
Next, we use a scraper to remove loose material from any cracks, which will then need to be filled. We’ll use an acrylic gap sealant in the cracks around the window and skirting because this filler stays flexible and can cope with the movement between wood and plaster. Later, while Vanessa washes off the plastering tools, the rest of us will vigorously sand the surfaces of the woodwork and walls, using medium-grade sandpaper. This will remove any small lumps and also roughen the surface so that subsequent coats of paint will stick firmly.
Why are we wearing these funny-looking masks, you ask? As a safety precaution, to prevent paint and plaster dust from irritating our throats. Our goggles may not look very fashionable either, but when we are doing overhead work, they will protect our eyes from falling debris. Special care must be taken when removing lead-based paints. (See the box “The Lead Menace” on this page.)
Finally, we dust the entire area down with a soft broom. Bare wood as well as patches on the plaster walls now need to be either undercoated or primed before the actual painting begins. This is to allow the top coats of paint to dry with an even sheen rather than sink into any patches in the wood caused by the sanding or previous painting. Once this is done, our room is prepared and ready for the actual painting to begin.
The fence, we notice, is made of bare wood. After giving the fence a thorough cleaning, we will need to cover all the nail heads with metal primer. This will prevent rust spots from bleeding through. Since the fence will be exposed to the elements, we will apply two or three coats of acrylic fence paint.
Well, that’s enough for one day. With all our preparations complete, tomorrow we’ll tackle the actual painting.
Out Come the Brushes
Today we will begin to reap the rewards of yesterday’s hard preparatory work. First of all, we must make sure that the paint is well stirred before we start applying it. We have already thinned the acrylic wall paint with just a little water, about 5 percent of the volume. This helps the paint flow off the brush more easily. But we have to be careful not to add too much water. Otherwise, the paint will be too thin and the old color will show through the finished coats. For the edges of the walls and ceiling, we plan to use a broad paint brush. Then, we will use rollers to paint the big surfaces. This will speed up the work.a
We must remember to wipe excess paint off the brush on only one side of the paint can and to rest the handle on the clean side so that the handle and our hands will not be covered with paint. Finally, we must apply the rule, “Work from the top down.” This means that we will finish off the ceiling before starting on the walls. Then all we will need to do is wipe any spots of paint off the wood trim with a damp rag and coat the trim with the gloss oil-based paint we’ve chosen. Well done, everyone! The soft-yellow walls and warm-white wood trim look beautiful.
Now for the front fence. For this we plan to use a large brush to apply water-based paint to the fence palings. Three coats of paint should do a good job. An hour or so will be needed between coats for each to dry thoroughly, so we should be finished just before dark. Let’s get started.
First, we thoroughly moisten the bristles of the brush and shake off any excess water. This improves the brush’s ability to soak up the paint and prevents the paint from drying on the brush. We put plenty of paint on the brush and use good, long strokes. Rather than dab at the palings, we will concentrate on “pushing” the paint well into the grain of the wood.
Look at that! Our third coat is finished just as the sun is setting. The fence looks brand-new! We survey our work. Those two days of labor have been well worth the trouble. What a transformation! It certainly feels good to dress up the family home with a splash of color.
a Many use masking tape to help make straight lines when painting the edges around doorways, window frames, and other edges and corners.
[Box/Picture on page 26]
Hints for Overcoming Some Common Problems
◼ MOLD: Wash down with a solution of one part bleach and four parts water. Wear gloves and goggles. Recoat with a good acrylic paint, as mold grows more easily on oil-based paints. If available, use a fungicidal additive.
◼ WATER AND OTHER STAINS: Repair leaks or remove the cause of the stain. Wash down with detergent and water. Coat with a stain-blocking primer or shellac, then undercoat.
◼ POWDERY SURFACES: Dust off thoroughly. Apply a coat of a slow-drying sealer. Oil-based coatings tend to soak in and bind the particles down better than water-based sealers.
[Box on page 27]
The Lead Menace
The Environment Protection Agency of Australia has the following to say in the booklet Lead Alert—Painting Your Home?
◼ Even relatively low levels of lead in the blood can adversely affect the intellectual development and the behavior of young children.
◼ The risk to children under five is particularly acute, since their nervous system is still in the developing stage. Young children absorb up to 50 percent of the lead that enters their bodies, whereas adults absorb about 10 percent.
◼ If a child eats a leaded-paint flake the size of a thumbnail, the level of lead in his blood will remain significantly elevated for several weeks.
[Picture on page 25]
[Picture on page 25]
A paint maker’s “kitchen”
[Picture on page 26]
Wear protective gear for safety