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Below are 12 pieces of advice, which can apply to just about every job you undertake.  It’s here where you’ll find everything from buying paint brushes, to choosing colors.

  1. Inside or out, it’s smart to try out colors before painting. Buy only a quart, paint it onto cardboard, and hang it on the wall to see how it looks with its surroundings and in various lighting situations. Test decorative finishes this same way.
  2. A home’s setting should affect color choices. Shady areas make colors appear darker; lively colors can be too bright in well-lit areas. To play down a two-story home among single-story houses, paint the upper half or dormers a darker hue.
  3. Painting in cool weather? Use low-temperature exterior paint, which can tolerate temperatures as low as 35 degrees Fahrenheit within 24—48 hours of painting. Most paints handle temperatures only as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. The right paint brush is as critical to a good paint job as quality paint. For oil-base paint, China bristle paint brushes, which leave few brush marks, are a good choice, but the bristles might break when used on rough surfaces. For acrylics and high-quality latex paints, nylon paint brushes are best. Nylon-polyester blends and 100-percent-polyester brushes work with any paint. Expect to spend at least $9 for a quality 3-inch paint brush.
  5. For the best paint application, select a roller cover with the appropriate nap size. In general, the rougher the surface, the longer the nap required. (The nap is the furry cover of a paint roller).
  6. Front doors, the center of onlookers’ attention, deserve special thought. In general, doors with high-gloss paint finishes look dramatic and punchy, while those with natural wood finishes are welcoming and warm.
  7. When stored properly, a can of paint lasts three to five years. Store paint between 60 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and avoid placing cans on concrete floors, where they rust more quickly. Write on the can or a piece of tape to indicate the color of the paint, date of purchase, and how much paint remains in the can.
  8. Paint provides a quick fix for many decorating problems, including painting wood paneling, which seems to plague American basements. Here’s how to do it: Use a strong household cleaner to remove dirt or wax buildup on the paneling. Rinse off the cleaner, then dull the glossy paneling surface with sandpaper. Wipe it down with a damp rag, and coat the surface with stain-blocking primer. Let it dry overnight and top it off with a flat, satin, or semigloss latex.
  9. If you hire professional painters, ask about the brand of paint they use. If you have a brand in mind, make sure they’re willing to use it. Quality and colors vary by brand, and even slight color differences among brands can be dramatic when applied to an entire house.
  10. To buy the right amount of paint, use this formula: Add up the widths of the walls, then multiply that figure by the room’s ceiling height and divide by 350 (the typical square footage one gallon covers). The result is roughly the number of gallons of paint you need. The formula doesn’t account for windows and doors, so you should have plenty of paint for touch-ups. If you use a sprayer, a gallon covers about 250 square feet.
  11. Most paint failures come from poor surface preparation. Ensure a long-lasting paint job by taking time to assess the condition of your home’s exterior and then washing, scraping, sanding, caulking, and treating stains as necessary.
  12. When hiring professional painters, look for licensed pros who have liability insurance and guarantee their work. Ask about painters’ experience with your house style, peruse portfolios, and get references. Drive by homes they painted two or three years ago so you can see how the paint job has weathered. Look for drips, overspray on the roof and windows, and rough surfaces that reveal inadequate scraping and prep work.
12 Things to Know About Painting
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