Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Painting Deserves Respect and Requires Experience

Painting is a trade without respect.  Anyone can paint, just not well.  Painting is the easiest part about painting, with about 80% prep.  But oh boy there are many ways to screw it up.  Painting can make great carpentry work look like garbage, and bad carpentry look great.  Painting is all about technique, practice, knowledge and experience.  You can get all of these things pretty easily 1) work with someone who is good 2) read directions.  So what are the common mistakes?  What are some good tips?  And how do you get a great job that can last for decades?  And how do I spend more now and pay less later?  I hope to do this in two columns.  Too much to talk about based on all the bad things we see.



Good, quality, expensive brushes– Sash brush, flat brush, nylon, china bristle, badger hair.  Each has their own purpose and is not necessarily interchangeable.  Ask at you local paint shop which is best.  I have brushes that are over 20 years old.

5 and 1- Ask for it and buy it.  You will not regret it.

Mallet of Hammer

Cheesecloth or paint strainer

1 qt or 2 qt buckets- No need for fancy, but they do have some with magnets on the side to held the brush up.  A normal 2 quart bucket is fine.  Although only put in about ½” of paint and you don’t need the magnet.

Drop cloths- Sheets are OK, but thin and do not prevent absorption of spilled paint.  Don’t be a hero, use one.

Tape- Yellow masking, duct tape, packaging tape are all too sticky.  There are blue and green tapes that are less sticky, or less tack.  Do not leave tape on more than a few weeks, and not in direct sunlight.

Wire Brush

Good Paint- Good paint is more expensive for a few reasons, and not because they are ripping you off.  I have my preference and I stick with it 90% of the time.

Research- A good paint is part of a system.  A primer needs to stick to its substrate, a finish needs to wear well, and the two need to work well together.  Formulations are especially tricky.  Paint is no longer simply a pigment, solvent and base.

Pigment- Pigment, or the powder that makes the color, is not all the same.  Sure, every paint can use blue cobalt, but how much or how well refined makes a difference of coverage.  I hate color that cannot even cover itself, where a white shadows and looks inconsistent.

Viscosity- Viscosity is huge.  Most good paints are ready right from the can.  But weather, age and other factors can change the paint ever so slightly to make it difficult.  “Drag” is a term used for how paint is flowing.  It should spread like soft butter, not cream cheese.



I am a big pain when it comes to painting.  I have rules.  Here are a few.

  • Make a staging area with a tarp.  Put all the tools and paint in one spot.  More junk in a room creates hazards.  Take only what you need with you.
  • Work smarter, not harder.  Universal rule for the trades.  Use an appropriately sized ladder.  Use a tarp.
  • Never paint out of the can, put only what you need in a bucket.  The can is for storing paint.  Strain your paint.  Change the viscosity if needed, using special paint additives.  Do not use water.
  • Use the paint in the brush or roller until it is dry.  Keeps paint from running down the handle and onto your hand.  It also lessens your work time.  The more times you go back to the bucket is time wasted.
  • I don’t care how you get in on the wall, as long as it looks good when you are done.  Some roll, some brush, some spray.  Keep it clean and neat.
  • Clean your set up when you are done.  Clean all brushes until no more paint comes out when rinsing.  Empty the bucket and roller pans back into the can, completely.  Wipe the rim of the can with a brush.
  • When painting trim, doors, cabinets, whatever, ALWAYS paint with the direction of the grain.  So the side of a door is vertically painted, the bottom horizontally.


Next column will be about preparation and application technique.  While I am a big pain to paint with, professionals appreciate the awareness and amateurs like their results.  It does not take long to become a good painter, but it takes no time to be a bad one.  And as a disclosure, my wife DOES like old houses, just not REALLY old ones.  Victorian is not a compromise; it’s the right fit.

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