The following is an excerpt from the book Room for Improvement: Change Your
Home! Enhance Your Life! With Tools, Tips, and Inspiration from Barbara K!
by Barbara K
Published by Rodale; May 2005; $24.95US/$35.95CAN; 1-59486-133-1
Copyright © 2005 Barbara Kavovit
The Pleasure of Paint
Painting is a relatively easy and quick way of breathing new life into a
room. The key to achieving a professional look on your own, however, is
preparation. Taking a little extra time to ready a room for painting will
pay off big time once you get started. And learning about the different
kinds of paint and the kind of effects they can achieve is essential. There
are so many ways to achieve paint finishes available these days, and each
one will result in a different mood, texture, and reflective quality.
I love colors, and luckily there are many of them to choose from today. If
you don't like the million plus paint chips in the store, you have the
option of bringing in your favorite sweater or skirt, comforter, or vintage
image for a computer color match. The creative options are endless. And once
you have painted a room, believe me, you'll be bitten by the home
improvement bug forever.
I'll spare you the scientific details of paint composition. Basically, paint
is a combination of color (pigment) and a binder that allows it to be spread
evenly on a surface. But there are certain terms you should know because
they will help you choose the right paint for the project.
Here are the basic types of paint you're likely to encounter.
ACRYLIC: Acrylic paint is a water-based paint commonly used in small
painting jobs and craft projects. You can buy it in small bottles in the
craft store. It's excellent for painting small details on furniture and
accessories. If you find a color of acrylic paint you love, you can have the
paint store make a match with latex paint. Brush fuss: Use synthetic or foam
LATEX: Latex paint is popular for its ease of use. Latex paints are
water-based and have low fumes. Cleanup can be done with liquid soap and
water. And dried paint can usually be peeled off of a paint bucket and
roller tray surfaces and simply thrown away. Manufacturers have improved the
quality and durability of latex paints over the years for indoor and outside
applications. Just be sure you are buying interior or exterior grade paint.
You might choose to use gloss latex in bathroom and kitchen applications
because it has protective water-resistant qualities. Brush fuss: Use
synthetic or foam brushes.
OIL-BASED: Oil-based or alkyd paint is thick and sticky, making it somewhat
difficult to work with. Oil paint also has a strong smell. You absolutely
must work in a well-ventilated room when working with any oil-based product.
It also requires special products for cleanup, such as paint thinner
(another smelly and often dangerous chemical). Because manufacturers have
made such great strides in latex paint quality and durability, I don't think
you need to use oil paint for most jobs. But gloss oil paints, which were
commonly used in kitchens and baths because of their water-resistant
quality, have a sheen and reflective quality that gloss latex paint just
can't match. So if you are dead set on a certain finish, oil gloss may be
the only way to go.
You can also buy oil paints formulated for use on hot surfaces, such as
ovens, exposed hot water pipes, and radiators (but make sure the products
are heat-resistant). Many spray paints are made specifically for appliances,
as well. And there are oil-based paints suitable for painting over tile and
porcelain that simulate a ceramic finish. The upside to oil paint is its
durability, especially on window trim and in kitchens and bathrooms. Today's
oil paint is easier to clean, and newer formulations make it less likely to
yellow over time. Brush fuss: Use natural-bristle brushes.
SPRAY PAINT: Spray paint is oil-based and perfect for painting garden
furniture, wrought iron, and just about anything that's made of metal. They
even make spray paint that will cover plastic without peeling. Spray paint
is easy to use and does not require the prep work that oil paint in a can
PRIMER: Primer is used to prepare surfaces for paint. "Raw" drywall needs to
be covered with drywall primer before paint goes on top. Primer basically
readies the drywall to accept paint. Primer can also be used when going from
a dark to a light color or vice versa. In those cases, you want to ask your
paint mixer to create a tinted primer with a color close to but not exactly
like the topcoat. This will reduce the number of coats you have to give your
wall or ceiling. Primer is also essential if you are covering an oil-based
paint with a latex paint. A latex primer will create a suitable surface for
the new covering. If you leave out that step, the latex paint will pull
right off the oil-based surface. Ugh!
You don't always have to use primer: If you are painting flat beige or
off-white walls, you can generally go right over the paint with your new
color. One more thing: If you are using spray paint to cover old metal, buy
spray paint rustproofing primer to cover the cleaned surface before you put
on the paint.
Barbara's Best-Kept Secret:
If you are doing a painting job over a weekend and using oil paint, you can
wait until the very end to clean up the brushes with paint thinner by using
this simple mid-process storage trick. Wrap the paintbrushes in aluminum
foil, place them in a plastic storage bag, and put the whole thing in the
freezer. The brushes will stay pliant, and the paint won't freeze. You can
go right back to painting and then clean the brushes out when the job is
These are the different types of paint finishes you have to choose from.
FLAT: This matte surface paint finish is usually used on interior walls. It
helps hide small imperfections because it doesn't reflect light. (Shinier
paint highlights bumps, dents, and patches.) Flat paint is generally hard to
clean or scrub, but some manufacturers are making flat paints that are more
easily washable. Still, you have to be cautious when going after scuffs and
dirt on a flat-painted wall.
EGGSHELL: This finish has just a whisper of sheen. You could hardly call it
shiny. It's good for interior walls, especially if you have kids running
around, simply because you will have an easier time cleaning it than a
flat-painted wall. However, an eggshell finish still looks somewhat matte,
and any imperfections will remain subtle if not invisible.
SATIN: This smooth, somewhat shiny paint is perfect for children's rooms
because it's so easy to clean. Kitchens, bathrooms, and high-traffic areas
will also benefit from satin finish paints because they hold up under light
SEMIGLOSS: Semigloss paint is most often used on doors, trim, and cabinets
in kitchens and bathrooms. It's easy to keep clean, and its subtle shine is
rich looking and especially crisp on trim when set against a flat-painted
wall. Surface preparation is important, though, because semigloss will show
imperfections. So be sure to fill all holes and gouges, smooth surfaces, and
sand trim to be painted. Get rid of built-up paint layers and dried drips,
GLOSS: Gloss paints are super-shiny. Most people don't use them on
interiors, although I have seen ceilings in gloss, and the reflection is
amazing. Light bounces off a gloss-painted ceiling, adding a glamorous feel
to a room. But that's a daring and very modern look, so know what you are
getting into before you go for gloss! Gloss can also look very fresh on bead
board wainscoting and on cabinets, trim, and furniture, especially in
contemporary settings. A front door painted in high gloss looks stylish and
formal, especially when done in a dark color such as forest green or even
black. A warning: Gloss paint highlights every surface imperfection, so be
sure your plaster or drywall surface is completely smooth before using a
Barbara's Best-Kept Secret:
The only paint finish that you can spot retouch successfully is flat. When
retouching shinier finishes, from eggshell to high gloss, you will need to
repaint the entire area surrounding the imperfection. Otherwise, you will
see the retouched spot because glossier finshes never spot-dry in a uniform
Other Paint Terms
These are two more paint terms you need to know to be a painting pro.
CUTTING IN: This simply means painting around doors, windows, molding, and
baseboards with an appropriate brush. After you've completed cutting in, you
do the rest of the wall-painting job with a roller.
KEY: This slight roughness to a surface allows it to accept paint. For
example, if you are planning on painting over a glossy surface, even if it's
with more glossy paint, you have to prime it first to give the surface key,
which will accept the new paint. Otherwise, the paint will peel off.
Reprinted from: Room for Improvement: Change Your Home! Enhance Your Life!
With Tools, Tips, and Inspiration from Barbara K! by Barbara K Copyright ©
2005 Barbara Kavovit. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098.
Available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher by calling
(800) 848-4735 or visit their website at www.rodalestore.com
Barbara K is a young single mom, a New York City businesswoman/entrepreneur,
and CEO of barbara k!, a comprehensive lifestyle brand that offers solutions
for women through innovative home enhancement/repair and automotive
products. She has been featured in the New York Times Magazine, USA Today,
Real Simple, and O, The Oprah Magazine, among others, and appears frequently
For more information, please visit www.barbarak.com