How to Paint Hard to Paint Surfaces

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  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Well, paint is really a remarkable material. It’s cheap, anyone can use it and it completely transforms whatever it is you’re applying it to. But what if you can’t get the darn stuff to stick?

    TOM: Well, there are definitely some notoriously difficult surfaces to paint but it can be done with a right approach. Here to give us the tips and tricks for success is This Old House host Kevin O’Connor.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hi, guys. Great to be back.

    TOM: So let’s start with one that a lot of people are probably wondering about: vinyl siding. If I want to give my vinyl siding a new look, how do I get the paint to adhere to it?

    KEVIN: It’s a good question. So vinyl is the most used siding in the country. And people love it. It’s known for its low maintenance. It can look pretty good but it is prone to fading, so it does make sense that people want to sort of freshen it up and give it a new look. It’s been traditionally hard to paint vinyl siding because it expands and contracts so much. It’s a thin material, heats up, cools down. Expansion and contraction is always a problem when you’re painting surfaces.

    So, you definitely want to start with a latex paint. That’s going to be flexible so that it can move with the vinyl as it expands and contracts. And you also want to check with the manufacturer, because some companies will void the warranty if you go and you paint their siding.

    LESLIE: Now, are there any pointers on color because it does expand and contract so much? Do you want to make sure that it doesn’t absorb to much heat with a dark color or …?

    KEVIN: That’s a good point. Dark colors will absorb more heat, so avoid them if you can. But really, the number-one trick is to try to pick a color that is similar or to your point, a little lighter than the original color. You don’t want to have to do too much to hide the color underneath and you want to sort of just bring up and refresh that paint.

    TOM: Let’s talk about another common home improvement product that sits around a lot and gets pretty nasty looking: plastic lawn furniture, right? Those chairs sit out there, they get beat by the sun. Some people don’t take them in in the winter. They get covered with mildew and algae. Is that a surface that we can freshen up with paint?

    KEVIN: Yeah. I mean it is and you would start the same way with this as you would with a vinyl siding, which is you want to make sure that you clean it thoroughly. And then you let it dry thoroughly, as well. And when it comes to the lawn furniture, spray paint is probably the best way to go. Spray-paint technology has come a long way. They’ve got some really good formulas: formulas that will actually bond to plastic. So start with that.

    And then in terms of technique, think about holding the can 6 to 8 inches from the surface. Use a sweeping, side-to-side motion and think about a little bit of overlap between your passes. And also think about using multiple coats.

    LESLIE: Now, what about a cast-iron tub? You know, so many people – tubs get really worn out, you get rust spots for some – just situations in the tub that just don’t look good. Can you refinish them?

    KEVIN: Yeah. We have refinished on the plot – last three projects, I would say, we have taken old, beautiful, claw-foot tubs, cast-iron tubs and we have refinished them to great effect. However, this is one situation where I would not recommend that a homeowner do it themselves. The process of doing this properly includes a lot of really nasty chemicals so that you can strip away a lot of the surface and etch it. And then the new paints that you put on, you need spray boost, great ventilation, lots of protective gear. Better off left to the pros.

    TOM: Good advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: My pleasure to be here. Great to see you guys.

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