Pro Painting Tips

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  • Transcript

    Leslie Segrete: Well, when it comes to painting, the pros have some closely guarded secrets that they don’t want us to know about.

    Tom Kraeutler: Of course, but when you do the job every day like they do, you’re going to perfect those techniques over time and develop a level of expertise that the rest of us really can’t touch, but we can still try to brush up on those skills. Here to spill some of those insider tips on painting is This Old House host, Kevin O’Connor. Hey, Kevin.

    Kevin O’Connor:  Hi, guys.

    Tom Kraeutler: Talk to me about the pros and their painting projects. What do they do differently that leads to such immaculate results?

    Kevin O’Connor:  Shh. Here are the secrets. No, not secrets, but things that our guys do all of the time. The first thing is they think about the primer. One of the tricks that they use is that they tint the primer. The primer’s what’s going to help you get really good coverage of the paint beneath it, so tinting the primer, choosing a gray color possibly, or tinting it with a little bit of the color of your final coat is going to go a long way to making sure that you have got great hide as they call it.

    Tom Kraeutler: Of course, that primer is really sort of the glue that makes the paint stick, right?

    Kevin O’Connor:  It’s critical to the whole process. These guys will talk more about their primers oftentimes than the paints that they’re using on top of it.

    Leslie Segrete: What about brush marks? I feel like there’s got to be a trick to the trade there.

    Kevin O’Connor:  These guys are always dipping in, pouring in this mysterious liquid into their buckets of paint, and it turns out they’re mixing in a paint extender, sometimes called a paint conditioner, and that does two things for you. First, it slows down the drying time, and it gives you a longer window to overlap the just painted areas without getting those ugly lap marks, so it keeps it open and allows you to work it a little bit longer. Secondly, it helps level out the paint, so it sort of diminishes the brush lines that you might actually get and can make the difference between a pro job and an amateur job.

    Tom Kraeutler: All right. Let’s move down to the floor, which is where, unfortunately, too much paint often ends up. What’s the best drop cloth you use?

    Kevin O’Connor:  Well, I’ll tell you the best one not to use, and that’s plastic. Everyone’s got an old piece of plastic hanging around. Sometimes, they’ve got these tarps that are vinyl, and it is not a good surface to put underneath your job because it’s going to keep the paint wet, and before you know it, you’re going to have this mucky mess underneath you and you’re going to be stepping in it and now you’re going to be tracking the paint all over.

    Most of our guys will use canvas as a drop cloth. It’s not slippery, and it’s going to absorb the splatters, but you do want to keep a small rag with you, something that you can just wipe a drop off of somewhere. Always sort of have it handy because even if you drip something on the floor, there might be something that might drop onto a windowsill or radiator. Get it off while it’s still wet using a small rag.

    Leslie Segrete: How are the pros avoiding … Say you use one gallon of paint and you run you and you’ve got to go and get another gallon tinted. Maybe it’s not exactly the right match. How do they avoid this?

    Kevin O’Connor:  Well, I think it starts off by going to a good supplier. These guys know that they can trust their paint company, the place where they get the paint that do a good mix, but that’s something that we don’t always have that relationship with, and so they use this thing called boxing the paint. It’s an expression that it means that they actually take their different cans of paint, same color, but from different cans of paint, and they mix them together into a single five-gallon bucket, and that ensures that you’ve now got consistency among, say, all three or five of those gallons that you put in there. You’ll get one color from many buckets of paint.

    Tom Kraeutler: One step of painting that seems insanely simple, but actually has a great technique behind it, as well, is the process of just getting that paint on the brush. What’s the trick?

    Kevin O’Connor:  I’ve heard painters use this expression called load and go, and what they’re doing here is that they actually take the paintbrush and they dip it into the paint can. They’re loading the bottom inch to inch and a half of their paintbrushes with paint. They tap the side of the can lightly. They just want to knock off any heavy drips, and then they start painting. What they’re doing is they’re actually getting the paint up on the wall, and if you contrast that to what most homeowners do, most homeowners actually do something that these guys derisively call load and dump. Homeowners will take the paintbrush. They’ll stick it deep into the bucket. They’ll load it up, and then the first thing they do is they drag it across the edge of the can, and they actually take all of the paint off. Fill it with paint, drag it off. That doesn’t help you get the paint up on the wall, and it doesn’t give you a professional paint job.

    Leslie Segrete: What about painters tape? I almost never see a painter use tape.

    Kevin O’Connor:  Painters don’t use painters tape.

    Tom Kraeutler: Real painters [crosstalk 00:04:25].

    Leslie Segrete: I’ve never seen it.

    Kevin O’Connor:  Duct tape isn’t made for ducks. They don’t use it because their hands are so steady. It’s a lot quicker for them not to have to put something up, paint, then take something off, but I think it’s perfectly fine for homeowners to use painters tape. My hand’s not steady enough to actually do a straight line, so if you are going to use painters tape, they now make painters tape that come with different adhesion for how long it’s going to stay up there, so you can look at those. Put it up, get a nice, straight line, and then use your five-in-one tool or a putty knife and actually press it down so that you get a good seal because you really want that edge to be perfect. If there’s a little bubble under the edge, the paint will migrate underneath it, and you’re no longer getting a straight line.

    Tom Kraeutler: There you go. Kevin O’Connor, the host of This Old House. Thank you so much for some great DIY painting tips coming straight from the pros.

    Kevin O’Connor:  Always fun to be here. Thank you, guys.

    Leslie Segrete: All right. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit


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