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Paint a Room, Painlessly

Step 2: Going to Paint-Prep School

Once the decisions are made, it's time to empty the room and prepare for painting. When you empty the room, call in the Jettison Brothers—experts in trimming possessions. It makes a lot more sense to dump unwanted junk than to pack it up. At any rate, the preparation stage often takes as long as painting itself.

There is little sense in putting expensive paint over the dirt and grime that have accumulated on your walls. A strong cleanser like TSP substitute, sold at paint stores, removes grunge and roughens the paint, so the new paint gets a better toehold.

Masking—protecting surfaces from paint—is an excuse to be anal, especially if your paint-brushing technique ranges toward Jackson Pollock. First cover built-in or unmovable furniture, then windows and doors. Newspaper and masking tape are a good combination for masking small areas. For floors, tape down 3-mil plastic with duct tape or the special masking tape that sticks to plastic. Wipe away dust with a damp rag and press the tape firmly, so paint cannot seep underneath.

Strips of newspaper attached by masking tape should be adequate to protect trim unless you will be painting the ceiling, or are really wild with the roller. In that case, mask the entire opening with plastic.

If the baseboard will remain in place, mask it like the door top, after you mask the floor. (If you just tape the floor masking to the baseboard, it's sure to pull loose while you paint.)

Remove outlet and switch covers, stash the parts in a plastic bag, and stick masking tape over the electrical fixture. Turn off circuits and detach light fixtures from the ceilings and walls. Generally, it is safe to hang light fixtures on their wires, but if you're not sure what you're doing, get advice or call an electrician. Remove light globes, and protect the rest of the fixture in a plastic bag.

Protect the floor with heavy plastic tarps. Avoid 1-mil plastic. It's basically a square dry-cleaner bag, and is guaranteed to tear, or stick to your shoes, or both. Tape 3- or 4-mil plastic securely to the edges of your room.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Simple Home Improvements © 2004 by David J. Tenenbaum. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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