Painting questions are the most asked questions I get. I can understand why painting confuses people so much — there are so many products and brands available, so many different types of things that people want to paint, and different things that need to be considered for each. What kind of paint should I use? Does it need a clear top coat? How do I apply it? Roller? Brush? What kind of roller or brush? Will it be waterproof? Will it last?
I could probably write a 10-part series on painting and still never answer all of the questions that come my way. And interestingly, my answers may be a bit different from someone else who does a lot of painting. Painting is generally one of those things where there’s not one correct answer to the question.
I’m one of those people who believes that just about anything and everything can be painted, and as long as you’re willing to put the time and effort into doing the prep work properly, your painted item will last a very long time. But do be aware that no painted item will last forever. Paint will eventually chip, scratch, or just wear off from regular use. The amount of time that the paint will last depends directly on (1) how well the surface was prepped before painting, (2) whether quality paint products were used, (3) the amount of regular use the item gets, and (4) the material being painted.
For example, a painted metal door knob (a slick, non-porous material that gets lots of use) on your most-used door won’t last nearly as long as the painted wall (a porous surface that is rarely touched) in the guest bedroom that rarely gets used. Right? I think that’s pretty common sense. So as long as you go into your painting project with some reasonable expectations, and you’re willing to do the proper prep work, you shouldn’t be disappointed!
First, here are a few posts I’ve already written about painting:
1. How to paint cabinets and furniture with a brush and get a near-flawless finish. These are the exact steps I used to paint the cabinets in my condo kitchen, and the paint job on those was still going strong when we moved on October. I used oil-based paint on my cabinets, which is always my preference for cabinets. I do use latex paint at times on cabinets, and you can still get a near-flawless finish with latex paint as well.
2. How I paint raised panel cabinet doors. This is the technique I used in John & Alice’s kitchen, and the results were really amazing. The finish looked as close to a sprayed-on finish as you can get without actually spraying on the paint.
3. How to paint a brick fireplace. I’ve painted two brick fireplaces — in my mom’s living room, and in John & Alice’s living room — and while it’s a bit time-consuming (that brick soaks up a ton of paint!), there’s nothing difficult about it. I painted my mom’s fireplace almost nine years ago, and it still looks fantastic today.
4. How to paint a brass fireplace screen. As much as I now love brass, these old brass fireplace screens are still a bit much for me. I think they look so much better in black, and they’re not difficult to paint at all.
5. How to paint a bathtub and tub surround. I did this at the condo with our fiberglass bathtub and tub surround, but you can also paint porcelain. They key is in the prep work. I painted ours in February of last year in the bathroom that I used regularly, and it still looked perfect when we moved out in mid-October.
6. How to paint bathroom faucets and shower enclosure frames. Yes, it can be done. But no, it’s generally not a permanent solution to ugly faucet problems. I do think that this is a great “in the meantime” solution if you have outdated faucets or an orangy brass shower frame, and you’re planning a remodel in a year or 18 months or so and just need a fix until then. Again, the key is the prep work. The less prep work you do, the shorter the amount of time the paint job will last. And the good news is that if it chips in the meantime, doing touch ups is quite easy.
7. How to give metal an antiqued finish. This technique can be used on plain light fixtures (or any other metal item) to turn plain metal into an antiqued metal. I did this several years ago on the light fixtures in Gwen’s bathroom.
So that’s everything I’ve covered so far. Now here are a few more questions that I get asked quite often.
1. Is it possible to paint melamine cabinets (cabinets with a hard plastic-looking veneer)?
Yes. But again, the amount of time the paint job lasts is directly correlated to the amount of prep work you put into it. I would always suggest sanding first just to rough up the surface (wear a painter’s respirator!!), and then use a quality oil-based primer. I personally use Zinsser oil-based Cover Stain on just about everything. And on the can, it says that it’ll stick to anything without sanding. But even still, I would never paint something as slick as melamine without roughing up the surface a bit (or a lot) first. The slicker the surface, the more prep work you need to put into it before painting.
Once you prime with oil-based primer, you can paint with your choice of either oil-based paint or latex paint. For kitchen cabinets, my choice is generally oil-based paint for its durability.
2. How would you paint a countertop in a kitchen or bathroom?
I’ve seen people use regular latex paint, spray paint, or oil-based paint on countertops, but I personally wouldn’t use any of those products. Countertops that see a great deal of use would probably be better off being painted with a specialty product formulated specifically for use on countertops. I’ve personally never used any of them, so I can’t give a personal opinion on how well they hold up. But I do know that Rust-Oleum makes a countertop refinishing product, available at Home Depot and Lowe’s, and just recently I came across another product called SpreadStone that looks pretty amazing.
Again, I’ve never used either of these products. But if I were going to paint a countertop, I’d definitely use one of these since they’re specifically made for that purpose.
3. Have you ever painted a concrete floor?
Yes, I have, and I would never do it again.
When Matt and I first moved into our condo, I removed all of the carpet and vinyl flooring, and painted the concrete. I used Behr concrete paint, and I followed all of the instructions to the letter. The immediate results were pretty great!
After a couple of months, the paint started to wear off in places. I called Behr, and they assured me that that wasn’t supposed to happen. They sent me new products at no cost. Unfortunately, they didn’t send someone to do the work. That part was still on me. So I stripped the entire floor and started over, again following the instructions to the letter.
A couple of months later, it started wearing off again. That’s when I decided to go with the groutable vinyl tile, which I ended up loving. After my own very frustrating experience, I would never recommend painting a concrete floor to anyone.
4. How do you know when to use a clear coat over the paint?
When I paint with oil-based paint, I never use a clear coat over the top. Oil-based paints dry to a hard finish, so I’ve never found that a clear coat is needed.
When using latex paints, I find that I almost always have to use a clear coat when painting table tops, shelves, or any other horizontal surface that items will be placed on. Latex paints, even when dry, very often still have a “tack” to them. You can place an item, like a lamp, on the dry surface, and leave it for a few days, and then when you move it you’ll notice that it’s stuck to the surface.
I don’t know if it’s a climate thing, but sometimes that slight tackiness in the paint just won’t go away on items that I paint. That’s when I use a clear coat. They key is that you must find a non-yellowing clear coat, which generally means using a water-based product, like a water-based polyurethane. Oil-based polyurethanes have an amber color to them that will ruin the color of your paint.
I think I’ve covered the most-asked questions I’ve gotten lately, but since I get so many painting questions, I’ll probably just link this post over in the sidebar and keep adding to it as I get new questions. That way, all of the info will be in one place (or accessible from one place).
So if you have additional painting questions, fire away! I’ll just keep adding them!
Oh…and I just remembered a big one that I get asked VERY often! “Why don’t you use chalk paint?” I’ll add that answer soon.