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Painting Tips and Tricks

Paint fast - and clean!

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Tape Off the CarpetFamily Handyman

Tape Off the Carpet

When painting baseboard, some painters slip masking tape under the baseboard. But this is time-consuming and doesn't create a seep-proof seal between the baseboard and the carpet. Instead, press the tape against the baseboard, covering about 1/4 in. of the bottom edge. Press down hard on the carpet while you apply the tape. That way, the tape will hold the carpet down while you paint. Later, when you remove the tape, the carpet will rise and cover the unpainted edge of the baseboard.

Use a high-quality tape for this job because it grabs and holds the baseboard better. Add a strip of cheap tape to create a wider shield over the carpet. Finally, spread a drop cloth over the tape. This technique won't work if your carpet has a very low pile or if you have no padding under the carpet.

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Narrow Drop Cloths are BetterFamily Handyman

Narrow Drop Cloths are Better

Large drop cloths work great if you're painting a ceiling, but they're overkill if you're only painting walls and trim. Drop cloth runners are usually 3 to 4 ft. wide and are much easier and safer to work with because you don't have to fold them several times. Folded drop cloths are easy to trip on, and nothing good results from tripping with an open paint can in your hand.

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Clean Up Old BrushesFamily Handyman

Clean Up Old Brushes

Even though you diligently clean your brushes, they will eventually wear out. Consider saving a couple of different sizes to repurpose as cleaning brushes. An old paintbrush is an excellent tool for dusting off window trim or whatever else needs a light touch.

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Set Your TapeFamily Handyman

Set Your Tape

After you apply masking tape, run a putty knife, or a 5-in-1 tool, over it to “set” the tape to the trim. This bonds the tape to the surface and helps stop paint from seeping under the tape and up onto the trim.

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Completely Cover Windows and DoorsFamily Handyman

Completely Cover Windows and Doors

The masking tape you installed to protect the outside edge of the trim won't necessarily protect windows or doors. So it's important to cover them completely, especially if you're painting the ceiling.

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Cut the Paint Before Pulling the Tape OffFamily Handyman

Cut the Paint Before Pulling the Tape Off

When you remove masking tape that has been left on too long, the tape can pull chunks of paint off with it. It's usually best to pull off the masking tape while the paint is relatively wet; however, if it does stay on too long, gently cut the tape along the line where the paint meets the trim. This prevents the paint from sticking to the tape and coming off the wall.

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Don't Flood the Masking TapeFamily Handyman

Don't Flood the Masking Tape

Masking tape is a precaution, not a guarantee. No matter how careful you are, there may still be a void or two between the tape and the trim. If you expose the tape to a bunch of paint, some is bound to get through. The trick is to pretend the tape isn't there. Don't force a lot of paint into the corner at an angle. Instead, lightly load the paintbrush and run it down parallel to the trim.

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Create a Smooth Path Along the CeilingFamily Handyman

Create a Smooth Path Along the Ceiling

It's hard to create a straight line when you're painting the wall along a textured ceiling. As you move your paintbrush along, the bristles get hung up on the texture, which creates noticeable paint globs. Use your 5-in-1 tool or a screwdriver to remove about 1/8 in. to 1/4 in. of texture, creating a clear path for the brush.

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Remove the FuzzFamily Handyman

Remove the Fuzz

Some tools need cleaning even when they're brand new. Some new roller covers (usually the cheaper ones) have a layer of fuzz that detaches from the cover. The first time you load up a fuzzy roller, the paint mixes with the fuzz and creates small bumps on the wall. One way to remove the fuzz is to wrap masking tape all the way around the roller cover. When you pull the tape off, the excess fuzz will be pulled off along with it. Learn how to roll on paint like a pro.
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Comb the BrushFamily Handyman

Comb the Brush

A paintbrush comb is the best tool for cleaning a brush. Unlike other brush cleaning tools, a comb penetrates and cleans deep between the bristles. It also prevents the bristles from sticking together, which helps your brush stay soft and retain its shape longer.

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Wear a RagFamily Handyman

Wear a Rag

Here's a great way to avoid getting paint on yourself. Before the first can of paint is cracked open, attach a rag to your belt. So when you subconsciously wipe your hand on your pant leg, you're protected. Use a large rag and unfold it a bit, so the messy side stays facing out.

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Run Water Down Into the BristlesFamily Handyman

Run Water Down Into the Bristles

After a few hours of painting, paint can work its way up into the bristles covered by the steel ferrule. If you don't clean the paint out of there, it will build up and cause your brush to get stiff and misshapen. After you comb all the paint out of the bristles, run water down into the brush. Finally, straighten out the bristles with a comb before you put the brush away. Protect the bristles by storing the brush in the package it came in.

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Scrub Your RollerFamily Handyman

Scrub Your Roller

Don't neglect your roller. If you don't rinse off the roller, you'll end up with hardened paint inside the bushings or bearings, and that will ultimately result in a paint roller that doesn't roll. Keeping your tools clean doesn't have to be expensive. You can get great results with a $2 pot scrubber purchased at a discount store.

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Lube the RollerFamily Handyman

Lube the Roller

Metal rusts, and the metal bushings or bearings in your paint roller are no exception. Do yourself a favor, and spray a little lubricant on your paint roller before you store it. A rusty paint roller can squeak. Pushing a roller back and forth for several hours is monotonous enough; adding a few thousand squeaks might drive you completely insane. Bet you didn't know any of these 20 brilliant uses for WD-40.
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Clean Up Your MistakesFamily Handyman

Clean Up Your Mistakes

No matter how careful you are, you're bound to get paint on something you didn't mean to. Keep a can of paint remover on hand. Paint remover works great for removing dried latex paint from trim, countertops, door hinges, vinyl floors or whatever it is you spilled on. Avoid the most common mistakes people make when taking on painting projects.
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Keep a Garbage Bag Close at HandFamily Handyman

Keep a Garbage Bag Close at Hand

Never underestimate how much trash a painting job creates. And running around the house with big wads of plastic and tape covered in wet paint is not a good idea. Hang garbage bags on a doorknob or set one in a portable bag holder before you start.