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Painting Primer: Following the right steps when painting will save time and money

Scraping peeling paint takes time. LEFT: Removing the peeling white paint on this garage side door revealed the previous
Scraping peeling paint takes time. LEFT: Removing the peeling white paint on this garage side door revealed the previous owners had not primed the wood before painting. By applying primer first, homeowners can ensure a better finished product and one that will last longer. (Erin Owen photos)
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Paint is one of the least expensive ways to change a room, design publications will say. I would beg to differ. Yes, paint is much less expensive than a new piece of furniture, but if not done properly, it can cost a homeowner more down the road.

I’ve been thinking about paint recently. Last summer, I removed a layer of peeling white paint from the garage side door. To my horror I discovered the paint was applied directly to the wood door. It had not been primed.

The sidelights around the front door were finished in the same manner. Scraping and removing paint is a long and messy process, but I find it satisfying to get the putty knife wedged under peeling paint and pull off a long strip. One day I couldn’t resist the chance to do so from the sidelights, and now I’ve given myself a project for the summer. Taking the time to do a job right is always worth it.

Applying primer to an unfinished wood surface is essential. Like bare drywall, wood needs primer to achieve a surface that will evenly accept paint. Primer seals the wood and allows the paint to adhere better to the surface.

Sometimes paint truths hurt to hear. Yes, two coats will ensure proper coverage and a lasting result. Yes, when undergoing a dramatic color change — say from orange to white — it’s in your best interest to prime first and then apply the color. Yes, humidity levels are important to consider when painting. It’s better to hear these things before the paint is on the surface.

I’ve had my share of paint blunders. The worst was the time we painted our now living room a burgundy wine color. This was before design classes and working at a Sherwin-Williams paint store. We bought what we thought was good paint and applied at least three coats. That wasn’t enough to replicate the paint chip color.

I later learned that deep, highly saturated colors require a gray primer, which ranges in value to coordinate with the paint color.

Then there’s the shortcuts that tempt us. Taking shortcuts just delays the work.

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We’ve removed may yards of wallpaper in our house, and I know it’s a pain. The last of the wallpaper is in our guest bathroom, but that’s not immediately clear. When we had our guest bathroom remodeled, we were tired from home projects and decided to hire a painter. The painter said he typically applies texture over wallpapered wall and then paints.

I wasn’t wild about this idea, but not wanting to do the work ourselves, we went ahead with it. I wouldn’t recommend doing this. After someone inevitably nicked the wall, we now can see bits of the silvery teal wallpaper peeking through.

No matter the price of a material or home item, if it’s applied incorrectly or ill-suited for the space, the project becomes more expensive. That doesn’t mean a quick, easy design update isn’t possible. Swapping existing furnishings is my favorite way to change spaces. It feels like going shopping in your home. There’s no better way to stay healthy now.

Whatever it is people buy, tackle or repurpose, it’s best to know what’s required for a successful project. Otherwise, like me, people might end up with basement shelves full of paint cans.

Erin Owen graduated from the interior design program at Kirkwood Community College. She has worked as a commercial and residential interior designer. Comments: erin.n.owen@gmail.com

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