Archive for the ‘paint’ category

Quick Tip #31 – Paint Over That Water Stain

September 15th, 2014

Let’s say there was a leak in the drain for an upstairs bathroom that left a brown stain on the drywall below. No problem – you painted it with latex paint left over from painting the ceiling, and at first it looked great. But a week later the stain started to bleed through the paint, and eventually it looked just as bad as before. Now how do you fix it?

Primers and stain killers need to be applied over stains before you use latex paint. Typical latex paint just doesn’t have the capacity to cover serious stains and water marks. Primers and stain killers have special binders and covering agents that can block stains and provide an excellent base for latex paint.

What is a good primer? For interiors, KILZ and BIN are excellent stain blockers. Where there is a water stain, remove any loose material, patch, and then apply the primer. If the drywall and paint are solid, just paint over the stain. BIN actually contains shellac; professional painters have used this stain-killer for many years.

Many manufacturers make specialty primers that work well to cover most stains.

M066C - Paint vs. Primer_300dpi

Wood Finishing and Repair

April 22nd, 2013

(For more information, see the article Wood Finishing and Repair)


We built our house six years ago. In some areas the woodwork looks dried out, especially in the bathrooms. The woodwork has never looked very shiny. It’s almost like it wasn’t properly varnished to begin with. Is there any type of product that I could wipe on to repair this dried out look? I did see a product offered over the internet called ‘Restorz-It’. Do you know anything about this product? I was hoping for an easier solution than sanding and re-varnishing the woodwork. I appreciate any help you can provide.



In most newer homes today, the clear finish is a spray-on lacquer. This is done because lacquer is very clear, durable, attractive and dries quickly. If your finish has always been dull, perhaps they only applied one coat or it was a satin finish. Unfortunately, lacquer is difficult to repair. We “do-it-yourselfers” don’t use spray lacquers – 25 years ago oil based varnish was brushed on as a finish coat in homes.

There is no easy way to correct the dried out look. I don’t know anything about the product you mention, but I suspect it may be one of those too-good-to-be-true products.

Your best bet is to clean and dull the finish with a liquid sandpaper solvent or wood cleaner. Most of these products are a strong, oil-based solvent. You scrub the surface with steel wool, or synthetic steel wool. Once the surface is clean and dull, you can try a wipe-on oil clear coat finish.

GF-Arm-R-Seal-250pxFor a clear coat, I suggest General Finishes Brand, Arm-R-Seal. This is a wipe-on oil finish that will stick to most existing finishes. It comes as a semi-gloss or gloss, and is applied with a rag. It is low odor, dries quickly, and is very durable. General Finishes makes a finish cleaner to prep the surface.

A second excellent finish to try is ZAR Brand Ultra Max – waterborne oil-modified polyurethane. This finish is also applied with a rag and is a satin or gloss finish. It is quick drying and durable, plus water based so limited odor. ZAR also makes a cleaning, surface prep product.

With either finish, you need to test a small area first. There is always a potential the new finish may not stick to the existing clear finish and you should experiment with the look of the finish. For preparation, if you don’t like to scrub with a solvent, you could lightly sand the surface with fine sandpaper. The surface must be roughened for the new surface coat to stick.

Good luck – nothing really easy here. The “oils” that restore wood don’t work.

Vapor Barriers

February 21st, 2013


For a basement wall finish in an existing home, do I need to put a vapor barrier between the insulation and the exterior wall, or below the drywall? Is it even necessary? We are finishing a room in our basement. Any other tips for us?



When finishing a basement (in Wisconsin), the current requirement is no vapor barrier. This concept allows a wall structure to dry if water ever leaks into the basement behind the wall. The moisture can move through the wall and evaporate to the inside heated space. A vapor barrier would block the vapor/moisture.

UGL DrylokWhen finishing a basement it is very important to make sure the basement is dry. I would also caulk the joint between the wall and the floor, and seal the walls with a waterproofing paint like UGL Drylok. Moisture always moves through masonry products, and you don’t want invisible vapor moving though the wall. Even though they look dry, moisture can move through walls and evaporate into vapor that you never see.

I would also seal the floor with a clear concrete sealer and put the carpet on a product called ComfortBase from Homasote. ComfortBase will provide some insulation and cushion the floor under the carpet, while adding only ½-inch thickness.


Water-based Polyurethane Over Oil-based?

June 21st, 2011


Is it OK to use a water-based polyurethane such as Minwax Polycrylic over an interior door surface that had previously been finished with oil-based? Minwax says it’s OK, but the lady at the home improvement store said no. Could you please break the tie?



In most cases, it is OK to use a water-based polyurethane over an oil-based finish in good condition. You should remove grease, dirt and wax by scrubbing the surface with a wood prep/cleaner/de-glosser, or mineral spirits and synthetic steel wool. Then “roughen” the surface finish lightly with medium or fine-grit sandpaper in the direction of the grain. You want to remove the gloss from the finish. Remove all the dust with a vacuum or tack rag.

Apply the new water-based finish per label directions. The application is typically done with a lint-free cloth and several coats are recommended. The advantage of the water-based finish is ease of use, quick drying, no odor, and easy cleanup.

Zar-ULTRA-MAX-Wood-StainOne word of caution – read the label carefully and follow the specific instructions. Some of these water-based finishes are not for use over lacquer or shellac. Spray lacquer is commonly used on new furniture and in new construction. A great finish to try is ZAR brand ULTRA Max – a waterborne oil modified polyurethane.

Top Coat Finish Touch-Ups

April 6th, 2011


I own a house that was built about 8 years ago. Recently, I was using alcohol to clean off some greasy spots on the oak cabinet veneer sides and solid-wood door near the stove, and apparently the alcohol was strong enough to remove some of the clear-coat top finish. I don’t understand why, because I thought alcohol would not remove lacquer or polyurethane finishes. I was guessing that the top coat finish could be either lacquer or polyurethane. What kind of top coat finish can I use to touch-up the top coat that blends in with the surrounding finish?


Most of the clear finishes used in modern construction and shop-made cabinets are a spray lacquer that should not be affected by alcohol. Lacquer is used because it is a durable finish and dries quickly. Either your finish is shellac, or somehow compromised.

I suggest you try a clear, wipe-on oil finish to renew the surface. Minwax Antique Oil Finish and General Finishes Royal Finish are two good options. You may need to go online or to a woodworkers store to find these finishes. They can both be carefully applied over an existing finish.

You can’t use a urethane or polyurethane because it will not bond to the existing finish. If you can confirm that the finish is lacquer, you could use a lacquer, but application is an issue and almost impossible for homeowners. We just can’t spray the lacquer.

With the wipe-on oil, make sure the surface is very clean, then wipe on a thin coat with a rag dampened in the finish. It will be a thin coat that will dry quickly. Add additional coats to increase the gloss.

As with any finish, test a small area first. With a little luck and an artist’s flair, you can just touch up the affected areas or the panel without working on the complete cabinet.

Soot and Sawdust Removal

June 1st, 2010


I think I have soot stain problems in my house after reading about them on your website. I have all-electric house heating, made up of baseboards and storage units. My wife loves her candles as much as I love my woodworking, but both cause dust and soot. Can you suggest a cleaning solution for the ceilings and walls? Also, can you recommend any air filtration solutions to help the problem? Thank you.


The best solution for the soot stains is to stop burning all candles. Well, OK – I do ‘let’ my wife burn a few high quality candles, and she keeps the wicks trimmed to about 1/4″ length. A high quality candle and a short wick will reduce the soot produced. We don’t ever use the nice, smelly candles in a glass jug. They are great soot producers because there is a lack of oxygen in the jug and the scent comes from something released into the air.

Removing the soot is a problem because it is such a fine particle and it tends to stick to surfaces with a magnetic charge. You can try a dry sponge – it’s a large, soft, rubbery sponge that absorbs soot. They are used for fire restoration work and you can find them in larger paint departments. After wiping with a dry sponge, clean the area with a strong detergent using lots of rags and water/detergent changes.

Soot is very hard to remove. When re-painting, prime the surface with BIN to cover the soot. BIN is available in most paint stores and is also used in fire restoration.

There is no filter that will remove soot. For the woodworking dust, I suggest you try to control it at the source. Use a vacuum system with a great filter and seal the woodworking shop from the rest of the house. Seal any heating ductwork in the shop, particularly the return ducts that may suck in the dust from the air. On a forced air furnace, use the best quality paper filter you can find to remove the sawdust.

Rules For Stripping Trim and Wood Doors

March 20th, 2010

What is the general rule for stripping wood trim and wood doors? When is it best to use a heat gun or chemical stripper?


Stripping? Just don’t do it. Seriously, it is a lot of work to strip and refinish wood. I think you need to evaluate the existing wood and doors for their value. Inexpensive pine molding should just be replaced, along with Luan veneer doors. Older, intricate moldings and doors should be saved. Oak and other hardwoods will be much easier to strip and refinish.

Whenever you strip paint from a surface you need to be aware of possible lead content in paint, so don’t strip lead paint without the proper precautions.

The process is messy and tough to do. Heat guns and scrapers work well in some cases, along with chemical strippers. Success depends on the type of paint, number of layers, physical access, shape, and contours. I would try both methods. There are also many types of paint strippers. For a large project, you should test several types and brands. Any doors or parts that can be removed should be stripped outside on saw horses. You need lots of ventilation to play it safe. Good luck!

How to Tell the Difference Between Latex and Oil-Based Paint

November 30th, 2009


This summer I will be painting the old home I just bought. I would like to match the type of exterior paint. How do I tell if the paint is oil based or latex?


Wet a rag with denatured alcohol and rub the paint surface. If paint comes off in the rag or the paints gets tacky, it is latex paint. If the surface remains untouched, it is oil based paint.

Most professionals do recommend matching the type of paint for good bonding and to match the hardness and flexibility characteristics. Often latex is applied over oil because it is more flexible and can breath if there are minor moisture problems.

Oil paint should not be applied over latex because it dries to a harder, less flexible, less porous, surface and to may peel and crack.

Tips for Painting Ceilings

November 23rd, 2009


I have had bad experiences painting ceilings. I use good quality, semi-gloss paint and a roller. I always end up with lap marks and shiny spots. Any suggestions?


I suggest you try using flat paint specifically designed for ceilings. Semi-gloss tends to show lap marks and any uneven application. Flat paint is very forgiving and the better quality flat paints cover well and still can be cleaned.

You also need to practice your application techniques. With a roller evenly filled with paint, you should apply the paint in a “W” or “M” pattern over a 3 by 3 foot area. This spreads the initial, thick paint over a wider area. Then, work your roller up and down or left and right to even the coat of paint over the whole area.

Always try to paint from a wet edge so you new application blends in with the paint on the wall. When you lap new paint over dry paint, you run the risk of a lap mark. Finally, use lots of light so you can easily see how the paint is covering.

Peeling Paint and Mildew in the Bathroom

November 18th, 2009


I have a problem with peeling paint and mildew on the paint in the bathroom. We have a big family and use the exhaust fan, but we still have a problem. What can we do with the paint?


You should try to run the exhaust fan as much as possible. Try to operate it until the shower walls are dry. Consider adding a timer switch so the fan can be set to run for an hour after the bathroom is used.

I have had great luck with a bathroom paint that is guaranteed not to mildew or peel. Sound too good to be true? Well, over the past 5 years in my home, I have found it does not mildew and does not peel.

Try Zinsser brand, Perma-White, Mildew-Proof, Bathroom Paint. You will find it in most paint departments and paint stores. It is self-priming, water based, low odor, and can be tinted.

To use the Perma-White, you do need to kill any mildew with laundry bleach. Water stains or dark stains should be primed with BIN. The surface must be clean and free of loose paint, dirt, grease, and soap film. Apply two coats. The first coat primes and seals the surface. The second coat provides more mildew resistance and scrub-resistance.