Friday, December 5, 2014

Guest room makeover, stage 3

Forget the Christmas Star and the Hanukkah Lights—this December, the real miracle is that Brian and I actually got the walls painted in our guest room. Before Christmas! Will wonders never cease?

Of course, when I say they've been painted, I don't mean that we are completely done with painting. We got one good coat on the walls, but depending on how it looks when dry, we might need to add a second coat—and we will certainly need to touch up a few spots on the ceiling and trim. But the room has made the shift from primer-white to Flioli Antique Lace, the color we finally settled on.

We took a few extra steps when prepping this room for painting, based partly on our previous experience and partly on tips from others. First, we taped off all the woodwork, but rather than molding the tape fully to the baseboards, we just applied it to the top surface and let it stick out to form a little shelf. This is supposed to help catch drips, and it seemed to work, except that with a smaller surface to adhere to, the tape didn't stay put quite as well. So we had fewer drips that needed to be wiped hastily from the floors, but we ended up with a few large ones on the baseboards themselves that will need to be corrected.

Second, we put down a layer of brown kraft paper (which we still have lots of left over from our basement floor project) to protect the floor. When priming the room, we tried to rely on a drop cloth for this purpose, but it was really awkward; it kept bunching up, so it was constantly in danger of brushing up against the freshly primed walls. Even when it did its job of catching drips, there was always the danger that we would tread in them and transfer them to the floor. With the brown paper, we were able to spot the drips more easily and steer clear of them.

Both these steps saved us some effort, but it's clear there's that when it comes to painting, we both still have a lot to learn. Here are a few lessons we learned from this round, which we hope will help us next time we have to paint a room:
  1. A zero-VOC paint is worth the trade-offs. Valspar interior paint, which we went with because we've used it before, comes in three formulations at Lowe's: the pricey Valspar Reserve, which promises super durability plus zero VOCs; the midrange Valspar Signature, which is low-VOC but not zero-VOC; and the basic Valspar Ultra, which is zero-VOC. (All three promise "one-coat coverage," but we're still waiting to see whether it lives up to that promise.) We went with the Ultra, and we both found it very pleasant to work in a room that didn't smell overwhelmingly of paint. It was a great relief after the primer, which left a lingering odor for over a week.
  2. A paintbrush or roller that can drip, will drip. I started the process of cutting in around the window frames, and I thought I'd try using the little mini roller we used to apply the sample swatches to our walls. I got it nice and loaded up with paint, applied it to the wall, and got a spurt of paint that dripped down the wall and all over the floor. After that I switched to using the brush first, then going over my brush strokes with the mini roller to blend them in. Even the brush would drip if I loaded it up too heavily; it was a constant balancing act between too much paint, which made a mess, and too little, which wouldn't cover the wall fully.
  3. When cutting in on the corners around the ceiling, the biggest problem isn't putting down a clean line; it's avoiding splotching paint onto the ceiling when you lean in to touch up the line you've just laid down. Brian eventually had to set a rule for himself that, whenever he was up on the ladder, he was not allowed to hold the paintbrush or roller in the open air; it had to be touching the wall at all times, which would limit its movement to one plane. (Even so, I think next time we paint a room, it might be worth investing in an inexpensive little paint edger like this one, which might make the job less frustrating.)
  4. A good stiff drink beforehand actually helps you relax and put down the paint more cleanly. Or at least relax enough not to scream and cuss and bang the walls every time you make a mistake.
We've still got a bit of work left to do on this room, like painting the heater covers, replacing the outlets, and refinishing both doors, which are in pretty cruddy shape. But getting this paint up on the wall sort of marks a turning point. Now that it's done, the room seems to have gone from being the nameless back room to the guest room, even if it's still a guest room in progress. Give us a few weeks to take care of those last few jobs, and we can finally get to the fun stuff, like furniture, window treatments, and art. Not to mention getting our cookbooks back upstairs where they belong.
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