PaintPRO , Vol. 7, No. 4
July/August 2005
PaintPRO , Vol. 7, No. 4

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Related Readings:
Primers & Topcoats
Coating Drywall
Drywall Priming
Priming Interior Woodwork
Effective Surface Preparation
Other articles in this issue:
Success with Drywall
Color Additives
Painting Historic Houses
Masonry & Stucco Maintenance
Painter Profile: San Francisco Local Color
Manufacturer Profile: Royal Design Studio
Paint Industry News
Product News
Product Profiles
Toolbox: Hand Tools for Painters
Tools for Vaulted Ceilings
Painting Tips


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…continued from previous page

Drywall: Drywall
Repair & Painting

Don't let bad drywall work spoil
your painting job

by Susan Brimo-Cox

In addition to spackle and run-of-the-mill joint compound, Franklin advises keeping a variety of “hot muds” on hand. Different hot muds dry at different time intervals, so, by having a variety available to use, you can choose the right one, or several, for the repair you’re working on.

For large repairs, patching with a piece of drywall — in a matching thickness, of course — is the preferred method. This process may be achieved by using a “California patch” or a reinforced patch. (See sidebar for details.) Proprietary drywall repair clips, however, may offer a quicker alternative to the California patch.

Once the hole is patched, matching the existing wall texture can be achieved more easily if you use the same method as the original texture. A hopper gun or texture gun works well, especially for large repairs.

If you have a smaller repair to blend in you might consider an aerosol spray-on texture. As Dilger points out, with these products you don’t need a propellant system and you don’t have to mix anything. They’re easy to feather into the existing texture, too, he says. “If you do a good job and take your time, you’ll have a hard time telling it was patched or repaired in the first place.”

Saylor reports you can achieve a “quite acceptable pattern” using a brush. For a splatter texture he uses a short, stiff nylon bristle brush. After dipping the bristles in thinned mud, he pulls the bristles towards himself and releases them, flicking drops of mud on the wall. By mixing the mud himself, he is able to make it as thick or thin as he needs. The method also enables him to have good control of the texture. But, he says, “Plan on getting one drop on you for every drop you get on the wall. Practice on masking paper to get the right viscosity and technique before attacking the patch.”

Priming and sanding are important steps
Franklin likes to sand new drywall. “It gives it a smoother feel — knocks off the nubs.”

Sanding can be accomplished many ways: pole sanding, sandpaper on a wood block, sanding sponges, power sanders or small rotary sanders. Pole sanders are frequently used because they are physically easier to use and save time. But beware, says Mike Collins, vice president of business development for Full Circle International Inc. in Minneapolis. “When using the ones with rectangular heads, if you don’t have the pole at the correct angle the sanding pad can flip over and cause scratches and dents.”

And don’t overdo it. Kilduff points out that oversanding the drywall “will raise the pile on the drywall paper, causing a texture to the surface that will read through the paint.”

One more thing: Watch out for dust residue. Saylor cautions that the bond of the primer coat can be compromised by dust. So he recommends you damp-sponge the surface before priming.

Despite all these potential pitfalls, sanding is one of the keys to a job well done. “Sanding between coats is what separates a good job from an OK job,” says Kilduff. “Whether the walls are new or old, sanding and prep work in general is what makes the difference.”

Collins agrees. Especially for smooth surfaces, sanding the primer is important. “Many claim they do it, but not everyone does. If you know what you’re looking for it is very clear,” he says. While it is not as much a problem if you are using flat paint, he explains, “high-gloss paint shows everything, and contractors will often sand between every coat when using high-gloss.”

Some people assume that primer will cover up a number of ills. Collins says that, while high-build primers can hide some scratches, applying a primer often helps show imperfections in the wall. “Many imperfections you can’t see until after you prime, especially if you spray-apply the primer.” For that reason alone, he says, priming is very important.

Others think that backrolling primer is the magic cure-all to hiding imperfections. While high-build primers may help hide small scratches, even backrolling won’t make poor wall preparation disappear. Nonetheless, Saylor reports that backrolling can provide several benefits. “A good painter can spray consistent millage. What backrolling does is it leaves a slight orange-peel texture. It also stirs up the surface. In theory, by working the roller on the surface, instead of laying paint on undisturbed dust it works it and you get a better bond.”

Spot priming over repair patches also is important, says Kilduff, to keep the coating system complete as well as to assist in making the touch-ups look the same as the rest of the wall.

Franklin observes that certain hot muds can burn through a lighter color finish, so he hits those spots with primer, especially when he’s going to use a semi- or high-gloss finish.

Applying the finish
Experienced painting contractors understand the value of applying paint in lighting as close to the finished condition as practical. Many advise laying off the paint in one direction. And all of them will tell you that quality tools are important.

In selecting a roller, pay attention to the thickness of the nap. As Saylor observes, the length of the nap on a roller is designed to fit the contours of the surface.

Kilduff agrees. “In general, the texture — not the sheen [of the paint] — dictates the nap thickness.” As a guide, he recommends quarter-inch covers for smooth surfaces, half-inch covers for light texture, and three-quarter-inch covers for heavy textured surfaces.

For smooth walls, Saylor uses the shortest nap he can that can still carry the paint. Thicker naps will increase the orange-peel texture you get as a natural byproduct of using a roller.

Franklin often uses two different rollers. First, he uses one with a thicker nap to get the paint on the wall quickly, and then he comes back with a shorter nap to lay it off. “The idea is to get the paint on the wall, and then lay it off to finish it.”

Even if he applies paint with a sprayer to speed things up, Franklin says backrolling is a good idea. “On most of my jobs, most of the time, I backroll at least one coat. This also makes it easier to touch up, especially on new drywall.”

With repairs, sheen build and texture differences may make a repair difficult to hide. But Kilduff has a painting trick for blending in repairs. “Short of painting walls corner to corner, use roller naps of the same nap that was used to finish the walls, and keep touch-ups small.”

Indeed, being good at painting drywall and making repairs disappear requires creativity and experience. That, and knowing that the finish coat of paint will ultimately mirror the substrate below, imperfections and all.


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