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

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Related Readings:
Give Concrete a Facelift
Exterior Acrylic Stains
Decorative Gilding
Accent Colors: Exterior Accent Paint
Lime Wash
Cleaning Mold and Mildew
Distrissing Wood Surfaces
Stripping Wallcoverings
Stripping Masonry
Dry Rot Repair and Replacement
Glass Textile Wallcoverings
Faux Effects Techniques
Coating Regulations
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
Faux Master Banner
PaintPRO Current Issue
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Photo by Benjamin Moore & Co. Taken by Tom Stillo


…continued from previous page.

Home Renovation:
Repainting Historic Houses

A sampling of contractors from across the country finds many similarities — and a few big differences — in preparation, materials and painting techniques.
by Liz Trauring

Protective primers and VOC regulations
In California, where VOC regulations limit the use of oil-based paints, Nelson says that his experience over the last 20 years has been that latex primer used on redwood, fir and cedar substrates works very well. “But oil-base primers are essential for ferrous conditions in respect to nail and iron failures,” he says, “and sometimes tenacious tannin bleed of new redwood cannot be contained without a quick-drying oil-base primer.”

Munson continues to use alkyd primer. “Until Connecticut changes its VOC regulations, we will keep using oil-base primers,” he says. “I know the manufacturers are developing latex primers and I will use them once the regulations change, but in the meantime, I still believe oil-base primer bonds better, penetrates the wood deeper and gives me a good base for the latex finish coat.”

Bruce Blanchard, painter/carpenter for Historic New England’s 35 historic properties, concurs with Munson. “We use oil-based primers. Prior to that we use either a two-part epoxy consolidant if we’re talking rotten wood; a mixture of linseed oil, turpentine and some Japan dryers for soft, punky wood; and, when necessary, fungicides. Sometimes we even mix a little Penetrol in to give the primer coat more tooth. I’m not sold on latex primers yet.”

There are no VOC regulations pertaining to alkyd paint use in Colorado either, yet Young uses latex primers because they work better at high altitude. With severe temperature changes, it can take three days or more for an alkyd primer to dry, so Young generally sticks with Benjamin Moore products like Benjamin Moore Fresh Start All Purpose 100% Acrylic Primer.

“Oil bases are definitely going the way of old technology,” says Dhawan. “Today there are acrylic primers available where formerly, only alkyd would work. For example, the Maxum Ultimax line of low temperature curing solid stains and paints and Coronado Gold 410-11 Tannin Blocking Primer are fine examples of how new technology is solving problems.”

Comparable colors
“Color matching is a special skill, and the people who can eye-match have a real gift,” Nelson says. “Computers only get you 90 percent of the way.”

Munson uses the Benjamin Moore fan deck of historic colors to eye-match and, he says, “if that’s not close enough I take it to the dealer, who fools with it. If it’s still not acceptable to the customer, I send a sample directly to the company and they fine-tune it.”
Historic New England’s painters have, over the years, kept a diary of needed colors and formulations so local paint dealers have them ready. Sometimes they select a color from the manufacturer’s historic color chips or take a piece of wood into the dealer and have the computer match it.

From east to west, acrylic top coats rule
Nelson believes the paint companies have perfected color retention and ease of use with the 100 percent acrylics. “They flex with the home’s expansion and contraction. On a well-prepared surface with a minimum of substrate, acrylics breathe and allow the home’s inner moisture to dissipate without forming a bubble or making the paint peel.”
Munson agrees. “Using a latex top coat is the only way to go,” he says. “The color doesn’t fade and the finishes are softer, imparting more of a matte look that is so much more attractive on historic houses.”

Blanchard uses latex finish coats, too. “We like California Paints and we use a lot of Benjamin Moore products as well, because both seem to have more pigment. California Paints is using Historic New England’s colors in their historic palette so it’s really easy for us to use the paint.” He likes to use California Paint’s Fres-Coat Trouble-Shooter Fast Drying Alkyd Primer under 2010 Exterior100% Latex Exterior House & Trim finish. “Most of the time we use a semi-gloss because it lasts longer, weathering down to a softer hue.”

Revnew recommends Sherwin-Williams Duration Exterior Latex coating for historic restorations. It provides lasting protection and is self-priming. “You definitely don’t need to prime if you are painting over an existing finish — alkyd or latex — and you usually only need one coat, because it’s formulated to go on 70 percent thicker than a traditional coat.”

Artful application always ends with a brush
“The classicist will want to see brush marks where there were brush marks before,” maintains Nelson. “Spraying gets the paint on quickly and eliminates a lot of labor — but then we immediately follow with big brushes to level out the paint.”

Young also puts on the flat surface color by spraying and then back-brushing within five minutes to work the paint into the wood grain.

Munson, however, likes to roll his flat walls and then back-brush. “Pretty much everything I do is brushwork,” he says. “I think the quality of a brush job is better than a spray job. However,” he adds, “I don’t believe there should be any brush marks showing at any time.”

“The only way we apply paint at Historic New England,” Blanchard says, “is with a brush.”

So brush up on your technique if you plan to paint a historic house. A beautiful paint job is a joy to behold not just for the owner, but for those who pass by. And for the painting contractors who keep these houses at their best, it’s an opportunity to help keep history alive.


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