With more than 30 years experience in residential painting and decorating, Jeff Hester has earned the title "Professor Paint." In our new feature, "Ask the Professor," Jeff answers your questions about paint and preserving the beauty of your home.
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Question: For homes located near a lake, what special exterior issues may effect them?
The Professor says: There is always more moisture in teh air which can penetrate openings and cause peeling or mildew. Moisture helps to feeds mildew. It's important to check caulking around the doors and windows every year. If the home has brick walls, check for tuckpointing problems. Venting of eaves and attics is crucial to houses. If you have an old home with no venting, look into having some installed. If you have vents, make sure they are not painted over or clogged with dust. If so, change them.
Question: Can landscaping and sprinkler affect the exterior of your home?
The Professor says: Absolutely. People plant trees and shrubs too close to their homes. It looks great but it creates shade for mildew to grow and traps moisture for potential peeiling. Make sure bushes and trees are cut back away from your house. The bushes, plants, and trees outside your house need to be watered and people are installing in-ground water sprinklers or regular sprinklers that are hitting the house. This is a big problem for all areas of windows, siding and brick. Painted siding can't take the constant moisture. It will peel. Windows, if they are old, will take on moisture and release the glazing compound holding the glass, which in turn affects the interior of the windows and causes rot on the exterior.
Question: Why is it advisable to varnish my front foor and garage door every year?
The Professor says: It is advisable to varnish doors that have a sun exposure due to the extreme weather (sun and rain) from these 2 directions. If the door is mantained, you will eliminate having to strip the finish every other year or so. There will come a time when you will have to strip the finish that has built up, but not as often if you maintain the door.
Question: I love the look of Venetian Plaster, but why is the wall preparation process important for a finish that results in such a rustic look?
The Professor says: This finish is highly reflective and therefore shows the imperfections underneath it even more clearly than under paint. Consequently, a clean, well-prepared wall is very important for Venetian Plaster.
Oil primer is applied before the Venetian Plaster to ensure best results. Properly prepared walls maintain the treatment's beautiful depth much longer.
Additionally, Venetian Plaster often looks very rich, but is actually quite thin. Underlying wall flaws can ruin the plaster's finished exterior. A well prepared surface therfore displays the plaster's natural light texture and movement best.
Question: I have painted wood trim (frames, baseboard and crown molding) in our home. There is a lot of cracking in the corners and along the edges were the trim meets the walls and the ceilings. Some days it seams worse than others. Why does this happen, and what can be done to prevent this.
The Professor Says: There are several reasons for painted wood trim pieces to crack or separate. It could be due to poor installation, a lack of a coat of primer on the back side of the wood, or the most common cause is a change in atmospheric conditions which causes the wood to expand and contract.
Newly installed trim work should always be primed on the back side prior to installation. This helps avoid moisture absorption from the air which causes the wood to expand. There is no exception to this rule as far as we are concerned. If your wood trim pieces are not primed on the back side prior to installation, you will have problems, guaranteed.
Second, always make sure your home maintains a correct balance in the humidification of the air. Too much humidity causes the wood to expand and on the other hand, too dry of an interior humidity level will cause the wood to shrink. Please seek the advice of a professional heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) company.
Once you resolve the moisture issues, then you can apply higher quality caulk to the gaps and then touch up the trim. However, please keep in mind that until the humidity issues are resolved, it will continue to be an ongoing maintenance issue for you because even the best caulk cannot prevent the same cracks from occurring.
Question: Everyone is talking about “going green.” Is there a “green” paint that looks good?
The Professor Says: Good news for those concerned about the environment – almost all the major paint manufacturers are producing eco-friendly paints. The new paints are low odor and low VOC, which stands for volatile organic compounds, that is, the particles released into the air when paint dries.
In the past, low VOC paints weren’t available in the deep, rich colors that so many Hester clients adore, but today they do. New technology advancements make these paints every bit as intense as traditional paint. We can produce many of our specialty and faux finishes such as glaze mottling and certain Venetian plasters with these products.
The new paints are better for the environment, and because they are low odor, I also recommend them for any home with elderly residents, small children or people with allergies. With low VOC, you can sleep in a room the day it is painted.
Question: I’m considering wall covering for the first time in years. What’s new?
The Professor Says: A lot more than just vinyl. These days, wall coverings come in a rich assortment of materials including glass beads and natural items like mother of pearl, bamboo, wood veneers and woven woods, made of fine layers of wood shaved down and applied to paper. A number of manufacturers are creating more earth-friendly wall coverings using natural materials such as bamboo, hemp and cork and using water-based inks.
You’ll want to keep in mind that many of these natural materials will show their seams and some, like fabric or leather, will scratch. Consider that part of their charm. Also, with natural materials, the individual panels are often not uniform. At Hester, measure out the room in advance with the panel sizes to make sure the finished product is a well balanced room.
No matter which wall covering you choose, proper preparation and installation will ensure your walls are beautiful and long lasting.
Question: I have white baseboards in my home. When I have vacuumed I have gotten the white paint on the side of the vacuum cleaner. When I vacuumed next to my dark wood coffee table, the white paint has been transferred to the dark wood when I hit the coffee table. How can I safely remove the white paint from the coffee table without damaging it? My husband is not happy with me.
The Professor Says: Although trying to remove the paint is always a risk that you further damage the material it is on and there is no solution that always works, you can try using finger nail polish remover for small areas. Put your finger in a cotton rag, put a little remover on it and lightly rub off the white marks. You should have a damp clean rag with water to quickly wipe off and dry the spot afterwards. Make sure you use it on a very small spot that is not easy to see so you can verify beforehand that it will not make it worse.
PS: To avoid this problem in the future, you can stick adhesive felt pads on the edges of your vacuum cleaner
Question: We have a dark paneled Family Room in our home and would like to lighten up the room. Is it possible to lighten up paneling other than just painting it or removing it?
The Professor Says: First you need to identify if the paneling is a real wood product. If it is, you have some options. If it is a smooth-surfaced wood, you can chemically strip the finish and lighten it by re-staining the wood. If you just want to change the tone a little, you can achieve this with glazes.
If the wood has texture or a rough surface, you have to achieve the lightening with paints and glazes. It still looks like wood when you are done and not like a painted surface.
We have done these lightening processes on wood beams, furniture and kitchen cabinets.
Also, you can lighten or change the tone of the face brick of a fireplace to lighten a room. And we have actually done this to exterior brick on homes that has lasted decades.
If the paneling is not a real wood product, you don’t have many options. I would remove it.
Question: We have electrical switch plates on our granite backsplash in our Kitchen. They are white plastic plates and stick our like a sore thumb. What can you do to make them look better? They drive me crazy!
The Professor Says: Electrical plates, covers, vents, etc., on most surfaces (granite, marble, wood, etc.) can be faux painted to blend in with the surface they are attached to. We recommend, if possible, that the plastic plates are replaced with smooth metal plates for better adherence of the primer and paint. Keep in mind that this needs to be done by a quality faux finisher, otherwise it can end up looking worse than the original white plastic.
One last note to keep in mind, I do not recommend painting the actual receptacle or switch, but rather have a licensed electrician replace it with a color that blends better with the surrounding surface.
Question: What should I do with leftover paint after a job is complete?
The Professor Says: Leftover paint must be stored properly to stay fresh and usable. Be sure the cans are sealed and stored in an area that will not freeze, such as a crawl space or closet. Turn the cans over every six months to keep the paint fresh and prevent it from hardening on the bottom. If you are not sure whether your paint is fresh or stored properly, call the pros at Hester. We'll come check and organize your paint inventory.
By keeping leftover paint on hand, future touch-ups will be much easier and less costly. When you need your come to look perfect for guest, I can send one of our experts to take care of any imperfections such as scuffs without adding the time and expense of mixing a new can of paint.
Send your questions for Professor Paint to firstname.lastname@example.org
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