Painting Estimate The Good And The Meh

A painting estimate is your first contact with a professional paint contractor. Everyone has their own style but there are basics that should be included in all written estimates. The key word is written. All estimates should be written out. You should not accept anything verbal. Some Paint Contractors have a painting estimate form they have made, others use generic forms, whatever the case may be it should be in a written format.

The estimate should have the basics like your name, address, etc. and it should include the Paint Contractors information like address, phone, etc. and it should be very specific as to the scope of work to be performed.

One item often overlooked is how long the estimate is good for. Are the prices good for the summer? 30 days? It should be specified. I once had someone call 2 years after receiving an estimate to say they were ready to have their house painted. Our estimates state they are good for 30 days by the way. The prices for materials change regularly.

estimates cartoon









The most important thing is the price. Included with that should be any terms like a percentage down and any other payment terms like forms of payment. Are credit cards accepted? Credit card fees can get pretty high. It can cost a Paint Contractor hundreds of dollars in fees to take a payment by credit card so it’s best to work that part out ahead of time.



Painting Steel Siding

Painting steel siding is something we do every year. Many people are not sure if it is something that can be done but it can be under the right circumstances. We normally do a simple test to determine if it is wise to do. It’s easy to do. Take a rag and wet it with MEK. Wipe the surface of the siding. Rub just a little bit. If the color on the siding comes off onto the rag, you have a good candidate for painting.

Priming is necessary. We use a bonding primer. XIM 400 is a great choice. You can also go with an epoxy primer but I like the XIM. After the standard prep, like power washing. A light sprayed coat of primer is sufficient.


painting steel siding before








A quality latex top coat is the next step.

painting steel siding after








The coatings on steel siding tend to chalk over time. When you are doing your initial inspection, look for signs of chalking. Run your hand over the siding. If your hand is dusty/chalky. Then you will want to be sure to incorporate a good cleaner with the power wash. I like Simple GreenIt works well. Be sure to rinse a couple times.

The Secret Of Good Brushwork

Brushwork. The skilled application of paint by means of a brush. It is at the heart of being a skilled painter. Even today with airless sprayers and cordless spray guns, it always comes back to the brush. All painting is basically a means to efficiently transfer paint to a surface in a controlled manner. Brushing is still the most efficient and controlled way to paint.

Like all things, what makes for good brushwork is practice but there are ways to shorten the learning curve. I have had pretty good painters on staff over the years that could cut a straight line with a worn, gnarly brush but that is the exception. You want to invest in the best you can get your hand on.

There are many good paint brushes available. Two brushes I like are the Purdy 3 inch pro extra swan and the Proform 3 inch Picasso. These are great brushes. Between the two, the Purdy wears better and lasts longer but the Picasso is a great brush. I just hate that it wears out much faster then the Purdy. The Picasso definitely has an expiration date.

Proform picasso brush








Once you have the right brush, get use to having it in your hand. You want the part of the handle closest to the ferrule of the brush to rest on the webbing between your thumb and index finger. Your fingers then hold onto the metal ferrule. Practice with a dry brush on a wall. This is a good way to get use the the feel of the brush.

3 inch Purdy Brush in hand










The parts of a brush are of course the handle, ferrule, heel, belly, and toe. Pretty obvious where the bristles are.

Parts of a brush. handle, ferrule, heel, belly, toe.









One of the tougher cuts with a brush is where the wall meets the ceiling. If you are in a situation where you are going to paint the walls and ceiling in a room, this is a good scenario for practice on the wall to ceiling cut. Since you are going to paint the ceiling anyhow, any paint you might get on the ceiling you can paint over with the ceiling color.

One of the big mistakes many people make when brushing is not loading enough paint onto the brush. Using a good comfortable cut bucket, pour enough paint into it so it is not too heavy. A couple inches is good. Push the bristles of the brush down into the paint enough to flex the bristles and pick up paint. One good swipe on the side to wipe any drips and your ready to go. The working part of the brush is the first inch or so. You don’t want paint all the way up the bristles and on the ferrule. Keep all but the working part of the brush clean as you work.

One good long swipe about a half to a quarter inch away from the ceiling will give you a “glide path” for the second pass. Think of it as lubing the wall to make the cut smoother. As you go back for the second cut you will notice how much easier the brush runs along the wall. You just bring the cut closer to the ceiling until you get a good cut. If you notice ceiling texture in the groove where the wall and ceiling meet, run a putty knife or five in one along the wall and ceiling to make a nice channel to cut into.

When brushing woodwork the biggest mistake people make is brushing back into areas previously coated/brushed. This will give you brush marks as the paint sets up. A nice trick is to use floetrol or a bit of water in latex paint to slow down the set up time and give the brush lines enough time to level out. In alkyd paint use penetrol.

When you invest in quality brushes, always clean them well after use. Don’t leave them in paint for long periods of time or store them overnight covered in paint.

People often ask how to determine the size of the brush to use. My standby is the 3 inch beaver tail pictured above. There are times a different brush is necessary. Two factors always determine the size of brush to use. The size of what you are painting and how much detail there is. The smaller the target the smaller the brush. fine detail means a smaller brush. For spindles or divided pane glass I would use a 1.5 or 2 inch brush. I sometimes use very small artist brushes for fine detail or hard to reach areas.

You can find yourself in situations where the cut of the brush matters. An angled cut makes it easier to reach areas and gives you more control for detail work. A flat cut helps you cover more surface area faster.

Use man-made bristles for water based products and natural bristles for alkyd, varnish, etc.

A quick tip off, in most cases, for the quality of a brush, besides the price, is the handle construction. Cheap handle materials = cheap brush (Plastic). Good handle craftsmanship, materials = quality brush.

Epoxy Garage Flooring Tips

There are few things as awful as an epoxy floor that is peeling, chipping and looking terrible. While the fault can be attributed to the choice of Epoxy, more often then not the problem is how the floor was prepared prior to the application on the Epoxy coating. Most of the following tips apply to several different application types of floor coating like a roll coat as well as a self leveling floor. These tips also apply to several different types of coatings like epoxy, urethane etc. So here are some Epoxy garage flooring tips.

The number one thing you should take away from this brief article is to always grind your floor. There are lots of coatings that state it is not necessary. This is not true!! It does not matter if the coating is an Epoxy, Urethane, Aliphatic, MMA, etc., always grind the floor. In most cases you will not have the equipment to grind a floor and if it is something you don’t think you can do or don’t want to do, hire someone to do it or have a professional do your Epoxy flooring project. In most major cities there will be a rental place that will have the equipment necessary to grind a concrete floor. You want to go to a place that caters to contractors. You don’t need lots of equipment but you do need the Good Stuff!  Here are the basics.

An upright floor grinder. A real upright, not a glorified hand grinder with a handle and wheels. It will be heavy and should come with the diamond wheel attached.

A hand grinder. These come in different sizes like a small 4″, 7″ etc. I would go with a 7 or 10 inch and you will need a diamond wheel for it.

Last, but the most important thing you will need is a vacuum setup for the grinders. These are special HEPA vacuums designed for fine concrete dust. The upright grinder and the hand held grinder will both have a shroud on them to attach the vacuum to. You can make your life a lot easier if you put a pre-separator between the vacuum and the grinders. These are simple setups that catch lots of heavy concrete dust before it can reach the vacuum. They work great!

If you are renting the equipment from a professional outfit that caters to contractors, chances are they will have the diamond wheels you will need. If not, don’t scrimp on the diamond wheels. The quality of the diamonds matters a great deal. There is a huge difference between a $125.00 diamond wheel and a $25.00 one. You will go through several $25 ones on a garage floor. A quality Diamond wheel will last through the job. The Arrow diamond wheels are the style I like best.

Diamond wheel for epoxy garage flooring









Prior to making the commitment and grinding your floor, I suggest testing the moisture/vapor pressure of your concrete slab. We normally do a preliminary test by taping squares of foil down in several areas of the floor and waiting 24 hours for signs of moisture. The best test is a calcium chloride test. You can buy kits for about $50 online. and the results are very accurate. The instructions are easy. You are basically measuring the weight of the moisture absorbed into the calcium packet and calculating a vapor pressure. If your vapor pressure is 3lbs or more, don’t do an epoxy floor. There are coatings to get around this limit but you will need a professional for that.

epoxy floor coating installation








Once you have assembled the big equipment, you will need safety equipment like ear protection, eye protection, a respirator and dust mask, gloves, etc.

Grinding a floor is very loud work and can get unnerving. The vibration from the grinder combined with the noise can make you freak fast.

Before you do any grinding you will want to clear the entire area and sweep the floor. Any grease or oil stains will need to be cleaned before grinding. There are lots of special cleaners for this. I use some pretty strong ones followed by Simple Green. You want to use the hand grinder to grind up to the edge of the wall and around anything you cant get the big grinder close to like posts or stairs. Then you run the big grinder over the floor. With both the big grinder and hand held grinder you want steady sweeping motion with even pressure. Don’t tilt the grinder or you will groove into the concrete and this becomes much more apparent after the coating is applied. The profile you are looking for is about 60 to 80 grit. Like the sand paper.

If you have any cracks in the concrete you can easily fit a piece of paper into, they will need to be “chased”, opened up with an edge grinder. You want to form or open the crack into a V.

Another important epoxy garage flooring tip is to vacuum the floor extremely well after grinding! use your grinder vac with an extension wand and wide floor nozzle. Go vacuum crazy.

Your choice of epoxy is critical. Go with a major paint company brand. Stay away from the box store stuff. Follow the mixing instructions. On the first coat we like to dilute the coating down a bit so it can easily absorb into the concrete. To roll a floor coating, as opposed to a self leveling floor where the coating is poured out  and “raked”, you will need a good frame and a solvent resistant cover. I like a 3/8 nap. Use a pole on the frame. After the epoxy is mixed and any induction time is observed, plan your roll. Roll from corner to corner working your way out of the room. Apply uniform coverage. We normally fill cracks prior to the roll but you can let the epoxy “pool” a bit in the cracks to fill them. If the cracks are significant they will need to be filled with the appropriate product for your choice of coating before the roll.

For a roll coat, plan on three coats. Four coats if you are broadcasting decorative chips or a an anti-slip media. Wait the proper time between coats. If you are broadcasting chips or texture you can make life easier if you get some spike shoes. They fit on your shoes and allow you to walk out on a wet floor. When broadcasting chips it works better to throw the chips up in the air and letting them fall down onto the floor. Don’t throw chips at the floor. It’s a good idea to practice on some concrete to see how they fall and to get the knack of it.

After the chips are down and dry, use a broad drywall knife and lightly scrape the chips in all four directions. Then vacuum up all the loose chips. You can now seal the chips or texture with a coat or two of the appropriate clear epoxy.

After everything is good and dry you are ready to roll! Get it?




Painters Secret

Peeling Paint


Sooner or later you will have to deal with peeling paint on your home. What if I told you that you may not have to? There is a secret that not many people know about and actually not a lot of painters know about; except the old timers like me. If the painted area is wood, this secret will work for you. Now this will only work on bare or exposed wood so if you have new wood siding that’s the best but if you have areas of your home where peeling has occured, your in luck!

To understand why this works you need to understand that peeling starts when a tiny crack forms in the paint film. Water penetrates into that crack and is absorbed into the wood and causes the wood to swell. When the wood swells it pushes out on the paint film and expands the crack and then the cycle starts again and each cycle weakens the paint bond a little more each time.

peeling paint- fixing it








Now the secret. Water repellent and preservative. If this is applied to bare wood before priming and painting, you will significantly delay peeling paint for a long time. Most wood preservatives are not paintable. The label isn’t going to be much help and save yourself the frustration and don’t ask a store employee. You can call the manufacture and ask them but I will save you the trouble. Here are a few that I know are paintable  and will work.

1. Penofin Blue label

2. Woodlife Classic

3. Olympic Clear Preservative


Peeling paint is always a pain but this secret will keep it from happening for a long time.

Interesting Paint Products

Interesting paint products come and go all the time. There must be an inventive mind set with many painters or supply manufactures. I am amazed and sometimes jealous at the interesting paint products I see from time. Jealous because I sometimes wish I came up with the idea. I also get a good laugh sometimes with some of the more crazy or useless stuff.


I have used this product and in fact I usually have a roll or two in my tape bucket. It is a high quality product and it does what it is suppose to. It takes a little getting use to when taping but the learning curve is pretty short. It is a paper with a bead of polyurethane gel running the length. The gel fills any gaps or imperfections on a wall so you can get a straight paint edge and the gel forms a tight seal on things like baseboards. SnotTape works well, just don’t use some that you have had around for a long time as it will dry out.

Interesting Paint Products SnotTape







Ionic Paint

This is a real interesting one. I have not tried it and I’m not sure if I will but it’s something worth some thought. It is a paint additive composed of “rare earth” elements that apparently gives the paint a charge that when combined with natural air movement in a room, cleans the air. It goes by the name Ionic Paint additive. There are two versions apparently. One for regular odors and one for stronger odors like animal urine. Here is a video explaining the idea and process. If you try it, tell me what you think of it.

Painting Windows

Painting windows can be challenging. The biggest problem people run into is stuck windows. Either stuck prior to your painting them or stuck as a result of your painting them.

painting windows









If you are going to prep and repaint a window and it is stuck or difficult to open the first thing you will want to do is inspect it inside and out to determine why it isn’t opening properly. Most of the time the window has been “painted shut” from the outside. Whether it has been painted shut from the inside or outside, the fix is the same. Use a putty knife, not a razor blade or sharp knife, and work it into the seam between the window and the frame. Use the putty knife as you would a regular knife to “cut” the window from the frame. Usually you will need to run the putty knife the length of the window, top to bottom.

Another reason a window may stick is because of something called blocking. Blocking is the tendency of dried latex paint to want to stick to itself. The best cure for this is a painter secret Briwax. Just rub a small amount on the two surfaces where they will meet. This is also great stuff to use on the track of double hung windows or in the pocket and gear levers of a casement window.

Most windows have many parts and added hardware. One key to a successful job when painting windows is to remove as much hardware as possible. Make the job as easy as possible by removing as many obstacles as you can. It is well worth the investment in time.

Many windows can easily be taken out from the frame by simply removing a few screws on casement windows or pushing in on the track and pulling out on the window if it is a double hung. Older double hung windows usually have a cord attached to them and are not designed to be easily removed.

Weather stripping is also something that should be removed if you can do so easily. Don’t forget to reinstall it when done!! If it can’t be removed, mask it off and clean it when done (if necessary) with a solvent.

When painting windows you want to follow the same procedures as when finishing woodwork. Sand, prime and paint using high quality coatings. An often missed area on windows is the outer edge of the window where it fits into the frame. All four sides, top-bottom-left-right. These areas should be sealed to avoid damage to the window and frame. I suggest not using paint on these areas as it will be an area subject to blocking and often the build up in mils by painting makes for a tight fit. I like to use straight penetrol on the bare wood. it seals very well and is a thin mil coating.

Scraping glass as opposed to masking it is usually the way to go. The exception is when dealing with old glass or thin fragile glass, mask it! When scraping glass always use a new, sharp razor blade. Wet the area to be scraped and use lite pressure.

Exterior Painting In Winter

Exterior painting in winter is possible in the Omaha Nebraska area. Circumstances occasionally require that work be done to the exterior of a home of commercial building when the weather is rather cold. Usually when someone requests that paint work be done to the exterior of a home in the winter it is because of a sale of the property. Often when money is escrowed for work to be done at a later date the title company will withhold 1.5 times the estimated cost of the job. Sometimes the extra 50% is more then a seller wants held up in escrow.  On commercial projects it’s often preferred to get it done sooner then later. Usually special arrangements are made for exterior painting like tarping and heating exterior areas for painting.

exterior painting in winter








So this is the foundation of a house that obviously needed attention. I don’t know the details, but I do know that the homeowner wanted it done ASAP and the property was in fact for sale. We got lucky today 1/30/17 and had a day in the lower 50’s. Most exterior paints with a low temp rating will go down to 34 degrees. The paint can usually take the low temperature better then the painter.

exterior painting in winter








Exterior painting in winter is a doable thing. The first and best choice is always to wait for the best weather conditions; however this is not always possible. The biggest danger when painting in the winter (above 34 degrees) is working within the dew point. The dew point is the temperature  at which the air can no longer hold water vapour and a percentage of it starts to form water droplets (condensation).

A safe rule of thumb is to paint when the temperature is at least five degrees above the dew point  and plan your work so the paint has time to cure prior to the temperature dropping within the dew point.


Paint Spills

Paint spills occur and the key to correctly dealing with them is twofold. Time knowledge are the key. The knowledge is what you are about to get and how quickly you react to a spill is often the difference between an easy clean up versus a more involved cleaning process.

The most important thing to remember is that whatever the solvent is for the paint, that is what you should use first to clean it up. For a Latex paint you would use water. For an Alkyd paint you would use mineral spirits. Where most people quickly go wrong is when they reach for a “cleaner” for a paint spill. Cleaners and special paint removing solvents are far down the list of things to try.

A third factor, besides time and knowedge, is what the paint is on. The porosity and how delicate the surface is are also very important. Occasionally paint can get on something and by it’s very nature your screwed. For example, a delicate, white lamp shade that has red paint on it. Even after successfully getting the paint off it the tint will have stained the delicate white paper and on top of that the object essentially has a spot light on it showing the stain.

paint spills
I can’t help you with this one!








Let’s not deal with the doom and gloom but instead highlight what can be done.

Wet Paint. If the paint is wet, remove as much of it as possible with clean rags. If the paint is on a finished wood or vinyl floor your done after the wipe up. You do need to pay special attention to any seams in the vinyl or reveals or seams in a wood floor. After wiping, using a soft brush (like a tooth brush) on the seams to clean them. On carpet the process is the same. Remove as much paint as possible. If it is a small spot you can usually blot the area with alternating (clean) wet and then dry rags to absorb the paint. Success here will depend on the color of the carpet and the color of the paint. The tint in the paint will separate out of the paint and absorb into the porous carpet. Keeping the area wet and continuing to use wet then dry rags will often pull the tint out. Do not allow the area to dry until it looks right. If the area still has a stained appearance or it is a bigger spill, then you will need to use an extractor. Keep the area wet  by putting wet rags on top of the spill while you go to get one. There are small hand held units that will wet an area and then extract the water from the spot. Another option is to wet the area with a spray bottle and use a shop vac to extract the water. Don’t over do it with the water. If the paint is an Alkyd then the process is the same except you will be using mineral spirits instead of water and you will use a shop vac for the extraction not some rented carpet extractor. Imagine taking the unit back stinking of mineral spirits! If the paint is on ceramic tile  the challenge will be on the grout lines. Wipe the tile and use a soft brush of the grout line to scrub as much of the paint away as possible. Do not over wet the grout or spread the spot into a much bigger area by scrubbing. Often after the area has dried you will need to use a stiff brush on the grout lines to brush away any remaining image of the stain. Use the same process for brick.

For other surfaces such as concrete, counter tops, porcelain, drapes, artwork,… the process is similar. Don’t damage the surface in an attempt to clean it. For example on concrete you will wipe the area up and may need to use a scrub brush because of the porosity. If so, use a stiff nylon brush. Using a metal brush risks burnishing the concrete. On concrete use plenty of water to wash the paint out and away from the surface.


Dry Paint. Paint spills that have been allowed to dry or were not discovered until they have dried can pose a bigger challenge. On hard surfaces you will want to wet the area with the corresponding solvent (water, etc…) and after the paint has softened scrape it away.On very hard surfaces like concrete you can sometimes simply scrape the paint and be done. On softer surfaces like carpet, the most common problem, you will want to take a wet rag and place it over the spot and leave it until the paint is soft enough to work on. This will take a process of delicate scraping and blotting. This is usually successful. Sometimes using the broad edge of a razor blade and shaving over the surface will work well. Dried paint on glass is easily scraped with a broad razor blade. Just be careful to not put too much presure on the glass. Sometimes on stubborn paint you can use a damp rag and run it on the glass where the paint is to soften it a bit and then scrape.

Commercial products like Goof-Off  and WD-40 can do wonders in the right circumstances however in my opinion should always be used as a last resort and you should always test an area that is not noticeable to see what it may do to the surface.



Fixing Cracks

Fixing cracks is something we run into on almost every job. They are very common and not usually a sign of a bigger problem. So how do you know if it is a sign of a bigger problem?

Your floor is basically a bridge system running from load bearing wall to load bearing wall. When a foundation shifts it will cause an upper floor and load bearing wall to shift with it. Signs of this happening are cracks on the exterior of your home on the foundation, windows and doors that don’t close properly and cracks on the walls on the interior of your home.

If you only have cracks on the interior of your home and not any of the other signs of a shifting foundation, then you are most likely fine. If in doubt there are plenty of companies that will look at your home. Normally for free.

The most common area we see interior wall cracks are at the top left or top right of a door frame. Usually running from the miter joint of the door casing and running up towards the ceiling. This is usually from the framing header over the doorway moving separate from the horizontal wall framing.


fixing cracks






If the shifting of the header is significant this problem will continue until the framing is reinforced. In most cases this is not necessary.

First step is to protect the floor below the area to be repaired. It can get messy. Let’s assume you are fixing a drywall crack and not plaster although the process is similar. You want to cut along the crack, running a razor knife in the crack and create more of a V shape in the opening. Use a clean brush and clean the debris out of the cut area. Using a smaller drywall knife, press drywall mud into the crack and run a small and thin path of drywall mud on top of the crack area. For most cracks you want about a three to four inch wide path of mud.

You can use either the traditional paper drywall tape or the mesh varieties. I prefer the paper tape because it is often easier to finish. A trick I use is I will wet the paper tape before applying it to the area to be patched. Once the paper tape is embedded in the drywall mud you will want to smooth it out to ensure there are no air bubbles. Put a thin coat of drywall mud over this.

Once this area is dry you will sand it and apply additional coats of mud. Usually one more coat but sometimes two. Then you simply prime this area and paint.

fixing cracks








If you are repairing an area that has been repaired before, a persistent crack, then an additional step you can take is to apply a couple coats of an elastomeric coating over the primed area before applying the finish coat. One product that works well is Good-Bye Cracks. This stuff basically creates a elastic film that rides over a crack should it reoccur.