Category: Painting


How To: Strip Paint from Antique Woodwork

It's no easy feat to strip paint from antique woodwork. The task involves great care, but the stunning result very often makes the effort worthwhile.

If you have an old house, some paint stripping projects require extra care. Antique woodwork can include applied details made of an animal glue compound that will melt if you use a heat gun. Instead, gently apply a chemical stripper and use suction and dental tools to carefully remove layers of old paint.

For more on paint, consider:

Paint Stripping Tools
Quick Tip: Stripping Paint
Bob Vila Radio: Paint Stripping Tips


Antiquing vs. Distressing: 8 Tips on Creating the Look and Patina of a Genuine Antique

Celebrated DIY style maker, home blogger, milk paint purveyor, author, and photographer Marian Parsons—aka Miss Mustard Seed—gives advice on antiquing and distressing furniture.

Photo: Miss Mustard Seed

Marian Parsons—mother, wife, and creative soul—was crushing on hand-painted antique European furniture. She coveted the timeworn look but couldn’t rationalize the price or preciousness, especially with two active little boys in the house. Parsons had no choice but to replicate the look herself. She studied antiques, consulted an assortment of how-to books, and played around with paint and such, eventually honing her refinishing skills and garnering much fanfare. She took to blogging about her crafty escapades under the name Miss Mustard Seed, along the way creating a hot business and brand as she transformed furnishings into exquisite reinterpretations of their former selves. Here, Parsons discusses the differences between antiquing and distressing furniture, and gives tips on how to arrive at a new finish that looks old.

Photo: Miss Mustard Seed

Antiquing vs. Distressing
Antiquing and distressing are both used to simulate age and they’re often used in conjunction, but they are distinctly different painting techniques. When antiquing furniture, you add layers of paint and stain to achieve a grunge patina, whereas when you distress it, you remove the finish to simulate years of wear. Parsons urges anyone who is contemplating trying these techniques to first study genuine antiques and note where the paint has worn away or become distressed from handling and where the finish has become dark and antiqued from the accumulation of dirt over the years.

Choosing a Piece
When choosing a piece to refinish, Parsons considers style, price, and condition. She is drawn to the Empire, American Farmhouse, and French Provincial styles, and she looks for solid wood furniture with details such as serpentine drawers, beading, and turned legs that give a piece character and afford opportunity to play with the painted finish. Her basic rule is, “Buy what you love, but not something that is beyond your ability to repair…unless it is so cheap you have little to lose.”

Prepped to Paint
The most important prep step is sanding, although Parsons rarely spends more than five minutes on it. “You don’t want to scratch the piece, but rather rough it up enough to help with adhesion,” she says, recommending medium-grit sandpaper, such as 100, for the job.

Photo: Miss Mustard Seed

Create a Story
When you antique and distress furniture, you are essentially telling a fictional history. To create a piece that looks like an original, think about how it might have been used. As a general guideline, distress the high points that would frequently have been handled and bumped, and antique the low points or crevices where dust would have settled. Parsons warns, “Paint generally doesn’t wear away smack in the center of a drawer front. It wears away around the edges and handles.”

Type of Paint
Parsons has used many paint products and finds that milk paint, along with small bottles of craft store acrylic paints for decorative detailing, meets her furniture refurbishing needs. She loves that milk paint is natural, has a long shelf life, “soaks in like stain but looks like paint,” and dries matte. Parsons also likes that she can mix just the amount of milk paint needed for a particular project and can regulate the desired opacity. Milk paint, however, can be temperamental. She offers plenty of tutorials for the milk paint novice.

The Layered Look
To re-create the look of a beautiful antique that has been repainted over the years, Parsons employs a repertoire of resist methods, techniques that use Vaseline, beeswax, or hemp oil to prevent the second coat from adhering and permit the bottom layer to show through. Sanding with medium and then fine sandpaper will add to the patina.

Related: The Perfect Paint Brush—and How to Choose It

Photo: Miss Mustard Seed

Brush Basics
Parsons could not paint furniture without a nylon bristle Purdy 2-inch angled sash brush. The size and shape allow her to cut in neatly. For waxing she likes a big, bushy natural bristle brush that she can work into the deep carved crannies. A soft cloth is also handy for applying a wax top coat.

Finishing Touches
Wax and oil protect the painted finish. “Each time you add a top coat to milk paint, you will see a difference in the color and vitality of a piece,” says Parsons, who almost always applies one coat of hemp oil to a finished piece, adding layers for more sheen if desired. In addition, white wax (for liming), furniture wax (for butter-soft texture), and brown wax (for antiquing) deliver specific effects. As for hardware, Parsons salvages the original stuff but has no allegiance to tacky reproduction brass. Similar to the process of looking for the perfect earrings, Parsons often tries several knobs before making a decision, and when Hobby Lobby’s glass knobs are on sale, she always buys extras.


Whitewashing

If you're looking for a way to brighten a room or revive an old piece of furniture, a whitewashed finish may be just the thing. Follow this simple how-to for best results.

Whitewashing - Furniture

Photo: bucketsofburlap.blogspot.com

In contrast to a regular paint job, whitewashing refreshes the look of wood surfaces while allowing their natural grain to show through. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but in dark or sterile-seeming rooms, the light color and pleasingly imperfect aesthetic of whitewashing can make the space appear larger, friendlier, and more comfortably lived-in. Although its results are out of the ordinary, whitewashing differs only slightly from run-of-the-mill painting. Here’s how it’s done!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Sandpaper (or power sander)
- Broom and/or vacuum
- Cloth
- White paint
- Paint thinner
- Paintbrush
- Polyurethane sealer

STEP 1
Whitewashing works best on raw wood. That being the case, it’s critical that you remove as much of any existing finish—be it paint, stain, or varnish—as possible. Do so by thoroughly sanding the surface you intend to whitewash. Sanding by hand is one option, but it’s far quicker and easier to opt for a power sander. (If you don’t own one, you can rent one from your local home improvement center.) Before continuing on to the next step, it’s important to clear all sawdust and debris created in the course of sanding. Sweep or vacuum the area, if appropriate; otherwise, use a damp cloth to wipe the surface clean.

Whitewashing - Paneling

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Now formulate the whitewash. Rest assured there’s no complicated recipe to follow; rather, making whitewash is a simple matter of diluting regular white paint. Dilute water-based white paint with water and dilute oil-based white paint with turpentine. The precise ratio of paint to thinner depends on the look you wish to achieve. For thicker coverage, use a mixture of two parts paint to one part thinner. Reverse that ratio if you’d prefer a thinner application. Before you whitewash the entire surface, first experiment with the mixture in an inconspicuous spot. Be sure you like the way that it looks before committing. After all, it’s easy to add coverage but more challenging to take it away.

STEP 3
Apply the whitewash with a paintbrush, using long strokes in the direction of the wood grain. Because the finish dries quickly, it’s wise to complete one small section at a time. Should you prefer the wood grain to show through more than it does, use a cloth to wipe away excess whitewash before it has the chance to dry completely. Doing this should result in an attractive, washed-out look.

STEP 4
Let the first coat dry completely, then determine whether a second or third coat is desired. So long as the whitewash is dry (allow several hours), you can use fine-grit sandpaper to play down any coverage that you think seems thicker than ideal.

STEP 5
Bring the project to completion by coating it with a clear polyurethane sealer, applied with a brush as evenly as possible over the surface. Once sealed, your whitewashing should remain looking fresh for years to come.


How To: Spackle Exterior Siding

Repainting your house? To ensure a smooth finish, spackle exterior siding wherever deep scratches and gouges appear in the wood.

When you’re repainting your house, here’s how to restore that smooth, original finish. After you’ve removed all loose paint and sealed the surface with a latex primer, use a water-based exterior-grade spackle to fill in the rough areas that remain. With a four-inch putty knife, spread an even layer of spackle and smooth it out. When it’s dry, lightly sand it and apply a second coat the same way, if necessary. When the surface is perfectly smooth, apply your finish coat.

For more on painting, consider:

Exterior Paint 101
Bob Vila Radio: Exterior Painting Prep
Exterior Painting Preparation (VIDEO)


How To: Splatter-Paint Your Floor

It's stupendously easy to splatter paint—anyone can do it, even little kids. But to achieve results that you can love for years to come, bear in mind these few simple pointers.

Here’s an inexpensive and creative way to decorate a floor. Roll on a coat of deck enamel (the color of your choice) and allow it to dry for a couple of days. Then choose three contrasting colors to splatter on top. Fill your brush liberally and move it from side to side, tapping it with a stick. Splatter all three colors at once, so you don’t have to wait for each one to dry. When it’s thoroughly dry, apply three coats of polyurethane to protect the finish.

For more on painting, consider:

How To: Paint a Wood Floor
9 Incredible Faux Finishes You Can Do Yourself
8 Ways to Age, Distress, Gild, and Add Shine to Your Next Project


How To: Make a Paint Pail

There are several good reasons not to paint directly out of a can. Instead, make a paint pail of your own within minutes.

Most professionals paint from a pail rather than a can. Painting out of a can is messy, causing rim buildup and dripping. Here’s an easy way to turn an empty paint can into a pail. Use the blade of a five-in-one putty knife to remove the can’s rim in one piece, and use the sides of the pail to remove excess paint from the brush.

For more on painting tools, consider:

Selecting the Right Painting Tools
9 Creative Uses for Old Paint Cans
Quick Tip: Avoiding Paint Spills and Spatters


Quick Tip: Exterior Painting Preparation

Planning to paint your house? Don't forget that results largely depend on whether or not you take exterior paint preparation seriously.

An exterior paint job is only as good as the prep you do first. Make sure to scrape and sand the surface to remove old peeling or flaking paint. Wash off the dirt and dust using a power washer if necessary. Patch small cracks and seams with caulk and apply primer over any bare wood before you paint.

For more on painting, consider:

How To: Paint a House
Painting the House: Should You Hire a Pro?
The Do’s and Don’ts of Choosing a New House Color


How To: Paint Over Stain

Though it's no problem to paint over stain and other wood finishes, the key to success lies in preparing the surface properly.

You can paint over existing interior wood finishes, if you take the proper steps first. Here’s how. To paint over a stain, lightly sand all glossy surfaces until the finish is dull, then wipe it down with a damp rag dipped in de-glosser. Allow time to dry. Then with even strokes, apply a quick-dry primer-sealer to prevent bleed-through. Allow the sealer to dry, and you’re ready for your finish coat.

For more on painting, consider:

How To: Paint EVERYTHING
Paint Makeovers: An Expert Tells All
The Perfect Paintbrush—and How to Choose It


Bob Vila Radio: Natural Paint

Thanks to manufacturing advancements, today's low- and no-VOC natural paints perform as well, and go on as easily, as their VOC-containing counterparts.

The harmful effects of VOCs on indoor air quality have received a lot of attention in recent years. In response, paint manufacturers have formulated a wealth of low- or no-VOC coatings. Here’s how to be a smart consumer and choose paints that are good for your health, your home, and the environment.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON NATURAL PAINT or read the text below:

Natural Paint

Photo: shutterstock.com

Start by reading the label on the paint can. Acceptable VOC concentrations vary from state to state, but one of the more stringent standards stipulates a VOC concentration in flat paint of no more than 50 grams per liter (g/L). But remember: A base paint may be low- or no-VOC, but added tints may contain VOCs. Before you ask for a custom mix, ask about the VOCs in the tint.

If you’re prepared to spend a little more, you can seek out one of the specialty producers that offer natural paint. These formulas draw on historic—in some cases, ancient—recipes that incorporate ingredients like milk, chalk, clay and natural pigments. These paints may require special handling or application, so read the manufacturer’s directions carefully.

The first paints with low or no VOCs got a bad rap for being difficult to apply or requiring extended drying times. Most of the better paint brands have solved these problems and now offer products that go on as easily and perform as well as their traditional VOC-containing counterparts.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


How To: Prevent Peeling Exterior Paint

With the right preparation and materials, you can prevent peeling paint on the exterior of your house, even if you live in a wet part of the country.

Here’s how to keep the exterior paint from peeling off your house, if you live in a damp climate. Using a breathable oil primer will allow moisture buildup from inside the house to escape. Cover the primer with two coats of 100% acrylic latex paint. All climates are prone to mildew, and latex paint is inherently resistant to mildew.

For more on exterior painting, consider:

Exterior Paint 101
Weatherproof with Paint
How To: Avoid Painting Problems