Category: Painting

Bob Vila Radio: Painting Raw Wood

Painting raw wood? Even before applying primer, there are a few steps you should take at the outset to ensure professional-level results in the end.

You probably know that bare, raw wood needs to be primed before it’s painted. For best results, though, there are a few steps that you should take care of even before you start priming.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PAINTING RAW WOOD or read the text below:

Paint Raw Wood


First, check all surfaces for finish nails—even though they are headless, they should be countersunk using a small nailset to be sure they are completely below the surface. Fill all those nail holes, as well as any other imperfections, with wood filler. When the wood filler has completely dried, sand it smooth using fine-grit sandpaper.

Next, you’ll want to fill in any gaps and seams with caulk. Anywhere two pieces of wood butt against each other should be caulked, so that your finished product will appear seamless. Smooth out the caulk with your fingers or with a damp rag, being sure to remove all the excess.

Finally, if the wood has any visible knots, seal them with clear shellac so that the sticky resins inside the wood can’t seep out through the knot and ruin your paint job. When everything is sealed, caulked, and dry, run some fine-grain sandpaper over it all one more time, then start priming. You’ll be amazed at how these few simple steps in the beginning really pay off in the end.

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: Paint Stripes on a Wall

Depending on the colors and pattern you choose, walls with painted stripes can be playful, formal, or cheerful—but whatever their decorative effect, they're an inexpensive and not-too-difficult way to add character to a room. Here's how.

How to Paint Stripes on a Wall


Painted stripes can be bold or subtle, identical or varied in size, horizontal or vertical. But no matter what design you choose, painted stripes pack a decorative punch that greatly exceeds the low cost of their creation. Although it’s important to approach the project with a detailed plan, it’s about as easy to paint stripes on a wall as it is to complete any other basic painting project in the home. Follow these steps to achieve best results.

- Cloth or sponge
- Water and dishwashing liquid
- Measuring tape
- Paint and paint tray
- Paintbrush and roller
- Ruler (the longer the better)
- Level
- Pencil
- Painter’s tape
- Ladder

Begin by applying painter’s tape to all trim around windows and doors, and along the ceiling and floor. Indeed, protect anything you don’t want to paint. Once you have finished, proceed to clean the walls thoroughly using either a cloth or sponge dampened with water and dabbed with mild dishwashing liquid.

Decide on a width and color (or some combination of colors) for the stripes, and whether they will run up and down or side to side. Next, measure the surface area of the wall or walls to be painted; that should give you some indication of how many stripes of the desired width and orientation you’ll need to fill the space.

You might find it very helpful to draw the wall or walls as closely to scale as possible. Map your tentative design onto the paper, tweaking the width and/or number of stripes as you go until you have struck upon the ideal scheme. Remember that it’s fine for the top and bottom stripes (in a horizontal design) or the left- and rightmost stripes (in a vertical design) to differ in width from the rest of the stripes; skilled professionals often do the same thing.

With a pencil, faintly mark the position on the wall where the top and bottom (for horizontal stripes) or left and right side (for vertical) of each stripe should go. Then use a level and the longest ruler you own to extend those lines over the surface to be painted. As it can be difficult to juggle three tools simultaneously, it’s wise to enlist a helper, if possible.

How to Paint Stripes on a Wall - Taping


Adhere the painter’s tape along the pencil line, obscuring all the areas you plan to leave unpainted or intend to paint at a later stage. Do this carefully, or you’ll end up with jagged edges. Consider using a burnisher or even a credit card to flatten the tape as you place it as firmly as you can on the wall.

For thin stripes, use a paintbrush; for thicker stripes, use a small roller. In either case, it aids accuracy to hold a perfectly straight implement, such as a ruler, to the very edge of the section of tape nearest to where you are painting. Should any paint get on the straightedge, that’s fine—after all, it’s there as a safeguard, but the idea is to coat the wall, not the guide tool. Continue working in sections until you have finished painting stripes on each wall that you set out to decorate.

Allow about an hour of dry time, then apply the second coat. Having done that, wait several hours before carefully removing the tape. The paint should still be slightly wet; that’s actually what you want. If you peel back the tape when it’s completely dry, the paint may come off in flakes, leaving you to start over on Step 1!

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.


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


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!

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

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


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.

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.

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.

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:

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