Category: Painting

How To: Create a Faux Wood Grain… with Paint!

Spruce up forgettable furnishings or bare walls with the “faux bois” technique, which results in paint that looks just like wood.

How to Achieve a Wood Finish with Paint


The ageless patina of wood grain makes it a popular material for home furnishings. Unfortunately, solid wood pieces—side tables, bedroom dressers, and chair—cost a pretty penny. Thankfully, an innovative painting technique called “faux bois” (French for “false wood”) can offer the perfect compromise for do-it-yourselfers who budget for laminate furniture but dream of wood grain look. Using this technique, homeowners can mimic a natural-looking wood grain on non-wood surfaces, ranging from medium-density fiberboard (MDF) to drywall. What’s more, the painter has full control over the color and variation of the faux wood grain, so they can dictate how to add texture to otherwise flat surfaces. With two shades of latex paint and a simple acrylic glaze, you can apply paint that looks like wood to all of your favorite home accents.

- Painters tape
- Old newspaper
- Sanding block
- Sandpaper (medium- to fine-grit)
- Cloth
- White primer (oil-based)
- Natural bristle paintbrush
- Paint roller
- Latex paint (2 shades)
- Synthetic bristle brush
- Paint mixing jar with cap
- Clear acrylic glaze
- Paint pans
- Paint roller cover
- Wood grain rocker
- Graining comb
- Paper towel

To prepare the workspace for painting, cover all surrounding areas with painter’s tape. You’ll also want to remove hinges, knobs, and other hardware or décor, in order to protect them from stray splatters. Lay down old newspaper beneath the workspace to keep sanding debris and paint drops off of floors and furnishings.

If painting engineered wood such as MDF, particle board, or plywood, use a sanding block to lightly sand the project surface. Sanding will slough off any upright fibers in the board and level out any bumps. Choose a fine-grit sandpaper in the grit range of 120 to 220 for already smooth surfaces like MDF, and start with a medium-grit sandpaper in the grit range of 60 to 100 for coarser engineered woods. Use a dry cloth to wipe away the sanding dust when finished.

If working with engineered wood, apply white primer to the entire project surface with a natural bristle brush or a paint roller. Some woods like MDF tend to absorb water and swell, and they’re also prone to expanding or contracting with changes in temperature. For these types of wood, opt for an oil-based primer and coat both the top and underside of the project surface to help minimize warping. Dry the primer completely per the manufacturer’s instructions.

If you’re starting with bare or a dark-colored, painted drywall, use a paint roller to apply a latex primer to the wall. Dry the primer completely per the manufacturer’s instructions.

With the project surface primed, you’re ready to apply a base coat of paint that looks like wood. Choose a low-luster latex paint that matches the undertones of the type of wood you want your project to mimic. For example, if you want the surface to bear resemblance to mahogany, opt for coral or dark red. For lighter woods like walnut or maple, select a shade of gold or orange.

Use a synthetic bristle brush or paint roller to cover the entire project surface in paint. When the paint dries, apply a second coat and then allow the coat to dry completely.

How to Achieve a Wood Finish with Paint


Now you’ll want to mix the glaze for your faux bois painting technique. In a paint mixing jar, combine equal parts clear acrylic glaze and a second latex paint pick. Opt for latex paint that is a similar to, but a few shades darker than, the base coat. Replace the cap on the jar and shake the contents to create a translucent tinted glaze. Later on, when you apply the glaze, you’ll want the base coat to still be visible through it.

Pour the glaze into a paint pan, and load a synthetic bristle brush (or a roller with a quarter-inch nap roller cover) with the glaze. Working in sections 6 inches in width at a time, apply a thin layer of the glaze that extends the entire height of the project surface.

Create the faux wood grain in the fresh glaze. Position a wood grain rocker—a hand tool that creates a wood grain texture on painted surfaces—at a top edge of the project’s surface. Then slowly drag the rocker down vertically, rocking the curved head of the tool from the top to bottom through the wet glaze until you reach the opposite end of the project surface.

To change the direction of the faux wood grain, simply flip the rocker and drag it in the opposite direction. To create variety with larger arches and a fine straight grain, position a graining comb—a triangular tool with teeth that mimics a grain texture—along the edge of the section you completed and pull the comb either straight down through the glaze or at a slight angle. This technique should create a more random (and therefore more natural) appearance.

TIP: Practice your wood grain rocker technique in advance by applying a thin layer of glaze to scrap cardboard or drywall board and pulling the hand tool through it. When you’re satisfied with your faux wood grain, move on to the main project surface.

Use a paper towel to wipe the glaze from the rocker and comb. Then move to the next 6-inch swath of the project surface, and repeat Steps 6 and 7. If you make a mistake, simply re-glaze the offending area and re-apply the faux wood grain.

Continue this process until the faux wood grain covers the entire project surface.

Allow the glaze to dry completely. Lastly, replace any hardware on the project surface, and step back to admire your faux bois finish!

All You Need to Know About Paint Types

Before you apply your first coat of wall paint, read this primer to make sure you’re covered.

Types of Paint


A hardware store’s paint department presents an overwhelming number of options to any homeowner looking for a color refresh. The decision-making doesn’t stop after you’ve selected one specific hue from the walls of paint chips; DIY-minded individuals also faces choices on various types of paint: oil- or water-based, primer or top coat, flat or eggshell. From chemical makeup to the amount of light it can bounce back into a room when dry, today’s paint options vary greatly by can. Without a basic understanding of the terms used by paint manufacturers, it’s tough to know just what to pick. Luckily, if all you want to do is freshen up the walls in your home, a quick dip into this simple glossary can tell you everything you need to know about what paint is perfect for the task at hand.

Oil and Water
Interior paints fall into two overarching categories determine by their makeup: oil-based and water-based. The two types of paint use different agents to bind them to the surfaces they cover, and these bases create characteristics. While purists might prefer oil-based paints for their impeccable, long-lasting coverage, water-based paints’ ease of use makes them the more popular choice.

Oil-based paints, also called solvent-based paints, boast durability and affordability. If you’ve set your heart on a hue to keep on your walls for years to come, you can save some money by opting for oil-based paint in that particular color. Its resilience also makes it great for trim, since baseboards and doorways tend to suffer more daily contact than walls, and oil-based paints can stand up to considerable abuse without wear and tear. All oil-based paint takes hours longer to dry than water-based alternatives, but, in the end, you’re trading an extra day or two of project time for an extra few years of vibrancy before needing a new coat.

There are small variations between paints made with organic (linseed oil) and synthetic (alkyd) oil at the base: Namely, organic paints are slightly more delicate once dry, while sturdier alkyd paints cost a few dollars less per gallon but naturally have a higher amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Since alkyd paints are notorious for their odor while they’re still fresh, be sure to wear a respirator and opt for a low-VOC version to further cut down on the smell.

Pro tip: To clean your brushes (or any mishaps) after using oil-based paints, mineral spirits are a must; pick up a can of turpentine or paint thinner while you’re in the paint section.

Water-based paints, more commonly known as latex paints, are slightly less durable and often more expensive, but the upsides are threefold: They dry faster, clean up more easily, and give off a less noxious odor than oil-based paints. While oil-based counterparts can take up to 16 hours to dry between coats even in perfect (i.e., non- humid, well-ventilated) conditions, latex paint can cover plenty of wall space more than once in a single day, making it the most common choice for interior paint jobs.


Types of Paint for Walls - Primer versus Top Coat


Prime Time
Most DIY projects, including wall painting, start with a primer—a special base coat used to seal off a surface, protecting the new wall color from inconsistency and discoloration the old paint or any pre-existing stains might cause if they’re able to peek through. Primer doesn’t match the new color you’re adding; it’s often off-white or grey, meant to fill in pores and level the playing field, so to speak, before you add your new coat. In cases where a previously painted wall is being covered with a new color that isn’t too much lighter or darker than what’s already there, primer isn’t always a must. But it never hurts to start with one, particularly when it can save you an extra can of $20 to $30 topcoat in the long run. As far as types of paint primer go, the rule of thumb is easy to remember: Use oil-based primer under oil-based paint, and latex primer under latex paint.

Once you’ve narrowed your selection down to this point, one consideration remains: the contrast between your current wall color and the paint color chosen to replace it. If you’re going from a deep color to a light one (or the reverse), a high-hide primer should eliminate the extra coats of paint typically necessary to hide trace evidence of the old color. If you’re sticking within a reasonable range of color and looking for flawless coverage in any light, though, a 2-in-1 paint and primer combo can save you a round of touch-ups and potentially finish a paint job in one coat if you’re even-handed enough.

Pro tip: If you’re using a separate primer and want your coverage to eliminate even the most microscopic flaws, consider tinting your primer by adding a small amount of your topcoat to it before applying. That way, even if anything shows through in the end, it won’t be as noticeable since its hue will mimic that of the topcoat. Again, make sure both are oil-based or water-based; never mix one with the other.


The Big Finish

Types of Paint - Finding the Right Finish


When it comes to paint finishes, there’s a sliding scale ranging from a high shine to a completely non-reflective, almost paper-like texture. Expect to add about a dollar per gallon for each notch up the glossiness scale, with flat being the cheapest and high gloss being up to $5 more per gallon. Here’s the breakdown:

Flat is the least reflective, most matte type of paint finish. This cozy  best for low-traffic areas like formal living rooms.

Satin—next in line on the spectrum of gloss—is still a relatively matte finish with just a hint of sheen. This compromise is one of the most practical and popular finishes.

Eggshell balances matte an glossiness fairly evenly, though the exact sheen varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. This amount of gloss makes painted walls easy to clean with a damp cloth.

Semi-gloss bounces light even more than an eggshell finish. Plus, it is especially well suited for bathrooms, kitchens, and other high-traffic areas that require highly durable wall color. (Some paints with semi-gloss finish are even specially formulated for use in high-moisture areas, like the bathroom.)

Gloss or high-gloss finishes are the most reflective options available. These are generally saved for wood trim and molding, as the gloss is both more decorative and easiest to clean.

Pro tip: Most interior paint jobs use satin or eggshell on walls and semi-gloss on trim; if you’re on the fence about your finish, you can’t go wrong with this classic combination.


All of the Expert Painting Advice from
Of all the options available to remodelers, paint provides the quickest, easiest, and most affordable way to achieve a transformation, inside or out. Ready to look at your home in a new way? Click now for the color ideas to make your project beautiful.

Bob Vila Radio: Pick the Right Paint to Brighten Any Low-Light Room

There's a reason people don't live in caves anymore. Tired of straining your eyes to see across the room? Capitalize on the power of paint to make the most of meager light.


If rooms in your home receive too little natural light, remember that with nothing more than paint, you can bring about a bit more brightness. Focus on the colors discussed here.

Best Paint Colors for Dark Rooms


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Listen to BOB VILA ON PAINTING A DARK ROOM or read below:

Pale yellow: It’s always a good choice, because it mimics the warmth of natural light. Buttery yellows, in particular, do wonders to spread light around a space. On trim and woodwork, meanwhile, choose luminous white as a complement to, and enhancement of, your chosen shade of yellow.

Consider just about any shade of orange, too. Pumpkin, tangerine, apricot—they all make fine choices in a shadowy space. Why? Orange warms and enriches the quality of light in a room—even if it’s only the meager amount received through a small window or via artificial fixtures.

Other popular colors for dark rooms include light shades of blue, ocher, and pink. But those are only a handful of the more popular options. There are thousands of others.

The folks at your local paint store or home center will be happy to lend you books with color chips to take home for further evaluation.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

How To: Paint MDF

Want to makeover your MDF cabinets or shelves? Follow these steps to give this increasingly popular material a clean, smooth coat.

How To Paint MDF


Medium-Density Fiberboard, known simply as MDF, is common for both furniture and home construction these days. The inexpensive engineered wood material—a composite of sawdust and resins, fused together in a high-heat, high-pressure process—comes in 4’ × 8’ sheets and smaller project-sized boards ranging from 1/4” to 1” thick, much like boards of plywood. But unlike plywood, which is manufactured from many thin sheets of wood veneer, MDF is free of the knots, rings, and grain of real wood. The result? A composition that is very easy to cut, and therefore often used for such upscale applications as custom trim work and cabinetry. Plus, its hard, smooth surface takes veneer and paint very well.

Painting MDF requires an understanding of the material, however: It comes from the factory sanded to a 150-grit smoothness, so the face is ready to paint, but the edges are more porous—almost fuzzy—and require some prep for a smooth, uniform finish. Additionally, the material’s porosity also makes it unsuited to water-based products for the initial coat. Follow the guidelines here for how to paint MDF and your colorful project will turn out great!

- Drop cloths
- Tight fitting dust mask
- Eye protection
- Drywall compound
- 220-grit sand paper and/or sanding pads
- Tack cloth
- Solvent-based primer
- Paint
- Paint brushes/rollers/spray gun
- Sealer such as polyurethane, lacquer, or wax (optional)

If working on a piece of furniture, remove any hardware and set aside until paint has thoroughly dried. Then protect the work area with drop cloths to make cleanup easier. MDF produces a lot of dust when sanded, and the fine particles can irritate eyes and lungs, so be sure to wear protective eyewear and a tight-fitting dust mask.

Painting MDF


Whether your MDF project has a factory edge or has been custom routed, the edges must be sealed to accept paint in a way that matches the smoother face of the material. Seal the edges by running a generous coat of drywall compound over them with your finger. Once it has completely dried, sand edges smoothwith 220-grit sandpaper. Fill any scratches on the face of the MDF with drywall compound as well, as any mars or scratches will be painfully obvious once painted. Sand the entire piece with 220-grit sandpaper, then wipe it all down with tack cloth to remove fine dust and any remaining dirt or debris.

Prime the MDF with a solvent-based primer. A water-based product will cause the wood fibers to swell, resulting a surface that appears to have a raised grain that will not sand out. Use a brush, roller, or spray gun to apply—whichever is appropriate for the project.

After it is sealed, painting MDF with a water-based paint will produce the same results as painting it with an oil- or lacquer-based product. Choose your preferred paint, and use a brush, roller, or spray gun to apply, whichever best suits the project. When dry, assess if your work needs a second coat; if you spot any patchiness, cover the entire MDF project with another layer of paint.

Allow paint to dry thoroughly. Then, apply preferred sealer (polyurethane, lacquer, wax, etc.) if you expect your MDF  project to get daily use in order to preserve your paint job. (For example, painted cabinet doors could benefit from an extra layer of protection from wear and tear; MDF crown molding, on the other hand, will be out of reach and therefore not necessitate a sealer.)

When project is completely dry, replace any hardware you may have removed and step back to admire your work. After a coat of color, MDF will look just like any other painted wood. In fact, DIYers can create custom trim, wainscoting, or furniture partly with MDF and partly with wood, and once painted, the final piece will blend seamlessly together.


All of the Expert Painting Advice from
Of all the options available to remodelers, paint provides the quickest, easiest, and most affordable way to achieve a transformation, inside or out. Ready to look at your home in a new way? Click now for the color ideas to make your project beautiful.

How To: Paint Stainless Steel

Try a fresh coat of color to salvage those pieces you’d rather not replace.

How to Paint Stainless Steel Lockers


Stainless steel is strong, durable, and easy-care, but aesthetically its high-tech, industrial vibe can leave you cold after a while. Luckily, you can bring warmth, color, and texture to everything from shelving and tables to cabinets and countertops—you can even redo that teakettle in a snazzy new shade—using oil-based paint. Once you clean, prep, and prime surfaces properly, choose an application technique for how to paint stainless steel—brush, roller, or sprayer—based on the results you hope to achieve. The best news? The more beat-up your stainless, the better it will take paint!

- Drop cloths and/or plastic sheeting (if spraying)
- Painter’s tape
- Goggles (if using an orbital sander or spray paint machine)
- Wire brush or steel wool
- Orbital sander (optional)
- Clean rags
- Water-based degreaser
- Ammonia-based degreaser (optional)
- Specialized stainless steel cleaner (optional)
- Sponge
- Bucket
- Metal primer (rated for stainless steel)
- High quality oil paint
- Paintbrush, roller, or spraying machine (available for rent at about $80 a day)
- Paint respirator (if spraying)
- Wax appropriate for metal work, or marine varnish
- Buffing cloth

Protect floors and (if using a sprayer) walls and nearby furniture with drop cloths and/or plastic sheeting. Remove drawer pulls, hinges, or other hardware from the piece as necessary. Tape off any areas you want to remain free of paint.

Unlike porous surfaces such as wood, metal must be abraded for paint to bond. If your stainless steel is already scuffed up thanks to years of use, simply scour it manually all over with a wire brush or steel wool to obtain necessary roughness. Newer, sleeker stainless steel will need a thorough going-over with an orbital hand sander (you can rent one from a home improvement store for about $16 a day). Don protective goggles and apply just enough pressure to keep the sander in contact with the surface. You’ll want to tackle every inch, but for best results, pause periodically to wipe away dust with a clean cloth.

Clean the surface to further promote paint adherence. A water-based degreaser should banish fingerprints, oil, grease, wax, soap, soil, and lotions; more stubborn stuff, like baked-on cooking grease, may require an ammonia-based degreaser or specialized steel cleaner. If so, use the product in a well-ventilated area and follow manufacturer’s directions for application and dwell time. Let dry thoroughly.

Apply a high quality primer rated for stainless steel that’s compatible with your choice of paint. Unless your finished product will be in a very dark color, white primer is your best bet. Apply with a brush, roller, or sprayer and allow to dry per manufacturer’s directions.

How to Paint Stainless Steel


Decide on the effect you want for the finished piece. A brush lends a ridged, textured look that you can accentuate further by daubing or swiping with a rag or sponge. Use a roller for large surfaces and to gain a somewhat textured look. Apply with a sprayer for smooth results.

When using a sprayer:

• Protect the surrounding area with drop cloths and/or plastic sheeting. If painting a small item, place it inside a box to contain splatter.
• Wear eye protection and a paint respirator, and work in a ventilated area.
• Hold the nozzle 12 to 18 inches away from the project.
• Spray with a wide mist in one direction only so that the grain of the paint will look consistent.

Whatever technique you choose, apply two to three coats of paint to the stainless steel, allowing sufficient dry time in between.

When the final coat is completely dry, finish with wax (car wax works fine!) or marine varnish. If you want to give it a natural sheen, apply a thin coat of wax to the entire surface with a sponge, letting it dry until it gains a hazy look; buff with a clean, dry cloth. For a “clear coat” look, opt for marine varnish.


All of the Expert Painting Advice from
Of all the options available to remodelers, paint provides the quickest, easiest, and most affordable way to achieve a transformation, inside or out. Ready to look at your home in a new way? Click now for the color ideas to make your project beautiful.

How To: Remove Paint from Tile

Longing to uncover an original surface or get rid of unsightly drips? Apply one of the three tried-and-true methods here.

How to Remove Paint from Tile


It’s entirely possible to remove paint from tile, whether you’re simply hoping to banish some accidental splatters or discover a wealth of vintage beauty beneath a prior paint job. The exact technique for how to remove paint from tile depends on the extent and tenacity of the paint you want to be rid of—just bear in mind that if the tiles’ glaze has cracks, flakes, or webbing, that any attempt may very well worsen the damage. In that event, consider removing the paint with Method 3 for best results and then refinishing the tile with one of various quality products or kits available. Whichever course you choose, you have a shot at restoring that tile to its pristine state and be looking great for years to come.

- Razor blade
- Dry, clean rags
- Heat gun
- Plastic scraper
- Dust mask (optional, unless removing lead paint, when a mask is required!)
- Citrus-based paint stripper, or other conservation-rated paint removers suited for use on glazed surfaces
- Rubber gloves
- Goggles

How to Remove Paint from Tile



If you’ve been a bit careless during a paint job and need to get rid of splatters, try this method first. Should dried-on paint prove stubborn, however, move on to Method 2. Of course, if attempting to scrape spots in place for decades, wear a dust mask—don’t take chances with potentially hazardous lead-based paint.

Starting in an inconspicuous test area first, hold a razor blade at a 45-degree angle and carefully scrape paint off the tile using a short, firm but gentle stroke. If paint comes up without harming glaze, proceed with confidence. But if you feel or notice any glaze cracking or flaking off, skip to Method 3 in order to best preserve the tile beneath.

Dampen a clean rag with water and wipe the tiles clean. Scrape and wipe till all splatters are gone. If some splatters don’t come off, tackle them with Method 2.

How to Remove Paint from Tile



A heat gun can help loosen dried, cured paint. Again, with any paint that could pre-date 1978, wear a dust mask for safe breathing as you work.

Work in a small area of about a square foot at a time. Heat the tiles while constantly moving the gun in order to avoid scorching a spot, and continue until the paint feels soft and tacky.

Holding a plastic scraper at a 45-degree angle, remove paint from tile, starting from an outside edge and working your way in. Often, it will lift off quickly in satisfying strips! Be patient when in tricky areas like corners.

Periodically wipe the surface clean with a water-dampened clean rag. Repeat the heat-scrape-wipe procedure until all paint is removed.

How to Remove Paint from Tile



Use paint remover on stubborn paint or damaged tiles that you plan to refinish. To purchase the most effective product, tell your hardware store professional the type of tiles and glaze you have; if you’re unsure (or don’t have a sample to show), a citrus-based paint remover is the least likely to damage glazing while still removing paint from tile. For tiles more than 20 years old, ask your retailer for a conservation-rated paint remover for glazed surfaces. Whatever paint remover you use, ensure that your working area is well-ventilated before by opening windows and operating fans.

Clean painted tiles with household cleaner or a 50-50 solution of white vinegar and water. Then wipe with a water-dampened cloth to neutralize the surface. Don your goggles and gloves before you proceed.

In an inconspicuous area, test the tile’s ability to handle the paint remover. Using a clean rag, liberally apply paint remover as recommended by the packaging and let sit for the recommended dwell time.

Scrape off paint with a plastic scraper held at a 45-degree angle. Wipe clean with remover after scraping. If there’s no damage to the glaze, proceed for the remainder of the tile. If there is glaze damage, you can continue but will need to refinish the tiles.

When the paint has been removed to your satisfaction, clean the tiles with warm soapy water and dry with a clean rag.

A Note on Grout
If grouting was never properly sealed, it may be a challenge to remove paint between tiles. Try scrubbing grout with a citrus-based paint remover and a toothbrush, then wipe clean per product recommendation. Repeat several times until you achieve the desired result, but if you’re stymied, you have two options: painting the grout with a specialized paint, or re-grouting. If you successfully remove all the paint stain from the grout, consider re-sealing to protect the lines from future damage.

How To: Whitewash Brick

Lighten and brighten surfaces in your living spaces with this easy-to-master painting technique that mutes the dark tones of red brick walls or fireplaces.

How to Whitewash Brick


Seems like just yesterday that the red brick in your family room looked perfect, but tastes change with time. Now you think it’s a little too dark and a little too red for the space. Your gut tells you it’s time for a change, but you’re intimidated by the thought of demolition and renovation. Rather than reach for the sledgehammer, grab a rag and a brush instead, and give your room a bright new look by following these instructions for whitewashing brick. While painting over brick with 100 percent latex paint will give the brick a solid, opaque color, whitewashing mutes the brick’s natural color with a translucent finish. The technique preserves the bricks’ natural, random variations, depending on how much paint is applied and how each individual brick absorbs it.

Start with a fireplace or an interior brick wall that needs updating. Once you get the hang of it, there is no limit to the brick you can tackle, indoors or out.

- Grease-cutting dish soap
- Salt
- Cotton rags
- Scrub brush
- Boric acid powder
- Gallon bucket
- Rubber gloves
- Ammonia
- Pumice powder
- Trisodium phosphate
- Protective eyewear
- Drop cloths
- Garbage bags
- Face mask
- Putty knife, wire brush, or paint scraper
- Painter’s tape
- Kraft paper
- White latex paint
- 5-gallon bucket
- Paintbrush
- Paint grate
- Paper towels
- Spray bottle
- Sash brush

How to Whitewash Brick with Paint


Whitewashing over dirty brick will not achieve the desired effect, so cleaning your brick and grout is the first order of business—and possibly the most intricate. Though brick is hardly a delicate-looking material, it can be easily damaged by harsh cleaning. Try the mildest method of cleaning first, and graduate step by step to more aggressive approaches until you find one that adequately addresses the dirt and soot.

Below, listed from mildest to harshest, are several cleaning options to consider. Whichever you use, apply the cleaning solution according to the instructions and then rinse it off with a clean rag dipped in warm water.

Dish soap: Mix one part mild grease-cutting dish soap and one part salt with just enough water to make a loose paste. Apply to the brick with a clean rag and, using a scrub brush, work the paste into the surface. Let sit for 10 minutes before you rinse.

Boric acid: Add about one tablespoon of boric acid powder to one gallon of warm water. Wearing rubber gloves, dip the scrub brush into the solution and scrub the surface of the brick.

Ammonia: Create a loose paste with one part ammonia, two parts mild grease-cutting dish soap, and one part pumice powder—which can be found in either beauty supply or arts-and-crafts stores. Wearing rubber gloves, use a clean rag to spread the mixture on the brick. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before rinsing.

Trisodium phosphate: Wearing gloves and protective eyewear, mix about ½ cup trisodium phosphate (TSP) into a gallon of hot water. Dip your scrub brush in the solution and scrub the brick. If stains remain after rinsing, you can scrub again, increasing the TSP to one cup per gallon of hot water. Exercise extreme caution as this is a very strong, abrasive solution.

STEP 2 (optional)
If your brick has ever been painted, there may still be chipping, flaking, or blistering paint left over on the brick that could cause your whitewashing to crackle. Now is the time to repair any damaged areas. If you suspect that the paint has been there for decades, it is possible that you are dealing with toxic lead paint, which needs to be removed by a professional. If, however,  you’re sure that’s not the case, move on to protecting the floor with a drop cloth—and yourself with goggles and a face mask—then prep a garbage bag to receive the old, dried paint you’re about to strip. Using a putty knife, wire brush, or paint scraper, carefully remove all the chipped or peeling paint from the brick.

Tape and cover the surrounding areas so you don’t get paint on anything but the brick surface you intend to whitewash. For brick walls, that would include adjacent drywall and floors. If you’re lightening brick around a fireplace, protect the mantel, floor, and other furnishings by taping kraft paper around the mantel’s edges. Also tape around and over the firebox or fireplace insert, and lay drop cloths over the flooring. If you have fireplace doors, tape them shut. Whitewashing bricks inside the fireplace itself is not recommended.

The importance of painter’s tape to this project cannot be overstated. Whitewashing may be easy, but nobody ever said it wasn’t going to be messy!

Prepare your whitewash: a 50/50 solution of water to white latex paint, stirred to an even consistency. If you find as you are working that you want the brick to be less white, add more water to further dilute the white paint. Conversely, if you want a whiter look, try a higher paint-to-water ratio. Take a moment to test a small, inconspicuous area with whitewash of several different paint-to-water ratios until you get the desired effect. (It might be a good idea to let the test area dry before you continue, so you’ll know what the dried whitewash will really look like.)

It’s time to whiten, brighten, and lighten! Techniques for whitewashing brick vary greatly, but these two tried-and-true methods work for even beginner DIYers:

• Dip a brush into the thinned paint, and remove excess paint on a grate before applying so you don’t end up with a wall covered in drips. Begin to whitewash the brick in small sections, starting with the grout lines and then working your way to the faces of the bricks. Keep to one manageable two-foot-square patch at a time, because you’ll want to be able to quickly blot the bricks with a wadded-up paper towel so the surface looks washed, not painted. (Blotting or dabbing the paint instead of simply wiping creates a more natural texture.) Continue working in small sections until whitewashing is complete.

• Fill a spray bottle with water and, without leaving drips, lightly mist the brick area to be whitewashed. While the bricks are moist, lightly load a wadded cotton cloth with thinned paint and wipe it on the damp surface. If the mortar is deeply recessed from the brick, load a sash brush with a small amount of thinned paint and use a dry-brushing technique to reach both the mortar and the edges and ends of the bricks. After you’ve whitewashed all the bricks that can be painted with a rag, use a dry brush to fill in hard-to reach places. If a spot has too much color, mist it thoroughly and blot up the moisture along with some of the paint.

No matter which method you choose to whitewash brick, keep in mind that brick is a very porous material that will soak up the wash. It’s possible that after the first coat the paint will appear more opaque than you would like. Don’t be concerned about this. Over the next few hours, the bricks will absorb the paint and begin to show through.

Let your handiwork dry overnight, then return to bask in your whiter, brighter living space the next day. Any lingering paint smell from your diluted whitewash solution can be erased with this unexpected grocery item.

Solved! Here’s How Long Paint Actually Lasts

We all have at least one old gallon of paint in the garage. But should you hold onto a can that's only half-full? And will it spoil if you leave it in storage? Here's how to know if you should crack open that can or if you'll have to make another trip to the store.



Q:  We stored some leftover paint from our living room remodel a few years ago, and now our toddler has decided to use one of our living room walls to showcase his art skills in permanent marker. We’d like to roll a fresh coat over that wall, but is that old paint still good? How long does paint last?

A: It might be OK. There’s not quite a hard-and-fast rule for how long paint actually lasts, but you can figure out if it’s time to throw it away based on a few important clues. Depending on whether or not the can was opened, where you stored it, and what kind of paint it is, you may still be able to use it.



If it’s unopened, it’s probably still usable. Unopened cans of paint last for years when stored correctly. Unused latex and water-based acrylic paints last up to 10 years, and the shelf life of alkyd and oil-based can be as long as 15 years. Since unopened paint hasn’t spent much time exposed to air, it still has the same ratio of liquids and semi-solids, although the ingredients have probably separated over time. But if you stored the can in the garage or shed where it froze or was exposed to extreme heat, even fully sealed contents could be ruined.

Test it to make sure. Pry open the can and blend the contents thoroughly with a paint stirrer. This can take five minutes or more, so don’t rush it. Dip a brush in the paint and brush it onto a piece of cardboard. If the paint goes on smooth, you’re in luck! Go ahead and roll that wall. If it contains grainy lumps that you can’t stir out, exposure to extreme temperatures have probably changed the paint’s chemical makeup beyond salvaging.

Even if it’s opened, there’s still hope. Because opened cans of paint are exposed to air, they often develop a thickened skin on the top that should be removed with a paint stick before attempting to stir the paint left in the can. If the remaining paint blends smoothly, it’s good to use in your next paint job.

Look for lumps. Like unopened cans of paint, opened cans can also suffer from exposure to temperature extremes. The difference? Lumps in a partially used can don’t always mean that the paint is unusable. A few in a gallon that’s otherwise smooth may indicae that some of the thickened skin on the paint was stirred into the good paint underneath. Before using the paint, pour it through a paint strainer (available at paint stores for a couple of bucks) to remove the lumps and proceed as planned.

Take a whiff. A foul or rancid smell, or the presence of mold in the can, means bacteria has contaminated the paint—it’s time to throw it away. Dispose of spoiled paint in accordance with your local toxic waste disposal ordinances.

Store paint the right way to extend its shelf life. Paint is expensive, and it can be tough to match custom colors years later. Whether you want to save a partial can of paint for touchups or you ordered too much and have a few untouched gallons on your hands, you’ll get the best shelf life possible if you store paint indoors, preferably away from extreme temperatures and sunlight. To store a half-empty can and make the paint last, place a piece of plastic wrap over the top and then use a tap the lid back into place with a hammer. While you’re at it, mark the date and color name in marker on the side for easy future reference.

How To: Paint a Popcorn Ceiling

Give that tired textured surface a fresh new coat with these steps.

How to Paint Popcorn Ceiling


The popcorn effect—so called for its resemblance to America’s favorite fluffy snack—is the result of loose particulate materials mixed into paint and applied to a surface, usually with a sprayer. A common treatment for ceilings from the 1950s through the 1980s that offered a bit of noise reduction, popcorn ceilings lost appeal in the late 20th century, largely because the aggregates used often contained asbestos, now banned as a carcinogen. Plus, the texture proved to be a formidable dust catcher, difficult to clean and repair.

Since removing a popcorn ceiling is messy at best, and a costly headache if asbestos is indeed involved, you may have decided to live with one in your home. But rather than grin and bear it, why not paint it? A fresh coat will instantly lend a lighter, brighter look sure to open up the room. Though not an especially challenging project for the DIYer, painting a popcorn texture properly requires certain tools and techniques. Read on for details, and you just might learn how to paint popcorn ceiling into good favor once again!

- Ladder
- Painter’s tape
- Plastic sheeting
- Drop cloths
- Dust mask
- Protective eyewear
- Flathead screwdriver
- Feather or microfiber duster
- Vacuum with dusting brush attachment (optional)
- Paint
- Angled paintbrush
- 5-gallon bucket with screen
- Long napped roller cover (3/4-inch nap)
- Paint roller with extension handle

Prep your room carefully, since the texture of a popcorn ceiling is bound to cause a good deal of splatter when you roll on paint. Tape plastic sheeting around the walls and cover the floors with drop cloths. Also cover and mask any ceiling fixtures with plastic and painter’s tape.

How to Paint a Popcorn Ceiling


Prep the ceiling edges to ensure you’ll be able to achieve a neat edge where the ceiling meets the wall. Don your dust mask and protective eyewear and, using a flathead screwdriver, gently scrape about 1/4 inch of the popcorn surface off the ceiling all along the edges.

If your house was built before 1977 (the year asbestos was banned from textured ceilings), get the ceiling tested first to ensure it’s safe to work on. If it contains asbestos or lead, you’re better off leaving it alone, or having professionals handle the work.

Use a feather or microfiber duster—or your vacuum with the soft bristled dusting brush attachment—to banish dust from all nooks and crannies so that it doesn’t speckle the paint you apply to the popcorn ceiling.

Pull out the paint! Popcorn and other textured surfaces require more paint to achieve full coverage, so plan to use twice as much of the supply as you would on a flat ceiling.

Cut in around the ceiling edge with an angled brush. Load the brush with plenty of paint but apply with a light touch. Once the textured aggregate gets wet, it tends to peel off, so don’t overwork any area; just gently apply paint and move on. Plan to do a second coat if you don’t get full coverage in one pass of painting a popcorn ceiling.

Since you won’t want to be bending to refill your roller more than necessary to paint popcorn ceiling, use a long napped roller cover to load on plenty of paint in one swoop. And, rather than a roller pan, get the sort of 5-gallon bucket with a screen or grid—that’s what pros rely on to ensure the roller is sufficiently loaded with paint. Load the roller fully, and apply to the ceiling in one direction only. Make just one pass.

Allow the first coat adequate time to dry per the manufacturer’s recommendation, and then roll a second coat, again in one pass only but in a direction perpendicular to the first coat. These two coats will give you the most even uniform coverage across the whole ceiling—minimum overhead for maximum color refresh.

How To: Spray Paint Metal

Spray your way to a whole new look with the right paint and these tips.

How to Spray Paint Metal


Metal furniture and ornaments are popular because they’re durable, but the longer a piece lasts, the older its look can become. Fortunately, everything from chairs and lamps to shelving and hardware can be spruced up with a fresh coat of spray paint. Generally speaking, the best spray paint for metal is hard-wearing enamel. Its oil base makes it somewhat slow to dry, but it stands up to cleaning and use well; many enamel paints are rustproof, too. Read the label or ask your retailer if suitable for your project. Then stock up: The average 12-ounce can should yield 8 to 10 square feet coverage, but if your retailer has a good return policy, consider buying more than you think you need. It’s easy to underestimate, and you don’t want to run out in the middle of a project.

- Medium- and fine-grit sandpaper or steel-bristle brush
- Cloths
- Drop cloths
- Masking tape
- Mask
- Goggles
- Rubber gloves
- Paint thinner
- Primer (optional)
- Spray paint

Step 1
Proper surface prep is essential for spray paint adhesion, so sand or brush off all loose paint and rust spots. Because shiny objects seldom allow paint to bond well, use the metal brush and sandpaper to lightly scour and dull the surface till it looks lightly scratched, almost like brushed nickel. A very lightly scoured surface will help paint bond; don’t be overly zealous or you’ll get gouges or scratches.

How to Spray Paint Metal


Step 2
Wipe thoroughly with clean, dry cloth to remove any dust, dirt, and debris. You may need a water-dampened rag to remove stubborn crud, but ensure metal is 100 percent dry before painting.

Step 3
Prepare your work location, which ideally will be outdoors and protected from wind. Not only can wind blow leaves and pollen onto your project, it can literally push your paint around, causing uneven results. If working indoors, ventilate the area well, opening doors and windows. Move all furniture from the area or cover with drop cloths, and also protect floors with drop cloths or newspaper for as much as 10 feet around your work zone for large projects. Using masking tape, tape off areas of your piece that you want to keep unpainted.

Step 4
Get your mask, gloves, and goggles on and test your spray paint to ensure it provides a thin, fine mist. Shake the can vigorously for 45 to 60 seconds and spray onto a cardboard box or the bottom of your project. If you see spitting or uneven spray on a new can, return it for a replacement. Spitting can mean a malfunctioning nozzle, but it also might be a bit clogged; if dealing with a can of paint you’ve had for a while, try cleaning the nozzle with warm water. If that doesn’t resolve matters, dab lacquer or paint thinner onto the nozzle with a rag, then wipe it off and test it again.

Step 5
If your paint doesn’t include primer, follow the painting techniques in Step 6 with a paint primer and allow it to dry thoroughly before repeating Step 6 for your first color coat.

Step 6
These techniques will ensure smooth, even results. Repeat with as many as three applications, working in light, even coats.

  • Always begin and end spraying off your project, by simply spritzing the air beside it, to ensure that once paint hits the target, you’re shooting a steady, even, misting spray.
  • Holding the can a foot from the painting surface, aim the light, fine mist on the object and sweep side to side or up and down to coat the width or length of your project. Each time you complete a single pass or row, stop spraying and give your can a quick shake for 5 to 10 seconds, then start spraying off the item before you do another pass. For every new spray, overlap with the last row of paint. Briefly shake the can regularly throughout the process.
  • If painting larger items, like bookshelves or an iron fence, step along sideways toward the direction of your spray. If you only move your arm, you may not maintain the same density of spray.
  • Pausing even briefly, or hovering, while spraying can create drips or spots. If this happens, remove all excess wet paint with a clean, dry, lint-free cloth. If you don’t notice these drips until after the drying process, sand them down with a fine-grit paper and dry-wipe the dust off.

Step 7
If you get paint on anything accidentally, use the label-recommended paint thinner or cleaning agent and a rag to clean up as soon as possible, before paint dries or cures. Then allow your project to dry thoroughly. Drying time varies by paint type, coat thickness, and even weather and humidity—it could take anywhere from three hours to overnight. Just be sure to wait 24 hours before using spray-painted items.

How to Spray Paint Metal




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Of all the options available to remodelers, paint provides the quickest, easiest, and most affordable way to achieve a transformation, inside or out. Ready to look at your home in a new way? Click now for the color ideas to make your project beautiful.