Painting - 2/20 - Bob Vila

Category: Painting

Solved! Here’s How Long It Takes Paint to Dry

Updating your home’s interior with a fresh coat of paint? The proper technique is key to a flawless finish, so read on to discover how long to let your paint job dry.

How Long to Let Paint Dry


Q: I’m about to refresh my living room walls, but I’ve seen different opinions on how long to wait between coats of paint. How long does it take paint to dry?

A: You’re smart to check! Allowing paint to dry between coats helps prevent uneven texture and visible smudges—sloppiness that you certainly won’t want marring the product of all of your hard work.

Generally speaking, the necessary dry time depends on the type of paint you’ve chosen. Latex paints tend to dry more quickly than their counterparts; a coat usually takes about an hour until the paint is no longer wet to the touch and four hours until another coat can be applied on top of it. Oil-based paints, on the other hand, require up to six to eight hours to become dry to the touch and 24 hours before the next coat can be applied. Paint type is only a small part of the equation, though. Consider the other factors listed here, as they affect dry time as well.

How Long to Let Paint Dry


High humidity equates to longer dry time. The more humid a room (in other words, the more moisture in the air), the longer the paint in it takes to dry. A paint’s water content won’t evaporate as easily in high humidity, thus prolonging the period of wetness. Ideally, try to paint in rooms with 50 percent humidity or lower for the fastest drying time.

Temperature can also affect your painting project. If you’re using latex paint, you’ll want to work in temperatures of 50 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re using oil-based paint, the ideal temperature range runs from 40 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll likely be painting in a home with air conditioning that allows you to maintain a consistent temperature. However, if the project is an exterior paint job or interior but without working utilities, avoid painting on very hot or very cold days. Working in temperatures outside of the recommended zone can slow down the evaporation process, causing paint to dry noticeably slower.

Consider a room’s ventilation. If undertaking a painting project in a poorly ventilated room room, expect the paint to take longer to dry between each coat. The fresh air of a well-ventilated space encourages the water molecules to evaporate and the paint to cure.

Choose your application method carefully. For fast-drying results, use a paint roller and take care to apply each coat with an even hand, resulting in a consistent finish without gloppy edges or runny streaks. Using a brush leads to thicker coats of paint, which may add an extra few hours of drying time.

Always try to paint in optimal conditions. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer for the specific paint you’re using, and pad the time frames a little bit to be safe. If you’re operating in a less-than-ideal environment (like a room with inconsistent temperatures, poor ventilation, or high humidity) then think of the manufacturer’s instructions as a baseline, adding as much time as necessary to avoid the unflattering finish that comes with applying a second coat of paint too quickly.


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.

All You Need to Know About Gel Stain

Want a wood finish with lots of charm and not too much prep work? Gel stain has you covered.

When to Choose Gel Stain


When it’s time to finish a wood-based project, your options tend to seem at one end of the spectrum or the other: choosing between a traditional varnish or stain that leaves the character-building front and center and a more complete coverage from their paint color of choice. What many do-it-your-selfers—particular beginners—don’t realize is that a happy medium called gel stain exists, and it requires even less preparation.

Stocked alongside its classic counterparts at almost any hardware store, gel stain is rather similar in formula to most pigment-based traditional stains. A thickening agent added in the manufacturing process, however, gives it the easy application and concentration of color. The resulting finish achieves a compromise between a transparent stain and an opaque paint, which to some DIY enthusiasts means the best of both worlds without as much hassle. If you’re weighing your options for what to do with the bare-wood build or a recently stripped wooden table, consider this finish. We’ve laid out its biggest benefits and best uses as well as the drawbacks to help you decide.

Why DIYers Choose Gel Stain 
Looking for color and depth without covering up all the grain and character that make wood uniquely attractive? Gel stain offers a great option for DIYers who can’t quite decide between staining and painting, since it offers something in between. The primary difference between gel and a traditional stain is that gel stain sits on top of the wood while a traditional stain sinks in; as a result, it lets some of the wood’s unique markings and texture shine through while delivering a crisp, consistent finish not dissimilar to paint. Gel stain is particularly forgiving with splotch-prone woods like birch, cherry, maple, and pine. These varieties tend to absorb thin traditional stains unevenly, looking messy and unfinished no matter the number of thin coats, but accept gel stains easily. By coating the surface rather than seeping into the wood grain, a gel stain creates a professional-looking finish on even these most stubborn wood surfaces.

But the good news doesn’t stop there—arguably, the best reason to choose gel stain is its ease of use. When it comes to application, gel stain requires less preparation in advance than regular stains and paints. It doesn’t require you to sand the wood all the way down to its raw state for best adhesion the way you would with a typical stain. In fact, just a little light sanding will do the trick, and then you’re ready to begin the application process with a lint-free cloth. Alternatively, you can use a natural bristle paintbrush if you want a more textured, painterly finish; just be sure to choose a size relative to the project you’re working on (three-inch-wide for a broad surface, but smaller for chair legs) and paint with the grain to mimic its general pattern.

Another perk, still, is gel stain’s ease of use in vertical projects. Pre-installed cabinets will suffer fewer drips, drops, and messes when you’re working with the peanut-buttery consistency of gel stain, as opposed to the thin liquid you’d be dealing with otherwise.


When and How to Use Gel Stain


Two Caveats Worth Noting
Of course, no stain is perfect. One area in which gel stain is tied neck and neck with its traditional counterparts its drying time: although it’s easier to prep and apply, it doesn’t dry any quicker than its thinner, oil- and varnish-based competitors. Much like other stains, it typically needs anywhere from 8 to 24 hours to dry between coats—of which you might need several, depending on the level of opacity you want to achieve. Always refer to the instructions given by your stain’s manufacturer, and be sure to take humidity and temperature levels into account since extreme heat, cold, or moisture can lengthen the time it takes any stain (or paint, for that matter) to dry.

The main drawback of gel stain is the fact that it can end up looking uneven on projects with lots of deep crevices and corners, where it’s tough to get coverage in a single swipe. If you’re working with a particularly gnarly piece of live-edge wood or an intricate set of custom shelves with lots of extreme angles, for example, a traditional stain might be the wiser option. That’s because in spots like these, gel stain can accumulate and appear much darker than it does across the rest of the surface you’re covering, leaving you with less-than-perfect results. Generally speaking, you can use a cloth rag to wipe away wet gel stain and fine-tune the finish as you go, but it might be touch and go in tough-to-reach spots like deep cracks and extreme corners.


When and How to Use Gel Stain


Putting It to the Test
Having earned its user-friendly reputation, gel stain is quite the attractive option for whatever wooden DIY project you’ve got lined up, promising a rich color without sacrificing the unique character of its grain. Apply its thick consistency to horizontal tabletops or vertical cabinet framework, fine woods or those notoriously difficult to cover evenly. When you’re ready to get started, pick up with Step 1 of this helpful tutorial for staining wood. You’ll see for yourself how gel stain combines the uniformity of paint and the depth options of stain—all in one small can.


DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.

How To: Paint Aluminum

Follow these five steps to update any aluminum object with a fresh coat of paint.

How to Paint Aluninum


A lightweight and durable material, aluminum has long been used for construction projects and home furnishings. Though the silvery-white metal looks sleek and modern on its own, many homeowners opt to update their aluminum surfaces with a fresh coat of paint. Whether you want to refresh an old filing cabinet or decorate a patio chair, the process is relatively straightforward. Simply follow the instructions laid out here for how to paint aluminum to makeover metal surfaces in no time.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Drop cloth
Degreasing Detergent
Rags (2)
Wire Brush
Dust Mask
Sanding block, sandpaper, or power sander
SelfEtching Primer
Latex or Acrylic Paint
Brushes or rollers
Enamel Sealant

Find a well-ventilated work area, and lay drop cloths to protect the surrounding surfaces from paint splatters. Then, thoroughly clean your aluminum before you get started on your transformation. Mix a few squirts of degreasing cleaner (either a specialty product from the home improvement store or a grease-cutting dish detergent) with warm water in a large bucket, and dip a rag in the suds to wipe away dust and dirt. If the aluminum object is covered in rust or a flaking layer of paint, you’ll also need to scrub it gently with a wire brush to remove this layer—either can prevent a layer of fresh paint from fully adhering.

Allow the aluminum to air-dry completely.

Next, you’ll need to sand the aluminum surface to further help your paint job stick. Don protective gear—gloves, goggles, and a dust mask—to save yourself from exposure to the metal dust particles. Then, using either a sanding block or sandpaper, rough up the every side, corner, and crevice on the object. If you’re working on a larger, more flat surface like an outdoor tabletop, you may find that the job goes faster with a power sander. Whatever tool you choose, start with a coarse 80- to 100-grit paper before sanding the surface a second time with a finer grit (400-grit or higher).

Wash the piece again with warm water and a degreasing cleaner to remove any dust from the sanding process; dry completely.

How to Paint Aluminum


When preparing aluminum for paint, it’s important to use a self-etching primer. Its special formulation contains chemicals that micro-etch the surface of the aluminum for the best bond possible. Fortunately, it’s a cinch to apply: Purchase a self-etching primer in spray paint form from a home improvement store or auto specialty shop and spray the primer on in thin coats, according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Wait the recommended dry time that’s listed on the primer’s packaging. Then, lightly sand the piece again with 400-grit sandpaper, and wipe away the resulting dust using a rag.

Choose acrylic or latex paint in matte or satin, and stay away from glossy finishes—these are not ideal for painting aluminum, as they will highlight imperfections like dents and scratches often found in the lightweight metal. (If you’re painting an outdoor item like aluminum patio furniture, don’t forget to pick a paint labeled “exterior-grade.”) Base your choice of application (either spray or brush) on the size of your paint job and your personal preference.

Then, follow the manufacturer’s directions for your chosen paint with regard to the number of coats recommended and drying time between each.

After the paint has thoroughly dried, apply at least two coats of enamel sealer to your project. This layer will help protect the painted aluminum from chipping, scratching, or fading over years of use. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on cure times before you set anything on or start using your newly-painted aluminum item once again.


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: 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.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Painters tape
Old newspaper
Sanding block
Sandpaper (medium to finegrit)
White primer (oilbased)
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



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!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Drop cloths
Tight fitting dust mask
Eye protection
Drywall compound
220grit sand paper and/or sanding pads
Tack cloth
Solventbased primer
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!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
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
Waterbased degreaser
Ammoniabased degreaser (optional)
Specialized stainless steel cleaner (optional)
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.


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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.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
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

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.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Greasecutting dish soap
Cotton rags
Scrub brush
Boric acid powder
Gallon bucket
Rubber gloves
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
5gallon bucket
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.