Painting - 3/19 - Bob Vila

Category: Painting

How To: Paint Stucco

When your rough-textured walls fade or get dirty, treat them to a DIY redo.

How to Paint Stucco - On a House Exterior


Stucco is a particularly popular exterior finish for homes in the Southwest, but it can also be found texturing interior walls all over the country. Created by layering a cement-and-plaster compound with a variety of plastering tools, its rough appearance is both visually appealing and rather low-maintenance—a favorable combination for homeowners. When stucco appears dingy, it needs little more than a hosing off with warm, soapy water. A new coat of paint can offer an even greater refresh, though, and it’s one project most homeowners can tackle with confidence, provided that the surface is in otherwise good condition (no chips or cracks). To achieve a finished job that looks like it was done by a pro, follow these guidelines for how to paint stucco.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Drop cloths
 Masking or painter’s tape
 Stiff brush
Vacuum with dust attachment
Degreaser or mildew cleaner (optional)
 Power washer (optional, for exteriors)
 Masonry caulk
 Caulk gun
 Putty knife
 Stucco patching compound
 Synthetic paintbrush
 Large napped paint roller
 Primer (exterior masonry or acrylic interior)
 Acrylic paint (exterior or interior, based on location)

How to Paint Stucco - Gray Stucco


Prepare the surrounding area. Put drop cloths on the floor and furniture that can’t be moved, and tape trim.

Clean stucco surfaces of dirt and dust. For most exterior stucco, this simply requires a thorough going over with a stiff brush or push broom. Interior walls may be more easily vacuumed using a dusting attachment. If your walls have grease or grime or mildew build-up, apply an appropriate cleaner, following manufacturer’s directions. Deeply grooved exteriors can be power washed, if necessary, to get dirt out of the crevices. Be sure to rinse thoroughly, and allow to dry completely for 24 hours before you begin to caulk and repair.

Fix any small cracks with masonry caulk. Cracks larger than 1/16-inch-wide will require a patch. Remove the loose stucco with a putty knife, and repair with stucco patching compound. Pay attention to the manufacturer’s suggested curing time on your patching compound. You may need to wait for up to 10 days before you can paint.

Prime with a high quality acrylic primer, using a synthetic brush to cut in, and a large napped roller to roll it on. Acrylic primers and paints are preferred because their binders mean better adherence to the uneven stucco finish. A large napped roller makes for easier application into all the nooks and crannies.

You’ll probably need more than one coat for complete coverage. It is better to apply two thinner coats than one thick coat, to avoid paint pooling in crevices and causing drips. Follow the manufacturer’s guidance on drying times between coats.

Due to its texture, a stucco finish has a much greater overall surface area than a flat wall, so you’ll need more paint than you think to achieve adequate coverage. If a gallon of paint says it gives you 400 square feet of coverage, assume you’ll cover 200 square feet of stucco. Apply paint as you did primer, with a synthetic brush for cutting in, and a large napped roller for rolling the walls. Roll on one to two coats, as necessary, and follow the manufacturer’s guidance with regard to drying time between coats.

How to Paint Stucco


It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do to revitalize a tired, dirty stucco finish. A good quality exterior paint job should last 15 to 20 years; indoors, it should last as until styles change and you tire of the color. So, enjoy it while it lasts!

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 Plastic

These four paint easy removal methods prove successful in any DIY situation, leaving your plastic pristine.

How to Remove Paint from Plastic


Nothing spoils the satisfaction of a paint job like drips and splatters on plastic surfaces, such as light switch covers, handles on uncovered appliances, step stools, and outdoor furniture. Hey, accidents happen—even to the most conscientious DIYers—so don’t despair. While it may take a bit more effort than a simple swipe to remove paint from plastic, especially if the paint has dried, the techniques below have proven to banish evidence of this common home improvement slip-up.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Mild dish soap
Small bucket
Clean rags or paper towels
Paint scraper
Razor blade
Work gloves
Vegetable oil
Nail polish remover with acetone
Rubbing alcohol

How to Remove Paint from Plastic - with Vegetable Oil


OPTION 1: Wash it off. It’s always best to address painting mishaps as soon as they occur. So if you spot a fresh spill, fill a bucket with warm water and dish soap, grab a clean rag or paper towels, and wash it off. Once the paint is gone, hose down the item or use a clean, damp rag to rinse.

OPTION 2: Rub it off. If soap and water are ineffective, chances are the paint has begun to dry. Now it’s time to hit the pantry for some vegetable oil, a benign, typically skin-safe substance that can help soften and lift paint. Put some oil on a clean rag and rub the spill, using a bit of elbow grease. Once the paint begins to “give,” employ a paint scraper and proceed to Option 3. If vegetable oil fails, don a pair of work gloves and try nail polish remover containing acetone. Pour on enough to cover the affected area, then rub and wipe with a clean rag or paper towels, repeating as necessary until paint is gone.

OPTION 3: Scrape it off. Your weapon of choice for unwanted dried paint on a flat plastic surface is a paint scraper. Starting at any corner or edge of the spill, apply the scraper as if sliding it underneath to gently “lift” off the splotch. Be patient and maintain constant, steady pressure; attack it too vigorously and you could mar the plastic. On a contoured plastic surface like a chair, use a razor blade in the manner described above. Just keep the blade at an angle to avoid damaging the piece, and remember safety at all times.

OPTION 4: Scrub it off. For truly stubborn paint spills on plastic, turn to isopropyl alcohol. It will remove without melting plastic the way harsh paint thinners can, but you should nonetheless wear a face mask to guard against inhaling fumes, as well as work gloves to protect your skin. Pour alcohol over the unwanted paint and scrub firmly with a rag. You may need to be persistent until paint begins to disappear. Just keep at it and your patience will be rewarded with a clean, paint-free surface. No one will ever know you had a painting casualty!

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 Laminate Countertops

Restore your work surface and give your kitchen or bathroom a whole new look with this simple paint project.

Painting Laminate Countertops - Outdated Kitchen


Let’s face it: Laminate isn’t the most high-end countertop material out there, and when it starts showing signs of wear it can really make your kitchen look shabby. But if new countertops aren’t in your budget right now, show your current ones some love with a paint job to extend their life for a few more years. There are several kits on the market—including those that replicate stone or granite—or you can simply use acrylic interior paint in the color(s) of your choice. The two keys to professional, lasting results are careful preparation and proper sealing. Here’s a plan for your counter attack!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Drop cloths or plastic sheeting
Painter’s tape
Degreasing cleaner
Protective goggles
Dust mask or respirator
150grit sandpaper
Palm sander
Paint rollers
Laminate paint kit or interior acrylic paint
Countertop resin
Blowtorch (optional, but recommended)

Painting Laminate Countertops - Dark Colored Countertops


Whether you’re redoing the cabinets in the bathroom or the kitchen, start the job by prepping your space correctly. Protect all cabinets and floors with drop cloths or plastic sheeting held with painter’s tape. Then open all windows and operate fans to ensure you’ve got adequate ventilation. Some of these materials are extremely stinky!

Scrub the surfaces you’ll be painting thoroughly with a degreasing cleaner to ensure all dirt and grease is removed. Let dry.

Put on protective gear (goggles, gloves, and a dust mask or respirator) and go over the entire surface lightly with 150-grit sandpaper to help paint adhere. Thoroughly wipe your counters clean of dust and debris with a slightly damp rag. Let dry.

Prime patiently. Apply a thin, even coat of primer with a paint roller, following manufacturer’s directions. Allow adequate drying time and then apply a second coat. Let dry.

Now, break out the paint. If using a paint kit that emulates stone or granite, follow the directions for blending the paints and apply, allowing adequate drying time between layers. If simply using acrylic paint, roll on a first coat, let dry and then give it a second coat.

Seal to finish. Countertop resin will ensure lasting results. Stir and mix the product according to manufacturer’s directions. Carefully pour the resin over the painted surface and use a fresh foam roller to distribute it evenly. Watch for drips along the edges and wipe off any that occur immediately with a damp rag. Also keep an eye out for any bubbles that may appear as the resin levels out: Pop them as soon as they appear by aiming a blowtorch at them, holding it a few inches away. If you have no torch, try banishing bubbles by blowing at them through a drinking straw. Allow the resin to thoroughly cure according to manufacturer’s specs.

To maintain your “new” countertops, skip abrasive cleaners and scrubber sponges and clean daily instead with a rag or soft sponge and mild dish detergent. Once a week (or at least monthly), wipe down with a small amount of mineral oil and a clean, soft cloth. Your surfaces will look super for several years to come—you can count on it!

Cool Tools: Simplify Your Painting Process with an Airless Spray System

Take a down-to-earth approach to staging, completing, and cleaning up after your next paint job with the Airless Spray System from HYDE!

HYDE Airless Spray System with RVT Technology - Painting Brick


Have you ever turned a blind eye to the chipping paint on a wall or ceiling to avoid the ordeal of redoing those hard-to-reach areas? You’re not alone. DIYers and professional painters who tackle these jobs end up breaking a sweat (and sometimes even a limb) climbing ladders and scaffolding to get at these high-level interior and exterior surfaces. Airless sprayers can reduce the manual effort of painting by brush, but only one special design can transition from ground level to upper-story paint jobs without interruption: the HYDE Airless Spray System with Rapid Valve Transfer (RVT) Technology. This superhero paint sprayer saves hours of staging and painting by eliminating the need to haul in, position, and reposition a ladder as you cover sprawling surface areas top-to-bottom with paint. And when the job’s done, just think of the time you’ll save during cleanup, when you have to deal with just one hardworking tool!

Rapid Valve Transfer
Fully assembled, the HYDE system features a powerful spray gun, a spray tip with a shield and filter, and a five- or eight-foot extensible spray pole. True to its name, though, the heart and soul of the spray system lies in its unique, transferable spray valve. Not only can the valve withstand up to 3600 PSI to help you speed through jobs involving a variety of paints and coatings, but RVT enables the valve itself to be transferred live from the spray gun to the spray pole and back again. So, you not only get two painting essentials for the price of one, but you can also transition seamlessly from one to the other as needed.

HYDE Airless Spray System with RVT Technology - Painting Ceiling


Adjustable Height
For a silky-smooth paint finish on surfaces at chest level or below, such as door frames, wall patches, and woodwork, operate the spray gun by simply attaching its hose, tightening the fittings with a wrench, powering up the sprayer, and targeting the surface in need of a refresh. From here, it’s a cinch to switch gears and move on to new heights to tackle upper walls, ceilings, eaves, or exterior shutters. You don’t have to depressurize the gun or power down the spray system while you set up a ladder or scaffolding. Instead—keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground—lock off the gun, release the valve, and transfer it into the telescoping pole. This smooth maneuver instantly converts the gun into a spray pole that extends up to 12 feet in length, depending on which of the poles you purchase. Need to lower the height of the pole? Turn the wing nut and adjust the pole to the desired length as you travel down the surface, then continue spraying. When you’ve worked your way down to an area within arm’s reach, transfer the valve back to the gun to continuing painting or apply a few touch-ups.

Lightweight, Light Work
The smart design of the HYDE Airless Spray System with RVT Technology eliminates the need for a heavy spray gun at the top of the pole, leaving you with a lightweight, easy-to-maneuver spray pole that minimizes strain and fatigue and travels quickly across surfaces. In fact, the spray system is so fast that in the time it would take for one painter to build and stage scaffolding for a paint job, a painter using the HYDE Airless Spray System would have finished the job and moved on to the cleanup! And as with every other aspect of this innovative airless spray system, cleanup is supremely simple: Unlike the case with traditional spray tip extensions, no paint circulates through the HYDE spray pole, so cleanup becomes an easy, one-person job.

Purchase HYDE Airless Spray System with RVT, $440.81.

Watch the video below to see the HYDE Airless Spray System in action!


This post has been brought to you by Hyde Tools. Its facts and opinions are those of

Bob Vila Radio: Reviving Old Metal Furniture

Furniture made of metal can last a lifetime at least, so long as it's properly maintained. If you're the owner of an older piece that needs a pick-me-up, read on to learn what's involved in applying a brand-new paint finish.

Did your most recent trip to the thrift store pay off in a big way? Vintage furniture adds character to any builder-grade home, but painting old metal can be tricky.

How to Paint Metal Furniture


mp3 file

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

Sand down the surface of your metal furniture find, applying added pressure when going over rust spots. Next, apply primer to the problem spots, but leave it off the rest of the piece. New paint actually adheres better to pre-existing, lightly sanded paint than it does to freshly added primer or bare metal.

After sanding, wipe down the furniture with a clean, dry cloth, then go over it again with a cloth dipped in paint thinner. Doing removes any oil or grease the furniture may have accumulated in its travels. Now, position the piece in a well-ventilated space, and coat the metal with rust-inhibiting spray paint.

Use multiple sweeping passes to gradually achieve coverage, remembering the essential dos and dont’s of pro-quality spray painting. Never start or stop spraying with the nozzle pointed directly at the surface you’re painting. Going back and forth, spray in light strokes for a glassy smooth, even finish.

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!

Cool Tools: The Ultimate Accessory for Any Paint Job

This king among paint tools, from HYDE, is the only accessory you’ll need to complete your next DIY paint project with ease!

Hyde Painter's Assistant - Cleaning a Paintbrush


Whether you’re refreshing your living room wall color or priming the porch for perfection, when it comes to paint jobs, even DIYers with a can-do spirit can’t do it all on their own. After all, when you find yourself with your hands full, teetering on a ladder to reach that last unpainted square inch, who’s going to secure your paint can or hang onto the narrow paintbrush? The answer isn’t a pricey personal assistant, but instead the HYDE Painter’s Assistant. This multi-tool gives you the second set of hands you’ve always wanted—and the versatility of Picasso himself. Equipped with a magnetized surface, a clippable ladder and belt hook, and paint-removing tines, the Painter’s Assistant easily transforms from a carrying handle for paint containers to an on-demand brush holder and cleaner. Find out how the Painter’s Assistant can help you achieve a perfect—and fumble-proof—finish on your next paint job.

Hyde Painter's Assistant - Packaging


All-In-One Appeal
While you may be familiar with the paint-can openers, paint-bucket ladder hangers, and paintbrush combs that line the paint aisle of your hardware store, the multipurpose yet lightweight Painter’s Assistant outmatches these single-use tools in both value and versatility. By consolidating all their functions and offering even more conveniences, it provides DIYers of all skill levels with more bang for their buck.

Solves Painting Problems from Start to Finish
Whether you’re painting indoors or out, one room or everywhere in the house, the Painter’s Assistant stands by you from the first brushstroke to the finishing touch. Use the lip on the bottom of the tool to pop open a can of paint like a pro, no screwdriver required. Then, when you’re ready to start painting, flip the tool around. Snapped onto the edge of a one- or two-quart paint container, the Painter’s Assistant acts like a carrying handle, providing a sturdy grip and thereby thwarting paint splatters on the floor or furniture as you move down the wall. If your project has you up a ladder painting a ceiling, wall, or window trim, stay high and dry by hooking the bottom lip of the tool to the paint can’s handle and the other end over a ladder rung—you’ll prevent your paint and yourself from taking a messy spill. The Painter’s Assistant’s can even serve as a belt or garage hook, with its clip and magnetic strip that can keep painter’s tape and other tools of the trade ready for use whenever—and wherever—you are.

Should you need to take a breather from the paint fumes or simply want to stop and assess (or admire) your progress, your assistant is ready to hold down the fort. Snap the multi-tool onto the edge of your paint can or tray, and stick your paintbrush onto the tool’s magnetic surface to keep it from falling into the paint.

Finally, after completing a successful, no-spill paint job, the Painter’s Assistant instantly morphs into the perfect cleanup companion, thanks to its compact paintbrush cleaner and a paint roller squeegee. Glide your drenched paint roller through the ring of the Painter’s Assistant to quickly squeeze out excess paint. Or, run the tines of the tool over your paintbrush to clear off the bristles. As you field compliments about your freshly applied, professional-quality paint job, feel free to take all the credit for this team effort—your faithful Painter’s Assistant won’t mind.

Purchase HYDE Painter’s Assistant at The Home Depot, $4.97


Watch the video below to see the HYDE Painter’s Assistant in action!


This post has been brought to you by Hyde Tools. Its facts and opinions are those of

How To: Cut In Paint

While a fresh coat of color can quickly update any room, the crisp lines where your walls meet trim or ceiling are really what set apart a stand-out paint job. Read on for how to achieve such a professional touch on your next project.

How to Cut in Paint


Any professional painter knows that a successful paint job is only as good as the preparation that comes before it. That’s why it’s so important to cut in around trim, ceilings, and baseboards before you start rolling paint on the walls. Lucky for us, even the average DIYer can do this well with the right equipment, a little instruction, and some careful application of paint.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
2 or 21/2inch highquality angle sash brush
Lowtack masking tape for toughtoreach areas
Small bucket or pail
Drop cloth
5in1 painter’s tool or spackling knife
Damp rag

How to Cut in Paint - Cutting In Brush


  • STEP 1
    Even when you’re dealing with the small amount of paint required for cutting in, drips and spills can happen. So, begin by prepping the room, making sure that floors and other surfaces are protected. Always use a drop cloth, and move it as you work through the room. Use painter’s tape to mask only those awkward or tough-to-reach spots where you know you won’t be able to guarantee clean results without taping. Otherwise, avoid taping—it takes extra time, and unless the tape is properly applied, paint can seep underneath it or dry on top of it, creating a real mess upon removal.
  • STEP 2
    Get ready to paint by loading the brush. Pour about 2 inches of paint into the bucket. Hold your brush with a pencil grip, with the longer side of the brush bristles in line with your pointer finger. Dip the brush into the paint, but be careful not to load more than 2/3 the length of the bristles with paint. Gently tap the brush against the side of the bucket to remove any excess.
  • STEP 3
    Now it’s time to get some paint on that wall! Begin about an inch away from the area you’re cutting in, whether you’re working along the trim or down a corner. Holding the brush horizontal with respect to the floor and ceiling, paint a roughly 12-inch stripe on the wall, using a downward stroke if you’re painting at a corner, or a sideways stroke if you’re working along the ceiling, baseboard, or other trim. Now that you’ve used up some of the paint on your brush, turn your brush 90 degrees so that it angles into the wall, and go back to the beginning of your stroke. This time, using long, even strokes, cut in a thinner line of paint that gets right up to the trim or wall corner.
  • STEP 4
    Once you’re satisfied that you have a cleanly painted edge or corner, again turn your paintbrush horizontal to the floor and ceiling, and gently sweep back over the area to erase brush marks and feather the outer boundaries of the painted area. Doing so will ensure a smooth, seamless finish after you’ve rolled the walls.

Continue to work your way around the room, gently overlapping sections to keep a wet edge. If you have an accidental drip or get paint on the trim or baseboard, wrap a damp cloth around a spackling knife or the long edge of a 5-in-1 painter’s tool, then run it along your paint line to remove any excess.

Cutting in does take practice, but taking the time to cut in neatly will make a huge difference in the appearance of your newly painted room.

Use a light touch. Applying too much pressure on your strokes will cause the paint to ooze out of your brush and drip.

Don’t load the brush with too much paint. This will result in drips and heavy lines on the walls, and you’ll risk getting the bristles of your brush caked with dried, crusty paint.

Use a high-quality brush. It’s well worth investing in a high-quality cutting in paintbrush. The better the brush, the less taping you’ll need to do, making the job go more quickly and with less frustration.

How To: Paint a Metal Door

Metal doors offer great benefits in security and weather resistance, but to keep their surfaces welcoming and rust-free, you have to keep up with the painting. Here's how to brighten up a worn, scratched, or just tired-looking metal door with a fresh coat of paint.

How to Paint a Metal Door - Steel Entry Door Colored Yellow

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Seattle, WA

Steel doors are wonderful at keeping the wind and weather out of our homes, and they’re remarkably durable—they can last a lifetime. The paint that covers them, however, will not last that long. So, if your house has a metal door, at some point you’ll be faced with repainting it. It’s not a difficult job, but as with any painting project, the final results will be directly impacted by your preparation. Read on to learn what steps you should take to give your metal door a makeover that will last.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS Available on Amazon
Degreasing cleaner
Finegrit sandpaper or sanding block
Dust mask
Safety goggles
Painter’s tape
Exterior primer
Satin or semigloss exterior paint
Trimsize paint roller
Shortnap roller cover
Paint tray
Small paintbrush or sponge applicator


How to Paint a Metal Door - White Steel Entry Door


  • STEP 1
    Before you get started, know that paint drying times and environmental factors can turn this into a multiday project. If you are able to securely lock your door with an exterior storm door, you can remove the door to paint it. (Note: You will not be able to rehang it until it is completely dry.) If you can’t secure your home without the door, you’ll need to paint it in place, which may wind up taking longer.

    If you can remove the door without compromising your home security, place a screwdriver under the head of the hinge pin and lightly tap it with a hammer until you’re able to pull it out. Repeat with the other hinges, and remove the door.

  • STEP 2
    Begin by prepping the door for painting. Before you dig in, however, note that doors painted prior to 1978 are likely to have lead-based paint on them. If your door does have lead-based paint, follow EPA guidelines for removal. If you have any question, have the paint tested prior to beginning this project.

    Once you’ve taken the door off its hinges, lay it across two sawhorses or on a large, flat surface. Wash the entire door thoroughly with a degreasing cleaner according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then dry it with a towel.

  • STEP 3
    Next, put on your dust mask and safety glasses, and go over the door lightly with fine-grit sandpaper or a sanding block to rough up the surface and remove any loose paint. Take off any removable weatherstripping, and apply painter’s tape over any hinges or hardware. Protect kickplates or windows that can’t be removed by taping newspaper over them. Once again, wipe down the entire door to remove all the dust from sanding, and allow the door to completely air-dry.
  • STEP 4
    If your door has a smooth surface, just roll on your first coat of primer with a short-nap roller, and let it dry. If your door has recessed panels, start by using a small brush to paint the inside panels first. Then, roll the mullion (the vertical section between the panels). Follow up by rolling paint onto the rails (the horizontal pieces between the panels). Finish by painting all the outside edges. Allow the primer to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and apply a second coat, if necessary, the same way you did the first.
  • STEP 5
    Paint the door with at least two coats of exterior satin or semi-gloss paint, following the same process you did for the primer and being sure to leave the recommended amount of drying time between coats. If you have to paint the door while it’s on its hinges, plan to work over a stretch of days when there is no rain in the forecast. Prep the door one day, and then start your first coat of primer bright and early the next morning. If you start early enough, you should have time for the paint to dry before you close the door for the night. Get going on the second coat the first thing the next morning, with the goal of its being dry by nighttime. Continue in this fashion until you’ve applied as many coats as are necessary.
  • STEP 6
    After the paint has dried completely, carefully remove the painter’s tape and replace any hardware or weatherstripping you removed. Then, rehang the door.

It’s amazing how a fresh coat of paint on a door can really lift the spirits of an entire facade. If you allow time for careful preparation and sufficient drying, your rejuvenated metal front door will look great and welcome visitors for many years to come.

How To: Test for Lead Paint

Used in most homes before being banned in the late 1970s, lead paint still exists undetected in many places. Before digging into any renovations on an old home, run this important test to protect your health.

How to Test for Lead Paint - Old Windowsill


There’s nothing quite like the joy of living in a home with character, craftsmanship, and history within its walls. Yet, while remodeling an older house is a fun and worthwhile adventure, it’s important to note that most homes built before 1978 contain—or once contained—paint made with lead, which we now know can cause a host of health problems, especially for children. Originally used for its fresh appearance, quick-drying properties, and resistance to moisture, lead-based paint was proven dangerous decades ago and its use was quickly discontinued. However, in many places, these original coats of paint are still present on walls, windowsills, and baseboards today. As a result, if you’re moving into an old home in the modern age, it’s critical that you know how to test for lead paint, especially if renovations are on the horizon.

Ensure your home is safe before settling in by following these key five steps:

  1. Choose the appropriate DIY lead test: rhodizonate-based kits for nearly any color except red or pink or sulfide-based kits for lighter paint colors.
  2. Make a quarter-inch incision through a thick portion of paint.
  3. Open a swab from the kit, and press it against the cut so it makes contact with each layer of exposed paint.
  4. Read the swab according to the kit’s instructions for any sign of lead present.
  5. Double-check your work.


MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Storebought lead test kit with swabs and confirmation card
Utility blade or small, sharp knife

How to Test for Lead Paint - Cracked Lead-Based Paint

Photo: via Bart Everson

Two common types of DIY lead test kits can be found in most hardware and paint stores: rhodizonate-based kits and sulfide-based kits. The type you choose will depend on the color of paint you’re testing. Rhodizonate kits are known to give false positives on red and pink paints, while sulfide kits are known to give inaccurate results on dark paint.

Once you’ve chosen the type of test that promises the most accurate results, you’ll find that most kits of either kind facilitate several tests for less than $100, which is considerably cheaper than hiring someone to test for lead paint on your behalf.

On each wall, windowsill, or baseboard where you plan to test for lead paint, choose spots where the finish seems to be at its thickest (particularly if you suspect there are additional layers of paint underneath). Here, use a utility blade, or small, sharp knife to make a quarter-inch incision, slicing through the surface paint and revealing all the previous layers beneath it.

Most lead test kits come with swabs that must be handled with precision in order to deliver accurate results. Generally, swabs are pinched in two designated areas so as to mix the solid and liquid chemicals inside. Next, open the swab to reveal the soft tip and press down on the incision made in the paint for the length of time specified on the test’s packaging (usually a few seconds). Apply pressure in a circular motion to make sure the swab has ample contact with each layer of exposed paint.

Now, look for a sign. Many popular rhodizonate-based test swabs will turn red if lead is present, although red paint (even traces of it from a previous layer) can create a false positive. Sulfide-based kits will turn dark grey or black, which of course can create a false positive when dark paint is already present. Even if you choose the correct test kit for your visible paint, additional testing may be required depending on the colors you find underneath.

If your swab comes back clean, you’re likely in the clear, but double-check your work to be safe. Most test kits come with a confirmation card, which you can use to make sure the chemicals on your swab are reacting properly. The card comes with traces of lead on it, which will cause the swab to change color when it comes in contact with the paper. Now, if your swab remains colorless, you’re out of the woods.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a specific set of steps to take if the paint in your home tests positive for lead. Since scraping and sanding painted surfaces can release lead dust and create an airborne health hazard, it’s important to take these steps seriously and follow them to the letter before beginning any renovations:

• Using the EPA’s locator, find a certified inspector or risk assessor to conduct a thorough assessment of your home.

• Review the written report provided to you upon the testing’s completion, and ask for your inspector or assessor’s recommendations on whether you should seek an abatement professional to remove all lead completely or come up with a strict maintenance plan to prevent exposure.

• If abatement is recommended, the EPA’s locator can also help you find a lead paint abatement specialist. Once you’ve hired a certified professional to remove lead from your home, they must notify the EPA at least five days before beginning the abatement process. Depending on how much time you’ve spent in the home already, blood tests may be needed in order to determine your family’s level of exposure and whether any medical response is in order.

• If a long-term maintenance plan is recommended rather than abatement, you’ll be given a set of instructions that include regular inspections and, in the case of renovations, working only with lead-safe certified home contractors who know exactly how to perform their work in a way that’s safe for all involved.

Rest assured that the patience required to test for lead paint and ensure the health of your home isn’t misguided. After all, “safety first” isn’t just a catchphrase; it’s a must for keeping you and your loved ones healthy and happy in a home of any age.

How To: Paint a Bathtub

Renew your loo by putting a fresh, clean coat on your worn-out old tub.

How to Paint a Bath Tub - White Clawfoot Tub


The focal point of a full bath is often its tub, which ought to be pristine and gleaming. If yours is pitted, chipped, or scratched—or sporting an old-fashioned color that no longer suits your style—you can spare yourself the bother and expense of ripping it out and replacing it. Options include putting in an acrylic liner for upwards of $300, or learning how to paint a bathtub with special epoxy, using a kit available at any home center for about $25. Reglazing the bathtub can be a bit tricky, but with the following steps, patience, and care, you’ll get a porcelain-like finish that will last three to five years.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Caulk removal tool
Abrasive cleanser (Comet or Soft Scrub)
Acetone or paint thinner
Epoxy putty or tub repair product
400 and 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper
Clean towels
Masking or painters’ tape
Tub refinishing kit (which includes epoxy paint)
Mediumsized paint buckets with covers (2)
Paint stirrers
Brushes and/or paint rollers
Caulk and caulking gun

How to Paint a Bathtub - Painting Tools in the Bathroom


Ready the tub: Start by removing the old caulk. (Note: If you don’t have a specific caulk removal tool, a spackling knife or 5-in-1 painter’s tool can sub in here.) Then carefully remove the drain hardware and any fixtures in the bathtub itself, using the correct tools and procedures for your situation.

Ventilate the space by opening windows and running fans. Then wash the bathtub with 10 percent bleach in water solution. Rinse well, and follow with an abrasive cleanser like Comet or Soft Scrub. After thoroughly rinsing, wipe a solvent such as acetone or paint thinner over the entire surface to remove any remaining grease or cleanser residue.

Fill any scratches, chips, or gouges with epoxy putty or tub repair product for a like-new surface. Let dry completely and then sand these areas smooth. Next, sand the entire bathtub with wet/dry sandpaper, first with 400 grit and then going over it again with finer 600 grit. This will rough up the gloss so that paint easily adheres.

Rinse the bathtub thoroughly with water and wipe it dry with clean towels or rags. Allow the tub to air dry fully—it must be free of moisture prior to painting.

When prepping for paint, use masking or painters’ tape to protect the tile and fixtures around the bathtub. Then make sure your room is well ventilated and don your respirator or mask (epoxy paint is really stinky stuff).

Now, mix the paint in the tub refinishing kit according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Many kits use a two-part epoxy paint that you’ll need to combine prior to application. If that’s the case, pour each part into one bucket to mix, then transfer half of that mixture into the second container to save for the second coat; cover tightly to prevent it from drying out. 
The mixing phase is crucial so don’t play fast and loose with the directions!

If you know how to paint other surfaces like tile or drywall, you have some idea of how to paint a bathtub. Start at the top in one corner and working your way across and down to the other side. Apply in a thin, even coat, being careful to smooth out any drips as you go with your roller or brush. Epoxy paint has a self-leveling property, so don’t be concerned if you see some bubbles or brush marks—these should disappear as it sets.

Allow the first coat to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and apply the second coat in the same way you did the first.

Epoxy takes time to fully cure, so heed the manufacturer’s instructions on drying time. Don’t use the tub until the paint has fully cured—even if it feels dry to the touch. Once cured, remove the tape, re-caulk the tub and re-install the fixtures and drain hardware.

Going forward, maintain the bathtub as you would any porcelain surface, with your choice of cleanser. But right now, run yourself a nice, warm bath—you deserve it!