Of the hundreds of weekend tasks that DIY enthusiasts take on in their homes, the most common is the simple paint job. A vast selection of paints and finishes is now available for all surfaces, and recent additions to paint-makers' ranges have increased the options considerably. This chapter guides you through the selection of paint, offers advice on paint schemes, and shows you how to tackle your first paint job.
To anyone approaching a makeover for the first time, the vast array of paints must be confusing. The latest paint technology has led to boasts that a professional finish can be attained by a novice. However, it is important to assess modern paints in terms of what they will do, and relate them to older-style paints that may have been used in the house.
The paint in your tin will be either water- or solvent-based. Both types are made up of pigment, which provides the color, and a binder that holds the pigment particles together. This combination in water is generally called emulsion. In a spirit-based solvent it is known as oil-based gloss or eggshell. Decorators have traditionally used water-based emulsions for interior walls and oil-based finishes for woodwork, such as doors and surrounds, because they are harder-wearing. Today's technology allows the manufacturer to offer the choice of water-based gloss or satin paints for woodwork, reducing the drying time considerably.
Traditional descriptions are altering, too. Silk vinyl emulsions are often labelled 'washable' or 'wipeable! Matt emulsion is referred to as 'non-reflective' - also non-wipeable. Water-based gloss may be 'non-drip, no undercoat needed' or 'one coat only'. Often oil-based gloss is offered as 'liquid gloss', or, implying use by professionals, as 'trade' gloss. Don't be misled by the 'trade' label into thinking that this paint is superior in some way; it isn't.
(Traditionally, water-based paints have been applied to interior walls, while oil-based gloss paint has been used on woodwork, but conventions are changing as new materials and finishes are now becoming available).
As you contemplate your choice of finish, consider only the durability of water-based versus oil-based paints. Oil-based is tougher, longer-lasting, and easier to clean. Water-based paints are easier to use, environmentally friendly and the job is done in a quarter of the time. You will, however, need to repaint much sooner if you use water-based paints.
Choosing appropriate paints
On walls and ceilings, which are particularly large areas to paint, don't consider oil-based finishes unless you intend to apply a special effect such as ragging, in which case eggshell is ideal. Large areas of oil-based paint are unpleasant to apply, environmentally unfriendly and time-consuming to change. Emulsions are designed for the job, but make sure your wall surfaces are suitable first.
Once you have a color scheme in mind, examine the room. What is the current state of finish? If it is a painted scheme on plaster, lining paper or wall covering that can be painted, and you are merely altering the colors, your task is straightforward because paint is the major decorating factor. Perhaps the current finish incorporates wood cladding, tiles, or even a powerful wallpaper pattern that is to be retained on some of the walls. Your paint scheme must take into account what the room inherits from its previous life, and combine with existing materials to achieve a matching or contrasting effect.
Left: Geometric paintings provide an eye-catching focal point in this neutral scheme.
Rghit: Kitchen walls need to be washable and will probably be subject to much wear and tear.
(You may want to offset certain features, such as a fireplace surround, by painting them in one finish against a wall of another finish).
TYPES OF PAINT
- Vinyl matt emulsion
- Vinyl silk emulsion
- Eggshell emulsion
- Gloss emulsion
- Smooth masonry paint
- Floor/Tile paint
- Ceiling paint
- Textured paint
- Radiator enamel
Old and new together
Retaining parts of someone else's room scheme may seem unappealing at first, but don't dismiss it out of hand. If the room has a particular feature that dominates it, then it may provide a better visual result if you work with it, not against it. If you like a particular characteristic, it makes no sense to remove or disguise it, and it can become the axis for the new scheme. In any combined scheme, remember that decorating can be done wall by wall, slowly building up a new look. It doesn't necessarily have to be drastically altered all at the same time. In the same way that you must consider what affect the floor covering, carpet or wood floor will have on painted walls, you have to view the walls themselves in relation to each other.
Adding to a scheme at any time has never been easier. Original paintings, prints or tapestries can be hung, small areas painted as a special effect, or rugs used on the floor. This slightly alters the overall appearance, and the way that the walls interact with it, particularly if the scheme is monochromatic and the main color theme is continued in the pictures.
As a final thought, you should consider carefully the condition of the walls when you are making your decisions. If you find wood cladding, paneling or very heavyweight wall coverings in the room, stop and ask yourself why they are there. What are they covering up? Many enthusiastic decorators have ripped off tongue-and-groove cladding only to find that the wall underneath needs to be taken back to the brick, damp-proofed, sealed and replastered.
It is important to take into account the function of the room area when choosing paint for a particular scheme. Entrance hallways, for example, may have hooks for wet hats and coats and a place where people remove muddy boots and leave umbrellas. Don't consider a paint scheme that is not washable. Any wood here will need a tough finish, such as oil-based gloss, or, if it is varnished, an exterior yacht varnish, to cope with everyday knocks. A wood cladding on the lower, more vulnerable, half of the wall may work to your advantage here.
The walls of the bathroom and kitchen should be washable, but the bathroom is a room that needs to be a warm and friendly place, so you will want to offset the sometimes cold or austere feel of tiles and glass.
Rooms used by all the members of the house need to be both decorative and functional. These are the truly multi-purpose areas, where the philosophy of 'change a little at a time' can be both practical and democratic.
Children's rooms and play areas need paints that are washable and tough. Two topcoats are a good idea, so that surface scratches do not reveal a different color underneath. Avoid matt emulsion paints in children's rooms, as these will become shiny where inevitable smudges and fingerprints have to be cleaned off. Go for paints with a silk or semi-sheen finish.
Bedrooms have to be more robust these days because often they double as teenage living space. However, bedrooms are more personal areas, and schemes can be the choice of the individual. The paint job can be bold and imaginative, whereas communal areas sometimes call for compromise. A scheme in the main living area, for example, of bold, pure, vivid colors, may have seemed spectacular when you were doing it, but even after a short while may become tiresome and rather irritating to the eye.
(A deep sea-green is a restful color for a bathroom, offset here by the
white units and upper walls).
(The paint you select to decorate your bathroom should be washable, warm, and friendly).
(Instead of the traditional white, paintwork can be given a darker or contrasting color to the paint chosen for use on the walls).