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Take the pain out of painting your home!

Painting is the most basic do-it-yourself job - and attracts more instant experts-per-square-mile than any other household task. But there is a world of difference between a bodged finish and the one on which time and attention to detail have been expended.

It calls to mind the jest about Michaelangelo: "He took l5 years to decorate the Sistine Chapel - if he'd used a roller he could have done it over the weekend!"

Sure, he could; and the result would have looked like it, too. With home-painting, the essentials are simple and timeless. The most important part is surface preparation and priming.

The quality of finish achieved and the life of the paint system are dependent on this early work. The method of preparation and choice of primer will depend on the type of surface that is to be painted and the finishing system to be applied.

All surfaces must be sound, clean, dry and free from loose or poorly adhering material. They should be thoroughly rubbed down and dusted off before any painting is begun.

Some surfaces in very poor condition may need to be stripped completely and treated as new.

If you are dealing with a wood surface, use a paint stripper, hot-air gun or gas torch to remove existing coatings; on metal, employ paint stripper; on masonry, use a hot-air gun, gas torch, paint stripper or blast cleaner.

In preparing new plastered walls and ceilings, carefully remove plaster splashes and mortar droppings.

Any efflorescence - white salts that appear as the surface dries out - should be removed by dry rubbing with coarse cloth.

Your local hardware shop or DIY specialist will advise on suitable types of finish, from soft sheen and quick-drying gloss paints for interiors, to durable coatings specially developed for exteriors and particular weather conditions.

Here are some tips for good results:

  • Ceilings and indoor walls should be painted in strips, working quickly but carefully so that the edge of each strip is still wet when you start on the next one.

  • When you are painting doors remove doorknobs before starting; you should paint flush doors in sections, working down from the top; don't overload the brush and check constantly for runs.

  • With panelled doors, tackle the panels first, then the vertical centre bar, horizontal bar and finally the outside vertical timbers.

  • With windows, protect glass with masking tape, but set it back by about 2mm so that a fine line of gloss goes into the glass. Paint bars before the frame.

  • Radiators should be painted when cold, applying a thin coat of gloss. Don't use an undercoat.

  • For outside walls, remember to mask window sills, woodwork and pipes with newspaper; apply masonry paint thickly and work it well into the surface.

  • As for metalwork, such as downpipes and window-frames, wait for a dry day, rub metal down with fine-grade wet and dry sandpaper, and then apply primer and finishing coats.

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