Painting 101

Exterior FAQ's

Q. Should I pressure wash the exterior of my home or building before I paint?

A. Yes. Our recommendation is to always pressure wash first. Even the very best paints will not adhere to a dirty surface. Common visible contamination, such as dirt, mildew, and chalk, should obviously be removed, however, often times contamination not visible to the human eye, like salts, are just as important to remove from the surface to ensure proper adhesion. 

Q. How do I know if what’s on my wall is mildew or not?

A. Since mildew is blackish brown in color, just like dirt, it’s not always easy to determine if it’s truly mildew just by looking at it. A good method to determine whether or not mildew is present is by spot-checking the surface. Apply a few drops of household bleach directly to the area in question. After about 20-30 seconds rinse with clean water. If the blackish brown color disappears where the bleach was applied, you most likely have mildew.

Q. Should I use flat, satin, or semi-gloss paint on my house?

A. While sheen is typically personal preference, there are a few things to consider. First, the basic exterior finishes are flat, Satin, Semi-Gloss, and Gloss. Some companies also have an eggshell or low sheen as well. One thing I often say is, “The higher the sheen, the easier to clean.” Glossier finishes also have better stain resistant and a more durable surface. But, higher gloss finishes are tougher to touch-up, reflect more light, therefore, highlighting imperfections on the surface, such as patches or crack repair, and tend to cost more money. On the other end of the spectrum, flat finishes hide substrate imperfections, are extremely easy to touch-up, and cost less. But, they tend to collect more dirt, more likely to chalk, and since the dried paint film is more porous it holds more moisture, therefore has a higher tendency of mildew growth. A happy medium is a satin finish. Probably the most popular exterior finish right now. A satin finish has a soft, attractive sheen offering just enough light reflection without the dirt pick-up. Imperfections on the substrate may still show, though, not highlighted as with a gloss or semi-gloss. Satin is the all-around winner for me.

Q. What is the powdery substance on my walls?

A. We in the paint industry have a technical term for this, “chalk.” Well, not so technical I guess. This is basically a sign of weathering of the paint film due to exposure to environmental elements, such as, ultra-violet rays, moisture, salt, etc. Over time, nearly all paints will exhibit light chalking when exposed to the elements. Excessive chalking, however, is a sign of sever breakdown of the paint film and loss of protection of the substrate and should be addressed immediately.

Q. How long should I wait to paint fresh stucco or any fresh masonry substrate?

A. I’m glad you asked! NEVER PAINT NEW MASONRY SUBSTRATES, SUCH AS STUCCO, BEFORE 28 DAYS OF CURING. Fresh stucco has a very high level of alkalinity and if painted too early, can burn the paint film, causing loss of color and worst case, complete failure of the paint film. This is known as alkali burn. To avoid this simply wait, at the very minimum, 28 days before painting. Also, Southern paint will gladly test your surface for alkalinity free of charge, provided you are using our paint of course. 

Q. What’s the deal with elastomeric paint?

A. The infamous elastomeric! There is a lot of thing to know about elastomeric. Let’s start with what it is. Elastomeric is a thick, heavy bodied, elastic coating, designed to stretch and bridge small cracks in masonry surfaces. It’s approximately 2-3 times thicker than ordinary house paint. Elastomerics are fantastic waterproofing coatings, though widely oversold. Our recommendation is to use elastomeric only if you need it. For example, if water is coming through your walls due to a series of hairline cracks or even cracks and breaches in your walls that you can’t see. Or, you have hairline cracks scattered throughout the entire surface (spider cracking) and patching wouldn’t be feasible or economical. We also do not recommend elastomeric on new stucco. The reason is that new stucco will settle, resulting in settlement cracking and sometimes settlement cracking is too much for elastomeric to handle. A gallon of elastomeric paint costs about the same as a quality 100% acrylic house paint, however, you coverage is up to 4 times less. A 20mil elastomeric covers only about 80 square feet per gallon as opposed to 250-300 square feet with you 100% acrylic house paint. So you’ll need a lot more elastomeric. Now, here’s the thing. You can stretch elastomeric to 250-300 square feet per gallon, but you will not get the performance of an elastomeric, therefore wasting your money. If attempting application yourself and you’re using a 20 mil elastomeric that’s recommended to be applied at 80 square feet per gallon, I suggest taping off an area 8’x10’ and squeezing the first gallon into it. This will give you a great idea as to how heavy you need to apply it.

Q. I have rust stains on my walls and sidewalks from my sprinklers. Does this stuff come off?

A. Absolutely! A few products we sell take care of well water rust. First, you can use a product called oxalic acid. This comes in powder form, mixes with water and removes well water rust pretty fast. Also, we sell a product called SNOWCAP. SNOWCAP also comes in powder form and mixes with water and contains oxalic acid. The difference and advantage to SNOWCAP is that it contains cleaning detergents as well, which aids in the rust removal and cleans other stains or contaminates.

Interior FAQ's

Q. Can I paint my Formica or laminate cabinets?

A. Certainly! Like most everything else, preparation is very important. The very first thing you should do is clean the surface. Denatured alcohol work best. This will remove finger oils and greases. Don’t use mineral spirits or paint thinner. Once you wipe the entire surface with alcohol you should lightly sand. Just a light go over with 320grit or even a coarse scotch brite pad will work. Another round of cleaning with alcohol should follow the sanding. Now, don’t think you can get away with only cleaning after you sand. Because if you sand without cleaning, you drive contaminates deeper into the surface and that’s not good. I suggest using STIX primer, by Insl-X next. Its water based, low odor, user friendly, and sticks to anything. Well, almost anything. After priming, your options are almost unlimited. You can topcoat STIX with oil, latex, epoxy, whatever. Oil based finished are harder, but are not as user friendly to most DIYers. They have more of an odor, need mineral spirits to clean up, and will slightly yellow over time. Latex enamel work great. Easy to use, little or no odor, soap and water clean-up. Your finish will depend on sheen. Talk with your salesperson about options.

Q. I have water stains on my ceilings from a roof leak. What’s the best way to seal those stains before I paint?

A. The very best primer to use for stain sealing is Zinsser’s B-I-N Pigmented Shellac Primer. This is an alcohol based primer sealer made for general priming and stain sealing. One coat of B-I-N primer is sufficient for most stains; however, some may require two coats. Waiting at least 45 minutes before finish coating is important, so remember that. Another consideration is that the odor is quite powerful. Use plenty of ventilation by opening doors and windows and turning on fans.

Q. I have wallpaper I wish to remove and I’d like to paint the wall. I don’t want the wall to look like “alligator skin.” How do I go about doing this?

A. First, all wallpaper and adhesive needs to be removed. Southern Paint has an excellent product for this, WP Chomp. There are two parts to your wallpaper – the vinyl facing and the paper backing. Most of the newer wallpapers are made so the vinyl peels easily from the paper backing, peel off vinyl. If you’re unable to remove the vinyl facing easily, you may need to score the vinyl with a tool called a Paper Tiger. A Paper Tiger perforates the wallpaper to allow penetration of the remover. Next, spray the Chomp on one section at a time, allowing the Chomp 5 to 10 minutes to penetrate the backing. You may have to spray down the backing a second time. Use a scraper to lift the backing and scrape of the excess paste from the wall. Repeat until backing is completely removed. Now you can go and pick out all the tiny pieces of wallpaper out of your hair and paste from your brow. Spray more WP Chomp on the wall and wipe down with a rag or sponge. Use the scraper if there’s still paste on the wall. As an extra precaution, you can wipe the wall down with hot water and allow to dry. Finally, apply a good oil-based primer such as Kilz or Cover Stain. Apply per manufacturer’s directions. Now you are free to paint to your heart’s content.

General FAQ's

Q. Why should I spend $20.00-$25.00 on a paint brush?

A. Great question! If you’ve ever painted in your home, even as little as one bedroom, you’ll know how it goes. You get really excited about the change, picking colors, jumping into your painting clothes, clearing the room, throwing down drop cloths, everything goes fast and smooth right? Then you crack open that gallon of paint and start cutting in. A half hour later and only three feet down the wall, “OH MY GOD! Isn’t there an easier way?” Yes! Get a great brush. Good brushes will change your life. They hold more paint, which means less dipping. They give you a much more accurate line with much better response. They’ll lay down the paint smoother, reducing any brush strokes. Not to mention, they’ll probably last you many years so you won’t have to buy a cheap brush a year or two down the road when it’s time to paint another room. A good brush is well worth it, trust me.

Q. How will I know if I have oil based paint on the surface?

A. The classic alcohol test and I don’t mean liquor so don’t get excited. We use denatured alcohol. Saturate a small rag. Rub pretty vigorously, in a circular motion, on the surface for 5 seconds or so. If the coating is latex (water based), you will almost immediately notice the paint will melt. Excessive amounts of paint will be on the rag. If you put your finger in the area you rubbed, you finger will imprint the paint and most likely come off on your finger. If it’s oil, you will have little or nothing on the rag and the surface will be sort of polished or cleaned, if you will. The denatured alcohol will have little or no effect on the oil based paint.

Q. What’s the difference between premium quality and lower quality paint?

A. I know! Why should you spend 35 bucks or more on a gallon of paint? Well, here’s why. Hiding, adhesion, spatter resistance, flow and leveling, touch-up, stain resistance, scrub resistance, color retention, gloss retention, the list goes on. Good paint just works better. Let’s go over a few. First, hiding. With premium paint, your chances of covering with one coat are much higher. Premium paints contain higher levels of titanium dioxide (Ti02), the highest quality, and most expensive, pigment used in paint to aid in hiding. Less coats, less work, more time to enjoy you freshly painted room. Second, stain resistance. Most quality paint exhibit superior stain resistance. So after that wild Christmas party you threw, the red wine stains will wipe right off, avoiding breaking out the brush and touching-up. That brings us right into touch-up. Nevertheless, after that wild party you have a hole in the wall as well. Well, premium paints a designed with incredible touch-up capabilities. So instead of repainting that entire wall after patching the hole, just a little touch-up and you’re done. Next, application. It’s just easier to use. Cleaner lines when cutting in, less spatter when rolling out, great flow and leveling, so you cutting in and rolling blend well together, all around easier to use. It’s just like food. The better ingredients; the better the taste. With paint, the better the paint; the better the all around performance.

Q. Should I worry about color differences between different cans and/or buckets?

A. Worry? No. Be aware? Yes! Although, the majority of the time you won’t have any differences between buckets and/or cans, paint is not a perfect science. There are so many variables involved including, filling at the factory, tint machines, the person tinting, batches of pigments, etc. Like tile, carpet, wallpaper, like most anything else, each run can’t be exactly the same. To save yourself from any troubles I would advise pouring up all your cans into one bucket. This will ensure uniform color throughout. It sounds like a lot of extra work, but it’s really not that bad especially knowing you won’t have to re-paint any walls due to color indifference.

Q. What’s with my color chip not matching my paint?

A. Well, color chips are computer generated and printed with ink. Each time a new run is printed, you have a slight variance. It could be darker, it could be lighter. It could be more brown, it could be more yellow. Also, each batch of paint is slightly different. It could be a little less of a fill or even a little less pigment. We never know. Each batch of paint and each run of chips will always be, to some extent, different from the last. I will guarantee you this. Both the paint manufacturers and the paint dealers invest tons of dollars into quality control. We are doing everything in our power to be consistent. The automatic tint machine we use at Southern Paint cost about $18,000.00. Their capable of dispensing 1/384 of an ounce. The last thing we want is for our customers to be unhappy.

Q. What’s the proper way to touch-up?

A. FEATHER YOUR EDGES! Always take a little extra time to feathering your edges. When I was outside sales for Southern, I use to service many hotel, motel, and condo accounts. I would get call after call from the maintenance men or painters, “Why isn’t this touching-up?” I would literally have to teach these guys how to touch-up. Since time is a crucial factor, what they would do is grab a bucket of paint, grab a brush and dip and dab, dip and dab, dip and dab. Picture them walking down a hall and smacking a wet paint brush every few feet. Of course this isn’t touching up! What you really want to do is take a little extra time, not much, and feather your edges out. Dab the area that needs touch-up, and bring the brush out in all directions until you basically have a dry brush. What this does is reduce the thickness of the paint at the edges, minimizing any hard, noticeable edges. I’ve personally never had trouble touching-up, but some painters take an extra step and slightly thin their paint to reduce the thickness even more. Now this doesn’t guarantee touch-up success. Other factors contribute to paint not touching-up. For example, porosity. If the wall has been painted, but not primed and you touch-up that wall, it acts like a second coat which can cause a difference in appearance. Cold weather effects color, thus causing a difference in appearance. Color fade! Especially outside, colors will fade. So if you touch-up a year or two later, some of the color may have faded and the fresh paint in the can just won’t match.

Q. Should I do color samples before I paint?

A. You better! No, I can’t say that, but you really should. I can’t tell you how many times customers have picked a color, without sampling, and find out that they hated it on the wall. The really bad part is most of the time we can’t do anything about it. Sometimes we can adjust the color to your liking, but often times we can’t. Colors change in every environment. Lighting, reflections, shadowing, furniture, grass, all these things effect color. Remember, you’re looking at the chips in our stores with fluorescent lighting and two thousand other colors around you, not to mention the chip is on 1 ½” x 2”. Sampling colors first ensure you have exactly what you want.

Q. What are my sheen options and explain them to me?

A. Typically, you have five main sheen levels.

  • Gloss
  • Semi-Gloss
  • Satin
  • Eggshell
  • Flat

Some paint manufacturers have additional sheens, such as Lo-Lustre or Matte. But for the most part you’ll see the main five. Let’s go over each sheen.

  • Gloss-Commonly referred to as “High Gloss”, these finishes have a super high reflective appearance.  They are the most durable and the most stain-resistant finish, therefore much easier to clean. Their generally used in high traffic areas, such as, doors, cabinets, trim work, banisters, industrial applications, etc. The biggest down falls to gloss finishes is that they highlight surface imperfections, don’t touch-up well and typically cost more than lower sheen finishes.
  • Semi-Gloss-Like gloss finishes, Semi-gloss finishes offer good stain-resistance and ease of cleaning, just not as highly reflective. Traditionally, semi-gloss finishes are used for trim, doors, cabinetry, bathroom and kitchen walls. Areas where durability is needed for frequent cleanings or abrasion resistance and gloss is not an option.
  • Satin-Satin finishes is probably one of the more popular exterior wall finishes right now.  Just below a semi-gloss, they are scrubbable and offer stain-resistance, but not as well as a semi-gloss or gloss. Satin finishes are appealing to many because they impart a touch of warmth to the surface. Not flashy, yet not flat, just enough sheen to lend durability. Mostly used on walls, though sometimes on doors and woodwork. Satin is probably the most popular exterior house finish because it offers less dirt pick-up and good mildew resistance.
  • Eggshell-Don’t confuse eggshell with color.  Often times, customers will come into the store and say, “I need two gallons of eggshell.” We reply, “What color would you like.” Customer, “Eggshell!” We then have to explain that eggshell refers to sheen. Eggshell sheen simply looks like a real eggshell. Really soft, almost flat in some cases. Many eggshell finishes look flat when you’re standing directly in front of it. It’s when you catch it at an angle; you notice a touch of gloss. They still offer some durability and stain resistance and have great touch-up properties. Eggshell finishes are very popular finishes and are suited for living rooms, bedrooms, doctor’s offices, areas that require cleaning but little sheen is desired.
  • Flat-Flat paints are non-reflective. They absorb light. Two main advantages of flat finishes are the ability to conceal surface imperfections and ability to touch-up. Used primarily for ceilings and walls. The biggest downfall to flats is they offer little stain-resistance. This means they are hard to clean. However, many manufacturers are now offering stain resistant flat finishes where after ten days of curing, you are able to scrub the finish and remove almost any stain. This is a great choice for any interior wall where no sheen is desired and durability is a necessity.

While sheen is really personal preference, this might help you in your decision. A few other things to remember is that each and every paint manufacturer’s sheen levels differ. Benjamin Moore’s eggshell is different that Coronado’s eggshell. Glidden’s semi-gloss is different that Benjamin Moore’s semi-gloss. You get the point. Also, sheen effect color. So the same exact color will appear different in all sheens. This is due to light reflecting off the color. The higher the sheen; the more light bounces off the surface and the lower sheen; the more absorption of light. Finally, over time, sheen will fade down, especially in the first few months and in exterior applications. So the sheen you see immediately after the finish dries, will calm down a touch. 

Q. I was told to tint my primer the same color as my finish. Is that right?

A. Sort of! We usually recommend tinting towards your topcoat color, not the full color. Maybe ½ or ¾ of the finish coat color. The reason for this is that it’s much easier to see where you have already painted. If it too close to the topcoat, you may have trouble knowing where you’ve already painted. Then when the finish dries and your brushes and rollers are already clean, you’ll see some misses here and there. We would recommend tinting your primer in almost any situation because it does help your finish coat cover.

Q. Can I use a china bristle brush with water based paint?

A. Only if you want to ruin it. China bristle brushes are made of natural hog hair. Like any real hair, it absorbs water. In fact, they’ll absorb about 40% of their weight in water. This will result in the brush losing its shape and flaring up, not to mention limp bristles. Solvent based products are the recommended materials to use with china bristle brushes.

Q. Yippee, I finally finished painting!!!!! How do I store this stuff for future touch ups?

A. Well, this is s tricky and common question with more than one answer. Let me start with answer number one. In a perfect world, it would be best to store leftover paint inside your house in a temperature-controlled environment following all the steps I will list below. However, in our not so perfect world, we all know where our paint is going to end up. Sitting on the garage floor next to the weed-wacker and rusty garden tools. That being said, let’s talk about making the best of a bad situation and move on to answer number two. If you’re like me, and your paint is going to end up in the garage, attic, or shed there are some things you can do to help improve the situation and prolong the life of the paint. First of all, the fuller the can the better. If you have three cans of paint that are all the same color and all only partially full, pour it all into one can. We are trying to keep air out. Next put the lids on as tightly as possible. One good way to do this is to cover the can with a block of wood and tap it with a hammer. You will get the best seal if you avoid wiping your brush on the rim of the can while painting and keeping the groove on the top of the can clean. Using a paint “key” to open the cans is also helpful, because it does not distort the lids rolled edge. Southern Paint will supply you with paint “keys” for free and also sells plastic pouring lid that inserts into the rim of the paint can. These help keep the can clean while you pour paint into a tray or other container. Now that the can is clean and sealed, let’s talk about location. A cool place away from things like your hot water heater, and washer dryer are best. Avoid direct sunlight and moisture. Also, make sure the paint is in a location where leakage won’t destroy your great grandmother’s one of a kind tiffany lamp. I think shelves or cabinets in a garage or shed are a better idea than the floor. Line the area completely with cardboard and line up your paint cans upside down. Storing your cans upside down is best, because it create a seal around the lid. Using permanent marker write a description on the bottom of the can. Example: Southern Supreme, C-27, R-24, Master Bedroom Beige, 7/10/08 (date purchased). If the bottom of the can will not be visible, feel free to write it on the side or make a label you can stick to the side of the can.