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Attention to detail masking up furniture

Listed under Blog, preparation Posted Dec 06 2009

I think that paying attention to masking up furniture is a big step towards attaining a good finish. Furniture is probably more closely scrutinised than even a hand-painted kitchen. This for painters looking how to please the most discerning customers.

distressed hand painted bathroom unit painted without Attention to detail masking up Attention to detail masking up

The missing attention to detail when masking up this piece of furniture

The high-end painter who last decorated this unit did a beautiful job overall, but to my eye, he spoilt the work with lots of little sloppinesses. What’s up with the paint on the inside of the cupboards and all over the hinges?

My approach to a great finish is simple. I prefer to “lose” time at the start of a job, cleaning off old paint. Then I use masking tape, plastic and paper to protect precious items. Once I have protected everything then I can paint freely (and fast) and make up on the lost preparation time. When I take off the masking tape, there is a crisp straight line and there is no mess to clear off. Thinking ahead, the next time it is repainted, there will be very little preparation needed.

Masking up interiors

There is more to beautifying walls than simply painting, filling and sanding. The first, and in my opinion, most important job, is to mask up. Protect everything that is not being painted, simple. Paint doesn’t always go where it is supposed to.

carefully masking up a bookcase and radiator I prefer not to copy 99% of tradesmen when it comes to masking up. How often do you see cotton dust sheets draped over furniture, sheets on the floor? Painters then spend the whole time treading very carefully, hoping not to tread paint spatters into carpets. I easily avoid this underlying worry with a different approach to masking and sheeting a room.

Masking the good way

I prefer to mask up with paper and plastic. I work on the assumption that if a gallon of oil paint exploded in the middle of the room, nothing will spoil. When I have protected everything, I can paint and sand to my heart’s content. So far no damage, and so far no one has complained that I am too tidy!

I have done all the timings and experiments with time and motion, and I am confident that this approach has far more advantages than disadvantages.

  • It is easier to sweep up paper than collect dust sheets, shake them sweep up the dust and relay the sheets.
  • When all the paint has dried, I can remove the tape and paper and I know nothing will be spoilt.
  • At the end of a job, I don’t have to wash dust sheets and damage my washing machine…

If you have any observations, I would love to read them.

Update 2020

For many years I have had the privilege of working some of the best furniture painters in the business. When it comes to attention to detail these craftsmen and -women are exemplary.

Mac Devereux who covers Derby and Nottingham.

Richard Willott who covers E Anglia

Barrie Thompson in Essex.

And Lee Simone in Yorkshire

It’s all in the detail with Traditional Painter members.



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3 comments to “Attention to detail masking up furniture”

  1. Paul Gale

    Hi,
    I’m very interested in your practice of covering/protecting carpets. Could you please expand on this please?
    1)I assume you tape around the skirting board perimeter?
    2)Do you then put plastic sheeting down and lining paper on top or the other way round? How do you overcome puncture marks by stepladders?
    3)What grade plastic sheet do you use? (Sheeting varies from the stuff like cling film up to DPC grade)
    4)What masking tape do you use – what make and what size?
    I look forward to hearing from you.
    PS By the way – Well done, very good website.

  2. Traditional Painter

    Hi Paul

    1 – yes, I push the tape down behind the tuck in the carpet with a filling knife

    2 – lay plastic sheet first a few inches short of skirtings, then lay lining paper round edge so it overlaps onto plastic.

    I pad out the bottom of my steps to spread the load, and before painting I quickly check for any holes in plastic and stick some tape over holes.

    3 – I have had no problems with Wickes plastic sheeting, dont know the grade, it isn;t uber cheap, but nothing like DPC.

    I am trialling Trimaco One Tuff which is a reusable lightweight fabric-plastic, which is probably more robust than plastic.

    The thing is, if working on my own, I have a way of walking around so I am comfortable with plastic. But get a couple of people who dont really think too hard, and mine is a rubbish system!

    Around edge of carpet or edge of plastic, I use 1.5″ cheapo white masking tape. As it is close to edge you tend not to walk over it, so the tape is unlikely to meld into carpet.

    Does that help?

  3. Tim L

    A very helpful description – especially with the answer to the q. Thank you.

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