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Attention to detail – the secret to professional painting and decorating

Listed under abranet, Blog, Painting, preparation Posted Apr 13 2010

So it isn’t a secret now, but attention to detail is what separates the painting and decorating men from the boys. Here are a few picky pointers that may be of interest to budding decorators, or curious customers.

Sheeting up a room – I don’t own any traditional cotton dust sheets. Instead, to cover carpets or wooden / tiled floors, I use paper and plastic sheeting – and a lot of masking tape. Customers appreciate this sort of care and attention.

It takes me a couple of hours to get set up at the beginning of a job, but once the flooring is protected, I can work without fear of spillages, and cleaning up is easy.

Vaccum extraction sanding – I don’t own a dusting brush! Ceilings, walls and flat wooden surfaces are sanded with abranet and a mirka dust extractor. This cuts out dust in the air by about 90%. And prior to painting, I use a brush attachment on a vacuum cleaner to collect up the rest of the dust. Customers appreciate this level of cleanliness.

This system is an extra expense for me compared to traditional jamb duster and dustpan, but it keeps the cleaning simple, thorough and much faster for me.

Remove handles and window catches – I would never dream of painting around door handles or window catches (unless they are impossible to remove, in which case I would mask them up.) There is nothing worse than window catches that are covered in paint, or black draught excluders around doors and windows speckled with white paint. And what is it with painters who leave a room with light switches and sockets splattered with three different colours of paint?!

Paint all edges of external doors – Many front and back doors jam and scrape against the frame. Invariably, if you take a look at the top and bottom edges of a troublesome door, you often find they are still bare timber. This exposed edge is a way in for moisture, which causes the door to shrink and swell. Not only does this swelling scag the paint on the edge of the door, but the binding can make it hard to open and shut doors, which puts strain on door frames and causes severe cracking down the joints with the wall. (See 2-pack filler for repairing damaged plaster around door frames.)

I try to ease doors, but because shrinkage can occur in the summer and leave unacceptable gaps, you have to be sparing with the trimming. So if the door was never painted properly in the first place and the damage has been done, I can’t guarantee permanent success.

Tops of door frames – Ordinarily, in domestic situations, there is no need to paint them. However, if you can see the tops of frames, you should paint them. When you walk down the stairs, or you have cut-down doors (under stairs), the tops of door frames are visible to most of us normal humans, so they should be painted. If your customer is 7 feet tall, it is probably wise to paint the tops of all their door frames too.

As far as I am aware , the only occasion where the tops of all door frames have to be painted is in a hospital environment, where all surfaces have to be sealed for hygiene purposes. (I know this because I worked for a contractor once, who overlooked this minor detail on the specification. When the whole job was finished, he had to send two of us to prime, undercoat and gloss the tops of frames to 200 doors. Not good.)

Touch up paint – Rooms I decorate are usually left completely empty on completion of the work, and the furniture and paintings and curtains are reinstalled at a later date. It is a great help to customers, if you can leave enough of the wall paint for touching up accidental damage. For a 6-star service, I would leave a small paint brush with it too.

Many of my customers say I go the extra mile with my work. In all honesty, I don’t see it that way. Paying attention to detail was how I was taught all those years ago at tech college by my mentor, Alan Baldwin from Gloucester.

It is easy to find fault with anyone’s work, but I wish my competitors, and the decorators whose work I am now going back over, had tried a bit harder to avoid bitty woodwork, painted handles and sloppy painting. If nothing else, being picky and particular cuts down the overall cost of future decorating, something that is lost on most consumers in this day and age.

For instance, on average I charge around £1300 for hand-painting a kitchen from scratch. Doors, drawers and panels are prepared and painted perfectly, and next time they need refeshing, I reckon it would cost half that – and easy work for the lucky painter! On the other hand, I have repainted kitchens done less than perfectly the first time by others, and have had to charge more than £1300.

At the end of the day, paying attention to detail is simple good long term economics. Do you have any examples of annoying oversights by decorators? Please share, so we can all learn.

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