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Difference between specialist kitchen painters and the rest

Listed under Blog, hand-painted kitchen, Painting Posted Oct 28 2011

I went to look at a job recently and was asked by the homeowner whether I could do a better job at painting cabinets than the last guy, a “regular” painter and decorator. It was a fair question, and it was fairly easy to answer.

It’s all in the details.

The fitted furniture had been new at the time of painting, and the workmanship wasn’t bad at first glance, but it didn’t have any wow. Look a bit closer and you could begin to see how an accumulation of small errors and oversights ends up with an ordinary end result. For instance:

Masking up
There was no attempt to mask up the interior edges of cupboards. Consequently there was no sharp line between the painted frame and the oak laminate interior. Acceptable when painting living room doors, but not kitchen cabinets.

Sanding down
The rubbing down wasn’t very thorough overall. A quick flick here, a good sand there. The paintwork seemed nice and smooth on one panel, but then when you started looking, there was no consistency. In this field, you can’t pick and choose what to sand down between coats. It ALL gets sanded.

Paint in wrong place
A couple of wooden drawer knobs looked like they were natural oak, but looking closer, the shanks had been painted – and painted in place, which meant they were well and truly stuck. It will need Popeye the sailor man on steroids to unscrew that, and it may well cause some damage when some lucky specialist tries to take it off before painting the drawer.

Which leads onto the biggest no-no.

Missed a bit
Or rather, missed out a lot. It is easy to be quick when you leave the backs of open rack pan drawers completely untouched. So when you pulled the drawer out, the front was painted, the back was still in oak.

Some drawers constructed with good old dovetail joints don’t really need the backs of drawer fronts to be painted, but when drawer fronts are screwed on or designed like the open rack pan drawers, they should definitely be removed and painted both sides.

In summary,
Most of what the painter did was pretty good, but they did less work than I would have done, and less care was taken on the fiddly bits. I don’t suppose they were sloppy as such, but the approach which is acceptable when painting a lounge, doesn’t translate readily into kitchen painting, and that is probably why the furniture didn’t wow the customer.

It is true to say that anyone can criticise finished work, (I do it all the time to my own work) But I think the step up from regular painting to kitchen painting is as big as the step up from kitchen painting to coach painting. They all involve sanding down, paint and brushes, but when you get down to it, they all require a very different degree of application and attention to detail.

As my college lecturer used to say – It is easy to drop your standards, but very hard to raise them! In terms of concentration, to prepare and paint a few door frames is like falling off a log compared to refurbishing 20 plus lacquered timber doors. Kitchen painting is like a wrestling match and you have to keep on digging deep to keep up the standards.

So, if you appreciate the difference between regular and specialist, check out these UK master decorators in your area. And if you think they are more expensive than regular painters “just because”, think about the end of a job. Would you rather look at a kitchen and talk in terms of “fantastic” and “outstanding” or “that’s nice – I think!”

And this is an idea for the next island unit I am asked to paint!

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