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Efficient painting and decorating – no cotton dust sheets please

Listed under Blog, Equipment, Masking tape, preparation Posted Mar 14 2011

My work ethos is based on quality before quantity and speed.

However, if you can program yourself to work as efficiently as possible, while maintaining the highest standards, you have arrived!

If you take a long hard look at everything you do and all the kit you use, you begin to see room for improvements. The full story behind (efficient painting and decorating)

Cotton dust sheets are a waste of time

If you work in private homes, and insist on laying out cotton sheets on the floor before sanding and painting, you are probably wasting time and money throughout the duration of the job.

If you sand down walls and woodwork and let the dust fall onto cotton dust sheets, and then shake the sheets out in the garden – you are probably annoying your customer, as well as wasting time and losing money.

If you want to spend all day carefully dragging and rearranging cotton sheets as you inadvertently scuff them and trip over them – carry on wasting time and losing money. You also work under the constant risk of ruining the very flooring you are trying to protect.

At the other extreme of masking up, many decorators, many workmen in fact, think that it is OK to let a hardwood floor, or lino, vinyl get dusty then clean it up at end of job. Ask the lady of the house what she thinks about that, then reappraise!

Personally, I prefer a stress-free and efficient working life and I like to work hard without worrying to much about what is going on underfoot. (My customers like that about me as well!)

Masking up Hardwood / vinyl flooring

The first thing I do is “waste” an hour or so laying down paper.

I use 3M 14-day 2090 blue tape for the edges, then lay 1200-1400 grade lining paper from Coveryourwall, overlapping each piece by an inch, and tape down with cheap and super sticky masking tape.

With this technique, the gummy cheap tape never comes in contact with the floor, and you know that with the blue tape, you will get a nice clean edge around skirtings and door frames, and the tape will come up without too much persuasion. If cheaper masking tape is laid direct on a floor or carpet, and then walked over for a few days, watch out!

It is relaxing knowing the flooring beneath your feet is well protected.

I developed this sheeting-up method while hand-painting kitchen cabinets.

If there is one room you don’t want to get dusty or spattered in paint, it’s the kitchen. Also the enemy of shiny paint is dust, and as far as I am concerned, a cotton dust sheet is a dust trap.

The tools for masking up a floor are basically two tape dispensers, one for blue one for white tape, a pair of scissors and a stock of lining paper. (The other tools in the picture are for dealing with the cabinets.)

If you notice, paint that gets on floors outside the work area is usually from customers walking in and out! So I usually leave a mat outside the door too, either paper, or my one and only cotton sheet, plastic backed. Then I get to work as if I were on a building site. ie any accidental paint spots or spills are a non-issue, but better than a building site, lining-papered floors can be easily vacuumed and kept meticulously clean.

Masking up carpeted floors

In my experience, the basic evolution of sheeting-up carpeted floors has been:

Take up the carpet. This level of disruption is often not an option. Oh well.

Cotton dust sheets and a George (paint shield for cutting in close to carpets) This is the old way and frankly, why did we ever think this was smart!

Cotton sheets and masking tape around baseboards. Progress, as you can paint skirtings quickly with less chance of picking up fluff in your paint brush. But still, cotton sheets are not smart, as they trap dust, and lint off.

Plastic sheets over whole floor, taped down around edges. Pretty good solution, especially for thick pile carpeting. In fact plastic sheeting, or Trimaco One Tuff impervious lightweight sheeting on deep pile carpets is better than lining paper. But you have to tread carefully. Working alone, no problem, but if you have a heavy hoofed colleague, this method can let you down.

A design flaw
What I noticed, if you lay a complete polythene sheet on the floor and tape it down, the masking tape round the edges gets pulled away as you walk over it during the course of a job.

So to overcome this problem, I tend to lay a poly sheet over the whole floor leaving a 6″ gap all round the edges, and, tape it down. That sheet will tend to “walk” as it is walked over, but it basically stays doing its job of protecting the carpet. To deal with skirting areas, I chop a length of lining paper in half and run that all round the skirting and tape that against the skirting. This way, the paper border is independent of the main walking area, so, over the course of the job, you can rely on the lining paper and the masking tape against the skirting to stay put and be reliable when painting.

A extra bonus, the majority of the dust residual from sanding walls and skirtings will be limited to the paper border, and as paper is very easy to vacuum up, you have a win-win.

Alternative floor protection products

I own one cotton sheet, it is plastic-backed and usually gets laid outside a room as a door mat. There are loads of other options for protecting floors, from Trimaco One Tuff to poly sheets to cardboard to Packexe on a roll. All are safer than cotton sheets, some are better than others, but in the long run they will work out much cheaper than cotton sheets in terms of labour.

Conclusion

Labour saving ideas are the first steps for improved efficiency and a competitive edge – in a hurry. Finding ways of saving even an hour on a week’s work – every week – is worth way more than spending hours trawling the internet for a deal on new cotton dust sheets.

I have had criticisms about being ungreen with paper. Apologies, but I don;t buy the environmental argument against using paper v cotton dust sheets. Someone’s not being paid a fair wage for producing a 12 x 12 dust sheet that sells for £6, plus costs of shipping a dust sheet, washing a dust sheet, folding, laying shaking and stacking and storing… this all adds up to a mighty big footprint compared to on average 3-4 rolls per room of paper that often gets re-used and, according to our bin guys, recycled too. And to my knowledge, no carpet or floor or fireplace or appliance has had to be binned because of paint seeping through paper, something that cannot be said based on horrific experiences with paint seepage through cotton sheets.

Just like dusting brushes, cotton dust sheets are an ongoing drain on time and money and for the most part, need to stay in the cupboard.

What is your experience?



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20 comments to “Efficient painting and decorating – no cotton dust sheets please”

  1. acmasterpainter

    [watch out!] Efficient painting and decorating – no cotton dust sheets please – via #twitoaster https://traditionalpainter.com/efficient-

  2. Simon

    Good blog – i couldn’t agree more!

    The amount of time i have had this discussion with a client is un-countable!

    I have also tried the lining paper but have found i use this now https://www.sitebox.ltd.uk/product/poa230/antinox-correx-protection-board-8-x-4-24m-x-12m/

    Its really good and you can duct tape it to itself and fit it to the room. Nothing actually need be stuck down to the floor as it is rigid and if you have done it right it wont move.

    I found plactic sheets/lining paper was ok if you work alone. Its very hard to keep it tip top when other people, colleagues or client are also walking around.

    You can even brand it if you want, and if your nice to it use it again!

  3. Jill

    I use wide brown sticky parcel tape on carpets close up to skirting boards and an old pvc table cloth which slides round easily as I go and does not ruck up. Have used the same one for about 15 years. It goes in the washing machine occasionally.

  4. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    If it works. Don’t you get paint going down behind the tape?

  5. Jill

    Never have so far. I bend the carpet pile away from the skirting and flatten it right down with one hand and press the tape down with the other. Also am frugal with the paint towards the bottom.

  6. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    good answer 🙂 thanks for contributing

  7. james

    How does the guy who uses lining paper, cover furniture sofas,armchairs,tv,s and various other household items.using dust sheets you can fold them up when finished,and empty them into a plastic bin.His system is in my opinion a waste of time. James

  8. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    Hi James, thanks for your comment. The article is about using lining and other options for masking up floors. Sure you can lay cotton dust sheets over furniture, and fold them up afterwards, just have to bear in mind the next time you get them out the bin, is it just as easy? Are they dust free? If you are dustless sanding, maybe. If not, I would say after a couple of times of use, your dust sheets wouldn’t be clean and you wouldnt necessarily just be throwing them over the furniture. Plastic film ticks the box for me in that case.

  9. james

    Have been using dust sheets, and old bed sheets, for over thirty years;as for throwing them over furniture,you always have the clean side down, for covering furniture,which is completely obvious.One more point, if the walls need so much sanding, the person who filled in the holes and cracks,must have done a very poor job.
    .Try putting paper on the stairs,and landing,or even outside, if you are painting an exterior wall.Onelast thing how did you cut round all the furniture in the house? James

  10. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    Thanks James for sharing what works for you. We all have a different perspective and happy to learn from each other. Cheers.

  11. Anonymous

    James i think your system could be in need of modernisation. Dust sheets dont really protect from dust or paint anyway- only aesthetically pleasing for a client to see.. Old dust sheets shed paint flecks and dont hold dust or paint. Just bleeds through. You said you have been using cotton dust sheets for 30 years well now its time for change! Perhaps in certain situations they can come in handy but not when finish or optimal protection is number one concern!!! With the tapes and polythene sheeting available now there is room for big improvement.

  12. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    If Anonymous could say who you are, it would add some weight to points very well made. No need to be anon here 🙂

  13. John Scott

    With respect I think your talking nonsense with regards Dust Sheets. I’ve been a decorator for 40 yrs so have earned the right to hold that view. You yourself state that sheets are a “dust trap” and that proves they’re doing they’re job surely? How do you clean up debris on your lining paper? You can hoover surely as the paper will lift. What about the dust created from the paper itself? Just walking around the room will create dust from paper fibres. Nope, I’m sorry but with only 10 yrs to retirement ill continue with my cotton Dust Sheets ?

  14. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    Hi John, thanks for your input. I must admit I don’t recognise the issues you state about dust created from paper fibres, and the paper doesn’t lift if hoovered, as it is taped down. Have you considered alternative synthetic sheets that will outperform conventional dust sheets for safety from spills and ease of use – plastic backed cotton, One tuff.

  15. John Scott

    One final Andy and anon. If you laundered your sheets you will find the weave tightens so nothing will penetrate them other than a major spill. Plastic sheeting on floors are a H&S issue.

  16. Rah

    I’m just relieved that you do still use dust sheets. I’m the lady of a house with hard floors and have spent hours on my hands and knees in an attempt to get rid of the dust and paint.

  17. Craig Tyler

    Hiya. I have to agree with you in part about cotton dust sheets. They can be a huge problem with dust especially if you are going in behind a plasterer who has patched up a wall due to subsidence cracks, because as much as they might try and do a smooth job there is generally still a lot of sanding to be done which creates a lot of dust and a conventional cotton dust sheet is useless because the fine dust goes straight through it. However if I am painting a room where I need to cover carpet I tend to go around the edges of the room with a self adhesive roll of carpet protector and then I use Cotton dust sheets with a plastic backing in the centre of the room and gaffer tape the edges of the sheets to the floor protector and this does a pretty good job of protecting the floor. You do need to try and pull the sheets relatively tight to stop them riding up though. This takes a bit of time initially but it saves time in the long run because you’re not having to pull all the sheets up every evening and having to re-lay everything the next morning.

  18. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    thanks for your constructive feedback, Craig, plastic backed are definitely a big step up for protection.

  19. jason NOON

    Hi guys,when taping floor,how can you be sure the tape is suitable?do you tape to the edge of skirting which means theres contact on floor or slightly onto skirting so,theres no contact.cheers

  20. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    If you lap the tape MARGINALLY onto the base of the skirting, you will be safe.

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