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Painting between narrow gaps

Listed under Blog, Painting Posted Jan 28 2011

The usual approach to painting behind radiators, flush cisterns, pipes or gutters is to use a radiator roller – a slim 4” wide sleeve on the end of a long handle.

If you want to roller further behind an obstacle than a standard length handle allows, you can extend the handle by taping on a piece of dowel or thin bead.

If you want to avoid spattering everything in sight, you can push a piece of card into the gap as a shield, and roll away to your heart’s content, knowing paint is only going on the wall or the card.

But if you need to paint in a gap that is too narrow for even a small 4″ roller sleeve to fit in, what can you do?

In an earlier article about foam rollers and paint pads, I showed a paint pad that I had modified for painting behind radiators that are ridiculously close to the wall.

But when I had to paint the side of this oven housing, it was the most awkward, undulating and narrow space to work in. I could barely get my hand more than a few inches into the widest gaps, but depending on where you were stood, you could see almost to the back of the housing! My idea for a standard paint pad on a stick did OK but there were still some misses.

To complicate matters further, whichever option I took, there was no way I could risk getting paint on the slate, but with the weird contours, masking it was really tricky. I considered a few options, (spray, roller, brush, pad) just to see if maybe it was easier to do than it first looked without going all Heath Robinson.

(In short, it was a pain to come up with an answer, but it was a quick method! The solution was to take the fabric from a paint pad, tape some thin card to the back of it, and tape that to a rad roller handle. To protect the slate I manouvred loads of masking tape into place!

So there is no need to read on, unless you are interested in how I arrived at that conclusion!)

Masking the slate

The slate was really uneven, so trying to fix paper or card was impractical, and I could see no way to use a hand held shield.

As an experiment, I tried to mask the stone with cling film. (I did this once before to protect a newly polished marble fireplace for a customer who insisted that lining paper would be too abrasive!) The cling film clung to the slate as hoped – but I couldnt get it far back enough with a stick before I got all wrapped up in plastic.

Masking tape worked. After a lot of finagling with a stick I managed to fashion together a protective layer that reached back a good few inches and kept to the profile of the stone, including the parts almost touching the oven housing.

I just had to work out how to get some paint on everything visible.

Different painting tools

The skinniest roller sleeve reached back far enough in places, but was too thick for some of the narrowest parts. I could tell there would be too many misses for a professional result.

Spraying I thought about spraying – but because of the difficulty with masking the slate, that thought lasted a fleeting moment!

Paint pad on the end of a long handle Using a standard paint pad taped to the radiator roller frame, you can see the white primer goes quite a way back. For the most part, it slipped inbetween the narrowest gaps too, but there were still a few misses. Almost there.

Brushing For an experiment, and just to make sure I wasn’t missing the obvious, I tried brushing on some green undercoat. It was painstaking. I managed to paint a few inches back, but with the angles, I could get nowhere near far enough back to do the job properly. Laying off the paint was hard too. There were dodgy brushmarks in the narrowest part, right at eye level, so I tidied up and moved on to plan Z.

Modified paint pad This time I removed the paint pad material from its rigid plastic backing. It is like a thick mohair fabric. I taped a piece of card to it to give it a backing and then taped this skinnier contraption to the end of a radiator roller handle.

It was rigid enough to hold itself flat, but flexible enough to take some abuse. You can really load up paint pads and as long as you don’t let any paint get on the back of them unlike a roller sleeve, it is pretty much impossible to get paint in the wrong place by accident.

It slipped into a gap just 1/2″ wide without any trouble, and with a bit of persuasion, squidged up a lot narrower still. With the handle it could reach back out of your line of vision. No misses that I could tell.

And being a paint pad, it applied an even coat of oil eggshell very quickly and thoroughly, without any spatter. To make sure there was no obvious ridge or change in texture, I used the paint pad to finish off the whole side of the oven housing in one. Win win.

Do you have any other tricks or tips for getting into small places?

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7 comments to “Painting between narrow gaps”

  1. JGDecorator

    RT @acmasterpainter: [watch out!] Painting between narrow gaps – via #twitoaster https://traditionalpainter.com/painting-b

  2. acmasterpainter

    @JGDecorator cheers Jonathan for the RT and glad to hear you like your sanding investment. As you say, to be the best you need the best kit

  3. JGDecorator

    @acmasterpainter yeah Andy my asthmatic client is really impressed with the equipment

  4. Sylvia Ann

    Thank you so much for the advice and tips you have given on narrow spaces. Using cling film on my heated towel rail ready for painting behind and the clever use of the pad on the extended roller arm is a brilliant idea.

    Thanks so much again.
    Sylvia Ann

  5. Vicki

    Thanks for the advice. Have also found this on the internet – very similar to what you made.

  6. Andy Crichton

    Good find!

  7. denise metcalfe

    many thanks for the tips vanity unit was put in before I had a chance to paint on a newly plastered wall leaving X2 1/2 inch gap either side

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