Robuild London Painters and Decorators

Painting and Decorating Company, London Contractors Phone 02089062972 Email:

Preparing the surface for wallpapering

painters decorators repairing walls
For preparing surface wallpaper stripper or warm water and washing-up liquid wallpaper paste (for soaking heavyweight paper) wire brush or serrated scraper steam stripper (if needed) wallpaper stripping knife medium wet and dry glasspaper cellulose filler (if needed) matchsticks (if needed) glue size or wallpaper paste (for sizing walls) fungicidal adhesive (for sizing if using vinyl paper) old brush or paint pad.

To remove the existing paper you will have to soak it with a solution of warm water and washing-up liquid or proprietary wallpaper stripper. Allow extra soaking for heavyweight papers – add a handful of wallpaper paste to the water so the water stays on the wall long enough to soak through to the adhesive.

Stripping off
Score the surface of washable wallpapers with a wire brush or serrated scraper to allow the water to soak through to the backing. If the paper is several layers thick or you cannot score it easily, it may be worth hiring a steam stripper to do the job quickly, but use it carefully since it can damage the plaster underneath. Remove the paper with a wallpaper stripping knife; don’t be too vigorous and try not to dig the knife into the plaster, as you will have to fill any holes you make. Remember you can strip certain types of wall covering just by loosening a corner and pulling off each length, leaving the backing paper on the wall. If this is firmly fixed, use it as a base for re-papering or soak and strip as already described. Rub down the bare walls with wet and dry glasspaper to remove any final nibs of paper. Fill any cracks or holes with cellulose filler and, when hard, rub down any ridges with medium wet and dry glasspaper to form a flush finish. If you have removed any fixtures, push matchsticks into the screw holes, allowing them to protrude about 6mm. When you hang the new wall covering ease it over the matchsticks so they poke through the paper and indicate the position for refitting the fixtures later.

Sizing the walls
Before papering you will have to size sound, porous walls; this is to improve adhesion and ensure the water from the paste is not absorbed too quickly for you to position the paper correctly. You can buy a proprietary glue size or make your own by diluting wallpaper paste according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When using vinyls, size with a diluted fungicidal adhesive since mould may develop on the wall if you use a diluted cellulose adhesive. Apply the size liberally to all parts of the wall with an old brush or paint pad; take care to wipe off any that gets onto painted woodwork immediately as it will be difficult to remove later. Leave the size to dry thoroughly.

Painting doors

carpenters painters painting door window
First remove handles, keyhole plates, finger plates and coat hooks to give yourself an uninterrupted surface. If you try to paint round these they will cause a build-up of paint, leading to unsightly runs. Clean out the keyholes to remove dirt and grease, which otherwise will be picked up on the brush and transferred to the rest of the work. It is a good idea to paint the top of the door as well, because although it is not normally visible it will make cleaning that much easier. Open the door and fix it in position with a wedge underneath, leaving both hands free for painting. This will also ensure the door stays where it is until the paint has dried. Plan to finish painting each area in one session to avoid the edge line showing up where painting is restarted.

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Panel doors
Preferably use a 50mm brush, although you can use a 25mm one to make it easier to cut into mouldings. Don’t overload the brush when painting the mouldings, as a build-up of paint will cause runs.

Flush doors
A 60mm or 75mm brush is best; if you prefer, a pad or suitable roller can be used. Any of these will enable you to complete the work quickly and join up all the edges before they start to dry. When painting hinges, clean out the newly painted screw slots with a screwdriver before the paint has started to dry. Wipe the blade immediately after use. Clearing the slots is essential as you may want to remove the door at a later stage or adjust the hinges.

Painting over wallpaper

Some textured papers provide an ideal surface on which to paint, but thinner types can present problems.
london painter decorator painting walls
Make sure the paper is well stuck down because the paint can soften the paper and cause it to bubble. The safest way to check the possible results is first to paint a small inconspicuous area, such as behind a piece of furniture permanently placed against the wall. If bubbles result you will either have to make minor repairs to the paper in the same way as for ceiling bubbles or strip off the paper completely. You may find the texture or pattern of some papers will still show through, even after two or three coats of paint, and seams between lengths that were overlapped when hung will become more evident.

Painting doors, walls & windows

General preparation
decorator london painting woodwork
For general woodwork wash down the surface with sugar soap, washing soda or a proprietary paint cleaner, rinse off with plenty of clean water and allow to dry thoroughly. Fill in any cracks or holes in the wood with a proprietary wood filler. Make a key for the new paint by lightly rubbing down the old gloss to remove the shine with medium fine wet and dry glasspaper wrapped round a wood or cork block. Lightly wet the glasspaper to reduce the spread of dust and rub with the grain. With painted walls wash down as for woodwork to remove all grease and dirt. If gloss paint has been used previously, key the surface with wet and dry glasspaper wrapped round a wood or cork block. Fill any cracks in the plaster with proprietary plaster filler, glasspapering smooth when dry. Make good any damaged plaster.

Painting techniques
painters decorators painting window
When you apply free-flowing oil-based paints with a brush, spread and lay off the paint in the following way to avoid runs and sags. Spread a liberal coat using strong pressure on the bristles, finishing with long parallel strokes along the grain. Wiping any surplus paint on the sides of the can or paint kettle, apply lighter strokes across the surface to provide an even spread. Finally lay off with lighter strokes from the tips of the bristles along the original direction. With emulsion paints, which are water-based and usually heavy bodied, or the gel type non-drip gloss paints, use the minimum of brushing out. Apply with even, random strokes to ensure a full application without paint running. Keep the brushing of non-drip gloss to a minimum, as too much brushing or over-stirring will only make the paint too thin. A second coat of gloss can be applied within 12-24 hours. Alternatively leave the paint at least four days to harden, then lightly rub down the surface with fine glasspaper and dust off before applying a second coat. Always wipe the surface of the paint with a rag when dusting off before the second coat.

Painting walls

painters decorators painting walls
Paint a complete wall without a break to avoid edges showing through. If you have to stop, make sure you break off when you reach a corner, such as on a chimney-breast. Use a 100 or 130mm brush, paint pad or roller, working away from the natural light to see where you have painted. With emulsion paint work in 300mm deep horizontal strips across the wall in downward strokes, starting at the top. With oil-based paint work in 600mm squares. If the paint is drying too quickly and the edges cannot be joined up in time to avoid unsightly marks, lower the temperature by turning off any heating to slow down drying. Reverse the procedure when work is complete to accelerate drying.

Painting faults

Particularly noticeable in shiny, gloss surfaces, these are caused by specks of dust which may have been on the surface, on the brush or in the paint itself. Or a very fine skin on the surface of the paint (especially non-drip gloss) may have got broken and worked into the paint on application.

Make sure the surface is clean and free of dust at each stage of the work: after burning off or rubbing down, and before applying primer, undercoat and top coat. Clean the surface with a tacky (resin-impregnated) rag or a clean, lint-free one dampened with white spirit. Pay particular attention to corners since pockets of dust here, though difficult to clean with a rag, will be picked up on the brush and spread across the surface. Use a pointed stick under the rag to ensure every particle of dust is removed from the corners. Paint brushes must be cleaned and even new brushes need rinsing before use as the bristles will contain some dust and loose hairs. Wipe the lid and rim of the paint can before removing the lid otherwise any dust will fall into the tin. It is a good idea to transfer a small amount of before paint into a clean paint kettle or other container and work from this. If dust falls into the kettle only a small amount of paint will be affected. Clean the room thoroughly before starting work and allow time for dust to settle using paint.

Don’t try to remove specks while the paint is still wet as you will only add to the problem by smearing the paint. Allow the paint to harden for several days; even though it may seem dry after a few hours, only the surface will have dried. Rub down the affected areas with fine wet and dry glasspaper, wash with clean water, dry thoroughly and apply a new finishing coat. Skin often forms on old paint. If you spot it, carefully lift it away before stirring; if it is extremely thin you can stir it into the paint and then strain the paint through fine muslin or mesh.

Paint falling away from surface is due to poor preparation or bad use of primer. It can take weeks to show and will usually be confined to small areas on the surface.

Clean and prepare the surface thoroughly. If stripping back to bare wood apply a suitable primer. Emulsion flaking from walls or ceilings normally means you have applied the paint over distemper. Before painting, remove distemper by washing and scraping off the loose material, covering the remainder with a coat of primer sealer.

If flaking occurs in small patches, strip these areas back to the bare surface, fill depressions with fine surface filler and repaint. If flaking is extensive, however, you will have to strip off the whole lot and start again.

Slow drying
Sometimes paint (particularly oil-based paint) will take a few weeks to dry or even remain permanently tacky. This indicates you applied the paint over a dirty or greasy surface, used an unsuitable thinner or did not stir the paint before applying.

Clean and prepare your surface thoroughly paying particular attention to skirtings which tend to collect a build-up of polish from the floor. Always stir the paint. You can add a small amount of proprietary dryer to stocks of old paint but never to new paint, which should be returned to the manufacturer for testing.

If the room is badly ventilated, open the windows for a few days to see if this accelerates drying. If not you will have to strip off all the paint with thinners and start again or refer to the manufacturer for advice.

Mostly affecting exterior woodwork, blisters can vary in size from pin heads to large areas. The cause is moisture in the wood or on the surface, trapped between coats of paint, or there may be resinous knots in the wood. Another less common cause is painting over a soft, thick coat. The action of very strong sunshine when any of these conditions exist is likely to cause blistering.

Try to paint external woodwork towards the end of the summer when, ideally, it should have dried out completely. If this is not possible, try to paint in dry, warm conditions. Don’t paint immediately after rainfall or washing down, unless the surfaces are thoroughly dried off. Strip off any thick, soft paint and always apply knotting to all resinous areas after stripping back to bare wood.

Cut off the surface of the blister and with fine wet and dry glasspaper rub back to a sound surface or bare wood if blistering is extensive. Apply knotting and primer as necessary, fill depressions with fine surface filler and apply undercoat and top coat.

Runs, sags and wrinkles
Fine lines or drips on a painted surface result from bad application. Wrinkles are likely to occur on thick, sagging paint.

Do not overload the brush and always brush out each application before adding another. Look at the paint five minutes after application; it may still be possible to brush out any runs.

If you notice runs before the paint has started to dry, brush them out lightly; if paint is drying, you will smear the surface. Or treat as for Pimples.

Dull gloss
Dull finish occurs if thinners used wrongly, surface not properly primed or undercoated. undercoat not given time to dry or finish over brushed or painted in damp or frosty conditions.

Prepare thoroughly. Leave the undercoat to dry for the recommended time, avoid using a thinner in gloss paint and do not apply in damp or frosty weather conditions.

Allow the paint to dry, then rub down lightly with fine glasspaper, dust off and apply a new finishing coat.

The colour of the previous coat shows through the dry paint film indicating another coat is needed. Grinning may also occur if you use the wrong undercoat, do not stir paint sufficiently, thin it too much or overbrush finishing coat.

Use the correct undercoat and the recommended number of finishing coats. Make sure you stir the paint according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Never brush out the finishing coat too far.

Apply extra finishing coats as needed.

Brush marks
These can be seen in the finished paint. The cause is insufficient rubbing down of the old paint surface, faulty application (applying the paint too thickly and not brushing out correctly) or using poor quality brushes.

Carefully prepare the surface, making sure poor paint is rubbed right back. Apply the paint evenly and finish brushing out in the direction of the grain. Slightly thin excessively thick paint and always use good quality brushes.

Painting pads

Pads are becoming increasingly popular, especially for use on walls and ceilings, because they are simpler, quicker and less tiring to use than brushes. The basic pad is a foam rectangle fixed to a metal or plastic handle, with fine mohair pile ‘bristles’ on the surface of the foam. The largest size being ideal for ceilings and walls and the smallest for doors, skirtings and narrow sections. There are special pads for window frames, mouldings and radiators. As well as individual pads. you can also buy sets of various sizes, sometimes including a handy paint trough incorporating a plastic roller. This roller transfers paint from the trough to the pad, ensuring it is not overloaded. The more usual loading method is direct from the can, paint kettle or an old metal tray. Remember when loading to cover only the mohair and wipe off the excess onto the container before painting. A thin, all-over coating of paint on the pile is a1l you need for successful application. Some pads can be detached from the handle, making replacement easy.

A hollow-handle type is available to take a broom handle which can act as an extension pole. Pads will cope quickly with smooth walls and ceilings; they will also give a good covering to lightly textured surfaces. Unfortunately the short pile will not cope with deeper textures without using excessive pressure, causing the paint to ooze out and drip from the loam backing.

Using a pad
You must first rub the pad over your hand to remove any loose pile. Load it carefully. use with random strokes and don’t brush out too far before reloading. Clean cutting into corners is a big advantage with a pad, but if you are painting up to wallpaper which is not going to be changed it might be easier to finish off the edges with a 25mm paint brush. Provided you load and use a pad correctly, you can work quickly with far less danger of splashing than with a brush or roller. Keep old pads, even when the pile has worn down, as they will be useful for odd jobs such as soaking wallpaper prior to stripping or applying size to walls.

Paint rollers

These really come into their own on large areas of wall and ceiling. Provided you use the correct type for the job you will get as good a finish as with brushes or pads. Although better suited to emulsion and other water-based paints, rollers can be used to apply oil-based types, but the finish will be slightly stippled. Three basic types are available.

decorators painting walls

The cheapest type and a good general purpose roller. It gives a reasonable finish and is best suited to the application of water-based paints. Don’t overload it, as paint tends to drip easily from foam; if you press too hard paint will ooze out of the ends. If squashed while stored away, a roller will lose its shape. New sleeves can be fitted when necessary. You can also use this type of roller for applying wallpaper paste * especially with wall coverings, where the paste is applied direct to the wall.

Here a short, fine pile sleeve is fixed to a rigid cylindrical frame which you can remove for cleaning. Suitable for use with all types of paint, it is ideal for the application of oil-based ones if you want a really smooth gloss finish.

Lamb’s wool or nylon
Available in a variety of pile lengths and thicknesses which will deal with many different types of surface, this is probably the most popular type of roller for applying water-based paints to walls and ceilings. For the best results always match a roller to the surface you are painting. Follow the general rule of a smooth surface needing a short pile and a rough surface a longer one and you will not go far wrong. Pile lengths vary from 6mm to 31mm. Bearing in mind what type is best used where, choose either a foam, short pile mohair, lamb’s wool or nylon roller for smooth or lightly textured surfaces. For highly textured surfaces pick a long shaggy pile lamb’s w6ol or nylon type. For outside walls buy a roller with a tougher pile specially designed for exterior use, as this will be more durable on rough surfaces such as stucco or pebbledash.

Don’t use a short pile roller on a heavily textured surface as the pile will not reach right into the indentations and the paint will not cover properly. Conversely a long, shaggy pile used on a smooth surface will coat too heavily. Small rollers in a variety of pile types are available for reaching behind radiators and small pipes.

Other equipment
To load your roller ready for use you will need a special paint tray (sometimes supplied with it) which is sloped at one end. Pour the paint into the deep end and load the roller by rolling hall the pile through the paint and moving up the slope to spread the paint evenly over the pile and remove any surplus. To save cleaning the tray after use, line it with aluminium foil, which you can throw away when you have finished. A step ladder with a top platform, on which to place the tray when painting ceilings, is essential unless your tray has special hooks that latch onto one of the top steps. If you do not have a step ladder you can paint ceilings from ground level with a hollow-handled roller into which you insert a long pole. For corners and edges you will need a 25mm paint brush. Paint these areas first, working round the perimeter of the ceiling.

Using a roller
To avoid splashes make sure the roller is not overloaded. Remove any excess while it is still in the tray. Take it carefully to the work surface to avoid ‘spinning’ and when it needs reloading never pull or push it sharply from the surface.

Use the roller in random directions in a crisscross pattern (to ensure even distribution of the paint) and join up all these ‘wet’ patterns before the paint has started to dry. This will be no problem as rolling paint is far quicker than working with a brush. Though oil-based paints can be cleaned off, it is a long, messy job and we recommend you keep your roller for use with water-based paints only. Most painters & decorators think it is better to keep two rollers, one for each.

Store the roller, when cleaned and dry, in a polythene bag . Avoid using a roller with water-based paints over long periods in excessively hot weather because the paint tends to dry hard on the pile. If you are painting in these conditions, wash out the roller once or twice when you reach a natural breaking-off point, such as the end of a wall.

Decorating tips

painter decorator london

To avoid bending the hairs of a brush when keeping it in a jar of water or spirit, drill a small hole through the handle near the bristles. This will allow you to hang it on a piece of stiff wire resting across the rim of the jar. This method of storage avoids stiffening.

As an excellent substitute for proprietary plastic wall plugs, dip cotton wool or old bandage in cellulose filler such as Polyfilla and pack it tightly into the hole. Let it dry before inserting the screw.

When drilling plaster, stick a small piece of transparent tape over the spot where you will drill. This will stop the drill slipping, and also keep the plaster from chipping.

Old polished furniture covered with dirt and a thick build-up of wax is best cleaned with an old fashioned brass polish such as Brasso. This is mildly abrasive, and will remove the wax without harming the varnish.

Measuring across the top of an alcove single-handed can be tricky. You can save trouble by cutting the ends of two battens to a point and laying them together so that they overlap with the points outwards. Hold this arrangement across the alcove and slide the battens apart until they touch the sides, then make a pencil mark across both battens. Take them down and rearrange them so that the pencil marks line up again, then measure across the battens from point to point. These ‘pinch sticks’ can also be used for measuring the inside diagonals of frames when checking them for square.

If you have to drill a lot of holes to the same depth, as you would for wall plugs, make a simple depth stop for your drill by cutting a piece of rubber or plastic tube to a suitable length and slipping it over the drill bit. You can also use dowel drilled down the middle.

Old well-stuck or waterproof wallpaper can be removed by scratching the surface thoroughly with coarse sandpaper or a wire brush (either can be mounted on a power drill to speed things up). Then brush on warm water, preferably with a little vinegar or soda (but not both) added. When the paper begins to bubble up, scrape it off in the usual way. Water with washing-up liquid also helps.

Store paint tins upside down. This will stop air entering the tin and forming a crust on the paint.

Before cutting and hanging wallpaper, undo each roll and check for faults and colour matching. Even if the batch number stamped on the back of each roll is the same (which it should be) there may still be discrepancies. When batch numbers differ there can be marked differences.

Paint of any type will cover corners better if the corners have been slightly rounded.

Large plastic washing-up liquid and floor polish containers with moulded-in handles can be cut to make useful paint containers that can be hung up when you are working on a ladder. But check that the type of paint you are using doesn’t dissolve the plastic.

When painting around a window, allow the paint to flow slightly on to the glass; this gives a watertight seal.