Painting Challenging Surfaces
We don’t get tired of saying it because it’s true: painting is still the easiest way to achieve a quick, inexpensive makeover for walls, floors and furniture. And there isn’t a surface — from laminate cabinetry to metal garden chairs to ceramic tile to concrete floors — that can’t be improved, as long as you use the right materials. We canvassed decorative artists and paint companies for the best methods of painting difficult or unusual surfaces. Here are their techniques for the perfect finish.
Before You Start
- Work in a well-ventilated area, follow instructions on labels, and wear a mask when sanding or spray-painting.
- Even surfaces in good condition need a thorough cleaning with a household cleaner such as trisodium phosphate (TSP) to remove any dirt, wax, or mold.
- Always lightly sand surfaces and wipe off any dust. This gives the surface some “grit” and ensures that the top coat adheres well.
- Don’t be tempted to skip the primer stage. Primer is as important as the actual paint finish because it is what makes the paint adhere to the surface.
Laminate Cupboards and Countertops
- High-density foam roller
Preparation: Scuff-sand with 120-grit sandpaper.
To paint: Apply two coats of melamine latex primer, then one or more coats of melamine enamel (or melamine latex on cupboards).
Optional: For extra durability on countertops, apply an alkyd urethane; however, this creates an amber-coloured sheen.
- For greater durability, apply thin coats and build the new finish slowly.
- Only paint countertops that are not heavily used.
- Darker colours are less adhesive than light colours.
- If you still have questions, your hardware specialist will be able to give you step-by-step instructions on painting kitchen countertops.
Ceramic Tile Backsplashes and Tub Surrounds
- High-density foam roller, or sprayer
Preparation: Scuff-sand with 150-grit sandpaper, then wash with equal parts water, vinegar and bleach, to kill fungus. Let dry.
To paint: Apply two to three thin coats of alkyd urethane-reinforced melamine enamel, or a two-part epoxy or latex paint.
- Some experts recommend priming first with a super-adherent primer.
- Glossy tiles require more sanding.
- Paintbrush and/or roller
Preparation: Scuff-sand with 150-grit sandpaper. Vacuum or dust the surface, then wipe down with a tack cloth.
To paint: Apply one coat of super-adherent alkyd primer. Finish with a minimum of two coats of enamel, oil, or latex paint.
- Waxed wood must be stripped before painting.
- Thin the first paint coat with paint thinner for a less-shiny finish.
Optional: Seal with ultra-clear acrylic sealer.
Concrete or Cement Flooring
- Paintbrush and paint roller
Preparation: Previously painted surfaces should be scraped to loosen old paint, then vacuumed. Fill holes with block filler. “Spot prime” with the paint you are going to use.
To paint: Roll on concrete primer. Let dry thoroughly. Follow with two coats of concrete floor paint or polyurethane floor enamel. For added protection, apply an alkyd urethane.
- Begin by cutting in around the perimeter of the room with a paintbrush.
- Start at one end of the room. Pour a pool of paint directly from the can onto the floor and spread evenly around you with a roller.
- Work in this way towards the other end of the room, as if you were washing a floor.
- If painting a concrete walkway, or if you desire a flatter finish, use a latex (non-skid) paint.
Preparation: Sand before painting. If this isn’t possible, and flooring is already painted or varnished, scrape to loosen old paint and sand down rough spots and splinters. Remove protruding nails or hammer flush to the floor.
To paint: Do not apply a primer. Because flooring is flat and soft, the primer tends to give way from underneath the paint, especially on new floors. Apply urethane floor enamel thinned with 10% paint thinner, followed by two coats at full strength. For extra durability, apply a final coat of urethane.
- Raw wood flooring requires a sealer so knots don’t show through the paint.
- Strip waxed floors prior to painting.
Non-Waxed Linoleum and Vinyl Tile Flooring
- Sprayer or roller
Preparation: Wash with TSP and rinse with water. Vacuum.
To paint: Some experts recommend applying a super-adherent primer first. Follow with two coats of polyurethane floor enamel. Dilute the first coat with 10% paint thinner. Wait 24 hours. Apply second coat at full strength. For added durability, use a final coat of ultra-clear acrylic.
- Don’t paint over sheet flooring or floor tiles that have been waxed or have built-in wax coating. These tiles will not grip the paint well.
- Experts advise against painting cushioned sheet flooring as furniture and heels will dent the surface and crack the paint.
- High-density foam roller
Preparation: Lightly sand appliance with steel wool. Wipe surface with tack cloth or a damp cloth and a little paint thinner. Let dry.
To paint: Apply two coats of melamine enamel. (Melamine can also be sprayed on with light, even coats.) Three to four thin coats may be required for dark colour. Let dry 24 hours between coats.
- Do not paint over appliances where heat is a factor. Use this method only for refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers or washers.
- If there is rust, first apply several coats of anti-rust spray or spray primer.
- Paintbrush or sprayer
Preparation: If rusted, sand or use a wire brush on the rusted areas. You can use an oil and grease emulsifier to clean the surface.
To paint: Select the appropriate primer. Wrought iron usually needs a red-oxide primer. If the surface is rusted, spot-prime with a rust-inhibiting or metal primer. If metal galvanized, use a galvanized primer or a latex primer. Follow with a melamine enamel or alkyd paint. For extra protection, seal with ultra-clear acrylic sealer.
- Rust inhibitor is particularly important for exterior use.