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How do I take some of the hassle out of painting?

Answered by: John Hughes, DIY expert

Essential ingredients for a reasonably pain-free decorating session:

Lots of {very} cheap brushes, trays, rollers, and paintpads.
At least one very large, waterproof cover.
Disposable surgical-type gloves.
Small knife.
Small box of Polyfilla, plastic spatula, and a small tub to mix the plaster.
Fine-grade sandpaper.
Lots of rags, and easy access to soap and warm water.
Spirit-based cleaner. {For gloss paint}.
Masking tape.
Clingfilm and polythene shopping bags.
Lots of beer.
Almost forgot - paint!!

First stop should be your local pound shop to pick up lots of cheap supplies. Gone are the days when you'd buy the best brushes you could afford, then spend ages cleaning them with Brush Cleaner which cost almost as much as the brushes - much better to use cheap brushes, rollers, and trays which you can just throw away.

What you shouldn't "skimp" on though, is the paint itself. Cheap paint will take at least two or three coats to do the job, and it will also drip and run everywhere.

Top Tip: As you're going to have to accept that painting & decorating is an ongoing fact of life, you can do yourself a huge favour right now by investing in two pairs of ladders, and a long, four-inch thick plank of wood. Having a solid platform to work on will repay you a thousand times over as it saves constantly having to go up & down and move the ladder, and saves an awful lot of time too.

Before you even begin to start painting, take a close look at the walls and/or woodwork, and spend a few minutes filling in any gaps or holes with something like Polyfilla. Paint won't effectively "fill" even tiny pinholes, and will leave a visible mark. No need to overdo the plastering though - mix no more than a couple of tablespoons of the quick-drying plaster in a small tub, press into the hole with a plastic knife or spatula, and wipe off the excess with a damp cloth.

Even in a new house, it's amazing just how many holes & gaps you come across, and trying to fill the bigger ones with paint will result in an unsightly run mark. If you don't add too much water to the plaster, it will dry in minutes.

It's a good idea to buy a couple of large waterproof covers to catch any splashes {don't be tempted to use dust sheets - paint soaks right through them into your carpets & furniture}. Most of the bigger hardware stores sell massive paper-based covers which have a lightweight plastic backing, and they aren't expensive.

Next, wearing thin, disposable surgical-type gloves saves you a lot of time trying to get your hands clean, especially whenever you take a coffee break or have to answer the phone, etc.

Get the room prepared before you start, i.e. remove ornaments, mirrors, and as much furniture as you can, and don't try to shuffle things around as you go - apart from getting paint stains on things, you'll finish the work in half the time if you're organised to start with.

Masking tape is cheap, and will more than pay for itself when it comes to painting clean lines on window frames or where you need to avoid getting paint on woodwork - you can tear off the strips as you work, and re-use them for the next stretch.

Have plenty of both dry and wet rags handy, as you're definitely going to need them, and whatever else you do, wipe paint smears as soon as they happen! Don't shrug off smears on light switches etc with the attitude "I'ts only emulsion - it'll wipe off". It will wipe off easily while it's wet, but after it has dried two things will happen: you'll forget all about it, and you'll need a chisel to scrape it off!

For splashes or drips on carpets or fabric, likewise deal with these immediately, especially with gloss paint. Wipe off the excess with a wet cloth, 'dabbing' at the stain to avoid spreading it, and then use either lots of warm soapy water to remove emulsion, or diluted spirit cleaner for gloss if water alone won't take it out. The danger here is that the material will be marked permanently by the cleaner, but then if you'd bought those paint covers in the first place......... As soon as you've cleaned the stain, remove any spirit residue with warm water.

Another Top Tip: Before starting to decorate, clear the kitchen sink and the worktop around it. Sooner or later you're going to have to use the sink, and if you find it full of dishes and coffee mugs, things can get very messy when you're covered in paint yourself, and there's nowhere to put down all your stuff......... {Somehow always manage to forget this one myself, until it's too late}.

A small knife is useful to lift off any hairs or particles of dry paint while you're working. As tempting as it might be, once you 'paint over' these they are part of your wall forever, and the effect is cumulative over the years. Likewise, it will pay in the long run to take a few seconds to sandpaper off any raised marks to leave a smooth finish.

Lastly, there's no need to clean brushes, trays, and pads if you're going to be continuing with the same colours within the next day or two. Wrapping clingfilm tightly around brushes and pads will keep them from drying out, and covering paint trays with clingfilm and putting a polythene shopping bag around them will similarly keep them "wet" enough to use next time

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