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Do It Yourself: Better paint, brushes will get better results

Sun., Dec. 30, 2012, midnight

Q. What’s the secret of getting a smooth finish when brushing latex paint on cabinets and other woodwork? I get brush marks unless I use spray paint.

A. Start with some simple basics. Buy high-quality paint intended for cabinets or trim – often enamel – and top-quality brushes to apply it.

Brushes with nylon-polyester bristles should be used. For cabinets, a brush about 2.5 inches wide is a good choice. Some painters like the angled bristles of so-called sash brushes.

The brush should be immaculately clean; if it has been used before, there should be no dried paint anywhere in the bristle area – it will hold bristles together like spikes and make it more difficult to avoid brush marks.

When painting, dip only about one-third of the bristle length into the paint.

Flat and semi-gloss paints often have a smoother appearance when dry than high-gloss paints.

If you have the proper paint and tools, then consider one of the key causes of brush marks – the paint dries too fast, before it has time to flatten out. Painting in excessive heat speeds drying and amplifies the possibility of brush marks.

Next, the paint must not be too thick. Test some on scrap wood and if it leaves marks when brushed, try thinning some by about 10 percent with water and test again.

When painting cabinets, do the insides and backs of the doors first; this will give you a feel for the best brushing technique for a smooth finish.

If you still get brush marks, buy a bottle of Floetrol at a paint store or home center. Floetrol, made by the Flood Co., is a latex paint conditioner that slows drying and smoothes the finish, often leaving it mark-free.

I have no problem with spraying paint for those who have the skills to do it properly, but I have encountered more messed-up spray jobs than brush jobs. Unskilled spraying can result in spatters, streaks, drips and runs, thick and thin areas, and of course overspray, which can put paint where you don’t want it.

If paint with flammable, smelly solvents is used, spraying inside a house can also be a fire and health hazard.

Q. We get condensation on our thermal windows even though we have checked the humidity in our 5-year-old house and it is fine. We don’t have any gas equipment. We have to wipe the sills and worry about mold, since we have small children. What’s going on?

A. Condensation on glass occurs when the glass gets cold enough to reach what is called the dew point, causing whatever water vapor is in the air of the house to condense on the cold surface.

The glass can get cold for several reasons, including cold air inside the house and poor-quality thermal windows. If the condensation occurs during periods when you have set back your thermostat to save energy, try cutting the setback by a few degrees. If the windows have drapes that are keeping warm air from reaching the glass, try letting the drapes open.

Also, you don’t say what the actual humidity level is in the house; it should be no more than 45 or 50 percent. Possibly the equipment you are using to check the humidity might not be accurate. It might pay you to look for a better quality hygrometer or moisture meter. Professional-quality hygrometers and moisture meters can be quite expensive, but you can find some instruments at reasonable prices on the Internet by search for Hygrometers and Moisture Meters.

If you still get good humidity readings, and you have corrected the possible causes mentioned above (too little heat and drapes), I would suspect the quality of the windows. Even though the windows have two panes of glass, they might lack such important energy features as low-e coating and an inert gas between the two panes of glass.

Questions and comments should be emailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.

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