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Do It Yourself: Cover hairline cracks with texture paint

Sun., Jan. 13, 2013

Q. Some of the walls and ceilings in our older house have tiny cracks and other blemishes that make them unsightly. Is texture paint a lasting remedy for this?

A. Texture paint, which usually deposits a thicker film than ordinary paint, has many valuable uses, and can sometimes give an attractive finish to problem walls and ceilings. The paints vary in consistency – some are like thick cream, some are close to the thickness of drywall joint compound. In fact, joint compound is sometimes used for texturing. However, it is not a cure-all for wall-ceiling problems.

Some texture paints have enough elasticity to cover up and prevent the reappearance of so-called hairline cracks that don’t widen much over time. It will not cover up cracks wider than hairlines unless they are carefully patched.

Wide cracks, holes, gouged-out or crumbled areas, should be completely filled with spackling compound or patching plaster and sanded smooth before painting. Wider cracks that might expand and break through the paint film are best taped and spackled like drywall joints.

Texture paint will also not work well over peeling paint, wallpaper or dirty walls. Since texture paint usually covers less wall area per gallon than regular paint, it is often sold in five-gallon pails, which can be very heavy.

To use, stir the paint thoroughly and pour some into a paint tray for easier handling. Most textures are applied with a roller, often a special long-napped roller that will leave a textured finish in the thick paint. Some painters are satisfied with the rolled-on texture, others like to tool it or form patterns in the wet film using various tools and materials, ranging from trowels and stiff paint brushes to sponges and balled-up newspaper.

Directions for any texture paint should be read and followed carefully, but virtually all the paints are messy to use. If there is furniture in a room, it should be completely covered with dropcloths, and floors should be covered and the edges of the dropcloths taped at walls to hold them in place.

Q. We spend a lot of time in just a couple of rooms of our house and think we could save fuel by using small electric space heaters when we are in those rooms, keeping the central heater set relatively low. What type of heater is best for this purpose?

A. This strategy can pay off if you pick good heaters and use them judiciously. A lot depends on the cost you pay for electricity in your area – if it is more than eight or nine cents per kilowatt hour (1,000 watts per hour), running electric heaters could get expensive.

If you go ahead with the plan and want to heat a specific area quickly, you should choose a radiant heater. These heaters warm objects in their heating range, including people. The heat is produced by electric elements (basically hot wires). Some radiant heaters have fans, others have reflectors to spread the heat.

A second type of electric heater works by convection instead of direct radiation. Convection heaters, typified by the oil-filled radiators sold at many home centers, heat the air around them and eventually can warm a sizable area. Convection heaters are excellent for smaller rooms where some delay can be tolerated (I have made a 12-by-14-foot bedroom quite warm on very cold days in 20 to 30 minutes with one of these heaters operating at half its full heating capacity).

Most portable electric heaters draw a maximum of 1,500 watts, which is equivalent to burning 15 100-watt light bulbs or the combined wattage of a typical refrigerator-freezer and sump pump. That’s a lot of watts, but many heaters can be stepped down to half-power, and many have thermostat controls that turn them on and off periodically at the user’s comfort level.

Safety features are as important as efficiency in electric heaters. Make sure the heating elements are well covered so they can’t be touched. Fires are also a hazard, and heaters must be kept a safe distance from any flammable material. Make sure any heater you buy has a UL (Underwriters Laboratory) label. Most heaters include a guide to safe operation, and more information is available at such Internet sites as (enter Portable Heaters in the site’s search space). Consumer Reports magazine is another excellent source of information, and a number of electric heaters were rated in a recent issue. Many public libraries have a searchable index of Consumer Reports, where you can check the ratings and additional safety tips.

Questions and comments should be emailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA19422.

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