The Great Flaking Paint Disaster of 2016

Peeling paint. Pattern of blue grunge material. Damaged paint. Scratched old plate

Photo courtesy of bigstockphoto.com

In our home, the previous owners painted a 4” wide border around the ceiling in the living room. On that border, there were a few small spots where the paint was flaking off. On a Saturday morning a couple of weekends ago, my wife was out of the house for a couple of hours, so I thought I’d surprise her by touching those spots up.

I grabbed some sandpaper and set out to accomplish what I should have been a 5 minute job only to find that wherever I touched the sandpaper to that border, the paint fell off. In huge patches. It was terrifying. Everywhere the sandpaper touched, a silver-dollar-sized section of paint came loose from the ceiling and fell to the floor like huge a snowflake. I would sand in ever expanding circles, expecting (hoping) to find some section of paint that was still stuck to the ceiling, but no. No matter where I sanded more and more flakes started falling. At that point, the kids came in, saw the mess on the floor and all the missing paint on the ceiling, and said “Mom’s going to kill you when she gets home….”

Oh, of course my wife wasn’t going to kill me. Probably. I was concerned, however, about the problem that I now had on my hands. If you’ve ever dealt with peeling paint issues, then you know the frustration and anxiety I was feeling.

See, these are problems that have to be fixed the right way. There are no shortcuts. There are no quick fixes. Fixing it the wrong way, the quick way, usually ends up creating bigger problems down the road. Instead, fixing a problem like this takes patience as well as some blood, sweat, and tears. Here’s how you do it:

STEP 1: FIND OUT WHY IT FAILED

The first step to fixing anything at all is finding out why it needs fixing in the first place. You can treat the symptoms, but it’s likely the problem will recur until you actually address the problem that caused the failure in the first place. In my instance, with the peeling paint on my ceiling, the problem was caused (as is usually the case) by poor surface prep. When I examined the paint chips I found that the backs were gritty and chalky. That means the grit or powder was there before the paint was applied. The paint stuck to that rather than the ceiling itself and thus came off easily when bumped or stressed.

When it comes to peeling paint, surface contamination of one kind or another is typically the cause. Sometimes it’s drywall dust, sometimes it’s due to cleaning agents, soap films, or other contaminants like that.

Surface contamination is the one of the typical causes of many paint peeling problems. The other main cause is due to the painted surface simply being too smooth or hard. Sometimes we paint over a glossy, hard enamel finish and the new paint peels right off when bumped or scratched. Without scuff-sanding or priming surfaces like that with primers like BIN primer from Zinsser, you’re just asking for the paint to fail.

So all that to say, if you’ve got a peeling paint problem of your own, the place to start is by doing a little detective work. Figure out why it peeled. From there, you’ll be able to plan the next step in the repair process.

STEP 2: LET THE SCRAPING and SANDING BEGIN!

Once I figured out the reason my paint failed, now all that was left was to do the work and fix it the right way. Sadly, that’s easier said than done.

See, when it comes to peeling paint, the only solution is to get all of the loose paint off. All of it. If paint is left on the surface, it’s absolutely necessary that it’s left there only because it’s stuck so well it wouldn’t come off!

So, to get the paint off that border section of my ceiling, the only fix is for me is to get out a paint scraper, some sandpaper, and go to work. It’ll take some time and it’ll create a fair amount of mess, but any shortcut I take will only result in bigger problems down the road.

For example, on my ceiling, with the paint peeling as badly and easily as it is, if I were to paint over that old paint–even though some areas seem to be adhering quite well–the surface tension of the new paint as it dries would likely be enough to pull loose new sections. Soon, that paint I’d left on the ceiling would be coming off and taking all of my new paint with it!

To avoid that, the right solution is to get all of the loose paint off. Once that’s done, a second part of this step is to go around and give some attention to all the areas of paint that remain on the surface. Most likely, when you examine these spots, you’ll see rough edges where the remaining paint meets bare spots on the wall. These spots will not be filled and disappear when you apply your new paint. In most cases you can minimize the visual appearance of these spots by sanding all the edges of the remaining paint. Sand the spots smooth in order to create a smooth transition from the bare surface to the remaining paint.

Also, if you determine that the reason your paint is flaking is because the surface you painted is too shiny or smooth, then you need to make sure you scuff sand the surface with a 150 – 180 grit sandpaper.

STEP 3: GET THE DUST OFF

Once the sanding/scraping process is complete, it’s absolutely imperative that the surface be as dust-free as possible. That may mean wiping it down with a damp rag or it may mean vacuuming it with a shop-vac. Either way, that surface needs to be dust-free or the problem will just repeat.

Likewise, if the paint failed because of an oily residue left by a cleaning agent or something else, the surface needs to be washed well with a degreasing agent like TSP (Tri-Sodium Phosphate) before any new painting is done. Remember:  without eliminating the source of the failure, the problem will only repeat.

STEP 4: ROLL ON THE NEW PAINT

When the surface is completely clean (and I can wipe it with your hand and not have a chalky, dusty residue come off on my palm), then it’s time for my new finish paint. (In certain situations, a primer might be recommended. You’ll probably want to talk to someone at RepcoLite if you have any questions about whether you need a primer or not.)

I’ll probably apply a primer coat to my ceiling just to be safe. After that, I’ll roll on two coats of finish and finally, after all of that, I should be done and the living room will be better than before. And, best of all, it should look good and resist flaking or peeling for years to come!

Peeling paint can be a very frustrating situation. And when it happens to us, we may find ourselves tempted to take a shortcut or an easy way out. However, in a situation like this, shortcuts just don’t produce good results. Instead, take the time to do the project the right way. It’s a lengthier, more time-consuming fix, but it will give you much better results (and save you a lot of repeat work) in the long run!

The Vile Showerhead (or, Finding the Dread-Free Life)

shower-1027904_640(1)I’m a “dreader”.  That’s not a word–I know that.  But that doesn’t change the truth:  I dread things.  On a regular basis.

For example, I re-decorated my bathroom about a year ago.  I put wood planking on the walls, hung some wallpaper, stained and varnished new trim, installed a new (bowed) shower rod and new curtain and finally, to finish the whole thing off, I installed a new shower head.

Which was the biggest mistake I made.

See, right after installing it, my wife marched right in, closed the door and proceeded to take a 45-minute shower.  When she was done, the kids all marched through, one after the other.

When the shower marathon ended that day, I opened the bathroom door and it was as if a cloud had localized in that tiny room.  I literally couldn’t see the other side through the steam.  The little ceiling fan was working overtime, but there was no way it could keep up.

“Fortunately,” I thought, trying to wave away the steam, “this is something that won’t happen everyday.  Once the ‘newness’ of the shower head wears off, we’ll go back to having to fight the kids to take baths.”

Nope.  Not a chance.  Every single day since the installation of that vile shower head, our bathroom is engulfed in steam.  Shower after shower, hour after hour:  steam, steam, steam.

Well, that went on for a long time and then the inevitable happened:  the mold started growing around the edges of the ceiling.  The wallpaper started peeling and curling up on all the seams.  My beautiful bathroom had gone from a place of despair to a place of beauty and then back again to a place of despair all in about 6 months time. It was depressing to say the least.

And that’s where the “dreading” comes in.  Everyday, I’d look at the ceiling and see the mold or the wallpaper and see the peeling and I’d dread the “fix-up” job that was to come.

I dreaded it because it seemed like such a big job:  fixing the mold, fixing the paper, repainting the ceiling.  I’d just gone through some of this work and now, thanks to that dumb shower head, I had an even bigger mess to fix.

And so I stared at it for a long time.  I thought about it.  I tried to ignore it.  But most of all I dreaded it.

Until finally I got so sick of being depressed and frustrated about it that I actually fixed it.

I took a week and on a Monday night, I sprayed the mold with a bleach solution and scrubbed the ceiling.  That took me exactly 17 minutes.

Two nights later I came back with more bleach–no scrubbing this time, just the bleach on the mold.  That took about 7 minutes.

On Friday night I went around the room and primed all the previously moldy spots with ProFlo Alkyd primer and then I re-pasted all the peeling paper.  That night’s work took about 15 minutes.

Finally on Saturday, I got ready to paint the ceiling and finish the job.  I was ready for a big, painstaking job (I hate painting ceilings) but I was surprised to find that the whole thing took about an hour from the time I opened the can of paint to the time I put the paint back on the shelf in the workroom.

In the end, I realized that the job I’d dreaded for the last 6 months or more had taken me less than two total hours to fix.  In my mind, I’d exaggerated and inflated and imagined the work to be 10x worse than it was.  I imagined the mess, the problems to be 10x less fixable than they were.  I imagined the pain to be 10x greater than it was.

I’d spent 6 months feeling bad and frustrated and almost (in a sad and pathetic way) depressed about a room that took me less than 2 hours to fix.

So how does this apply to you?  Well, I can’t speak for you, but I’ve talked to many folks in the paint store at RepcoLite who feel the same way I was feeling.  They’re frustrated about the seemingly endless amounts of work needed in their homes.  They look at the jobs and the work to be done and assume that they’re worse than they really are.  And so they do what I did:  they put them off and they stew on them, thinking about them and mulling them over in their minds for months until the jobs seem even bigger and more horrible.  In short, we dread them and waste our time worrying about them and frowning over them.

But what we really should be doing is “doing” them.  The jobs aren’t as bad as we think.  They’ll go smoother.  They’ll go more quickly.  They won’t be as painful.  And best of all, once we’re done, you’ll notice what I noticed:  a real sense of relief and freedom from the work that had been hanging over my head.

So, bottom line:  If you’ve got a project that’s creating that feeling of dread, jump into it.  Get it accomplished.  And then kick back and enjoy the dread-free life…

Getting Rid of Mold on Your Ceiling in 3 Steps

Mold On The CeilingMold on a bathroom ceiling is a common problem homeowners struggle with on a regular basis.  However, the good news is that while it is common and while it can be a pain to get rid of, it CAN be dealt with–you just need to take the right steps.

ASSESS THE PROBLEM

You need to start the process of fixing the mold on your ceiling by remembering that mold is a SYMPTOM of a deeper problem.  Somehow, moisture is causing this mold to grow and thrive on your walls or your ceiling.  You need to figure out what is causing the moisture.  It could be your shower, it could be an ineffective (or non-existent) ceiling fan, it could be a leaky pipe or even a leaking roof.  Find the problem that’s causing the mold and fix it.  If it’s the roof, repair it.  If it’s the shower, cut down on the number or length of showers if possible.  If it’s the fan, put a new one in.  This is the first part and it’s a critical step.  If you DON’T do this, chances are the mold will just continue to be a problem.

KILL THE MOLD

Once you’ve dealt with the root source of the problem, it’s time to deal with the symptoms–the mold.  And the first step here is to kill it.  This is done by mixing a solution of 1 part Bleach and  4 parts Water in a spray bottle.  Once you’ve got this mixed, mist the bleach solution over the affected spots on your ceiling or walls.  (TAKE PRECAUTIONS HERE:  Wear old clothes, remove rugs, put down drop clothes, wear eye protection and DON’T MIX THE BLEACH WITH OTHER CLEANING AGENTS).  After you’ve sprayed the mold spots, allow the bleach about 10 minutes or so to work and then scrub the spots with a sponge or a scrub brush.  If necessary, hit the spots with a second misting of bleach.

TOPCOAT

Once you’ve killed the mold and mildew and let the wall dry down, you might be done. Yes, you read that correctly! You might not even need to paint! But if you do, the last step in the process is to roll a couple coats of a high-quality finish on your walls or ceiling.  We recommend first and foremost Benjamin Moore’s Aura Bath and Spa. It’s a tremendous product for you bathroom and, in our opinion, the best thing you could use. It’s specially formulated for bathroom and high moisture areas, offering excellent mold and mildew resistance. It’s also available in a matte finish. Which means you can say goodbye to those shiny bathroom walls! On top of that, it’s Aura. Which means excellent hide and coverage!

If you’re repainting, Aura Bath and Spa is a great choice. In fact, there’s really no reason to use anything else!

Mold on a bathroom ceiling is a pain in the neck.  My bathroom is living (literally) proof of that right now.  But, as I mentioned earlier, the good news is that the problem is fixable and, with effort, even preventable.  Follow these steps and you should find your way to a mold-free bathroom in no time!

The Future is in Your Bathroom . . . Now!

Toilet-Paper-Holder-Docks-your-iPod-2There are times when I think I’ve seen everything.  I don’t know why I allow myself to think that.  Because whenever I do–whenever that thought crosses my mind–whenever I’m tempted to think that I’ve seen everything . . . I find something like this.

And not only have I never seen something like this–I’ve never even dreamed or imagined something like this.  I mean really . . . who does?  What kind of person dreams up the notion that a super idea would be a toilet paper holder/iPod dock and music system with waterproof speakers?  Who thinks these things up?

I mean really . . . apart from the general “grossness” . . . isn’t there also a lack of aesthetics?  And apart from those things . . . who looks at that thing and thinks it’s going to be extremely functional?  Can’t you just imagine the deep bass tones and crystal clear sounds that will pump through those (I’m sure) high tech waterproof speakers?  And think about the iPod dock part of it.  It’s supposed to charge your iPod . . . but using what?  I don’t think it’s probably hardwired into the wall.  It probably runs off batteries.  So you’re using regular double A batteries to charge your iPod.  How do you think that’s going to work?

Yeah, I only have to look at it to pretty much guarantee you it’s not going to be a good iPod dock.  It won’t be a very good sound system.  It’s an ugly, over-complicated and soon to be gross (just look at all those buttons that will soon be coated with gunk) toilet paper holder.

It has three purposes:  hold toilet paper, recharge iPods and play music.  And, undoubtedly, it will do all three.  But how well?  Wouldn’t you be better off to just buy a regular toilet paper holder?  One that is only designed to hold . . . you know . . . toilet paper?  Wouldn’t that make more sense?  Then, go ahead and buy another gadget to dock your iPod and play your music.  Why try to combine all those things into one?  When you do, you end up with a product that WILL do all the things promised–it just won’t do any of them well.

And that kind of reminds me of that new Primer and Paint all combined in one product.  Oh, the analogy isn’t perfect–paint and primer in one product DOES work well on certain situations.  But really, for many projects, using a primer that’s also a paint can be just as dumb as buying this toilet paper holder.

When you’re painting bare wood . . . inside or outside . . . skipping the primer step is as dumb as buying this toilet paper holder.  When you’re painting over unknown stains that are on your walls–water spots, smoke stains, crayon, ink or marker stains . . . .painting over those stains without priming is as dumb as buying that toilet paper holder.  Painting over tough-to-stick-to surfaces like plastics and laminates without using a primer is . . . .well, you get it.

There are certain times when the primer/paint all in one product (which is really just a high-quality latex paint) is fine.  But there are other times when skipping that primer step is going to fill your home improvement life with misery.  Knowing the difference between the two is the tough part.  And that’s why we’re here.

Just stop out at RepcoLite and tell us what you’re doing.  We’ll help you figure out what you should use, how you should do it and whether or not you should go with the black, white or chrome model of that toilet paper holder thingy.

More Job Application Screw-Ups and a Clever Tie-In to Exterior Primer

"Peel" by Will Keightley is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Peel” by Will Keightley is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Yesterday, I wrote about getting off on the right foot–you know, starting well.  Because really, that’s one of the most critical things in life isn’t it?  Starting well?  If you start poorly in any endeavor, chances are you’re not going to bring it around and end up with great results.  It’s just one of those rules of life:  we need to make good first impressions, we need to get off to a good start . . . we need to start on the right foot . . . or we’re not going to go very far.

And let me prove it.  See, I’m going to breeze through a few real-life lines from some job applications and you decide if these people went terribly far after making this kind of first impression.

OK, first off, here’s a lady who wrote, in the SKILLS section of her job application, that, and I quote, “My twin sister has an accounting degree.”  End quote.  Yeah. Her TWIN sister.  Not just a little sister or an older sister.  It’s her TWIN.  And we all know how twins are supernaturally or magically or whatever bonded to each other, right?  I mean really, there are those stories about twins raised in different homes with no knowledge of each other who end up marrying similar people and naming their children the exact same names.  So, having a twin sister with an accounting degree is just like having one yourself.  I mean, it’s almost a scientifically proven fact.

Or, what do you think about the first impression this guy made when he wrote in the section called “negative traits”, and I quote “I am very bad about time and don’t mind admitting it. Having to arrive at a certain hour doesn’t make sense to me. What does make sense is that I do the job. Any company that insists upon rigid time schedules will find me a nightmare.”  Yeah, I know if I were looking for help, he’d be on my “must-call” list.  Because I like his gritty honesty.  And his carefree, artist’s disposition.

Anyway, life’s all about first impressions, right?  And neither of those folks made terribly good ones.  Yeah, life’s all about starting well.  And the reason is simple:  it’s tough to finish well if you don’t start well.

And that applies to everything from job applications to dating relationships to job interviews to home improvement projects.  Starting well can make all the difference in the long-run.

Now yesterday, we talked about specific stain-blocking primers that should be used in some cases.  How certain jobs you might tackle might need one of these specialty primers to ensure long-lasting results–like we said, it’s all about starting well.  Start well and you won’t struggle with your project.  Start poorly and you’ll have a mess.

Today we’re going to talk about another scenario when primers make good sense:  exterior wood surfaces.  Now, if these are stainable woods . . . that’s another topic for another day.  What I’m talking about here are the exterior woods that you would typically paint.

And right now, as I mentioned yesterday, there’s ad on TV that claims you can basically quit using primers as long as you buy this apparently new and amazing paint product.  However, there are a couple things to note here.  First off, it’s not a new product or new technology–it’s been around for years–it’s just good marketing that’s making it seem new and exciting.  Secondly, remember that those ads are 30 second spots.  You can’t say everything you should say in a 30 second spot.  Sure, there are times when primers can be skipped–and I’ve got products at RepcoLite that you can use just like that apparently new and amazing paint we see on TV.  However, there are times when you can’t skip them–or at least you shouldn’t–not if you want to get your project started on the right foot.

And one of those times when primers really pay for themselves in the long run is when you’re painting bare exterior wood.  A high quality latex paint over top of bare wood–with no primer–may lay on nicely and look great.  But the problem is that it really can’t penetrate into the wood–it’s latex and that’s just not how latex products work.  It’ll sit on the surface.  Before long, the moisture that penetrates the wood from rain or even dampness in the air, will start to cause that paint to chip and peel.  And once that starts, you’ll have a mess.

But, if you prime that wood with a high-quality oil based product, you’ll have much less failure. Primers are specifically MADE for these situations.  They have characteristics that are DIFFERENT from paint–think about that for a minute.  Primers are fundamentally different in make up from paint for a reason–they have a different job to do.  Primers act as an intermediary between the wood and the topcoat.  Primers will seal, hide and bind wood fibers to make the surface more uniform.  And this allows the paint to adhere better.  A quality primer will also improve your paint’s ability to resist surface moisture.  As a result, you’ll have less peeling, less mess, longer lasting results and a better, happier ending.

So take a lesson from those folks we talked about earlier.  Remember to get off on the right foot–no matter what it is you’re doing:  meeting someone new, interviewing for a job, or painting your exterior trim.  Get off on the right foot and you’ll end up happy at the finish line.