Decorating tips
15th May 2011
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Re-decorating your home can be necessary or inspiring; can be seen as an enjoyable investment or a chore; an opportunity for a transformation or a confusion of colours, styles and materials

In this article, the author will take you through some simple steps to a hassle free makeover of your living area without breaking the bank.

Planning the project

I’ve been called in to sort out problems by some people who have decided to start to decorate and before they have even thought about what they want they’ve started to remove the wallpaper.

A bit like blackberry picking, the next section along seems to get more interesting than the one that they are working on; leaving hideous patches of removed paper lying wet on good quality carpet.

THINK and PLAN. Don’t aim to do it all in a weekend or when the kids / grandchildren are around or when you’ve had a busy time. Work out the types of paint you like, think about colour matching against curtains, carpets, furniture, measure up rooms and if necessary ask for advice from the store selling you the product. Cost it all up with the sundries below before you start. Also, try not to use the cheapest paints / adhesives; you don’t want to have to repeat the process too many times.

Initial thoughts. As well as the paints / paper / wallpaper adhesive, do you have to hand all the ‘sundries’ (that customers look in horror at when they see the price)?

ESSENTIALS include: plastic backed cover sheets (to prevent paint blobs passing through on to the carpet; lightweight plastic sheeting to cover furniture that you can’t / won’t move out; low tack 1” and 2” masking tape (for windows these days there is a cling film type of material that can be cut to cover the glass making painting for some a little easier. A range of green kitchen scrubbing pads; 80 / 120 grade sanding paper (there are various types); filler (‘Tetrion’ or similar) and a old chisel to open up the cracks before filling; a filler knife and something to mix the powder in (and don’t rinse excess down the sink unless you want to block it); decorator’ caulk (in a tube) and applicator gun for filling the gaps at edges of wall to ceiling and skirting to make a cleaner finish; ‘Handy Wipes (Decorator’s Wipes), a Godsend for wiping off gloss paints from where they shouldn’t be; Stanley Blades for cleaning off paint spots from glass and of course glass cleaner; GOOD brushes (I use the latest nylon fine end brushes for small areas rather than a roller); rollers / trays; lots of newspaper to stand paint on and plastic bags to put rubbish in and to keep brushes ‘live’ if you stop for a break; latex gloves; old shirt and tracksuit and old shoes; lots of old cloths; white spirit / brush cleaner; paint pots (to decant paint into rather than carrying 5litres up a wobbly step ladder; step ladder and someone to hold it!! Don’t think that you are immune from falling off and don’t believe that falling only 3 feet will not cause you serious damage

If papering; scraper / buckets / sponges / wallpaper remover / scoring knife (possibly a steamer – although I find a brush with warm water and some paper stripper is less messy than you think if you put down some old towels and of course does not turn your living room or wherever into a Sauna; Paste Table / Paste bucket / paperhanging scissors / plumb-line and pencil (sharpener); brush or plastic ‘spreader’ to lay the paper onto the wall; large plastic sacks it’s amazing how much waste paper removal and hanging causes)



Preparation, preparation, and preparation: You can’t get enough of it. If you are about to re-emulsion your walls;

• Check if previously papered (e.g. wallpaper / lining paper). If put up some years ago or with inferior quality paste then there is a risk of ‘blowing’ in spots or at worst, whole strips can come away. Make you mind up as to whether you want to strip previous paper, bearing in mind it may have been hung to hide some horrendous holes. Stripping paper is itself messy and the preparation needed to ensure a smooth clean wall before re-papering is for some people a mammoth task; so balance the risks against the finish that you desire.
• Clean, clean, clean all surfaces and those in contact with surfaces to be painted / papered even if those surfaces are not to be touched. Use ‘Sugar Soap’ (available in powder form or liquid. I recommend the liquid, as it is faster. Don’t use plain water and definitely do not use washing up liquid to clean the surfaces, the latter will leave a residue that will not allow paint to adhere properly.
• Removing wallpaper. Choose whether to remove with a steamer or sponge / brush with a bucket and wallpaper stripper. Whatever the flooring COVER IT completely and seal the edges tightly. Jewson’s have a plasticised sheeting in 81 x 4’ sizes that can be cut / folded and re-used that doesn’t move all over the place and trip you up like cloths can do; and it is totally impervious to liquids.
• If a vinyl paper you may be able to strip the vinyl surface from the backing easily without wetting it. If you can do this so much the better as the wetting and removal of the backing is then straightforward and is usually possible with dampening it (consider using an old washed out window spray bottle (the ‘trigger’ type) but ensure that you don’t spray anything into your eyes an keep the wallpaper removal spray off your skin as far a possible (I keep a pack of baby wipes near by just in case).
• For holes, open up to the point that loose material is no longer and slightly overfill with Tetrion or similar. Leave until dry (the next day ideally); if there has been sinkage then repeat the process, followed by levelling using sanding papers.
• Fill all gaps between skirting and walls and walls and ceiling with Decorator’s Caulk, smoothing with your thumb (dampened) and allow to dry before painting.

Well, that’s the preparation; now all you have to do is paint and paper before you clean up and relax!

Of course, if you want a professional to do the work for you, call Geoff on 01227 720114 or 07877 932158 for a quote. Geoff also offers training courses in decorating in addition to teaching the DIY householder a range of other home repair techniques.

Copyright Geoff Cooke “Restorations” 2011

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