02 July 2011

DIY: cutting in line

Last weekend I had the opportunity to hang out with many great friends (including the in-laws) and discovered that many of them are readers. Hello, all of you! I enjoyed spending time with you! Thank you for your kind words. They are truly my motivation to continue this project! (Psssssst leaving comments works too.)

Several of those friends commented on how much painting we’ve done in our house. It’s true, we’ve painted every room in our house in the last year. Although I use “we” loosely, because it’s mostly me who does the painting. Mr. P is exceptionally good at moral support and, when needed, holding the ladder. But I’m the one who has developed a bunch of specific painting technique quirks.

When I began conquering the massive task of painting every room in our home – knowing it needed it to sell – I decided to start in the master suite, which alone was a huge task. Our bedroom has vaulted ceilings, a large adjoining bath that needed to be the same color, and a closet that would easily be considered a bedroom in Manhattan. Oh, and every square inch of those walls was deep freaking maroon. I never loved the maroon (a choice of the previous owners) but was always too lazy to paint because it seemed too overwhelming.

I started with the master suite intentionally, figuring I’d get the hardest job done first. That was a mistake. I was too inexperienced and consequently the job took longer and was more expensive than it needed to be. For example, I taped off every single baseboard and crown molding and windowsill and door frame. It took well over two rolls of economy sized blue painter’s tape AND it took forever to tape everything off AND paint still leaked under the tape in several places. If I had known then what I know now, the job would have taken less time than it did (more than THREE WEEKENDS!) and the final product would have been better (I STILL have some edges that need touching up).

Since it’s currently a long holiday weekend for many of you (coughnotsciencegraduatestudentscough) (coughnothatIamjealouscough) I thought you might be taking on a painting project in your own home! If so, I have the best tip in the world for you. And if you weren’t already planning to do some painting this weekend, maybe I will even inspire you to try it. Such is the magic of blogging.

Here's the tip: YOU NEED THIS BRUSH.

Okay that’s it! Talk to you later!

Just kidding. I will tell you why!

I know other bloggers and professionals swear by their expensive Purdy or Sherwin Williams brushes, and maybe those are great too. I have only tried one Purdy brush – I used it on several rooms after the master suite – and it was okay. But this Wooster brush, which is relatively inexpensive and available at Home Depot (and possibly Lowe’s), is the brush that I would choose to be stranded with on a desert island, if I needed to do a lot of painting on that desert island. If I were on a reality show with this brush it would get the rose. It would be my paintbrush life partner.

With this brush, you do not need to blue-tape off your edges. I repeat: NO TAPING EDGES. The handle is short and flexible rubber and oh-so-easy to maneuver, and the bristles are perfectly angled, such that cutting-in (which is what “painting edges without taping” is called) is a breeze.

As an example I will show you the office. You saw earlier this week what it looks like today:

But this is what it looked like a few months ago:

GAG, right? I am ashamed to say that this was the ONLY room I painted in my house in the first four years I lived here AND THIS WAS THE COLOR I CHOSE. It was originally a horrifyingly neon mint green, which honestly was no better BUT NO WORSE than the shiny orangy-gold that I picked to go over it. What the heck. Inexperience: 1, Sarah: 0.

As for the rest of the mess, that is also disgusting, but at least you can see that it’s been cleaned up. And yes, I painted the shelves! ALSO with my Wooster brush platonic life partner! That’s a post for another day though.

So when it came time to paint over that unintentional homage to the UT Longhorns, I went with a light bluish-gray. Because this was now the LAST room in the house that needed painting, I was older and wiser and did not tape off a SINGLE edge in that room. I just used my Wooster brush at this angle where the walls met the ceiling:

(That’s a funny little dropped box in the ceiling where the air ducts run, if you are having trouble understanding the context. I painted it white to go with the ceiling when I painted the room gold, but with the bluish-gray it needed to be the wall color.)

For those sorts of ceiling-meets-wall edges, I lead with the shorter end of the angled bristles and the longer end smoothes out the line as it follows. The same principle applies to baseboards.

It’s also fantastic with corners. I use the longer bristles to dab up in the corner where the walls and ceiling meet:

And finally around doors and windows. Note that I sort of "swoop in" to the edge, leading with the shorter bristles - the longer bristles will follow and smooth out the connection:

Honestly, it takes more mental skill than manual skill, because free-handing edges requires a little bravery at first until you build up your confidence. But no worries! While it’s true that occasionally the edge is not 100% perfect, most of the time you can wipe away any errant swipes of latex paint (especially if your trim is gloss or semi-gloss) and try again. And in any case, I have NEVER achieved a perfectly clean line with tape. My lines are cleaner without tape and it takes far, far less time and money.

With a little practice – and I mean a little, less than a room’s worth – you can have finished edges like this:

... with NO TAPE. Again, note the "swooping" which meant I didn't have to paint a continuous line all the way down the door frame. This was after the first coat, when you could still see visible brush strokes - the dark gold required two coats of light grayish blue over it for full coverage, even with paint-and-primer-in-one paint. But when you can freehand the edges, two coats are no big deal.

As another example, I painted our entire kitchen, around all of the cabinets and countertops and windows, and only taped those edges where there was about a half-inch of wall between window frame and cabinets:

And do you know how long it took me to paint our entire kitchen? Around all those windows and cabinets and edges? With two coats of paint? FIVE HOURS. As in, I painted one coat with my Wooster Life Partner and a 6" roller, worked my way around the room, started painting the second coat (in less than the advised four-hour-drying-time window, YES, but shhh it’s okay), and FINISHED in five hours. I am pretty sure if I tried to tape it off, it would have taken several hours just to do that. And like two rolls of tape (which together cost more than a Wooster brush). But I only used like five feet of blue tape TOTAL for this job.


If you are less experienced then perhaps you won’t be able to paint your kitchen this weekend in five hours. Maybe it will take six. But I promise it will take less time with your own Wooster Life Partner, even with learning curve factored in, than if you taped off all the edges.

Happy cutting in!


Miles said...

Thanks SOOO much for this post! Seriously, I love your kitchen and we're moving this weekend and we're painting all of our kitchen (with yours as our inspiration, of course!) I love your tip and will be hunting out that brush!

Sarah said...

So glad this is helpful! I had heard of this "cutting-in" business but never really saw it explained. It's ALMOST easy enough to be common sense, but not quite! At least not for me who had to paint a bunch of rooms to figure it out :)

I found the brush at Home Depot - twice, because one time I accidentally forgot to wash it out. Good luck! Oh, I'm excited about your new kitchen. Can't wait to see more of your new house!