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Cramped working conditions lead to messy accidents. Remove furniture or stack it up. Set upholstered chairs upside down on the sofa. Cover the dining room tabletop with cardboard and set chairs on top of it. But make sure the stack doesn’t become an obstacle. Get out the ladder and roller and make a dry run to be sure you can easily reach all parts of the ceiling. In some cases, two smaller stacks with space for a ladder between them is better than one. Maintain a generous workspace of at least 3 ft. between the stack and the walls. Cover your furniture stack with plastic. Even if you're careful, some drips and splatters are likely. Duct tape will keep the plastic in place and hold the stack together if you bump into it.
Canvas drop cloths are absolutely the best coverings for carpet. They're easy to spread out, and unlike plastic, they stay put without tape. And they won't cause your ladder to slip-slide on carpet. Just bunch them up a bit along walls and they'll stay where you want them. Normal drips and splatter won't soak through canvas, but heavy spills will. Pick up the drop cloths and scoop up spills with a broad putty knife or dustpan. These drop cloths aren't cheap, but you don't have to cover the entire floor. A long, narrow “runner” is a good choice. You can drag it around the room as you go. A runner is also perfect for carpeted stairs; just fasten it to the steps with small nails so you don't trip.
Both canvas and plastic drop cloths are slippery when laid over wood, vinyl and tile. For protection that stays put on hard surfaces, you can't beat rosin paper. Tape sheets of it together and then tape the perimeter to the floor. Be sure to clean wood floors thoroughly before laying down the paper; grit trapped underneath can lead to scratches. A single layer will protect against paint drips, but wipe up any spills before they can soak through.
Removing cover plates takes just a few seconds and makes for a faster, neater job. Grab a small bucket to hold all the odds and ends you'll take off the walls. Unscrew cover plates and then shield each switch or outlet with 2-in.-wide masking tape. Also remove curtain hardware, picture hooks, grilles that cover duct openings and anything else that might get in the way. The thermostat is one exception—it's easier to wrap it with masking tape than to remove and reinstall it.
Don't waste time by completely covering baseboard with several strips of tape. A single overhanging strip of wide tape will catch roller splatters just as the roof overhang on your house keeps rain off the siding. Use 1-1/2-in. tape for narrow baseboard, 2-in. tape for wider baseboard. Tape won't stay stuck to dusty surfaces, so wipe down all your trim before masking. To minimize paint seepage under the tape, press the tape down hard by running a flexible putty knife over it.
Paint rollers throw off a mist of paint that speckles everything below. Here's the quickest way to protect doors and windows: When you tape around door and window trim to protect the woodwork, use tape that's wide enough to project at least 1/2 in. from the trim. That way, you can stick light plastic to the protruding tape—there's no need to tape the perimeter of the plastic separately. For doors, slit the plastic with a utility knife so you can walk through.
A little paint in the wrong place can cripple the connections that serve your phone, TV or computer. To protect phone jacks without disconnecting all those tiny wires, unscrew the faceplate and cover the front with masking tape. Then mask the terminals on the backside of the plate. Slip the plate into the junction box. Disconnect coaxial cable from its plate and tape the cable's connector.
Painting a ceiling is a cinch—except for the light fixture. Here's how to get it out of your way: First remove any glass parts, including the bulbs (make sure the power is off). Unfasten the fixture, usually by removing a couple of screws. Then hook one end of a wire through the fixture and the other to the junction box. Make sure your hanger wire—not the electrical wire—supports the fixture. Then slip a plastic bag over the fixture.
Dealing with chandeliers and pendants is even easier. The decorative plate at the ceiling is usually held up by a ring nut. Just unscrew the nut and the plate will slide down over the chain or tube. There's no need to support the fixture with wire.
Spilling on the carpet may seem like
the ultimate painting disaster,
but it doesn't have to leave a
permanent stain. The keys to
complete stain removal are
speed and lots of water. Latex
paint dries fast, and seconds
count. Don't go for the water
bucket yourself. Shout for someone
else to bring it. Immediately
scoop up the spill with a wide
putty knife, dustpan or whatever
is handy. Don't wipe up the spill;
you'll just force the paint deeper
into the carpet. Then start to
blot the paint with a wet (not
just damp) rag. Keep the paint
wet. Continue blotting, refill the
bucket with clean water and blot
some more until the paint is no
longer visible. When you're
done, set up a fan to dry out the
For small drips or splatters,
use the opposite approach. Just
let the paint dry. Tiny drops of
paint will sit on the carpet's surface.
Just be careful not
to step on them. After they dry,
trim them off with a scissors.
The plastic-wrapped case that holds 24 bottles of water is a perfectly sealed tray for your paint cans, brushes and trays. Sloshed or dripped paint won't spill onto a drop cloth and be tracked all over the house. When you're opening the water bottle package, cut the plastic about 5 in. higher than the top of the box and then fold it in.
Facial cleansing wipes aren't just for
pimple prevention. The alcohol in
them softens latex paint, but won't
harm most surfaces (test first to
make sure). They work best on paint
that's been dry just a few hours.
If you have a tight spot to paint, remove the
pad from a paint edging tool (about $2 at
home centers). Hot-glue the pad to a stir
stick, and you've got a painting tool that will
fit behind toilet tanks and radiators.
Ever paint a chair and have it stick to your newspaper or
dropcloth? Paint hassle-free by driving drywall screws about
1/2 in. into the bottom of the chair legs. The extra elevation
makes it easier to paint and even lets you coat the bottom
of the legs. Works great with brush-on paint as well.
If masking tape tears as you remove it or pulls off flakes of finish, heat it with a hair dryer. Heat softens the adhesive. Then pull the tape off at a 90-degree angle.
Cut the bottom section from a stiff wire coat hanger and bend it so each end straddles the rim to fit inside a paint can. Let the wire overlap the sides and tape it to the can to keep it steady when you rub off the excess paint. When the job's finished, remove the wire and wipe it clean to be ready for next time.
Tape all wall/woodwork seams with painter's tape. Lay the tape onto the woodwork and press it with the corner of your putty knife to prevent the wall paint from bleeding behind the tape onto the woodwork. Let the tape stick out perpendicular to the trim to act as a little protective roof to catch paint drips.
Glad® Press‘n Seal® plastic wrap goes on fast and
stays right where you put it. Paint can seep under
the edges, though, so it's no substitute for masking
tape in spots where you need a sharp edge.
Prevent paint "overspray" with this clever spray booth made from a cardboard box. Cut a hole in the top of the box. Cover the opening with plastic wrap and position a shop light above to illuminate your project. You can use coat hangers, poked through the cardboard, to hold and rotate the objects as you're painting them. Not only will your shop be neater, but your paint projects will now be thumbprint free.
Use your wrist as a masking
tape dispenser during your
next painting project. Cut a
4-in. piece from the ankle
section of a gym sock, slip it
on your wrist, then slide the
tape over your hand. The
sock protects your arm so the
tape won't scratch it. The tape
is always close at hand,
leaving both hands free for
Catch the paint that always seems to run down the side of the can. Hot-glue a disposable aluminum pie tin to the bottom of the paint can. When you're done painting, you can throw the pie tin away or save it and use it again.
Painting baseboard trim where it
adjoins carpeting can be awfully
messy. Using a metal paint shield
often smears the paint. Here's a solution
that always works. Place strips of
2-in. wide masking tape on the carpet
along the baseboard, with one
edge of the tape extended up about
1/2 in. onto the baseboard. Then tuck
this extended edge down between the
baseboard and the carpeting with a
putty knife. Paint the trim in the
entire room, and when it's dry, just
pull up the tape.
Vinyl tablecloths—the kind usually used on picnic
tables—make great drop cloths. They're tougher
than plastic sheeting, and if you put the smooth side
face down, they don't slip around on hard flooring
the way canvas drop cloths do. On carpet, put the
smooth side face up. These tablecloths are cheaper
than drop cloths, too: $2 to $4 at
A neat, straight paint line at the top of
a wall is tough to achieve next to a
bumpy ceiling. So before you paint,
drag a narrow flat-head screwdriver
lightly along the ceiling. You'll get a
clean paint line and no one will ever
notice that the bumps are missing.
Whether you're painting a whole room or just touching up, set your paint can in a bucket. The bucket prevents spills, catches drips and gives you a place to tuck your rag.
When mixing paint with an electric
drill and mixing paddle, place the can
inside a paper grocery bag. If you spill
or splatter (and you will!), you won't
get paint on the floor, nearby objects
Coat your face and arms with
lotion before a painting project
and the spatter will wash off
your skin easily.
A few dried paint drips on natural
trim can make a whole room look
shabby. But you don't need to
strip the woodwork to get rid of them. You
can remove drips—and the streaks of old
paint that make edges of trim so hard to
repaint—just by scraping, even if the
paint has been dry for years.
First, scrape the paint with a metal
putty knife, angling it down so it
doesn't dig into the wood. Paint doesn't stick
well to varnish, and often the drips will
pop right off. Use a razor knife for corners and tough spots.
Finally, clean up any residue by rubbing
the wood with denatured alcohol. Use matching stain or a stain marker
to touch up any light spots.
Move Furnishings for Easy Access to the Walls and Ceiling
Cover the Carpet With Canvas Drop Cloths
Protect Hard Floors With Rosin Paper
Remove Cover Plates, Then Tape Over Switches and Outlets
Shelter Baseboard with Overhanging Tape
Use Wide Tape and Plastic to Protect Doors and Windows
Mask Off Sensitive Wiring and Tuck it in the Box
Hang and Bag Light Fixtures
Fast Blotting Will Save Your Carpet
Pimple Pads for Paint Cleanup
Paint Pad for Tight Spots
Elevate, Then Paint
Release Masking Tape with Heat
Coat Hanger Drip Stopper
Tape With a Knife
Self-Stick Paint Shield
Cardboard Spray Booth
Well-Armed Tape Dispenser
Pie-Tin Paint Catcher
Don't Paint the Carpet
Tablecloth Drop Cloth
Scrape Away Ceiling Texture for a Neater Paint Job
Paint Bucket Caddy
Mixing Paint in a Bag
Remove Dried Paint Drips
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