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10 Painting Myths Busted

Whether you call them myths, old wives' tales or common knowledge, there are a lot of things people believe about painting that simply aren't true. Professional painter Nigel Costolloe becomes a myth buster and explains why 10 of these beliefs are wrong.

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painting sanding door framePhoto: Courtesy of Catchlight Painting

If You Prime, You Don’t Need to Sand or Clean First

While primers are effective problem solvers, they can’t perform miracles. Cleanliness is essential. Nothing will adhere to a dirty, greasy or dusty surface. Ensure that all surfaces are clean before painting or priming if your paint job is to last. This is especially true for baseboards, bathrooms, kitchens and high-traffic or high-touch areas.

Check out our guide to choosing and using primer.

Photo: Catchlight Painting

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painting exterior of home red white window trimPhoto: Courtesy of Catchlight Painting

If the Can Says One Coat, You Only Need One Coat


Whether or not one coat of paint will provide satisfactory coverage has to do with several things, including opacity. For example, a raspberry red won’t cover anything in one coat. Nor will a bright yellow. These colors simply lack sufficient pigment to effectively block the underlying color.

Choosing paint colors can be tricky. Here are some excellent tips to help you select a color you’ll love.

Photo: Catchlight Painting

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quality paint in bathroomPhoto: Courtesy of Catchlight Painting

Any Good-Quality Paint Will Work in a Bathroom


The humid environment of a bathroom actually breaks apart the chemical bonds of a coat of paint, resulting in surfactant leaching (yellow chemical streaks on your walls) and accelerated mildew growth. A high-performance paint is required for bathrooms. This paint contains added mildewcide and the cured coating will be moisture resistant.

Need to paint but worried about the mess? Fear not! Here’s how to paint without getting paint where you don’t want it.

Photo: Catchlight Painting

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kitchen island blue paintPhoto: Courtesy of Catchlight Painting

The Higher the Gloss, the Easier the Surface Is to Clean


True in the old days, true no longer. Research and development of water-based paints has created washable matte and flat finishes. It is the density of the finish that is key. A porous paint will hold dirt and stains, while a dense, smooth finish will not. New acrylic resins have almost magical qualities in their ability to resist staining and scuffing.

Don’t paint your kitchen cabinets until you check out these pro tips.

Photo: Catchlight Painting

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paint curved stairwell modern interior designPhoto: Courtesy of Catchlight Painting

Oil Paint Is Better Than Water-Based Paint


Instead of thinking about paint not as oil-based or water-based, think of it as solvent-borne or water-borne. Today’s water-borne paints are remarkable products, capable of holding oil and acrylic resins in suspension so that a paint with the hardness and performance of oil can be applied with minimal odor, and soap-and-water cleanup.

Learn more about high-tech paints, here.

Photo: Catchlight Painting

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painting ceilingPhoto: Courtesy of Catchlight Painting

Use the Cheapest Paint You Can Find on the Ceiling


Ceiling paint deserve the same level of investment as wall or trim paint. Cheap paint will show the roller and brush strokes and any change in texture or direction of the paint (halos around recessed lights, for example). The ceiling is a surface that requires the paint to dry upside down so that the pigments properly migrate to the surface. Otherwise, the result is a ceiling that cannot be touched up and holds fingerprints and scuffs.

These tips are essential to a successful ceiling paint job.

Photo: Catchlight Painting

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spiral staircasePhoto: Courtesy of Catchlight Painting

Interior Paints are All the Same, So Buy the Least Expensive


Paint chemists everywhere grimace when they hear this. Paint is a complicated combination of vehicle, resin, binder and pigment. There are many grades of each, from the best and most expensive pigment, like titanium dioxide, to the least, calcium carbonate (that’s right, good old chalk!). A cheaper paint will deliver inferior results every time. The more you spend, the higher the quality and the more lasting the results.

Here’s more on what causes paint to fail.

Photo: Catchlight Painting

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Photo: Courtesy of Catchlight Painting

Deck Stain Will Last Multiple Seasons

To the contrary, stain is designed to be sacrificial in nature in order to avoid film buildup and the need for scraping and sanding. Stain’s limited penetration and very thin coating means it fails quickly and easily, often within one season, when exposed to sunlight and the elements. Expect to restain exposed wood annually, sometimes twice in a season on exotic hardwoods.

Does your wood deck need a facelift? Here’s how you can renew it without spending a fortune!

Photo: Catchlight Painting

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exterior home paintingPhoto: Courtesy of Catchlight Painting

Exterior Paints Are All the Same, So Look for a Bargain


When it comes to paint, cost is a reliable indicator of quality. Paints engineered for one type of surface often won’t work on another type of surface. Coating and substrate compatibility are critical. Manufacturer websites are a trusted source of technical information providing a wealth of product knowledge and application advice.

Learn the best techniques for applying exterior paint quickly and thoroughly, here.

Photo: Catchlight Painting

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victorian exterior old homePhoto: Courtesy of Catchlight Painting

Power Washing Prep Isn’t Necessary Unless the Exterior is Really Dirty


When surface dirt and grime and/or black or green mildew is visible, cleaning is an obvious first step before painting. But mildew spores are invisible to the naked eye and they are on every surface, in some quantity. Power washing with a mildewcide cleaner is critical for a long-lasting exterior paint job. Don’t skip the eaves and soffits and pay attention to west- and south-facing areas where ultraviolet rays can damage and degrade the paint or stain film.

Along with power-washing, careful prep work on these trouble spots will double the life of your paint.

Photo: Catchlight Painting

Nigel Costolloe
Nigel Costolloe is the president of Catchlight Painting (catchlightpainting.com), a full-service residential and commercial painting company serving Greater Boston. He is active regionally and nationally in the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America (PDCA) as a leader, speaker, and mentor.