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5 common paint problems and how to solve them

A Q&A with the painting experts at Consumer Reports

Published: August 25, 2014 08:00 AM

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Painting is no picnic so when you make the effort you want to get the best results possible. At Consumer Reports we get lots of questions about how to properly paint a room. Here are some of the most common questions with answers from our experts.

Q. How should I paint the ceiling?
A . After removing dust and dirt, use a small sash brush with flagged or split ends to cut in a strip of 2 inches or so around the edges of the ceiling. When choosing a brush, note that synthetic bristles tend to hold latex-based paints better and apply it more evenly than natural bristles. Then switch to a roller with an extension pole. Start in a corner and work across the shorter dimension of the room. For even coverage, paint a “W” or “M” pattern about 3 feet wide with the roller, then fill in the gaps. (The process works for walls, too.)

Q. How can I prevent roller marks?
A.  Avoid cheap rollers with obvious seams. Synthetic, short-napped rollers work best on most walls, ceilings, and trim. Use longer-nap rollers for textured walls. Steel frames with lots of tines will be stiffer and sturdier, and sealed ends will keep the paint on the roller. Be sure to give a new roller a rubdown before use to remove any lint. The paint you use matters, too, so look for high smoothness scores in our Ratings.

Q. What if I missed a spot?
A. After the paint dries, usually in about 4 hours, touch it up. If you do it before the paint dries, you’ll mess up the paint surrounding the bare spot.

Q. Can I fix paint runs?
A. Once the paint is dry, use fine sandpaper to remove the run, then retouch with a little paint. Runs can be a sign that you’re loading too much paint on the roller or brush or not spreading it well.

Q. Can I trash unused paint?
A. You should always keep a little for touch-ups. Pour it into a small container and label it with paint color, number, and room it was used in. You can try contacting local charities, religious organizations, or high school or college drama departments to ask whether they can use extra paint, or see whether your community collects it for reuse. If you don’t find any takers, follow local waste requirements for proper disposal (such as taking the lid off latex paint and letting it dry before disposing of the can).

Best interior paints from our tests

Best flat or matte:

Best eggshell/ satin:

Best semigloss:

—Adapted from Consumer Reports Kitchen Planning & Buying Guide

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