Two touch-up paint jobs lead to single brush with greatness

February 10, 2007|By ROB KASPER

Frigid winter weekends keep you in the house, where you end up staring at the same old walls. Then you notice that the paint on those walls is chipped. And then you decide to "touch them up." Before you can say "home improvement," there goes your weekend, and your sanity.

Last weekend, I got sucked into two such projects, touching up painted walls in the kitchen and an upstairs hallway. One wall was a satiny light brown, the other a dark shade of blue. As a painter, I was one for two.

The success story, the light-brown wall - I think the official color is Antique White - is gorgeous. Every time I look at it, and believe me I look at it frequently, I see no sign that my paintbrush has been there. A skilled touch-up painter is like a proficient jewelry thief; the good ones don't leave any evidence that they have been there.

As for the blue wall, well, it is not something I want to look at, especially in the sunlight. When the afternoon sun hits this wall, it looks like a guy who has cut himself shaving. There are bright splotches that stand out from the smooth blue background. My speckled wall reminds me of what has been happening this week in the trial of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. In both cases, the cover-up caused the trouble.

Standing back and taking a hard look at my efforts, I see several reasons why one succeeded and another failed.

Credit for the success goes primarily to the cans. Those would be the cans of Sherman Williams' SuperPaint Extra White Satin with dabs of New Red and Deep Gold - together, Antique White.

I had unearthed these cans a few weekends ago during my never-ending quest for a clean basement. Every basement has a collection of paint cans. But these were distinguished. Not only were they well sealed, they were also well labeled. A handwritten note on the top of the cans identified this paint as the one used about a year ago to cover the kitchen walls. My method of marking paint cans usually consists of spilling the contents on the label. The handwritten note was the work of the professional who had painted the walls.

Clearly labeling paint cans was one of several differences I noted between my way of tackling a touch-up job and the pros' way.

They "feather" their paint, applying a small amount to the center of the spot, then, applying a light touch, work toward the edges. The pros on the How To Do Everything Web site recommend using a nearly dry roller to feather the edges. They also say you should venture beyond the touch-up spot, extending your paint job to an area at least 6 square feet so it blends in.

I did not do that. Instead, I used paintbrushes, little ones, to feather dabs of paint over the chipped places. This worked on the kitchen wall because I had the exact matching paint, I did not use much of it and the paint on the wall that it was blending with had not faded.

The hallway paint job was another matter. Instead of the original blue paint, I had a can of paint that sort of matched the shade. The paint on the wall was old and dark. The touch-up paint was a lighter hue. Even a trip to the neighborhood hardware store, where a master matchmaker added a dash of black and a dot of dark blue to this can, could not make the two blues marry. Also, the touch-up blue paint was a semi-gloss which, I later learned, has a sheen that is harder to match than flat paint.

Now as I travel through the house, I pause in the kitchen and admire my touch-up work. In the other section of the house, where the wall looks as if it has a case of blue measles, I keep the lights turned off.

I have learned my lesson. The next cold winter weekend when I start to stare at the walls, instead of picking up a paintbrush, I am putting on a coat and going for a long walk.

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