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Robert Lamoureux: Painting 101: Prep first then paint

Posted: June 11, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 11, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Hi Robert,
Thanks for the very informative column. When is the best time of year to paint wood and stucco — after everything has dried out during our long, hot summers?
Gary S.

Hi Gary,
I would wait a couple of weeks after the last rain of the season and get the painting done before it gets too hot. Especially if you’re using a sprayer, you don’t want to paint in very hot weather because the paint can dry between the nozzle and the surface which gives you a bad finish and will not bond well.  
If you haven’t done much painting in the past, one of the most important and overlooked steps is the preparation.
Remember to take the time to inspect the wood and stucco and make all necessary repairs. This would include patching, sanding, caulking, re-nailing and possibly replacement of any damaged wood on your home before the painting begins.
Do it once, do it right.

I’m really in no position to be farming out repairs to anybody, and I have a problem that I need to take care of myself, but I honestly don’t know what else I can do. I had a problem in my living room ceiling due to a bath tub leak, which I have already repaired. I cut out the wet drywall, screwed in new drywall, put up the tape and mud, sanded everything down to make it smooth, then put on primer and paint.
When it came time to sand, I learned the less joint compound you use the better.
Now, during certain times of the day when the sun hits it, the ceiling looks like a washboard. I have put coat after coat of joint compound on it, but I can’t seem to get it smooth.
I’ll make one lump disappear, but then make another. I don’t know what else to do.
Mike T.

Hi Mike,
Smooth finishes are not easy to get right, even for professional drywallers.     
What you need to do is called “guide coating.” For this, you’re going to need a can of black aerosol spray paint and a drywall sanding paddle on a pole.
Spray a mist of paint over just the uneven part of your ceiling. You don’t want to paint it, just apply a very light speckled mist. Then start sanding. Sand until you remove all of the black paint.           
Naturally, paint on the high areas will get sanded off first. Once you remove all of the high spots, you will have only the black mist in the valleys remaining. Take a slime coat of your mud, the joint compound, and fill in only the low spots by just covering up the black paint.  
Once it’s dry, and you can use a high-speed carpet fan or something similar to expedite the drying time, then come back and repeat the process as the original low areas may now be a little high.
Keep using the spray paint, then sand and fill. Be sure to use a sanding paddle, which sands a larger area at once.
If you use only a piece of sandpaper, your fingers will automatically want to fall into any existing grooves and will make them deeper.    
When you get to the point where you have no black specs after sanding, then you’ll know that it’s 100 percent true. It would then be ready for prime and paint. Just spot prime the affected area, but paint the entire ceiling, corner to corner, so the repair would be invisible.  

Hello Robert,
We live in a condo in the San Fernando Valley. We’re contemplating metering every one of our townhomes for water usage. We’re currently on a central meter, and we’d like to break it down from unit to unit. In your estimation, is that cost effective? There are 70 units. Could you give us an idea of the costs involved?
By the way, we took your advice on another matter some time ago regarding breaking the irrigation away from the domestic water supply. That has — and continues — to save us a lot of money.
Arman D.

Hi Arman,
Individual metering is not going to be cheap because you have to go to the water company. If you’re working with DWP, you’re going to have to use their equipment, their meter boxes.  
There are a lot of questions that first need to be answered before providing an estimate. There are the complexities of your property and how you’re situated. Are you going to need concrete demo, asphalt demo? How far are you going to have to run these lines? The best way to get hard numbers would be to bring a plumber on site and have him provide you with a proposal.  
Generally speaking, a small individual meter for a condo will go from 3/4” to 1 1/4”, depending on the size of the unit and how many fixtures there are within the home. Again, I would need the specifics to offer a price.  
Typically, though, if we’re talking about a basic independent meter installation with no surprises, it would be about $2,500 to $2,800 per unit. This has to be permitted. The water company won’t give you the meters without permits.
To determine cost-effectiveness, you would first need to calculate your current water usage, but you usually find the meter has paid for itself between two to three years.    

I put in all of my sprinkler systems but the valves keep breaking. They don’t hold the pressure and turn on automatically. Do you know what’s causing this? Thank you,
Mark L.

Hi Mark,
This is probably happening at night, when the demand is down and the pressure is up.  
It sounds like you tied in your irrigation in before your main, which is proper, but did you also install a pressure regulating valve? You need this to step the pressure down.  
If you have too much pressure, it will turn on your actuators, which turn on the valves because the spring tension on the actuator is not strong enough to keep the valve closed.
For the repair, install a backflow device as well as a PRV.     
We have designed a custom, full-color The Signal/Your Home Improvements T-shirt we will give you if we answer your question. The T-shirt is available to be picked up at our office.
Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to



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