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Selecting Colours and Painting Your Home

"Colour Spies"

"Hello, I'd like to buy some paint"
"Paint? What do you want paint for?"
"Er, well you know I want to paint the walls in my living room."
"Is it your house?"
"My house? What has that got to do with anything?"
"Just checking sir, we have to check you know. So where is 'your' house?”
“I just want to buy some paint.”
“So you say sir, you are sure it's for YOUR house?”
“If you must know, yes it is for MY house, why the third degree interrogation.”
“Can't be too careful these days sir. What colour do you want?”
"Do you have a colour chart"
"A what?"
"A colour chart, you know, a brochure with paint patches on so I can chose a colour."
"Did someone tell you I had one? Who was it, hey, who was it?"
"No, no, I just thought you might have one."
"Well I haven't so don't ask."
"No colour chart?"
"No sir"
“No sample colours?”
“On a card”
“No, no, no.”
"So how will I be able to chose a colour?"
"You tell me what colour you want and I'll tell you if we've got it."
"But I don't know what colour I want."
"You come to buy paint but don't know what colour you want?"
"I thought I'd look at a colour chart for some inspiration."
"Inspiration? Got painter's block have you, sir?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Painter's block, you know, mind gone blank, need some inspiration."
"I don't like your tone."
"You do want to buy some paint sir?"
"Oh all right if you want to put it that way. I admit, I do need some inspiration."
"You want to see a colour chart?"
"Yes, now."
"What's the password?"
"The password, what's the password."
"I don't know what the bloody password is, you cretin, all I want is to buy some paint."
"There's no need to be unpleasant sir, all I need is the password, you can't expect me to show you a colour chart if you don't know the password."
"Ah so you do have a colour chart."
"I didn't say that now did I sir? Excuse me I have another customer waiting."

"Hello can I help you?"
"I say, I'd like a, you know, a fuller cart." (wink wink)
"Oh yes certainly sir, what's the password?"
"The seagulls fly high when the curly haired dog cock's it's leg on the peach tree."
"Very good sir here you are. Please keep it in the brown paper bag."

"But! You gave him a colour chart!"
"Yes sir, he knew the password."
"But I know the password."
"Ok what is it?"
"The seagulls fly high when the curly haired dog cock's it's leg on the peach tree."
"You just overheard him say that didn't you?"
"No I didn't."
"Yes you did."
"I didn't."
"You didn't know the password before your heard him say it."
"Yes I did."
"No you didn't. I'd better call security."

He pressed a hidden button under the desk. An imposing man wearing sunglasses and a moustache came over. He was dressed in navy blue fatigues and ankle boots and had a rather large boy scout knife tucked into his belt. I couldn't help noticing the attractive filigree carved into the knife handle and the ubiquitous presence of that essential tool for removing stones from horses hooves.

“Can I help you sir?”
"All I want is a colour chart."
"Shhh not so loud, we'll discuss this in private. Can you come along with me........." (Exit paint shop left)

We entered a small office built into the wall. I noticed the one way mirror with a well positioned view of the paint sales area.

"Now sir, what's this all about?"
"All I want to do is to buy some paint."
"But you asked for a colour chart."
"Well yes I did."
"Can I ask what you want it for?"
"This is ridiculous, all I want is to paint my living room."
"How do I know you want to paint your living room?"
"How do I know that you don't have a more sinister motive."
"You may be one of them."
"We keep our colours strictly secret."
"You are starting to sound like a parrot sir."
"Oh am I, Sorry."

"Are you a member of a clandestine organisation?"
"A what?"
"You are not from the CIA?"
"The CIA?"
"The Colour Intelligence Agents."
“The what? What are you talking about?”
"So you are not a member of an international spy ring trying to steal our colours?"
"Why would I want to steal your colours? All I want is a colour chart so I can buy some paint for my living room."
"We have to keep our colours secret, you know."
"Yes you said, why?"
“It's the law of the jungle in the paint business these days. There are people out there that want to steal our colours. They are very well organised and often involve international paint colour espionage groups. We spend a lot of money on research. Only a few weeks ago we invented a wonderful new colour no-one had ever seen before only to find someone copied it. The Americans have started selling them you know.”
“All I want is a colour chart.”
“Have you thought of using wallpaper?”

If, eventually, you tap into your network of friends in high places or you part with a suitable 'contribution' and you do actually manage to get your hands on a colour chart you may eventually get to the stage of being ready to paint your walls. Here are some things you may wish to consider:

Steps to take for selecting a colour and getting a good paint job

1. If you are covering a dark colour with a light colour or vice versa you may need several coats of paint to stop the original colour showing through.

2. Selecting colours can be difficult. A small patch on a colour chart (if you can manage to get one) looks very different when you have a whole wall painted. Often what appears a fairly light colour can look a lot darker when you have a whole wall painted. It is a good idea to tend towards a lighter shade of the colour and it is a really good idea to get a sample area painted before painting the whole house.

The same colour can also look very different when it is placed next to other colours or has other colours reflecting from it. If you paint around a corner you may find the two sides look totally different because of reflected light. It can also look very different in daylight compared to under nighttime lighting. It's a good idea to bear this in mind when selecting colours.

3. Surface preparation is very important and is often takes more work than the painting itself. Remove all screws and nails and fill the holes and any cracks with a suitable filler. Sand back any filled areas, rough patches or protrusions to get the surface smooth. Pay particular attention to the edges. If there are cracks between the wall and window and door frames filling these will make a huge difference to the final appearance.

4. Surfaces need to be clean and dry before painting. If you paint over damp patches the dampness will show through. Preferably you should get the wall dry. If this is not possible you may be able to paint the damp patches with a waterproof primer. Note that walls need to breathe so that any moisture that gets in can evaporate out and allow the wall dry out. It is not a good idea to paint a whole wall with waterproof primer unless the wall can breathe on the other side.

5. If paint is peeling off a wall you must remove the old paint before repainting the wall, the new paint will only stick to the wall as well as the weakest paint layer.

6. Water based paints such as acrylic paint will not go over oil based paint such as enamel paint or varnish. It doesn't adhere to the oily surface. It is best to remove the oil based paint first and that can be a difficult job. You may get away with a very good sandpapering to remove the shiny surface, paint sticks far better to a rough surface.

7. Always use good quality paint. It will stick better, it will be easier to apply, will cover better and give you a good hard wearing surface that is washable. Lower priced paints tend to look rather like the whitewash of old, they don't wear well and generally are not very washable.

8. Good quality paints generally should not be watered down more than around 10%. Contractors often water paint down to make it cover more area and reduce costs. Note that a first coat may be watered down on purpose to help it to soak in and key to the surface.

9. Pay particular attention to the edges. Good edges make a huge difference to the final appearance. Use a small brush for doing the edges.

With painting work you get what you pay for

And finally remember that you get what you pay for, you may manage to negotiate a very low price for your painting only to find later that no surface preparation was done, you only got 2 coats of paint or the paint has been watered down or mixed with a cheaper paint.

Properly applied good quality paint should give you a good cohesive smooth surface. If you wipe the surface with your hand and paint comes off as a powder this is a sign that the paint has been watered down too much and the paint polymers have broken down.

If you can't get hold of a colour chart, you can always use white. “Now which colour of white would you like sir!”

Copyright © Phil Wilson 2011
This article or any part of it cannot be copied or reproduced without permission from the copyright owner.