How to fix cracks in walls and ceilings before they are painted.
Old builders say that you should only worry about cracks you can fit your hand into. But old PAINTERS have a different point of view. We HATE cracks. And a huge part of our job is filling them.
I see a lot of wall and ceiling cracks in the older Victorian and Federation homes so popular in Mosman and the Lower North Shore. But perhaps surprisingly I see a lot of cracks in quite modern homes too. Its very important to fix these cracks before you paint your home.
Ceilings - plaster and lath - Wet plaster was originally squeezed over and between thin timber slats creating a smooth but strong surface. Over time age or movement cracks the plaster.
Falling Chunks - If the damage is very bad and the plaster is unstable and falling off then a specialist trade plasterer will be needed. He will remove all unstable plaster and re apply new wet plaster. This is a complex, messy and expensive process but done properly will last another 100 years. Oh, and it will still need to be painted.
Stable but cracked – Usually plaster and lath ceilings hold on pretty well but over time begin to crack into separate but stable sections. These cracks should be repaired as they look bad and gradually get worse.
Wall Cracks – The internal walls of old Sydney homes are nearly always masonry (brick, concrete, stone, rubble!) covered in a cement render, which is in turn covered in wet plaster. Wall cracks occur when your home moves slightly on its foundations. Sometimes the soil under your home shrinks and expands with natural water and weather. Sometimes there is a problem that needs to be fixed such as a broken pipe. Cracks also often appear after renovations, jack hammering, and adjacent tile removal.
Ceiling and Wall cracks – The ceiling AND walls of modern homes are nearly all lined in drywall or Gyproc sheeting. This material is very smooth, cheap and fast to install. It is used in the cheapest and most expensive homes. Almost anyone can attach the sheets but ‘setting’ or plastering the joins is a specialised trade.
The cracks that appear in drywall are usually above doors and anywhere where small sections are butt joined together. Foundation movement can also create cracks.
For old and new homes and ceiling and wall repair, the crack repair process is the same. It takes a few days but is very effective.
1. First any loose plaster in the crack should be scraped out.
2. Then all loose paint must be removed. Often a small peel or crack will give way to huge sheets of old paint that easily peel of.
3. Usually after the loose paint is removed a layer of fine dust remains. This must be vacuumed or washed off.
4. Once done I like to paint the damaged area with a sealer such as Peel Stop. This sealer binds any remaining dust, seeps under the sound paint edge, and also seeps into the crack to start the repair.
5. Next if the crack is wider than 1mm it should be filled with No More Gaps, which acts as a filler and additional adhesive.
6. Then a strip of Drywall Tape and plaster compound is applied. There are 3 kinds of tape – paper, fibreglass mesh and fibreglass mat (I prefer fibreglass mat). These tapes are designed to join and smooth modern Gyproc or Drywall sheets but make perfect ‘bandages’ for crack repair. The Tape + Compound patch must be left 24 hours to completely dry and cure.
7/8. The Tape will still be visible so 2 more coats of compound have to be applied, again waiting 12 hours between each coat. If the crack is part of a ‘crater’ left by removing old paint this crater should be skimmed and smoothed with compound at the same time.
9. Getting a perfect smooth finish can be quite hard. The best way is to gradually build up 3 thin layers waiting 12 hours each time. When the final layer is cured it can be smoothed by a. a quick scrape of flat edged tool, b. sanding, or c. wiping with a slightly dampened cloth.
10. The whole smooth repair is painted with another coat of Peel Bond. It is very important to seal the plaster. If regular paint is applied over raw plaster compound the paint will fail within a few months.
11/12/13. At least two coats of good quality paint should be applied over the repair. Sometimes a third coat is necessary because repair shows through.
Cornice is the plaster moulding that covers and decorates where the wall joins the ceiling. With the movements discussed above, the join can often crack.
Cornice cracks are nearly always between cornice and ceiling or between cornice and wall and are therefore concave or internal, rather than the flat surfaces of walls or ceilings.
Concave repairs are best done with a product called No More Gaps. No More Gaps (or its equivalent made by other manufacturers) is squeezed out of a tube or caulking gun, a bit like toothpaste. It is then smoothed with a wet rag. It has the benefits of being fast drying, flexible, paintable and a pretty decent adhesive. BUT it shrinks! So its fine for concave repairs but on any smooth surface it sinks as it dries.
So that’s how you repair a cracked ceiling or wall. Just remember that a small crack or paint peel may reveal a much larger crack under the loose paint.
With the right materials, process and patience, an ugly crack can be banished for many years to come.
THE AD – The Tidy Painter is and expert at crack repair and the following paint work. If you have cracked ceilings or walls, and live in Mosman or The Lower North Shore of Sydney and need them repaired, lets talk about a quote. - CLICK HERE
How long does it take to paint a unit or house interior?
Have you ever had a go at painting a house or even just a room? Takes forever doesn’t it? Even we professionals (with all the tools, materials and experience) take a long time to paint home interiors.
I measure that time in ‘man-days’ (even though most of my assistants are women!) So me painting for 5 days is 5 man-days. Me PLUS one assistant painting for 5 days is 10 man days.
AGE OF YOUR HOME
As I bang on about all over this website, age of home, and therefore detail of home is the HUGE differentiator, as is surface condition.
Older homes (both units and houses) are usually much more detailed. Think, panel doors, wooden windows, detailed skirting boards, picture rails, higher and moulded ceilings, and sometimes moulded plaster arches in the hallway.
This extra detail takes extra time and costs extra money.
Everything is planer and flatter and therefore easier and faster to prep and paint.
Interestingly, ALL ages of home have about the same amount of general damage that must be properly repaired before painting starts. The problems are different but both old and new units and houses have just as many problems.
So depending on age and condition:
A 4 Bedroom, 2 bathroom home should take between 30 and 40 man-days (or 6 to 8 weeks alone – less with a helper).
A 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom unit should take between 10 and 15 man-days (or 2 to 3 weeks alone - less with a helper).
TIMING - RULE OF THUMB
A good rule of thumb is for every $5000 quoted you SHOULD get about 10 man-days (after materials and GST is taken out).
This helps when comparing quotes too. A $10,000 quote will mean one painter will work on your home for 20 days, while it’s competitive quote of $8000 will mean one painter will work for only 16 days. (Hmmm. I wonder what he will leave out?)
To find out what interior painting COSTS CLICK HERE.
1. State your budget before the quote
Hardly anyone does this (although everyone decides after getting the quote if its above or below their budget!). But, hey, you never know. The timing, length of job, location, whatever, might be just right for your painter. They might have a slow period that your lower priced job could slot into.
2. Negotiate after the quote.
And hardly anyone does this either!
The important thing is not to ask for the same work for less money.
If the quote is higher than you can afford, just ask what would need to change to make it cheaper.
You might be surprised. Maybe leaving out a small but fiddly part could save the painter time and you money. I know only painting the walls and not the trim will save a lot of money.
3. Break it up.
Painting every room inside can be expensive and take ages. A lot of my clients have me in to do say 3 or 4 rooms one time then come back a few months/years later.
- Go away.
I mean on a holiday. It saves time and money to leave the bedroom fully covered in dropsheets over the 3 to 4 days needed to paint a bedroom. Being absent also gives opportunity for we painters to work on the weekends.
4. Empty the house.
Not usually practical, but if you’re planning to refinish your timber floors or are just about to move into a new house, emptiness is next to Godliness. BUT plan ahead!!! I’ve had to turn down far too many people who want me to paint their 4 bedroom home next week (and only take a week).
5. Be flexible on timing.
Either wait for the good people to be free (they are usually booked up months in advance) or if you have a smallish job, wait for a gap in bigger bookings. I had one nice man wait months for me to have a gap to do a 3 day job.
6. Keep the colour scheme simple.
White ceilings, white trim and one wall colour is a standard palette. Lots of different coloured room looks great but will cost more.
Also going from an old dark wall colour to a new light wall colour will require either a third coat or an additional undercoat. That’s more money.
7. Don’t choose the cheapest quote.
What? Who? How does that save money I hear you ask. Simples. The cheapest quote will almost certainly have the worst (or non existent preparation) and as such will fail much faster and need to redone much sooner.
True story: I have spent the last 3 days scraping and sanding a bad Acrylic paint job over Oil – a front door and 2 windows. There was no sanding, no primer, no nothing, so the Acryic paint didn’t grip. You could peel the paint off with your fingernails!!!! So now the client pays me say $1500 to fix up a $100 ‘el-cheapo’ job. That’s $1600 by going cheap instead of $500 to do it properly in the first place.
I believe they call that a false economy.
What does NOT save you money?
8. Buying your own paint.
Paint (and tape, brushes, everything) makes up about 10% of the total quote. Most painters get a small discount and either mark back up to retail or pass the saving on to you. Sooooo you buying at retail price is just a damned nuisance for you and doesn’t save a penny. Don’t bother.
Seriously a lot of guys will walk if you offer to help them.
Firstly there are insurance issues. Secondly painting may look easy-peasy but its not. Thirdly your helping will slow the process and therefore cost more.
The only help that might actually help is for you to do the prep. BEFORE the painters arrive. Sanding and scrubbing with sugar soap is grubby and time consuming. So if you are prepared to do that part you could save a lot!!!
Ok. Hope that helps.
Now, if you want to know what it costs to paint a unit or house interior CLICK HERE.
We’d all like to live in a world where ALL tradesmen (and tradeswomen) were super-professional and keen to earn our dollar. But sadly this is often not the case.
Some tradies (just like any other occupation) are just duds. They hate their job and should have left years ago. You definitely don’t want them.
Some are good at the craft/skill/trade, but are hopeless at calendars, deadlines, time management, and communication. You probably don’t want them either.
And some are intelligent, skilled, organised, polite, professional people. Those are the ones you want, right? But heres the rub. The good ones are rare and in high demand.
So it should come as no surprise that to catch a good tradie you may have to dig a bit more, pay a bit more and wait a bit longer. But I can almost guarantee you wont end up sobbing on A Current Affair.
(Here, I’m mostly talking about home improvement guys - builders, painters, landscapers, bathroom and kitchen renovators and the like) rather than emergency guys - plumbers, electricians etc.)
- Do get references, from Google, Websites, Friends, or Facebook community groups. Try to only call a tradie when you have at least one reference.
- Do check out the tradie’s website. Look through it and get an idea of what they do and who their customers are.
- Don’t look for generalists. You need a specialist. Wrong - “I need a painter.” Right – “I need a painter who specialises in strata work and has done buildings similar to my unit block.”
The initial phone call
- Do leave a phone message. A drag I know, but good tradies have their hands full but will call you back. The ones that don’t call back are either far too busy or are disorganised. Either way, you’ve avoided exactly who you want to avoid!
- Do try to be clear about what you want. Leaving a message that says “Can you call me about some painting” will never get the response of “We need walls, ceilings, and trim painted for 4 bedrooms, a hall, and a bathroom.”
- Don’t say your job is small or won’t take long. All that tells us is you don’t plan to spend much money - whether the job is indeed small or is actually more complicated than it looks.
- Do ask if what you need is what the tradie can help you with, and when he would be free to start.
- Do get your story straight with your husband/wife/partner. Being the bystander in a domestic dispute is awkward and tells me this job could collapse at any time.
- Do take your time showing the tradie what needs to be done. Then leave him alone to measure up and get a good understanding of your home.
- Do follow your gut – ladies I’m talking to you. How does he look? Is he on time? Does he listen? Does he have ideas? If you have ANY uncomfortable feelings cross that tradie off your list.
- Do ask when you can expect the quote, how long the job will take and when is the tradie is free to start.
- Do get 2 quotes but make sure they are for exactly the same work and materials.
- Do read every part of the quote when it arrives. You need to be very clear about what you are getting. Some quotes have tiny extras sections that could add thousand to the final price. Some seem nice and cheap but have left out essential preparation or other tasks.
- Don’t just think about the price. Within reason, choose the tradie that you think will give you the best job and the best experience while he’s doing it. Is he keen? Is he polite? Will his process be disruptive?
- Do contact some past clients and see what they say. Seriously hardly anyone does this!
- Do respond to the quote. Yes – call and agree a start time. No – email thanks but no thanks. Maybe – call or email asking how a saving could be made.
And that’s it!
If you follow these do’s and don’ts you have a very good chance of success -not guaranteed, but very good. Good Luck!
Another small hardware store on my circuit has closed – Pyrmont this time.
While the big guy – Bunnings (RIP Masters) is very good at what it does, a good, local hardware deserves to be supported.
Need a few nails or a small can of paint? Try Ewens Hardware in Mosman.
(They are part of Thrifty Link group)
Visiting Ewens is like stepping back in time. Small items are hung on every available surface. The guys are very helpful too. AND they can mix paint with the best of them – using a space about as big as a phone booth.
Have a look and remember to support Ewens here:
Colours are personal. Some you like. Some you hate. And some … you’re just not quite sure about.
I’ve found nearly all of my clients in the last camp. Just not sure.
So here’s some simple ideas to make the whole process of colour selection a bit easier.
1. If you’re in a hurry just do this.
Paint your walls with Dulux ‘Antique White USA’. (Also paint trim Semi Gloss White and ceiling, Flat white.)
I’m not trying to be funny. This combo works for almost any décor (or lack of).
Antique White USA is a super-colour. It works in old and new homes, dark or light. The reason I think is that it’s a pretty near perfect mix of tint colours.
It is mostly white then a bit of ochre to make it creamy. Then a tiny bit of red to make it warm. Then an even tinier bit of black to calm it all down and stop it from going ‘buttery’. The end result is a neutral that is very … neutral. It’s not as severe as plain white but not as intense as many creams and beiges.
Also It hides dirt so is good for rentals or kids.
Antique White USA is very popular and is even premixed at the paint store.
But, if you want something a little less common …
2. Steal. Or rather be inspired by other people. One client liked a bathroom in the Dulux catalogue and had the whole thing copied: lights, enamelware, tiles and paint. Worked a treat, because a clever designer had already designed it for Dulux.
Another way to steal is find inspiration in magazines and the interweb. Rip our magazine pages you like or save images on the computer. If you go to paint manufacturers/retailers sites like these ones you can get heaps of ideas AND he exact name of the colour you like.
3. Go grey! Grey is the very popular NOW colour for walls. Everything from ‘almost black’ to ‘hardly grey at all’. The key with getting a good grey is to make sure it is a bit warm rather than too cool. Too cool a grey often looks light blue when its up. A warmer toned grey (sometimes called Greige. Haha) usually sits better with your furnishings. Some folks like to go very dark which I like . But most are happy with quite a light grey, which is still noticeably ‘not white’. There will be some examples in the links above.
4a. DIY colour selection. Grab some colour chips from the paint store and take home. Hold each one against the BIGGEST coloured thing in each room. In the lounge it’s usually the couches. In the bedrooms it’s your favourite doona cover.
Now each of these large items will have an –ish to them. By that I mean your neutral sand coloured couch may be a bit green-ish. Or your grey bedspread may be blue-ish. The trick is to find a wall colour that is similarly green-ish or blue-ish. I don’t mean the walls should be the same colour but should be in the same family. Yuck combinations arise when the –ish is ignored.
4b. DIY colour selection. Start with a favourite Persian rug or big painting or whatever else will be in the room. Take one of the colours in the rug/painting/whatever and duplicate that colour for your walls. Usually it’s a neutral colour but it doesn’t have to be.
5. Go Pro. Hire a professional colourist. They start at about $400 for an hour consultation and follow up boards to try around the house. Well worth it if you want something a bit different from the ideas above, or different to what you would do on your own. Also colour professionals will be able to work with your existing furnishings, natural light, personality, and architecture.
Mrs Jones asks 2 different painters to submit a quote to paint the interior of her home. When both quotes arrive she is shocked to see that Joe’s quote is nearly twice as high as Sam’s quote. What a rip off! That Joe is charging Mosman prices, the dirty rat-bag!
What Mrs Jones doesn’t realise is that Joe is taking his time to provide a paint job will look great and last a long time. Also Joe's paint will only go where it's meant to.
By contrast Sam will rush through in half the time, providing a top coat (and very little else), and a general mess.
So the cheap job, will be badly done AND cost more on an hourly basis.
I’ve made a table that shows the parts of the paint job that Joe will do compared with what Sam will do. Or put another way, what SHOULD BE DONE verses what CAN BE GOTTEN AWAY WITH.
Most talk about paint revolves around the latest colours or the best brands.
But the place where appearance meets functionality (when it comes to paint) is finish.
Paint finish is another way of saying paint shiny-ness. And there are good reasons to choose the right shiny-ness for each surface inside your home.
Nearly all ceilings are painted in a Flat or Matt finish. The main advantage of Flat paint is that it doesn’t reflect. So light fittings illuminate the room below and don’t create any distracting shapes on the ceiling. Also until recently ceilings in old houses were a bit flimsy and prone to cracking. A flat paint hides minor imperfections very well.
In the USA it is not uncommon to use a flat paint finish on walls. I tried this myself on an investment property I own. It looked great and hid centuries of patching and plastering. BUT … when my dear tenants wiped the marks and scuffs on said wall, the wiping left lots of visible swirls and scrub marks, which is why nearly all Aussie walls are painted in … Low Sheen finish.
Low Sheen is a tiny bit shiny. Dulux have a range of Low Sheen wall paints the best of which is ‘Wash and Wear’. Taubmans’ low sheen range is lead by ‘Endure’.
Choice did a side by side comparison of various Low Sheen wall paints and found that most were pretty much similar EXCEPT when it came to scrub-ability. Cheap Low Sheen paint literally comes off when you wipe or scrub it. Expensive stuff doesn’t.
TRIM (DOORS, WINDOWS, SKIRTING BOARDS, PICTURE RAILS)
Trim has a hard life. It suffers constant bumping and knocking so needs to be resilient and tough. Traditionally a High Gloss Finish has been used to paint trim. But high gloss can look a bit ‘syrupy’, especially on old surfaces that are not completely smooth. A more contemporary finish is ‘Semi Gloss’. It’s shinier than the Low Sheen walls but hides some imperfections and just looks more up to date.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE USUAL
There are some exceptions to these 'rules', mainly in very wet rooms (bathroom or laundry) or greasy rooms (kitchens).
Bathrooms and laundries can fight mould much better if both ceilings and walls are painted in Low Sheen or even Semi Gloss. The mould has more difficulty taking root on these smoother surfaces.
In even the cleanest kitchens a thin layer of oil builds up on the walls and it soaks into the ceiling. Over time this spoils the appearance (unless you like the 'Heavy Smoker House' look). So when it comes time for a good scrub, a slightly shinier surface can make the job easier.
Having said that ... the 3 finishes are standard for the good reasons outlined above, but really you can do anything you jolly well want when it comes to finishes. A bold, decorator statement can sometimes be more important than super-longevity.
A Low Sheen ceiling could work if you want an exact match with your walls. Super High Gloss new doors could look great in say black. And walls that don't get many sticky fingers would look nice in a matt finish.
Interior painting is not like other trades.
When you hire other trades you look at references; you look at ability to do the job; you look at the price.
But with interior painting there is a fourth aspect that’s unique to interior painting and That’s one of trust.
Because you’re letting people you don’t know into your home!
You’re handing over the front door key for weeks on end.
You know that this is the person doing the job will be in your bedroom; in your bathroom; your kids bedrooms; all through the house while you’re at work.
So it’s absolutely vital that you have trust in this person that’s why it’s absolutely vital that you MEET the person who will be doing your painting job.
Many larger painting companies sub contract the job itself out, so the person you meet at the initial meeting may be loveliest person in the world, but they won’t be doing the painting.
They’re the estimator, or the salesperson, and they sell you the job then they move onto the next one.
They sub contract the the actual task (painting your home) out to subcontractors and if one of those painters or groups of painters is unavailable they just find another one.
The day that your painting project starts a stranger turns up at your front door and you give them the key and away they go.
That’s why it’s so important that when you get a quote from a painter (whether it’s me with somebody else) you meet the person is going to be in your house for weeks on end.
You need to be comfortable with the guy getting his hands dirty and his team.
So sure have a look at their work make sure the painting company has done something similar to your home already.
Look at their reviews online make sure that other people think they’re pretty good. Look at their costs and make sure they’re fair.
They should be not so high that you feel as though you’re being ripped off, but not so low that you feel as though they have to rush the job and can’t fix any contingencies that may arise.
These are all important factors when choosing a painter, but at the end of the day, probably the MOST important part of choosing a painter is if you can TRUST THAT PERSON IN YOUR HOME.
You are welcome to use my blog posts - in their entirety or as "quotes".