I’ve Worked in Paint Stores for 20 Years—These Are the 8 Questions I’m Asked the Most
And my answers, of course.
Published Jun 5, 2023 2:00 AM
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Having worked in paint stores for the past 20 years, Frank Vega, now a manager at Waldwick Paint & Wallpaper in Waldwick, New Jersey, doesn’t get frazzled by the 30-plus questions he gets asked on a daily basis—like those from moms deciding on finishes for their kids’ bedroom walls and from new homeowners trying to maximize their renovation budgets. “I’m part teacher, part interior decorator, part therapist,” says Vega, laughing.
Ahead, the pro reveals the eight questions he’s asked on repeat, and some of his answers might surprise you (including the one place in your house where it’s okay to use cheap paint!).
Can you clean a used paint-roller cover?
No one can blame you for throwing away a roller cover after a long day of working (who wants to deal with a big sponge dripping on their nice floors?). But if you’re covering a lot of space, purchasing multiple covers can eat away at your budget (a quality one can run you around $7). A roller cover made of microfibers or lambswool is designed to be reused and withstand up to five cleanings. To extend its life, follow Vega’s simple cleaning tips: “Scrape off any excess paint with a curved knife, then rub whatever paint is left on the fabric onto a piece of cardboard. Remove it from its frame (throwing on a pair of rubber gloves is a good idea here), and drop both the roller cover and the roller frame into a bucket filled with hot water and a few drops of dish soap. Squeeze the residue off with your hands, then rinse it until the water runs clear. Stand it up to dry so no one side flattens before storing it in a Ziploc bag,” he says. Take a still brush and scrub off any paint on the frame. Once it begins to lose its fluff or it leaves a textured pattern on your walls, you’ll know it’s time to toss it.
Should trim always be painted in a semigloss?
Semigloss has been the classic go-to trim finish for decades. “And there’s nothing wrong with that; it gives you a smooth, washable, and durable finish,” Vega says. “But these days, we’re noticing a trend toward a satin finish on trim because it has a lower, softer sheen and doesn’t pop as much.” In general, the higher the sheen, the easier it is to clean, yet according to Vega, you’d be hard-pressed to see a difference between satin and semigloss in a scrub test. “Yet a semigloss film will hold up better to impacts and abrasions, like when you bump into your trim with your vacuum cleaner,” he says. “If you don’t want it to stand out at all, try a matte finish, which will give the trim a powderlike look.”
Is premium paint worth the price tag?
The sticker price of paint has a lot to do with its chemical makeup. Premium cans contain a higher concentration of pigments and binders, along with more resins, making for a smoother application with less drag. And anyone who’s recently shopped for premium paint knows how expensive it has become over the past few years, with a gallon now costing $50 and up, making it all the more tempting to reach for a cheaper option. But don’t.
“A more expensive gallon can actually save money and time in the long run by providing the coverage of two to three gallons of cheap paint, especially if you’re trying to cover a bright or dark-colored wall,” he notes. Need a few more reasons to skip the bargain stuff? It fades faster and can leave burnish marks. “Simply rubbing against a wall with a gym bag can leave a mark that just won’t wash off,” adds Vega. All that said, there are some places where a low-cost paint ($15 to $20 per gallon) makes sense, like on a ceiling or in a rental when you want to do a quick refresh before moving in.
Why does the tape keep pulling the paint off my walls and trim?
We’ve all been there: You spend an entire weekend transforming a room only to pull off the tape and watch in disbelief as the paint peels off with it. Odds are, it’s because you used the wrong type of tape. Vega’s recommendation? A safe-release, low-tack tape that doesn’t have a superstrong bond. “One that comes with an additive that gels up along the tape’s edge to prevent paint from bleeding under, giving you a crisper line,” he explains. Vega also advises scraping along the tape’s edge with an expired credit card to ensure the seal is tight.
Your problem could also be that the room is too hot (you’ll notice the tape getting sticky and difficult to remove) or too cold (everything will become brittle, leaving little blue remnants behind). “Your room temperature should be between 40 and 85 degrees [Fahrenheit],” advises Vega. “Remove the tape when the film is still a bit wet, right after you’re done.”
What should I do with leftover paint, and how can I keep it in good shape?
It’s smart to keep a little extra paint for touch-ups and unforeseen circumstances, but you don’t want to store gallons upon gallons in your house, so it’s best to purchase only what you need. To determine how much that may be, start by multiplying the height and width of a wall to get the square footage, then times that by how many walls you want to cover. Now multiply the total square feet by the amount of coats you’re applying, keeping in mind that a gallon of quality paint covers around 350 square feet. (Be sure to take into account doors and windows, as that will reduce the area of wall coverage.)
If you still make the mistake of overpurchasing, the most efficient way to deal with leftovers is to use it up—roll an extra coat onto your walls, upcycle some furniture, contact a local school’s theater department, or donate to Habitat for Humanity. Returning is also an option. “I’ll always take back unopened products that are premade at the factory, such as primer, ceiling, and trim paint,” says Vega. “But I can’t accept anything that’s been custom blended.”
With proper storage, paint can last up to five years. “If your paint has a sour smell or a lumpy consistency, toss it,” he says. Never stockpile paint in a garage, where it’s likely to freeze. Also, consider the size of your storage container. “Let’s say you use up a half gallon of paint. That leaves you with a half gallon of air,” says Vega. “That air will create a layer of ‘skin’, essentially a dried layer of paint that has infiltrated your liquid paint, making it chunky and no longer ideal for painting.” Many stores sell empty quart cans, or you can keep excess material in an airtight jar or Tupperware.
As for recycling, different laws apply depending on where you live. Check your town or city’s website for disposal options, or type in your zip code at earth911.com to locate recycling stations near you.
Is an all-in-one paint and primer really necessary?
As a thicker-bodied paint, an all-in-one paint and primer does a better job at covering colors than the regular stuff, and because it features a little more binder, you’ll get better adhesion. “It works best with a minor to moderate color change or no change at all,” says Vega. But there are times when this combo is not the best pick, like if you’re swathing new drywall or bare wood. “In these situations, you’ll want to use a separate primer that will soak in and seal the surface, so you won’t run into any issues like flashing, where the paint soaks in unevenly, creating both shiny and dull spots,” he adds.
What’s the difference between a satin and eggshell finish?
Put simply, what makes them different is their level of sheen and durability. “Satin has a higher luster, so it will be glossier. It’s also better at resisting stains and scuff marks and will be easier to clean,” says Vega. The caveat? It will require more preparation, as any imperfections are easy to spot. “Eggshell’s lower sheen is akin to that of an eggshell and will mask blemishes better,” notes Vega. “It’s a popular choice for families with small kids, because like satin, it’s washable, and despite its lower level of luster, it still reflects light.”
Vega admits his favorite finish for walls is actually matte: You can barely tell the difference between it and a flat treatment when they’re right next to each other, plus it is scrubbable and masks a lot of blemishes.
Are more expensive paintbrushes worth the money?
In general, the benefits of a premium brush outweigh the additional cost. “I’ve seen synthetic brushes sell for as little as 89 cents,” says Vega. laughing. “Let’s just say the only thing they’re good for is a kid’s craft project.” Pricier brushes are made of a natural or a blend of natural and synthetic fibers and come with a higher bristle count and a paint-holding reservoir so you’re not dipping into the can as often. To make your top-notch tools last, rake the paint off as soon as your job is complete using a brush comb, then wash the bristles, the metal ferrule, and the handle in a few drops of dish soap and warm water before rinsing. Spin the filaments between your hands to remove as much water as possible, then hang and dry your brush with the bristles down and store it in the cardboard packaging it came in to retain its shape.
As for Vega, he says that the only bad question is the one that remains unasked. “I’m still learning stuff about paint after 20-plus years in the industry!” he says. Have your own inquiry for the pro? Vega is happy to help—simply DM him on his shop’s Facebook page and let the color journey begin.