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Putting on the top coat
By Ray Lewhite

For a superior long-lasting finish follow the expert advice.
In the two previous articles on the subject of exterior painting I have dealt with priming and preparation and the points requiring emphasis about undercoats. We now come to the final application. At this stage the really hard and dirty is behind us and the gratifying results of a job well done atre in sight. All the more reason at this stage not to neglect the proper painting procedure in order to see the job finished just that little bit earlier.
Most readers will know that paint should never be applied on to a wet surface or in weather which is liable to turn very frosty overnight. Whilst it is true ideally the weather for painting should be dry, not too dusty, not too hot and not too cold of course not actually raining, it is also true that such an ideal combination seldom occurs in this country. So we must aim at doing just so much of the work as can be reasonably assumed to be within limits available. If the weather changes the painting can be stopped.


Affect of rain

How to apply the top coat
Providing that paint has been applied to a dry surface and is of a reasonably quick-setting type the onset of rain sometime after painting a part of the house woodwork will not seriously impair either the drying of the paint or the durability of the film as part of the paint system.
Driving rain, directly onto the woodwork just painted, could be serious as there would be small rain spot craters formed and these might result in the paint film lacking cohesion. If this does happen at any time allow the affected part ample time to dry really hard and then rub down and re-coat.
For the best results in exterior painting one should not adhere too rigidly to "a number of coats" specification. One of the advantages of doing painting work yourself is that the single biggest item of expense is being taken care of, namely the labour costs, and the cost to the home painter of applying an extra coat in the interest of longer paint life is not very great, especially if there is paint to spare. Better for the extra paint to be on the woodwork than forming a skin in the tins
If time is tight at the moment of doing the work I would suggest that any extra coats considered necessary should be given to the upper windows and woodwork whilst the ladders and tackle are being used. Lower parts of the woodwork could be re-coated from step-ladders at any time. There is little risk that the extra coats upstairs with a better finish resulting will show up the lower woodwork without the extra coat or coats. The difference in elevation, angle of light etc., will normally take care of this aspect.


Number of coats

How to apply the top coat
There is really no limit to the number of coats of paint which can be applied to woodwork providing always that the adhesion is good and this depends on the preparation given at the bare wood stage. This means that in subsequent years, if the paint is sound and shows no cracks, crazing effect or actual peeling, a rubbing down can be followed with undercoats and gloss coats again with only a part of labour and time being necessary as distinct from the time needed when the paint has been stripped to the bare wood.
The fact that gloss enamel paints, hard gloss paints etc., are in themselves capable of giving both protection and decoration is usually all that is needed in making house woodwork decorative and durable.
The advances in paint technology are such that one paint coat can now combine the virtues of what at one time would have had to be at least a coat of colour and a coat of varnish. This may leave one to assume that either varnishing is out of fashion or no longer necessary. Both assumptions are true to a degree but there is a case for varnishing in house painting and I am often asked about the times when varnishing is necessary. I will deal with the subject of varnishing in a further article.
Because of the self leveling properties of gloss enamel paints brush marks will present no problem and if, when the work is finished and dry, you do see brush marks you can be sure they are in the undercoats. Also because of the apparent ease of application of gloss paints there is a risk of runs and sags until one has mastered the craft of brushwork.
The feel of the paint under the brush can tell the practiced hand all he wants to know about how much he can safely apply and of course, whether or not he has hispaint at the right viscosity. The beginner is at a obvious disadvantage and should proceed with caution. Dealing with the painting procedure right from the start, first of all the brushes needed. For finishing coats use old brushes well "broken in." New brushes will not give that good finish required and old ones preferably those which have been used on quiet rough work, will be better.
Two brushes will do most of the work required on a normal sized house, a one inch and a two-and-a-half-inch or three inch. Anything smaller than a 1 inch. is seldom needed even for "cutting in" as a well worn larger brush will do the work successfully if properly used.
As we are as much concerned with the long life of paint applied to house woodwork as we are with the appearance of the work it will be easily understood that a smooth even paint film stands a much better chance of shedding rain and not allowing dirt to adhere than a rough uneven film.
Thus it will be seen that even on exterior work it is worthwhile to make some attempt at getting a clean even coat of paint at the last stages of the job. It is true that the weather may prevent one from making such a good job as may be possible indoors but a good start in the right direction can go a long way towards success.
A good start consists of a method of working and in not neglecting things which, although time consuming are nevertheless important. These include such things as proper stirring of the paint, straining of the paint into a clean kettle or other handy container. Paint should never be used directly from the makers tin as some contamination in the way of dirt and grit picked up from the work is bound to find its way into the paint and there is no point in contaminating all the paint at once. Also if paint is used directly from the tin one is obliged to thin the lot rather than what is needed at the time.


Strain old paint

How to apply the top coat
On exterior work there is no need to strain new paint but paint previously used should be strained to eliminate skins and dirt. The correct procedure is to stir well-taking off any skins which may be on the top of the paint-then to pour some of the paint into a container large enough to hold all you are likely to want and still leave room for some thinner.
Thin to what you think is the right viscosity, and test on a old board. Finally strain through old silk or nylon stocking into another clean container
Paint kettles with handles will last for a long time if burned out after use. The writer prefers what is known as a hand pot, this is simply a pot with a handle at the side instead of at the top bucket fashion. In fact enamelled pint mugs are ideal as being smooth, they can be wiped out clean after use with white spirit. It is a matter of preference and position of working. For example on ladder work a normal type kettle with bucket type handle might be better for most people as this can be suspended from a hook whilst in use.
Watch a methodical painter prepare for the job. He lays out his tackle and paint on a bench first, then he does all the stirring and straining as mentioned previously and does not forget to wipe his stirring stick with the inch brush both to save paint and to avoid undue mess. Finally he will see that his paint kettle is quiet clean and will carefully pour paint from the container into which it was strained after, mixing into his kettle, seeing that non spills on to the sides. He is then ready to start the job, having disposed of the straining cloth and replaced the lid on the paint.


Keep surfaces clean

How to apply the top coat
If care is taken with the preparation of the paint in readiness for application then the chances of getting a clean job are so much improved. We must now see to it that the work surfaces themselves are clean. Remove all dirt with a soft brush and not with rags which are a source of paint contamination with there little fine threads and fluff unless a special "tacky" rag is used.
Method is needed also in the order in which individual parts are tackled. In painting a window frame for instance one should work from the centre outwards ; glazing bars are painted first, then the actual frame carrying the bars and finally the surrouding woodwork. Two colour work of course is slightly different but usually the light colour is applied to the glazing bars and possibly a little of the frame according to design. When this part is dry the remainder is put in using the contrasting colour.
The ammount of paint to apply can only be suggested in writing but one should aim at getting coverage only with the first coat in the case of two coat gloss work and leaving the weighty coat until the last. Even so at the first coat stage it will be difficult to achieve complete opacity with the single coat at such places as the edges of square cut woodwork, known as the arris, this is because the sharp edge tends to allow the paint to run off. In practice it is not a bad plan to carefully ease this dead square effect with fine glasspaper in the interests of adequate film weight and continuity of coating.


Flowing coats

How to apply the top coat
The coat of gloss paint applied with the intention of getting coverage and no more is known as a brushed-out coat and the second coat applied is known as a flowing coat - but it must not flow of course! - the term means that it has been applied in a easy flowing manner but has also been carefully distributed over the surface being coated in order to get an even finish free from runs and sags.
Because of the comparative sparseness of application of the first gloss coat this should dry quiet hard within 24 to 36 hours and of course by the very nature of do-it-yourself work will be in any case hard from one week end to the next.
Modern gloss paints can be applied gloss over gloss when new and normally require no rubbing to remove gloss before re-coating. By the time the entire house woodwork has been painted with one coat of gloss paint the worker will have gained enough experience with that particular paint to have confidence with the regard to the feel of the paint under the brush
The flowing coat referred to earlier will not be so difficult to put on without runs. Flooding in corners and on top surfaces should be avoided as when dry the paint will wrinkle and this will be both unsightly and a poor protection.


Front doors

How to apply the top coat
The front door can, if properly painted to a nice finish, be the show piece of a well painted house and is worthy of some special attention. I would suggest that all the normal preparation, priming, stopping up, etc. be done to the front door along with the remainder of the woodwork but at this stage the door be left until special work can be done to it.
It is quiet normal these days to have a front door in a different colour than the remainder of the house and so the idea of leaving the front door until the last should fit in quiet well with the painting schedule.
I do not intend to go fully into the exact painting procedure for achieving a fine finish on a front door in this article, but would point out that good finishes of the kind i have in mind require several coats of paint and quiet a lot of careful painstaking work. Briefly the work involves applying coats of paint and wet rubbing between several coats to get a dead level surface on to which we must apply a coat of enamel gloss paint in as dust free conditions as possible, free from runs and sags. An alternative finish which can only be used with stronger colours such as blues, blacks and greens browns and maroons, will involve painting to a nice solid state and then finishing with a good grade of varnish.


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