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Q & A: paint restoration.

Q: My husband and I just, purchased a 1924 brick bungalow. Some of the rooms have the original plaster, and some have been drywalled over! The house is structurally sound but the interior needs a face-lift. There are hollow blisters and ripples in some of the walls and the window trim is peeling and down to bare wood in many places. There are multiple layers of old paint covering every surface. How can I maintain green principles when restoring an old house?

A: It wasn't until 1978 that the Consumer Products Safety Commission prohibited the use of lead in house paint. This will be your major consideration in restoring an older house, particularly if there are children in the home. The most effective method in making older homes healthy homes is encapsulation--sealing over contaminants with safe products. Understanding that your initial prep work will entail at least two-thirds, of your total project time before you can even begin to paint will mentally prepare you for the tasks ahead. To undertake projects of this scale you will need the help of allies.

Your cleaning arsenal should include heavy-duty, functional gloves and a citrus/soy cleaner. My favorite is Soy Blends Citrus Soy Solvent made by Bi-O-Kleen. This product even removes oil-based paint from brushes, but it is 93 percent VOC-free and is pleasant to work with. Number one on your list of "allies should be a Shop Vac. You'll use it in every step of your prep work. Second, invest in a good-quality mask that fits and won't steam up if you wear glasses--one you know you'll wear. Next go to your favorite home improvement center and invest in an assortment of mudding tools: a stainless steel trough, various sizes of metal spatulas ranging from one to twelve inches and a bag of powdered Sheetrock Joint Compound. Joint compound is a simple substance containing plaster of paris, limestone and perlite. Durobond[R] is a common brand and comes in a range of drying times--twenty or ninety minutes being the most popular: It's inexpensive, so you may wish to buy both formulations. Then purchase a three-in-one tool from the painting department. You'll use this to pry up loose paint and open up hollow patches in walls; it's also handy in cleaning paint rollers. You should also pick up a number of sanding sponges. Now you are ready to begin.

Vacuum and carefully wash all surfaces to be painted and change the water often. Aside from the obvious benefits of reducing the amount of lead dust and paint chips, you will be able to clearly see every potential problem area; Look for blistering paint where wallpaper may have been painted over which leaves hollow spots that will need to be chipped out and filled; rotting baseboards, plaster bubbles from old leaks, holes from nails and old hardware, and other defects. Mark these with a pencil. You'll need to use judgment when prepping your surfaces to be repaired. Remember that when dealing with lead paint, "encapsulation" is the safest route. Be judicious with your scraper and open up hollow patches and scrape away until the wall feels solid. Don't let yourself get distracted with all the loose paint flakes all over the woodwork, and resist the temptation to clean everything up. Use your Shop Vac to clean up as you work instead of leaving it until the end.

Now the fun begins: If you've ever frosted a cake or waxed a car, you can develop the skills of patching with Durobond[R]. With your stainless steel trough, mix enough powder and water to make a pliable paste. Since Durobond's nature is to set up and dry, you should only mix a little at a time. And since it's inexpensive, it won't cost much for you to experiment. The daytime temperature and humidity level will affect the substance, and you'll find that the substance has a definite personality, so you'll need to become its friend. The objectives are to smooth over, cover, contour and patch. When the Durobond dries, the patch should then be sanded smooth. Here are some tips: Use the right size spatula for the job. Leave a raised area on a small patch that can be sanded down level with the surface. Don't try filling large patches all at once. Apply several layers, allowing each to dry thoroughly. The patches will then need to be sanded, With your mask on, lightly sand the patch and use your Shop Vac as you go to pick up the dust. Be aware that sheet rock dust is very free, and can easily get into everything if you are not careful. All patches will now need to be primed before painting. On plaster walls, you can either use a roller to prime your patches or mix a minute amount of sand to give the patches a similar texture as the plaster. Good job! Now you are ready to paint the surfaces you have prepped.

Jana White, Earth Wise Interiors

Jana White is a designer-consultant and faux finisher in partnership with her husband Terry in the "green" company, Earth Wise Interiors, in Asheville, NC. For more information, call 828-253-0668.
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Title Annotation:green home resource[TM]: HEALTHY HOME
Author:White, Jana
Publication:New Life Journal
Date:Feb 1, 2007
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