Prime Number

I have several tasks in progress at my parents’ Massachusetts home. Replacing the damaged siding last week was a nice accomplishment in itself, but it also served as filler work for the much more drawn-out project to prime and paint their laundry room.

Priming and associated activities take awhile mainly because of the dry time between steps. Step one was to make the walls as smooth as I could. Wallpaper removal had left some scars, and several wall repairs (one over the sink, one behind the washer/dryer) had created areas of bumpiness. Armed with two trowels and a bucket of joint compound, I covered all the offending spots with a generous helping of mud. The next day, once the mud dried (it takes 24 hours to dry at room temperature), I burnished it with 150-grit sandpaper making the spots flush with the rest of the wall. Then I repeated the process.

Joint compound applied (and lots of paint samples) in the laundry room.
Joint compound applied (and lots of paint samples) in the laundry room.

The door and the window trim required a different treatment. They began as unpainted, varnished wood. Since paint doesn’t stick to varnish, a primer coat is extra important, and to help my primer bond I used 60-grit sandpaper to take off as much of the varnish as I could. I also applied wood putty to fill in some of the door’s more flagrant holes and chips.

Wood putty dries solid to fill gashes in the door.
Wood putty dries solid to fill gashes in the door.

When I was satisfied with the smoothness of my surfaces, I opened up a can of primer. It dries faster than joint compound but it takes longer to apply. Using a paintbrush for borders and tight spots, and a roller everywhere else (the roller covers walls faster by a factor of 10), I completed two coats of primer letting the first coat dry overnight. I kept moving tarps around to catch drips, first over the washer and dryer and toilet and sink, then behind them. The result, at least until I return to paint, is a chillingly white-on-white room.

Fortunately, another of my projects had a brilliant outcome. I cleaned the tile kitchen floor with a solution of baking soda and water. All I had to do was scrub the floor one small area at a time using a nylon brush and a toothbrush (for the grout lines), rinse the baking soda off, and dry with a towel. Pretty easy, and what a difference. Should definitely improve the value of this prime real estate.

Comparing ten years of grime (back) with freshly cleaned tiles.
Comparing ten years of grime (back) with freshly cleaned tiles.

About the Author Scott

When I decided as a teenager that I would become an engineer, what I really wanted to do was build houses. But then I went to college and got tricked into thinking I should work for a big company, design big structures, and make lots of money. With a professional license in my pocket, it's time to get back to following my dreams, and I hope my perspective can teach you something new.


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