Monday, February 27, 2012

The Kitchen: walls

Our kitchen is fairly small, but not cramped. There isn't tons of counter space but I've lived in places with much less as well. We bought a kitchen cart a couple of months ago; it has been the best investment for such a space since it's on wheels and can be pushed against the wall next to the fridge, and it even has an extra leaf that folds up.

The kitchen has laminate "wood" flooring, flat/cheap/boring/honey-colored cupboards, and 6" ivory tiles for counters and backsplash. Some things I've learned from these materials is what kind of cupboards to NOT buy, that I decidedly detest lazy susans, and I will never have tile with grout for a counter again if I can help it. We also have a glass flat-top stove/oven, which is nice, but due to the few instances of things getting burned on the burners (such as oven mitts), I've decided I would rather have a gas range. I am (or Andy is) much less likely to throw an oven mitt or a towel on a gas burner than the flat-topped stove. I think the flat top is just too counter-like and it's easy to forget it's a stove!

Since the walls are white we decided to add some color and warmth to the kitchen by painting it red.
Neither Andy or I have painted before. I found that surprising about him because he knows at least a little bit of most simple home improvement things.

First sanded and patched and sanded again and washed the walls to prep them. Then I taped all the trim and borders.

As it turns out, red is the worst (or most difficult) color to paint any room--not the best choice for paint virgins. We bought Behr Premium Plus Ultra paint and primer-in-one, and I had misgivings about it but went with it anyway for convenience since we were at Home Depot. Plus, if we needed more paint Home Depot is really the only paint place where we live except Walmart(?). We got the color Ruby Ring, and it was $30+ per gallon--decidedly not worth it--I'd tell you to just go with regular paint and regular (separate) primer!

Nobody tells you that when you paint a sample on your wall that you should do it lightly or with a mini roller since you likely won’t paint your wall as thick or dark as you do with a little sample paint and a paintbrush. We didn’t realize this. The only thing we knew is that the kitchen is typically a dark room, and the guy at Home Depot had us make a shadow on the paint swatch to know what it’ll probably look like in a darker area, which was sort of a good idea, or so it seemed at the time. We chose a color based off of the shadow on the swatch and the vastly inaccurate dark sample painted on the wall. As a result, the walls are much, much lighter than we expected. But that’s ok, they don’t look bad and they aren’t pink.

I "cut in" like I was supposed to with medium-quality brush and Andy more or less followed with the roller. It looked absolutely awful. There were brush marks all around the edges which looked like a completely different color from the rest of the wall (it's called "picture framing" or "hatbanding"), and there were roller marks all over the walls too. It ended up very patchy with tons of lines. This, by the way, was after we did tons of research on how to paint "properly," following all the rules you're supposed to. I put on a second coat the next day and it didn't improve it at all. After doing some other areas around the kitchen it looked like using a corner roller (mini & cigar-shaped) to get the edges/corners/cracks worked better than cutting in with a brush (at least with my lack of expertise), but it still didn't make it acceptable. I did pretty much the same thing I’ve seen on videos on the net while cutting in, so I'm still not sure why I couldn't get it work.

Desperate, we bought some real primer (Kilz Premium) to officially start over. [On a side note, the Behr paint was thick and didn't drip or fling off the rollers at all while the primer was much more runny.] Andy was the one who went to the not-so-great local hardware store to get it, and they apparently know next to nothing about paint despite their wall of paint cans. Neither Andy nor the guy at the store knew that it should've been tinted grey (which I read online), so it was white instead. Oh well, it's still primer and couldn't hurt our situation. It still looked a little streaky on the walls even after two coats, but I think if we kept putting on coats it would've looked more even, but it was good enough for us anyway. I wish the red paint would blend half as well as the white primer did.

We also thought that our paint was drying too fast (VERY fast) and not letting us keep a "wet edge." We bought some Floetrol extender for the paint from Home Depot to extend the drying time (because apparently the guy at the hardware store had no idea they even made a product that did that). And after examining the rollers at the store more, we decided that Andy needed to be using a different roller with 1/4" nap for kitchens & bathrooms rather than 3/8". Between the primer, Floetrol, and new roller, we thought that this should fix our problem.

Well we put the [second] "first" coat of red on the first wall of the kitchen. It still looked pretty awful. It might've looked a little bit better than the first time, but we didn't even come close to what it probably should look like. Despite our best efforts with keeping a "wet edge" etc... we still had overlap lines and such. And with red paint it seems like just putting more coats on will only make the dark lines darker in proportion to the rest of the wall--never evening out. Annoying.

I decided that we weren't putting enough paint on our rollers since I was totally out of ideas by this point. With all the research we've done, nobody tells you how much paint to put on your roller. You're supposed to "load" them with paint, but not "overload them" or let them drip. So I'm thinking we're not loading our rollers enough, and while painting we aren't reloading often enough. The videos online always show a nice smooth solid color on the first stroke (at least) when someone is rolling paint on a wall, and we weren’t getting that. I basically made my roller look wet but not drippy, and that seems to work the best I suppose.

The heavier load of paint seemed to help. We still had some edge problems and some patchiness, but the result was almost acceptable after two coats. It was just tricky because it's much easier to create streaks and smudges with the roller being so wet--meaning it slides on the wall instead of rolling on the wall. I had to barely put any pressure on it at all while using my mini roller in order not to smudge it and I imagine it's the same for a regular-sized roller. Hopefully a few more coats (until we run out of paint) will help even out the dark least to make it look better.

I mean, the wall doesn't look awful. But to a professional painter (or really anyone who has painted walls before) it probably looks ghastly. However, anyone (and especially potential buyers of this house) don't know how terrible the walls looked before we painted them. They were in such bad shape that just about anything would've been an improvement for them. I wonder if they'd believe it even if we told them!