Advice and Tips



Popular Questions - Interior


+Q. As a contractor, I do a lot of interior bare wood staining and painting. This goes from doors and trim to even fine furniture. Whenever I use a water based product like a primer or stain, I see fibers stick up from the wood. These sometimes ruin the finished appearance, making it very rough. It is particularly bad with some cabinet woods like walnut or mahogany (whether in an old chair or in new high-priced trim). What causes this and what can be done about it?

A. This is called "grain raising." The water in the coating swells the fibers and lifts them. The best thing to do is to "preempt" this by wetting the surface with a wet rag before applying the first primer or stain or clear coating. The water will raise the grain. Then come back in 1/2 hour and sand off the raised "whiskers" using fine (#200 or #220) garnet sandpaper. Be sure to sand only in the direction of the grain of the wood, never diagonally or across it at right angles. Then dust off the surface and proceed with the primer or stain, etc. Now, because of the procedure, very little grain will be raised by the application of the coating.

Quality paint which is best

+Q. What brands of paints are considered "highest quality"?

A. Per our charter, we cannot comment on particular products or brands. Most manufacturers make a range of qualities (1st, 2nd, sometimes 3rd ) of paint for a given type (e.g., interior flat latex wall paint), and generally provide an excellent product with their top-line item. As for which is "highest quality", it would depend on your perspective, in that paints are evaluated on many properties (hiding, burnish resistance, flow & leveling, sag resistance, block resistance, adhesion over various surfaces, etc., etc.). Thus, each paint product has its own particular balance of properties, and it would be impossible to say which is best. In general, you won't go wrong in going with a top-line product from a given manufacturer or retailer.

Rejuvenating paint

+Q. I have a question about rejuvenating paint (latex enamel)! My uncle was given 20 gallons of latex enamel paint, and he stored it in a barn, and I think the paint froze and is now separated. Should I drain off the liquid and what can I put in it when I remix it? Thank you!

A. You may be able to reclaim the paint; open each container and...

  1. Do not pour off any of the liquid. This should be kept as part of the paint.
  2. Look for any signs of rusting or deterioration of the containers, and where you see any contamination of the paint, discard that container of paint.
  3. Remove any obvious skins, or hard pieces; leave soft lumps in place.
  4. Now the containers have to be mixed thoroughly. The best bet would be to have the containers shaken at a paint store. You may have trouble getting this done, unless you are a friend of the owner! You may have the best chance of success asking at a store that sells the same brand as you paint. When using a shaker, be sure all paint is removed from the chime (groove where the lid fits), and be sure the lid is on tight. Or use a paint stir-stick and stir each container thoroughly for 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. If, after the mixing, the paint seems smooth, uniform, free of specs, is not thin and runny, not putrefied, etc., it should be OK to use; but check each container out first by applying to a scrap surface, and look for uniformity of gloss and color. Still, don't use it in a critical place like a living room.


+Q. I've seen in your material, that inorganic colored pigments are mentioned as having better color retention than organic colorants. Why are colorants which are mined from the earth (ochre, titanium white, umber) inorganic instead of organic? Doesn't the word "organic" imply "from the earth?" I've always thought organic pigments are those mined from the earth, while inorganic or synthetic pigments are "man made." what's the answer? Thanks.

A. Actually, the term "organic" means from or derived from living thing(s). Organic compounds (including pigments) contain carbon. Inorganic pigments are generally oxides. Most organic pigments are synthetic. Some inorganic pigments are synthetic; others are mined.


+Q. I get a lot of customers asking about sticking doors (cabinet and entry), after using water-based paint. Do you have any tricks I can relay to them?

A. Yes, there are a couple of things that can be done to help with sticking (called "blocking") together of painted surfaces. One approach is to apply some baby powder (Talcum powder) to each surface. This is the best way. Another is to rub some waxed paper (or even a candle) on both surfaces. But this approach of applying some wax can interfere with adhesion of a paint applied later, so the wax would have to be thoroughly removed when painting the surface again. As for minimizing the problem in originally planning and doing the paint job, putting the surfaces back into service too soon can be problematic. Darker tints are more prone to stick, than are light colors and white. The lower the sheen or gloss of the paint, the less chance of blocking, all else being equal, because of the higher proportion of pigment to binder with lower sheen paints. Thus an eggshell would be better than a satin or semigloss, for example. 100% acrylic binders tend to resist blocking more than do vinyl acrylic (PVA) binders, at a given sheen or gloss level, particularly under warm or humid conditions, as would be found in a bathroom.

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