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Five tips for a fabulous finish

Filling, sanding, cleaning - it might be boring work, but thorough prep is essential for a fabulous finish, writes Julia Gray PA 

1. One of the basic rules of DIY is prep, prep and more prep - thorough preparation is vital to get a good finish. It’s often boring, hard work and time consuming, especially with woodwork, but worth it. Before you paint, prep typically involves filling, sanding and cleaning off, and sometimes repeating the process until the surface is in tip-top condition. It’s often easier to see what needs to be filled after applying a coat of paint, so it’s not always possible to do all the prep in one go. For walls and ceilings, different fillers are needed for different jobs. Other times, you’ll need a heavy filler with body that can be used on different surfaces - indoor plaster, stone, concrete and wood - up to 20mm deep. 

2. Priming is also key to getting a good, long-lasting finish. Applying a primer or primer/undercoat ensures your topcoat will adhere to the surface better. For example, shiny surfaces usually have to be sanded, cleaned off and painted with a suitable primer to make the surface matt. Priming can also seal surfaces and make them less porous; new plaster is really absorbent, so always seal it before painting, wallpapering or tiling it. Another reason to prime is to provide better coverage. If you’re painting over a dark emulsion with a pale one, it pays to use a basecoat emulsion first. Getting solid colour with white water-based wood paints is a problem because they don’t generally cover well, but a good primer will. 

3. You won't get a good finish without using decent paint rollers and brushes. There’s nothing worse than ones that shed fibres and bristles, or leave lots of roller and brush marks, and for this reason, cheap rollers and brushes can be a false economy. 

4. Worklights can also help achieve a good finish, especially now it’s getting dark earlier. While you should ideally prep and decorate in good natural light, worklights are fantastic for illuminating a room when it’s gloomy, and because they’re on a tripod, they’re fully adjustable, so you can get light where you need it. The downside? Worklights can show up things you can’t see in natural or normal artificial light, resulting in unnecessary prep; angling the light away from what you’re working on works best. 

5. The best way to get a good finish with wooden or laminate flooring is to remove skirting boards and replace them (or fit new ones), so they cover the expansion gap around the edge of the flooring. If this isn’t practical, fit matching wooden scotia beading over the expansion gap. The easiest way to fix it is with a nail gun, which is much quicker and easier than hammering in panel pins.

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