After dust clears, finishing work, painting can begin


THERE ARE several occasions during the renovation process when a torn-out wreck begins to look like ... a house. Or a kitchen. Or a master bedroom suite. These are exciting moments, because they mean there has been method in the madness, and a livable space will emerge from the chaos of construction.

One such moment occurs after the electrical, plumbing and heating-air-conditioning rough-in inspections are complete, after the framing is finished and inspected, after the insulation is installed and inspected.

Suddenly, there are rooms to walk through. Places that look, if not quite like bathrooms or kitchens, like bath or kitchen fixtures might someday fit there. A little more like space humans might use.

Unfortunately, at this stage, as at previous stages and stages yet to come, there is misery ahead.

Drywall. Although it will turn your skeletal sketches of a room into a real space, with its own walls and ceiling, it is second only to demolishing plaster in the evil art of creating dust.

The huge sheets (usually 4 feet by 8 feet, but they may be longer) are dusty when they arrive at the site (somehow none of the dust blows off, even if it's been on a 20-mile, 70-mph trip from the supplier on a flatbed truck), they're dusty when they're cut and glued and screwed to the wall studs, and they're especially dusty when it's being finished with three coats of spackle and sanded between coats. (The better the installer, the less sanding.)

In any case, it's just one more thing to be lived through.

Once the drywall is up and the dust has been cleared, there's another great moment when you have actual rooms, and finishing work can begin. That means installing doors, baseboards, window casings, cabinets and built-in units. These are all things that are done before painting.

There are conflicting schools of thought about whether cabinets should be installed at this point. It is easier for the painter if they are not installed, but the carpenter can't install some of the baseboards, such as those ending at the edge of a vanity, until the painter is done.

If the cabinets are available at this point, Ron would install them and finish the baseboards. If the cabinets aren't in, he would temporarily install the baseboard, making it slightly longer than the estimated length. That way the painter can prime and put on the first coat of paint, so when it is installed permanently he just has to caulk and put a second coat on it.

Either way, this situation is a little more work for the painter but there is no way to avoid it.

There's another wrinkle: If the woodwork is being stained instead of painted, it shouldn't go up until the cabinets are done. (Be sure, if you're planning to stain the woodwork, that you buy stain-grade, clear white pine, not the finger-jointed type, which is intended to be painted.)

Once the trim is installed, the next step in the process is to apply a prime coat to all surfaces being painted.

When the primer's on, walls and ceilings should be pointed up before applying the finish coats. Pointing up is touching up drywall defects; they are easier to see once the primer coat is applied. Some dings and dents will be in the drywall and trim from the other work.

The walls and ceilings should be inspected carefully for defects, with attention paid to kitchens and bathrooms. These rooms are typically painted with satin or semigloss paint, and the shinier the paint, the more it will show imperfections in the walls.

If you are planning on using satin paint on your walls, you should make sure your drywall finisher knows, because the walls will need more work to make them smooth. Make sure the painter knows as well, because once a wall is painted with satin finish, you can't touch up a spot -- you have to repaint the entire wall.

Then it's time to move to the fun stuff: Decisions, decisions, decisions about the finishing touches.

Ron Nodine is owner of American Renovator Inc., a Baltimore design-build remodeling firm, and former president of the Remodelors Council of the Home Builders Association of Maryland. Karol Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, e-mail Ron at Or write c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.

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