Even an old lamp with a bare bulb held close to a wall will make minor cracks, bumps or nail pops jump out. Carmen Toto, owner of C. Toto & Sons in Madison, New Jersey, uses painter's putty or a lightweight spackle for minor cracks and dents; he uses plaster of Paris for dents deeper than 1/8 inch. Instead of the standard tape-and-spackle method for bridging over recurring stress cracks, Maceyunas uses a rubberized spray-on primer called Good-Bye Crack. Damaged wood requires a slightly different approach. "Don't use spackle on wood," says Toto, "because it just won't stick." For damaged trim, he uses painter's putty or a two-part wood filler, such as Minwax's High Performance Filler. Smooth any repairs, bumps, and nibs with a drywall pole sander. For smoother walls and better adhesion, some of our pros sand all previously painted walls regardless of the shape they're in.
To begin, move everything out of the room. Every painter we spoke with had a horror story about the time he didn't follow Rule No. 1. Bigger pieces of furniture can sometimes be left covered in the center of larger rooms, but if you are repairing drywall, says Chris Span, of Span's Quality Painting in Mobile, Alabama, "Take everything out. Drywall dust goes everywhere." Remove doors, light fixtures and hardware, and label everything with masking tape. Also, invest in drop cloths. "It's surprising how well a few drops of paint can cover a floor," says Rich Maceyunas, of Maceyunas Painting and Wallpaper in Waterbury, Connecticut. Buy high-quality drop cloths, such as canvas or paper-backed plastic. (Paint soaks right through lightweight fabrics and bedsheets.) Plastic sheeting works, but it's very slippery and doesn't absorb drips.
A fellow (actually lives in the same neighborhood) by the name of Wayne Hickey (843-655-0366) painted the ceilings and most of the walls of our house in February 2017. He got paint all over my light fixtures, all over my trim around the doors, and had visible lap marks everywhere on the walls. He came back and rectified some of the problems, but not all, as I have noticed as I have had time to look more carefully at the work he and his assistant did. His assistant had no idea (not a clue) how to roll paint on a wall or ceiling. Some places were not covered. He said he would pull nails for pictures and then re-insert the nails exactly where they were. This he did not do as he promised. He painted over the nails. His assistant had no idea how to use a paint roller. I have painted all my life, and would have done this work myself, but I just had a full knee replacement and the other knee is in bad shape. I just could not do the work. Wayne is a pleasant and congenial individual, but he can not cut in a ceiling or wall to my satisfaction - not even close. He should have a putty knife and wet cloth with him all the time to correct any paint that might get applied where it shouldn't. That is something I always did as a painter. I would not recommend Wayne to paint anybody's home.
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Dave, you said it best! Every pro painting contractor truly worth their salt would and should cut and paste exactly what you say here about where customary and legitimate practices and expectations should be in regards to what customers should expect from contractors and how contractors should professionally deal with their customers. By the way, Dave, if you work in the Atlanta area, I would like to hire you! Thank you for your valuable advice!
Even if you go it alone, specialize to keep your initial investment low. If you do only interior painting, for example, you might get by with one ladder, a few brushes, rollers, basic hand tools and such, for an investment of less than $300. Again, you can add to your tools as you need to (every job is a bit different), and parlay profits into the equipment necessary for exterior painting or working on large commercial properties.