When to Apply Finish

This story addresses the scheduling, weather, and workplace conditions that affect when to apply finish.

The answer to when to apply finish consists of two parts. The first deals with sequencing the finishing into the overall construction schedule. The second addresses weather conditions and the workplace environment.

For example, let's say you've remodeled a bedroom, including its ceiling and walls and the replacement of its doors and moldings. Your work now proceeds on two parallel tracks: You'll simultaneously paint the room and also apply the finish to the millwork before nailing it into place.

First, you'll give the ceiling and walls a coat of primer plus two color coats. While they dry you'll work on the moldings, applying stain (if desired) plus two or three coats of varnish. By the time you've completed the moldings, the room will be dry and ready for them.

You need to consider any extremes of temperature and humidity. If you attempt to apply a fast-drying finish (such as lacquer) during humid conditions, moisture can get trapped under the coating. In some cases, the wood will look slightly clouded; in others, the finish turns milky white. During cold weather, a finish may fail because it dried too slowly. In hot weather, it may dry too quickly.

Be sure the finishing site is as clean as possible. Walking on a dirty floor will raise dust that will settle into a wet finish. For ventilation, position a fan so that it moves air out of the room instead of blowing dust into the work area.

When to Paint

Paint the room's walls and ceilings before applying moldings. Choose a separate work area, if possible, to apply finish to the millwork.

Keep the Work Area Clean

A clean work area is a must for high-quality wood finishing. A fan should pull air and fumes out of the work area. After sweeping, be sure to let any airborne dust in the room settle for 30 minutes or more before painting.

Painter's Caulk to the Rescue

Painter's caulk provides astonishing results for your project. A small bead squeezed from a caulking gun can eliminate the unsightly line between moldings and wall. This technique also works well for both clear-finished and painted moldings. With the clear finish, however, you need to exercise extreme care so you don't smear it onto the woodwork. Strive to get an even line straight from the gun without having to wipe with your finger. Cutting the plastic tip of the caulk container at an angle improves the bead.

You also can purchase painter's caulk in a can, which is handy for filling any holes or working into tight areas with a putty knife. A close cousin to painter's caulk is white-tinted putty.

 

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