Protecting Surfaces from Paint Splatter

Protecting surfaces is accomplished by masking them off.

Protecting Surfaces

Paint can get on a surface any number of ways -- intentionally or accidentally, from spatters, spills, and drips. When all the cleaning, sanding, and repair work is done, your last preparation step is to make sure to protect any surface you don't want painted.

Protecting surfaces is generally accomplished by masking them off. It takes a bit of time, but it's a lot easier and takes a lot less time than trying to remove paint from a place it doesn't belong -- and from which it may not come off. So don't rush this process.

Painting a room starts with the ceiling, but if you are not painting the walls, you should drape them as shown here. If you are painting the walls, you generally won't have to protect them, even if the wall color will be different than the color of the ceiling. The wall may receive some spatters (minimized by the use of a quality ceiling paint), but you can get at spatters with a quick swipe of a dampened cloth. When masking surfaces, use blue painter's tape. It goes on and comes off more quickly than the old-style masking tape. Remove the tape before the paint dries.

Protecting the walls: Step 1

Starting at one corner, stick one end of the 2-inch painter's tape to the wall, carefully pull away about 10 feet of tape from the roll and tear it. Tack this end to the wall so it doesn't stick to itself. Press the top half of the tape into the corner where the ceiling meets the wall.

Protecting the walls: Step 2

Unfold a sheet of clear plastic so you can work with it, and starting at either corner, slip the top edge of the plastic under the loose flap of the tape. Press the tape to the plastic and continue along the wall, letting the sheet drape down to protect the surface.

What If... I need to cover only the baseboards?

If baseboards are stained and varnished, will be painted a different color, or won't be removed for replacement, you should mask them to keep ceiling- and wall-paint spatters off them. For this job, use masking film or masking paper applied with a dispenser. Start at one end of the baseboard and press the tape firmly on the top edge for about a foot. Gradually pull the dispenser away from the corner, exposing more film and tacking it as you go. Let the film drape down over the baseboard or tape its edge to the floor.

Masking window and door trim: Step 1

Starting at any corner of the trim, carefully stick 2-inch painter's tape on the trim where it meets the wall. Work the tape in 4- or 5-foot lengths so it doesn't fall back and stick to itself.

Masking window and door trim: Step 2

Run a spatula or other hard plastic tool quickly along the corner edge of the tape, pressing it solidly against the trim. This will keep paint from seeping under the edge of the tape.

Masking window and door trim: Step 3

Unfold a plastic sheet and work its top edge under the flap of the tape along the top of the window. Then fold the tape down to hold the plastic. Repeat the process on the sides of the window to create a mask for the entire surface.

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