Production Fine Finish Tips for Pro Painters

Written by on October 7, 2012 in Finishing, Uncategorized with 6 Comments

Painting Interior Trim in New ConstructionMeeting budgets and schedules is a timeless problem for painters, which keeps us all accumulating fine finish tips. In new construction or commercial work, we often enter critical project areas just as all the sub trades are scrambling to finish. Sometimes the living spaces sequence near the back end of the project, and they often contain architectural open spaces and heavy trim detail.

We recently conquered a kitchen/dining room scenario with these challenges using the best of our tools, knowledge and experience to accelerate through a finishing sequence that was just too big to prep and paint manually.


GO Time, Not Van Gogh time:

  • Use a heavy bodied wood filler for nail hole filling in one round
  • Power sand filler instead of hand sanding (a challenge in architectural moldings)
  • Spray a heavy bodied waterborne primer for quick turnaround to sanding (compared to oil)
  • Caulk gaps and do any final cosmetic tweaks with a lightweight spackle
  • Final inspection and spray finish coats

Prep Acceleration

Prepping a coffer in New Construction

With most paint related tasks, when applying a larger quantity of product, it can usually be done  faster.  Painters have to slow down in order to better control the amount of whatever they are applying. It’s an exercise in controlled chaos, where the craftsman keeps the handle on it, and the hack spins out a mess.

When filling nail holes that will be power sanded, we can apply filler much more liberally (faster) with no dimpling either pre or post-sanding. Power sanding with dust extraction means no messy cleanup after sanding, and we transition to the next step in our process faster.

We used Zar Wood Filler applied with a 1.5” putty knife on the crown and square stock beam wrap surfaces, and the small bulb at the bottom wrap joints had been shot by the installers with tiny brads and filled by us with a light finger pack.


Sanding the Filler

Festool RO90 for paint prepThe coffer system is all poplar, which sands and paints well. In the past, we hand sanded these types of details because we were not aware that profile sanding tool technology existed. Hand sanding during trim prep is slow, tedious and very dusty. And it is the first place that most paint sequences begin to lose efficiency. Now, the Festool LS130 and RO90 are great options. The key is to keep moving, using a sander capable of multiple functions on the mix of square stock and profiles. For instance, if using the RO90, we use a dual stack interface pad method to conform to the profile of the crown. If you attempt this setup, it is a completely different experience, and not a simple matter of burying the soft interfaces into the profile. You have to work the edges, almost like a soft mini grinder. And don’t bother going out on the flats with the stack, it is very slow, wobbly and ineffective compared to swapping out for the round pad that comes stock on the tool. A delta attachment works on fasteners located in tight inside corners. Changing modes on the RO90 is quicker and easier than the LS130, and the user fatigue factor is somewhat lower when engaged in a full day of sanding where every minute counts. The RO90 is easy enough to use on extended overhead sanding tasks, and is reasonable in sporadic one hand operations.

[Related: Power sanding trim with a linear sander]

Spray Day

Spraying coffered ceilingsThe filling and sanding took about 20 man hours as described above. Carefully coordinating with the other trades working in the house, we set protection – hanging and tightly taping lightweight plastic over cabinets, walls, windows and doors, and laying out drops to cover the finished wood floors. Communication is key because you are shutting down other trades access to the space, which becomes a giant impromptu spray booth.

We used one of our air assisted airless rigs to get the best balance of production and quality for the task. Spraying coffered ceiling this size takes two experienced finishers approximately two hours per coat, with the spray gun operator on baker staging, and the spray tender moving the baker and running the sprayer – managing  hose line, monitoring air and fluid pressures on the machine, supply quantity, etc.

Fully Waterborne System

We sprayed Sherwin Williams Wall and Wood latex primer. Because of the piston pump power of our air assisted machine, we do not have to reduce this material, which allows us to apply heavily (tack coat and coverage coat in one move) with optimum sag resistance. This product dries quickly, and sands to powder without punching through, which is key: no backwards motion during finishing.

The turnaround times on this type of sequence are impressive. Primer can be sanded, caulked and cosmetic tweaked within 6 hours of spraying, and waterborne finish coats can be sprayed soon after that. We specified Benjamin Moore Waterborne Satin Impervo (314) for this task because it was the trim paint in the entire house, and we prefer full integration of architectural finishes between all trim, cabinetry and architectural features. The products are that good, and the sequence is very efficient, compared to other high voc or oil based system alternatives (filler/primer/paint).

Dealing with the Drywall Ceiling

Coffered ceilings are intense. With the wood aspects of the ceiling under control, all protection is carefully removed, and the final step is to cut and roll the flat drywall ceiling panels. They are left at primer stage during the coffer spray process. The overspray on the drywall from the crown is lightly sanded to eliminate flash risk, and the panels get cut and rolled manually with finish coats. Cutting the flat ceiling into the crown is a much easier cut than cutting crown into ceiling. This is two shades of white coming together, so it is pretty easy for a skilled painter to execute. And with that, one of the major architectural features on our project is quickly brought under control through product and process efficiency. The space is turned back over to other trades for light fixtures, cabinet hardware, countertops, etc. Quick turnaround on such a bulky trim aspect during schedule crunch time gives the overall project a shot of momentum to the finish line, where we turn spaces over to happy customers.

Click Here if you are interested in our Prep to Finish painter training workshop series.







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  1. Nick Dunse says:

    Work like that is very far and few between here since the economy crash. Enjoy while ya have it…

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