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Help with flat paint

We just moved into a brand new home about  six months ago. We got to pick out all of our colors for the first time ever without having to paint the walls ourselves. I was told we were getting semi-gloss but went for home inspection and all the walls were painted with flat paint. Now I'm stuck with great colors, they are just dull and very hard to clean. We have 2 young boys so we constantly have handprints all over the place, plus water splatters anywhere near sinks, dishwasher, food splatters near stove,  etc. What can we do to spruce up our pretty paint, without having to repaint every wall in our entire house? Or are we just going to have to bite the bullet and start repainting room by room and adding tile near sinks, stove, etc. (which is something we want to do in the near future for equity anyway).


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Posted 2011-02-17T03:00:19+0000  by maxsam maxsam

Hello Maxsam,


Welcome to the Community and congrats on the new home!


Sheen selection is a very personal choice and use of sheens varies from region to region across the country.


In a nutshell, matte flat is the lowest sheen and it reflects light the least. What this means is the imperfections on the wall show up the least. ProPainters prefer this sheen because the walls show the fewest imperfections, resulting in fewer callbacks on their jobs. 


Matte flat touches up the easiest for the same reason ... the touchup typically blends into the existing paint and there is no sign of brush strokes or roller marks. This is likely why your paints were applied in a matte flat finish by the contractor.


As you go up the sheen scale, the solids that make up paint are ground more finely to make the increasing sheens ... flat enamel, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and hi-gloss. Hi-gloss is mirror-like and semi-gloss is only slightly less shiny. Manufacturers recommend sheens w/ the word gloss in their name primarily for trim ... but in some regions they are also used as wall paints. They are very common on walls in public buildings, like schools and gymnasiums.


These higher sheens reflect light the most and as a result, show more of the imperfections on the wall. They are designed to repel dirt and stains, but they also repel the next coat of paint as well as attempts to touchup.


The most common wall sheens are flat matte, flat enamel (known as washable flat), eggshell, and satin.


With that summary as background, let's get started toward a solution to your question.


There are about four ways you can fix your sheen problem: add sheen with Polyacrylic, spot painting key areas in the same color using the sheen of your choice, a full repaint in the sheen of your choice, and choosing to simply touchup areas as they require. In all four, I would recommend Frog Tape and 3M Tape w/ Edge-Lock to create a straight line at the cut point.


First possibility: Add sheen with Polyacrylic


Minwax makes water-based Polyacrylic in three sheens: satin, semi-gloss, and gloss. Unlike oil-based polyurethanes, Polyacrylic can be applied over water-based paints, stains and wall coverings. This product could be used to spot treat key areas where you need sheen, using Frog Tape to cut a straight line between areas. What this entails is selecting the areas, like the backsplash adjacent to the sink or vanity, and then tape and coat with additional sheen. You could use a stencil, chair rail or other creative design to visually set apart the areas where you add sheen from those that are matte flat.


This solution allows you to treat the areas where your little hands are leaving stains, but prevents the need to repaint the entire interior.


Second possibility: Spot paint key areas in the same color using the sheen of your choice


Like the first possibility, this solution allows you to treat only the areas that need help without repainting the entire interior. Frog Tape will provide a straight cut and you need a creative way to establish a visual transition between sheen and no sheen areas.


Third possibility: a full repaint in the sheen of your choice


Extending from the first two ideas, you might simply choose to prioritize the rooms and areas that need sheen and use the existing color(s) in an eggshell or satin finish to repaint the entire room. Frog Tape will once again be a valuable tool in "masking" trim to produce a straight line.


Fourth possibility: choose to simply touchup areas as required


You will recall from the preface that touchup with flat matte is the easiest because there is not sheen on the wall and the new paint will blend completely into the existing finish. This may be your easiest solution. The effort it takes to wash a complete wall is certainly similar to the effort it would take to spot clean and touchup.


In my home, the kids wanted to change the colors in their rooms every several years. If this is true in your home, you might only touchup once or twice before you reach that landmark for repainting. If so, consider touching up now and then repaint later.


One last note: I love the idea, the look, and the functional difference a tile backsplash makes in the kitchen. Tile in other key areas will add both beauty and utility. Look ahead to ensure that you make a good design choice to prevent having to change the paint color again to accommodate the new tile. If the tile you select requires changing the room color, consider option four (touching up that room) until you can color-coordinate the look with your new tile.


Posted 2011-02-17T15:24:36+0000  by Pat_HD_ATL

My mother-in-law's home includes a small mother-in-law apartment that she now rents out.  I am helping to prepare it for the next occupant, so I am learning about the very basics of DIY!


I have some walls (drywall with a flat finish) that are dirty, other walls that are dirty with small dings and scuffs, and other walls with a few dark greasy spots.  I also have one wall that used to have a mirror mounted on it -- someone painted around the mirror a couple of times, and then took the mirror down.  There is also a good bit of high wall space that is just barely dusty. 


Thank goodness, I still have some of the original paint, but probably not enough to repaint completely.


I have washed some of the walls and the trim (baseboards, door jambs, chair rails, etc., with semi-gloss) to see if the paint is damaged and will need to be repainted, or is just dirty.  So far, most of the dirt is coming off with just hot water.  Some of the spots have needed a degreaser, and a lot of effort!


My question... on the parts that I know I will need to repaint, how much washing do I need to do?  Obviously, I don't want to paint over thick dust or cobwebs, but do I need to wash everything? 


My mother-in-law is getting, shall we say, "eager" for me to finish, so I don't want to spend time or effort doing something that doesn't need to be done!




Posted 2011-03-04T06:29:16+0000  by newbie

Hey newbie, welcome to the Home Depot Community!


Prep work for painting always takes longer than the painting itself.  Yes, I always wash walls with at least a mild detergent and then rinse them.  Glossy paint even needs deglossing, (I use TSP), and 2 rinses.


You can speed things up a bit by using a sponge mop rather than the less messy hand sponge.  I use 2 buckets.  One has the cleaner in it, and the other has just water so I can rinse off the dirt without getting the detergent so dirty. This really should be done so that the primer sticks to the wall. 


Do some people just paint over a dirty wall?  Of course some do.  You can say this is a judgment call, but I think it has more to do with how long you want this paint job to last.


Also, you should prime the wall before you apply more paint.  If you have the primer tinted when you buy it then maybe only 1 coat of paint will cover well.  It depends on the quality of the paint you use.


I hope this helps.


Posted 2011-03-04T18:36:53+0000  by Chris_HD_CHI



Very helpful.  Your answer agrees with what my mother always said -- wash all the walls first.  Now I can quote the professionals!!


Thanks for the tip about the sponge mop.  I had not heard of that before, and that should make a big difference with the taller walls (which don't have marks or scuffs).


In the rooms where I am touching up walls with the paint left over from the original paint job... after I wash the walls, do I need to prime those areas?  Or would that be needed only if I am changing colors?


I appreciate your help!



Posted 2011-03-06T03:22:45+0000  by newbie

Hello Newbie,


PatInPaint here to help you!


Earlier in the thread, you mentioned greasy spots. Those areas need an oil-based primer.


Grease stains will leach back through most water-based products, but after you use the oil-based primer to seal those stains you can apply any water-based paint and the stains will not show through.


Like Newf suggested, have your local Paint Associate tint the primer to be similar to your new color. There is no charge for tinting and you will be applying your first coat of color while you prime.


Also, ventilate the area by drawing air through your work area to the outside. A fan placed in a window will do the job.


Since primer is already required for your project, go ahead and prime the whole room. This will provide strong adhesion for your new paint and will create a smooth, even base that seals all of your stains.


The slight imperfections in the wall can be filled with spackle.


FINAL NOTE: If the greasy spots were not present, you could use Behr's Ultra (paint and primer in one). In my experience, this product enables you to cover any color, dark to light or light to dark, in just two coats.

Posted 2011-03-08T15:01:37+0000  by Pat_HD_ATL

Sheen is not "added" to paint by increasing the amount of "Acrylic" Pat.


Sheen is a result of how fine the materials in the paint are ground. The more fine the ingredients are ground, the smaller the space becomes between the microscopic particles resulting in a tighter surface and an increase in sheen.


Do your homework!

Posted 2011-03-21T18:33:35+0000  by paintguy606

Thanks for the correction PaintGuy and welcome to the community!


It is true that paint solids are ground more finely to increase the sheen.


It is also true that having additional paint experts, like yourself, on the Community will benefit all of our members and guest.


With the return of warm weather, painting and staining are already getting underway in some regions.


As the full season begins to roll, I look forward to following your posts.

Posted 2011-03-23T03:52:28+0000  by Pat_HD_ATL
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