Painting and Decorating Made Easier!

Archive for April, 2014

Dream Project: The Billiard Club Restoration

For over twelve years, I’ve toyed with the idea of opening a “Billiard Club.” Most recently in 2013, when a sizeable space became available – in a local small shopping mall.

My only question: Could a billiard hall, located in Osceola County, Florida, generate enough income to sustain itself? To cover basic operating costs: licenses and permits, insurance, rent, utilities, taxes. I never thought about earning enough to cover my own basic living expenses.

A recent job posting reminded me of that dream. In a big way. The expansive resort boasted over 1500 rooms and suites – and featured a “Billiard Club.” Originally designed to replicate the mid-1800s men’s billiard clubs of western Europe.

The private posting stated that the “Billiard Club” was slated for restoration, and some upgrading. And the painter’s first major project would entail (1) repainting all painted surfaces; (2) refinishing all wood paneling, trim and built-ins; (3) installing custom wallcovering – period flock, floral, stripe, frieze – in every room of the club; and (4) hanging a wrap-around mural in the main rotunda.

With a click, I was taken on a virtual tour of the property. My first main focus: that “Billiard Club.” I was neither disappointed nor discouraged at what I saw. If anything, the close-up tour reminded me why I’d chosen painting and decorating instead of medicine.

At every turn and every click, I saw the marks of age, and signs of improper treatment. Unusual considering the exclusivity and location of the resort.

The club’s “lobby” looked drab and tired. Its crimson-on-ivory flocked paper was faded and discolored, also torn in more obscure spots. The fox hunting mural in the “Cloak Room” looked washed out and cleaned inappropriately. The wrap-around mural – a complement to the hunting mural – behind the front desk, showed signs of past major mold and mildew damage. And, cleaning with chemical solutions that had been too strong for old wallpaper.

Views of the individual billiard rooms – five of them – showed signs of surface abuse. Expensive ceiling-to-floor wood paneling – walnut, cherry, ebony – bore water damage, uneven and “spot” re-staining, long scratches, and even gouges (from billiard cues hitting into walls?).

In one room, it looked like sections of the wood chair railing had been scraped with steel wool or a wire brush. Once exquisite wallcoverings had been cut, torn, even frayed. A one-wall mural, that depicted a boat scene on the Siene River, had odd vertical shiny areas. Like clear, yellowed varnish.

The main and largest room – the “Billiard Gallery” – appeared in fairly good condition. Still, the paneling needed restoring. The wallcovering needed to be removed very carefully, then replaced.

The rotunda ceiling mural – actually a hand-painted scene of The Themes River – needed a thorough cleaning before any repairs and restorative painting could be done.

The “Tea Room and Lounge” and the three bathrooms appeared to need the most work. Color-coordinated wallpapers and decorative finishes covered the walls and ceilings of each of these rooms.

In the “Lounge” area, the half-wall cherry paneling and built-in bookcases needed to be stripped, filled, sanded, re-stained, and wax-treated. The burgundy-on-ivory flock paper needed a soft, damp rag cleaning.

The muted forest green houndstooth-patterned wallpaper in each bathroom was very faded and worn – not worth saving. In fact, much of its nubby texture was simply gone. All of the frieze-faux ceiling designs had been damaged by water leaks, in some areas more than others.

As it turned out, neither the “Billiard Club” nor I were to get the opportunity to benefit from each other. About 9 am one morning my letter of interest, resume and photographic samples of my work reached the hands of the resort’s director of engineering and facilities. He called. We discussed our mutual interests and goals – including “billiard clubs.”

On the same day, about 4 pm, he called again. Clearly disheartened. The resort corporation’s president had notified him that, at two that afternoon, the board had voted to (1) close the “Billiard Club” and two restaurants; (2) cut the facilities management staff by one-fourth; and (3) reduce all departmental budgets by 25-30 percent.

The resort painter position was to be eliminated by May 30, 2014. The remaining “maintenance team” would be expected to take care of all paint-related duties and work orders.

On the same day that I drafted this blog, the same director of engineering called again. He said, “I checked you out with a hotelier friend in Miami. He met you when you worked on an Art Deco hotel restoration on Lincoln Avenue. You didn’t mention that in your résumé.”

Trying not to sound complacent, I explained that the project had been done over twelve years ago. His response to that was enlightening. “These resume people and tracking system people are losing people like me a lot of great workers.”

We exchanged a few humorous “billiards” stories. And, we agreed that, the next time I was in his neighborhood, I was to stop in and introduce myself.

I wanted to tell him, “It’s a shame we won’t be able to go upstairs and enjoy a short game of pool – billiards.” But, frankly, I didn’t have the heart to say one word about “The Billiard Club.” That type of conversation was reserved for between friends. Especially at a time like that.      

Wallcovering Removal – In Great-Grandmother’s Day

Decades before peelable papers and steamers came on the scene, persons used their cumbersome steel steam irons to remove wallpapers. My great-grandmother once described the process something like this. . .

“Removing wallpaper was a two-person job. It was messy, smelly, and hot. It could take an entire week to do one 9 feet by 12 feet bedroom. Especially with children underfoot.

“Before beginning, you gathered what you would need: buckets, clean rags, wide spatulas, flat wooden spoons, thick old gloves, old table knives. You removed whatever you could from the room: small furniture, lamps, mirrors, pictures, draperies, bedspreads, pillows, rugs. Next, you covered the floor with layers upon layers of old newspapers. Then, you placed all of those supplies inside the middle of the room to be worked on.”

Here, Great-Grandmother hesitated. Still sharp at 91, she eyed the white-on-white striped vinyl wallcovering inside her community building, where our family was celebrating a carry-in Thanksgiving dinner together.

She smiled, and continued. “You began on a window or door wall. It was easier to find an edge of wallpaper already loose, or pulling away from the wall. One person moved the hot steam iron up and down, up and down, very close to the paper. But not touching. The other person came right behind. She used a metal spatula and scraped loosened paper off the wall.

“Often-times, you had to run the hot steam iron over the same spots several times. As many as twelve different papers could be layered on that wall. Too, the wallpaper paste could be very stubborn. Usually, the wallpaper had to be dampened with wet rags. Until the paper began to curl off the wall.

“The air would fill with the smell of paste,” Great-Grandmother explained. “The room got very hot from all of the steam. Your dress would stick to your torso, like the paste on the walls. And your stockings would cling and scratch, something awful.” The thought of her sticking stockings made me laugh here.

“If a woman was very lucky, like I was,” she said, “she’d have friends and neighbor ladies to help.” The more hands to help, she said, the easier it was. And, the faster the job was completed.

“Once the layers of paper were removed, the walls had to be washed thoroughly, to remove all paste. Using clean rags and as warm water as your hands could stand.” Then the entire room had to dry and air out. She emphasized, “That could take days.”

Today, wallcovering removal is much simpler and speedier. Vinyls tend to be fabric-backed, or strippable solid surfaced. They can be removed dry. Most papers – eg. linen, foil, flock, texture – are strippable. They respond well to a more advanced wet removal system, especially when multiple layers of paper cover the walls.

Generally, one person can complete an average-sized room in one day. That includes the thorough cleaning of the wall surface – eg. total removal of the adhesive, or paste. The cleaned surface can be allowed to dry overnight. The next morning, the surface can be patched, repaired and primed. Depending on the pattern, wall layout, and number and complexity of cuts and fittings, application of the new wallcovering can be completed by the end of that second day.

Wallcovering removal has progressed amazingly, since Great-Grandmother faced the job. Still, your aim is probably similar to hers.

You need to rid your walls (or ceiling) of faded, discolored, torn, and/or outdated paper or vinyl. Or, you want a fresh, new look or effect – a fresh, new color scheme. Either way, the end result is worth the effort.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~                                                                                                                     Look for “Wallcovering Removal: Dry and Wet Methods.”          

A Shopping List of Products and Materials

As consumers, we all have varying interests and tastes. The same is true when it comes to the painting or finishing of our businesses and homes. The materials used are normally based on the requirements that we have.

We may use a certain paint color or sheen because of its presentation, beauty, or how it makes us feel inside. Other paints or coatings are used to protect surfaces from the elements such as rain, wind and erosion. And the third has to do strictly with color. This is for the purpose of designating a special safety area, the color coding of piping systems, etc.

And, of course, a paint, coating or material can be designed for the purpose of providing one or more of those variables together. Just like with many other consumer products, paints and finishing materials: to give people a choice and freedom in what they purchase. We all want that.

To explain the types and uses of a wide variety of paint finishes and materials, it is easier to understand each of them in their own fundamental groups. The complete list of products and materials, used for finishing, is far too extensive. And if you are a home owner, you don’t need them anyway.

To simplify, I’ve divided paints it into three major paint groups: waterborne, solvent, and catalyst activation. There are, of course, others. All three are applied using relatively the same methods, and in either interior or exterior coating formulations. They posses a varying degree in ease of use and clean up methods. The largest distinction between them lies in their method of drying.

The waterborne – a common example “latex” – dries and binds to the surface through the evaporation of water. It releases from the active binders, pigments and colorants of the product.

The solvent-borne – eg. oil-based paints, varnishes and alkyds – dry on the surface by the evaporation of a carbon based solvent from the components of the product. Recognizable solvents would be mineral spirits and lacquer thinner.

Catalyst activated products – two example: epoxy and urethane – dry on the surface by a chemical curing process. The molecules bind to each other in relationship to their types of chemical bonds. These products are considerably more durable and resistant to chemicals and environmental exposure, especially from the sun’s rays. A clear example would be the finish on your automobile.

Substrate products belong to a completely separate group. It represents materials which are neither paints or solvents, but are used in the finishing industry and most often in the building and construction sectors. The products and materials are based on a gypsum composition, and relate to wall repair and construction.

Specific substrate products include drywall, plaster, stucco and a short list of surface finishing compounds, namely joint compounds, plaster mixes, and spackling. Gypsum materials are used, primarily, because they can easily be made to create the supportive structure for a wall and used to achieve a variety of surface textures from smooth to course. Also, they are designed for their acoustical and soundproofing qualities.

Outside the realm of paints and other finishing products are the wallcoverings. These products, sold in rolls by the yard, and more recently also in packaged, pre-cut squares, are used to cover the walls of areas rather than using paint material. They have a long history of use dating back to the 18th century.

The wallcoverings today consist of papers, vinyls, and textiles including carpet and fabrics. These decorative products encompass a vast array of colors, textures, patterns, designs and combinations there of. Where more than color and sheen is desired, wallcoverings are an excellent alternative to painting your walls, ceilings, doors, bookcases, divider screens, and more unique areas.

Faux finishing products are the final major group of products related to the painting and decorating field. Paints are much more associated with decorative finishing. Yet, there are several items which are used only to apply decorative type finishes. Some of these elements include: glazing medium, metal foil, crackleture finish, lacquer, acrylic varnish, venetian plaster, metallic powders and tinting pigments.

If you decide to apply a decorative finish, you can rest assured there is a product to fit your needs. There is tremendous diversity in the decorative finishing field.

In the mean time? Learn about the techniques.  And, please, create a few samples, before taking aim at an entire room. Today, with all of the products available, your true creativity is yet to be explored.

Tips From Bob The Painter’s Toolbox

To paint a wall, door or even a candlestick, the tools you select will determine the quality and productivity of your finished work or project. What you will need for a specific job involves knowing the types of materials to be applied, the surfaces and areas involved, and factors such as environmental conditions, time limits and, of course, budget. 

When selecting a paint brush, you must know the type of paint and the level of detail work required. If you plan to paint a French-styled window, a good choice is a 1 ½ to 2 ½ inch angular sash brush. This type and size of brush makes it a lot easier to work the material into all of the angles of the wood frame.

A professional painter is careful to select the appropriate brush for each job. He or she aims for the ease of use and the quality of finish it provides. Especially as he or she progresses with the work. Consistency in the method of application is the key element here.

If you decide to use a roller to apply paint or another type of coating, you need to make an assessment of the surface. The type of surface or area will indicate the nap roller to use. Three examples:

1. A rough exterior stucco surface – synthetic nylon/polyester or lambs wool cover, ¾ to 1 ½ inch nap thickness.

2. An ultra smooth surface, like a table top –synthetic nylon/polyester, mohair, or sponge rubber, 1/8 or 1/4 inch nap thickness.

3. A medium smooth surface, like plaster or drywall – synthetic nylon/polyester, ½ to 3/4 inch nap thickness. Knowing the smoothness or texture of the surface is essential, when selecting a roller cover.

Spray finishing is the most optimum method to use on many types of projects. A few examples:    

1. A surface or area requires a greater volume of paint to be applied.

2. The surface is to be finished to a high luster, ultra smooth finish.

3. Many small objects need to be painted.

Generally, three types of spraying methods are commonly used today. They include airless spray painting, conventional spraying and electrostatic spraying.

AIRLESS spray painting uses a specially designed spray gun. It has a metered volume of paint pumped to it by a hydraulic paint spray pump. This material, under pressure, moves out of an orifice in the spray gun that is designed to permit a specific width and length “paint fan” to exit the gun. This paint fan is then delivered to the surface. Then, from this point, a special technique is required in order to master and apply paint in this manner.

CONVENTIONAL spraying, which is similar to airless spraying, produces a “paint fan.” The difference is that, with conventional, the materials can be applied with an extreme fineness and accuracy. In this system, a compressor provides an air source and delivers it to a pressure tank with the paint product inside. The paint is placed under pressure to the spray gun, where air is supplied to the gun also. The spray gun can be finely adjusted for paint and air volume. The system is highly adjustable, in consideration of the surface or area to be completed. The HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) system is held in high regards here also.

ELECTROSTATIC is the third major paint spraying system. With this system, you can achieve a highly polished finish. A material or paint product is reached through a process called electrolysis. Electrons travel in a predetermined direction, and direct the sprayed material directly to the surface. Little or no paint overspray is left behind.

The two major requirements are that (1) the paint is thinned to the designated viscosity, and (2) the system ground is secured to a consistent bare metal connection. The only down side to this method is that it cannot be used with non-conducting surfaces. To my knowledge it works only with ferrous, iron/alloy metals, One such example, which is very popular, is “Powder Coating.” This is a major industrial finishing application.

My best advice? When you are planning to paint something yourself, know the desired results that you want to achieve. Ask yourself: “Do I understand or am I capable of producing the quality of finish I am looking for?”

If you have real doubts, listen to your gut feeling. And seek the help of a professional painter. It could make the difference between your being satisfied, or not.

Some general rules for using tools and equipment:

1. Before applying any paint, be sure to wash, patch, sand, patch, and caulk the surfaces. It will really show if you don’t!

2. When using a ladder, never stand on the last step or rung. Be safe. Prevent a fall.

3. When using a spray gun, point it only at the surface you are painting. It can blind.

4. When cleaning a china bristle brush, do not use soap and water to clean it. Your brush will be ruined. Use mineral spirits or lacquer thinner.

5. After using a caulking gun, place a screw at, or wrap tape around, the end of it. This will prevent the caulking from drying out.

6. Do not sand a smooth surface with rough sandpaper. It tends to create scratches that may not come out.

7. Use a roller extension pole to reach further. It will mean less work with more productivity.

8. When spraying with latex, flush pump system with water. Final flush the system with mineral spirits. It will help prevent corrosion from water/steel parts contact.

Using the proper tools and equipment can make a hard job seem easier. You might accomplish more in less time – and with an end result you are proud to call your own.

* * * * * * * * * * *                                                                                                                                    Thanks for stopping by. Make your painting experience fun!

The Engineer Behind the Engine in One Hotel: A Painter’s Perspective

Until my mother eulogized her days at The Drake in Chicago, I’d never considered serving as a staff painter with a hotel. Though I’d helped to complete numerous hotel and hospitality projects, while working for major contractors in Florida, and the Midwest.

In January of 2007, motivated in part by my mother’s true tales of “Life as a hotel family,” I redesigned my résumé. And, I applied for “hotel painter” opportunities available in Central and South Florida.

One of those positions – “painter and engineering tech” – was with a historic, 614-room family hotel in Kissimmee, Florida. At the interview, the director of engineering said, “I’m only interested in what you can do for me . . . not what you’ve done.” Referring to the skills and experience listed in my résumé. (Louis Adler writes regularly about “performance-based hiring.”)

Fortunately, the “hiring manager” saw something in me. And, he gave me a chance to prove myself. Perhaps, he recognized how a journeyman painter, who was able to work on commercial, industrial and residential surfaces and areas, could benefit the hotel. Perhaps, he felt confident that I would fit in with the engineering team already on board. Perhaps, he envisioned the major projects that he could see completed in-house, versus by outside contractors.

Perhaps, he calculated the workload that his department would be able to handle more promptly, efficiently, and cost-effectively. Perhaps, he recognized the possible improvements and enhancements that he and his department could be credited with making to the hotel property. Working with a tight budget, fewer supplies, and reduced staff.

Initially, we worked together for five years. During that time, the man saw some of his plans and goals become reality. He saw the hotel property take on a fresh, new appearance. He saw the condition of its surfaces improve remarkably. He heard and read the many positive comments by the guests, staff members, visitors, property managers, and even the new owners.

The hands-on director of engineering left. A year later, he returned when the replacement decided to move on. Within two months, he left again.

The director of engineering is the engine (no pun intended) that keeps the hotel operable. The mastermind behind facilities services. He or she is the entrepreneurial spirit, in the organization’s uniform, that understands the following essentials:

A hotel’s engineering department is configured of a vast, complex network of systems – electrical, mechanical, plumbing, carpentry, tiling, etc. Each system must work well, in sync with the others, and independently. And, each system must be maintained properly, constantly, and efficiently to ensure that every other department area on the property can function. Most important, so the hotel can conduct business! Manned by team members that pull together, to keep things together!

The director of engineering is responsible, also, for the effective completion of all people-related tasks within the department’s operations. The treatment and service of guests. The support of each staff member, both departmentally and interdepartmentally. The provision of services specific to each worker’s training, employment and abilities. The teaming up with the entire hotel team to promote, maintain and represent their hotel’s mission, values, image, and policies.

The director of engineering, that led our department, tended to follow two closely linked rules: (1) Get it working. (2) Get it done at minimum cost. He worked as a hands-on manager. He asked none of his people to do anything that he would not have done himself. (One of my sister’s firm policies, as well!) He protected his department, his men’s jobs, and the way he needed the men to do them. He put the hotel’s engineering operations and management and guests’ services first!

To cut costs and down-times, he made every effort to recycle parts, supplies and equipment. He was prepared to solve problems with little or no budget, low inventory, minimal manpower, and very tight deadlines.

He ran the department with an iron hand, and a strong will. He kept complaints close to the cuff. Hotel management business was kept confidential. Company policies and basic safety and health standards were followed.

He represented the engineering field as a seasoned professional. Also, he recognized that I represented the painting and decorating trade just as professionally.

Yes, our personalities clashed occasionally. Still, our respective skills, experience and abilities complemented those of the other. And, those of every other member on the team, as he anticipated when he added me to that team.

In fact, that entire engineering team worked well together. Like a finely tuned engine. We knew how each other thought and operated. We knew that we could count on each other. We knew what and how much to expect from each other. We knew how hard we could push each other’s buttons. We knew that everyone on the engineering team, working together, was committed to doing their best!

At some point, more cutbacks became necessary. Like with countless other engineering/facilities management departments around the globe, our challenges increased. Some beyond our engineering director’s power to resolve. Our department’s modes operandi squeaked more, and hummed less. Its systems began to freeze up. Like gears, locked up in an engine lacking essential lubricants and oils.


Hotel Guests Besides Millennials Prefer Authentic Experiences. Up to a point!

Four plus times a year, my sister stays in different British hotels, all part of an international hotel chain’s brand name group. The reservations are made by corporate people in Cleveland. Accommodations focus on comfort, convenience, technology connectivity, services, and value.

“Corporate” knows that, during each stay, at each location, my sister’s lead team of management trainers work very long hours and keep tight schedules every day. They know that all of the teams must follow pre-set guidelines, based on specific objectives for that round of visits. And, the long-term goals set for that division, and the corporation as a whole.

Also, they know that the teams must be ready to troubleshoot – solve problems – promptly, efficiently, effectively, and creativity, with cost-containment always a major factor. Their grueling, demanding itinerary takes a lot out of everyone on each team. To perform with such high/optimal physical and mental energy on the job, team members – all over millennial age – need access to things that help them make the most of their off-time, too. Some examples:

  • Hotel rooms and common areas that provide reliable international Wi-FI and phone connectivity.
  • Local restaurants that serve both native and universal dishes and beverages.
  • Close proximity to some popular tourist and historic attractions.
  • Alternative forms of reliable transportation to travel about with ease and minimal delays.
  • Nearby shopping that offers necessary, also unique, products – at affordable prices.
  • Networking and socializing opportunities with other travelers and visitors, as well as locals.
  • Off-hour study/reading/work areas that offer privacy and comfort, also opportunities to socialize, simultaneously, on an “as needed/as wanted” basis.
  • Basic “western” traveler necessities such as toilet paper, top sheets and two pillows on beds, extra bath linens, toiletries, bath/beauty/grooming/aids, and laundry/ironing services.

Of course, these Western guests have needed to shorten their “needs lists,” and adjust their expectations, too. They’ve had to accept things like the following:

  • Lmited food service, and food/meal delivery by nearby eateries.
  • No 24-hour universal smart/cell phone connectivity and service, without pre-purchase of (pricey) peripherals; and no on-premises skype.
  • Only off-premises restaurants and food courts, game rooms, theatres, etc.
  • Only off-premises snack and beverage vending machines.
  • No in-room coffee makers and microwaves.
  • Top sheets and second pillows on beds available only by special arrangement.
  • Limited paper and toiletry products.

With each return visit, however, the corporate team has become savvy, and prepared. They’ve become very adaptable and “acclimated. ”Britain-ized” and “Europe-ized.” To the extent that they thoroughly enjoy their “authentic experience” as business hotel guests. After all, they’re in a country and region of the world deeply rooted to its traditions.

Furthermore, these corporate trainers are there to strengthen connections with their – and the corporation’s – British and European associates/team members. And, they want to return home to the United States, able to tell everyone, including themselves: “Job well done!” “Mission accomplished!”

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