Our customers, and I personally, appreciate the high level and consistent delivery of your products and services. You make us look good.
- Bryan Zolfo, Insignia Kitchen & Bath, Barrington
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Painted Stripes Can Add Wow Appeal to a Ceiling

Painted Stripes on Bathroom Ceiling

Painted Stripes on Ceiling – Craftsman Style

Gilded Stripes on Ceiling – Craftsman Style

As Painting and Decorating Contractors in the Chicago Area, we are called on to execute an array of decorative painting projects. Stripes are one of the options in our bag of tricks. Painted stripes are more commonly thought of to ornate walls, either as a border, or in vertical or horizontal patterns. Unlike wallpaper, painted stripes are custom and can be adjusted to exactly fit the dimensions of a wall. The size and sheen of the stripes can be tailored to meet any need at hand.

An often-overlooked application for painted stripes involves ceilings. We recently worked on such a project in a 1920’s bungalow on Chicago’s North side. The room was the house’s hall bath. The lower six feet of the walls was clad with a white subway tile, a black bullnose and base, as well as a thin patterned black/white stripe. We painted the upper wall and ceiling in a color to match the white tile. Then came the fun part: executing a stripe pattern that worked well with five inside corners and one outside corner.

Coming up with the appropriate design was a major challenge. The lady of the house had a picture of a ceiling pattern. However, it turned out it could not accommodate the outside corner, without making the pattern look disjointed. This is when her husband was inspired to try his hands at coming up with a design. His first attempt crashed and burned. His second was a resounding success: he nailed the design, as shown in the attached picture!

Painted stripe designs can also be very effective in “Period” houses, like Art Nouveau, Craftsman or Art Deco styles. I have attached pictures of two Craftsman-style projects to illustrate the possibilities. For the first one, we created a Gingko-leaf pattern to frame the four corners of a living room. In that case only a single painted stripe was used, which led the eye to the corner designs. The second project involved a dining room. In that case, we gilded a more intricate stripe pattern. That project also involved gilding square wood buttons in the upper corners of five-foot panels framing the room. Look at the metallic sheen!

Offering decorative painting custom solutions to help enhance the beauty of our clients’ vintage houses is part of what we do as house painting contractors.

Peeling Solid Color Stain on Cedar Siding?

Peeling Solid Color Stain over Ceder Siding – Part 1

Solid color stain is not supposed to peel (like paint does) when applied to cedar siding. The unfortunate reality is that peeling solid color stain is a common occurrence. Many factors can contribute to this problem.

First, many house painting contractors promote the use of a two-coat paint job as offering greater value than a one-coat job. The homeowner assumes that two coats ought to be better than one. However, unless a second coat is needed to ensure good coverage (because of a change in color or a very worn original coat), a second coat only adds thickness to the coating. In the long-term, those multiple coats of stain cause the stain to behave like paint and peel. Generally, homeowners should resist the temptation to accept the second coat of stain, at least without asking the reason for that recommendation.

Peeling Solid Color Stain over Ceder Siding – Part 2

Other factors can also contribute to the peeling stain problem. Failing to kill mildew spores in the cleaning process can cause the last coat to delaminate from the previous coat. Power washing alone does not kill the spores – a diluted bleach solution does! Staining or painting over mildew spores gives them darkness, which helps them to propagate under the last coat and cause coating failure.

Another insidious cause of solid stain failure on cedar has to do with dead wood fiber on the face of the siding. When the peeling stain is scraped off, dead wood fiber often stays stuck to the back of the flake. This is a telling sign of the problem. No stain, or paint can adhere to dead wood fiber, leading to major coating failure. When this condition exists, we have noticed that the sun accelerates the demise of the coating, by causing countless hot/cold cycles (even many times a day). If a tree shades a portion of the house, that portion may not exhibit the problem, or very little. The North side of the house may also show little sign of delamination as well.

Peeling Solid Color Stain over Ceder Siding – Part 3

Peeling Solid Color Stain over Ceder Siding – Part 4

We are often asked what may have caused the dead wood fiber in the first place. We have two main theories. One is that the siding may have sat unfinished for too long after it was installed on the house. The other has to do with moisture. We have noticed that the siding in problem houses is almost never back-primed, which causes the moisture to penetrate into the wood and migrate towards the exterior of the siding. The hot-cold cycles degrade the wood behind the coating and cause the stain or coating to fail. A failed or poorly performing vapor barrier may also aggravate the problem, by allowing more moisture to penetrate into the siding.

The bad news is that there is no easy or inexpensive way to deal with the problem. Extensive scraping and sanding is needed. We also cannot guarantee that the problem will not reoccur. In fact, the stain or paint that will not come off at this time will likely come off later. The best outcome you can hope for is to eventually get ahead of the problem. Unfortunately, the most permanent solution is to remove the siding, install a new vapor barrier and prime the new siding on all sides before its installation.

As house painting contractors in the Chicago area, we have a passion to get to the root cause of the problems we encounter, so that we can devise the best possible solutions and create the most value for our clients.

Repairing Holes in Drywall after the Electrician Leaves – Making it Look Like it Never Happened!

Holes in Drywall

Making holes in drywall disappear, as if they never existed, is one of the skills of a competent house painter. As painting and decorating contractors in the Chicago area, we are often called upon to do such repairs after an electrician has added electrical boxes or fixtures to an existing house. This is also a common occurrence when a house is being rewired.

The first picture shows how one of the walls looked when we first came on the premises of a recent project. On that particular project, there were sixteen holes that varied in size from ten square inches to three square feet. Our record is twenty-four holes in the plaster walls of three rooms – ouch! I think the electrician was a bit Sawzall-happy.

Wood bracing for Drywall Patch

How do you go about disappearing a hole in drywall? A drywall patch must be screwed to wood bracing. On occasion, there is a stud nearby that can provide bracing for at least one side of the patch. More commonly, we need to cut pieces of 2×1 wood and screw them to the rear of the existing drywall to create the bracing we need, as shown in the next picture. Sometime, we may need to enlarge the hole or combine it with other holes to make the repairs more efficient. We use our professional judgment to make those calls.

Repaired Five Holes in Drywall

At this point, it is important to ascertain the thickness of the surrounding drywall. In modern construction, walls are clad in 5/8” and ceilings in ½” drywall (but not always). If you have to, you are better off using a thinner piece that a thicker one, as it can be filled in with joint compound. The new drywall piece is then screwed to the wood bracing, taped and patched. A top quality repair will generally require three coats of joint compound and easily cover an area three or four times the original size of the hole. The patch is then ready to be primed. By then, the hole has disappeared!

Repairing holes in drywall is part of the skill-set of a competent house painter. Making it look as if it never happened is the result our clients can expect from us.

High-End Wall Coverings Deserve Special Care in their Installation

Bohemian Bangles Grasscloth Wallpaper by Philip Jeffries

During the past year, for the first time in our history as painting and decorating contractors in the Chicago area, our volume of installations of high-end wall coverings has exceeded our volume of decorative painting projects. These wallpaper installations have included numerous Lincrusta, Philip Jeffries, Elitis, J.R. Burrows papers among others. This trend has been building for two or three years now.

When dealing with such exclusive and expensive materials, an additional strong dose of caution is needed. First, the installation must only be handled by the most experienced of craftsmen. By that, I mean someone with a passion for precision in execution and a broad base of knowledge and experience. Many of these papers present some unique challenges. Therefore the installer must also be able to think on his/her feet in problem solving. Lincrusta is a prime example of these installation challenges. Because of its rigidity, and thickness, it is more akin to a floor covering than a wall covering. Great skill must be applied to the cutting of the material.

Big Croco Wallcovering by Elitis

Second, we take additional installation steps. For instance, we often use a liner paper before installing the wallpaper. We also prime the liner once installed. Skipping that step may ruin the liner (and a wall) if for some reason a sheet needs to be removed after it has begun to set on the liner. High-gloss, solid-color wall coverings (lacquer look) present challenges of their own: every imperfection in the walls with telegraph through the wallpaper, even with the use of a heavy weight liner. Therefore, to ensure a mirror-like appearance, the walls must be skimmed and brought to a level 5 finish, before being primed and installing the liner. These additional steps increase the cost of the project. However, they ensure a successful installation that last a very long time.

High-end wall coverings must be treated with caution and respect. Failure to do so, may result in disaster.

Painting Wood Cabinets – Creating a Bold New Look for a Kitchen

Hand-Painted Cabinets, Hand-Painted Wood Floor and Lacquered Doors

On a recent project on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, our painting and decorating company was tasked, among other things, to hand-paint the wood cabinets in a large kitchen. In fact, the kitchen had eighty doors and drawer fronts, which included three nine-foot doors for closet areas.

The cabinets were solid cherry and had been subtly distressed with tools by the manufacturer. Additionally, there was a busy tile floor throughout, which was replaced with a wide-plank oak floor. As you can tell from the before and after pictures, our client had a dramatically different look in mind for his kitchen. What he had pictured were hand-painted cabinets, a hand-painted wood floor, dark walls and dark orange lacquered doors for the pantry and laundry room.

Kitchen – Before

Creating a professional hand-painted finish like this involved a total of ten steps and over two hundred fifty hours of labor, executed over a four-week time period. All our cabinet refinishing work was done on the client’s premises, in the empty, large living room adjacent to the kitchen. Because the project was in a condominium building, no spray equipment could be used and all products used were waterborne.

The project included to puttying/sanding of all the hardware holes on the doors and drawers. It also involved the removal of the moldings holding the glass in place on twelve doors and finishing all those moldings and screw heads like the rest of the cabinets. Of course, the project would not have been complete without installing about two hundred new round bumpers on all the doors and drawers!

Hand-painting the floor boards also presented particular challenges. We first had to fill all the gaps between the boards with wood putty. In order to avoid filling the wood grain by puttying the gaps, we had to first tape off the board edges before puttying the gaps. After the putty was dry, we removed the tape and sanded the putty. We coated the boards with three coats of a semi-gloss industrial marine floor coating to achieve the desired durability and sheen.

Our work as a painting and decorating contractor first requires that we deeply listen to our clients in order to grasp their vision. Second, it also requires that we do whatever is necessary to achieve the end-result the client is looking for, by applying our skill, knowledge and experience. Producing that outcome is what we are about as a team.