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Perfection in Art of Painting Kitchen Cabinets

It is impossible to do a perfect job for the guy who races through a kitchen cabinet refinishing job in order to maximize profits? He may be able to do a neat, fast job, but not a perfect job. Still, there are times, with certain clients or when there is a certain application, when you know you have to be perfect.

What it takes to refinish the cabinets perfectly?

Perfection begins with patience. Some people have a calm,`steady-as-she-goes’ disposition, while others go fast and let trial and error be their teacher. Whoever you are, you better find patience when you have to be perfect. Perfection also takes superior selling skills, because if you want to be perfect and stay in business, you had better be able to sell to the high-end customers who can afford it. A rule of thumb is to expect that perfection will take at least twice as much work as a regular, middle-of-the road job. If you don’t have the confidence to sell at that level, you are better off not to pursue perfection.

Getting there

No one starts at perfection, and getting there takes time. Assuming you are doing good work now, your start is to kick in those sales skills and ratchet up your prices. As your painting skills improve, you can wean yourself off average customers looking for inexpensive jobs and move up the scale to well-to-do clients. The harsh reality is, it is the upper- income clients who can afford the high prices perfection demands, and you must become familiar with the special sales style it takes to win them over. And remember, it’s not always painting skill that is required to gain high-end clients. More often, the painter with a stable of high-end clients is the one who has learned to communicate well and has developed an eye for design and color.

Definition of Perfection

Perfection is not a solitary goal. When you find that “perfection” client may find that, though you use the same word, you mean vastly different things. It will take time talking with the client to arrive at a definition of perfection that you both agree on and you can work towards together. If you run ahead without ensuring you are agreed as to what is expected, you will certainly run into trouble.

How not to find perfection

Whatever you do, don’t be the painter who hires a crew and pushes and pushes for perfection-with-speed. That just doesn’t work in the long run. Even if you get close to perfection (which is unlikely), you will end up with a bunch of frustrated, angry employees who will eventually move on to a new contractor. The short-term benefit will hurt your pursuit of perfection.

Look at a reasonable pace on your jobs. Hire conscientious painters who will work at a reasonable price and make their workplace safe. Begin to separate your crews into the grinders- those who will never have what it takes to be perfect-and the perfectionists. When you finally get that job where you can afford to be perfect, you have the crew in place and ready to go.

It starts with sales but ends with prep

Perfection, technically, is in the preparation. There are no shortcuts. If an exterior surface is lumpy and cracked or has numerous layers of paint showing, sanding is not the solution. Stripping the paint off down to the bare wood is a start. And perfection extends beyond the paint. If the substrate is bad, it has to be replaced.

If it’s wood we are talking about and it is solid, all nicks and holes have to be filled with plastic wood and sanded until the surface is not only smooth but uniformly smooth, as if it came through a planer. Otherwise, every wave and dip will show in the light. Think of every surface being finished with high-gloss varnish or paint, with an HVLP sprayer. Think car finish smooth. While achieving that kind of perfection may be tough, it is what high-end jobs require, hence the double or triple market value cost.

The same holds true for painting walls of any age. Some renovations and newer homes are worse than century homes when it comes to flat walls. Bulging walls from bowed lumber and level differences from drywall repairs are a nightmare for this kind of work. Most high-end homes won’t have this kind of disaster, but if they do, it may be necessary to tear down part of the wall to repair extreme imperfections. Plaster can only hide so much.

Perfectionists will skim-coat the entire wall if they encounter too many imperfections and rough roller nap. Looking at the wall from the side with a bright light shining on it helps to identify dips and bulges and imperfections. Having at least two people doing the prep in the same area may seem like a recipe for disaster, but checking over each other’s work catches a lot of things you skip over. When you start with all the big stuff and focus on smaller and smaller perfections, it’s easy to give up on tiny stuff. That’s where the other pair of eyes helps.

Perfect application

What does perfect application look like? Start by priming with a heavy- body, 100-per-cent-acrylic latex primer, which has replaced oil-based primers. Prime the entire wall after sanding, and then touch up any remaining imperfections. Lastly, re-prime the entire wall, evening the surface even more. Sand after each coat. Dust off or vacuum the walls and clean the floors after each sanding to eliminate transferring dirt to the wall.

Never use anything less than top-of-the-line paint. And never believe anyone who says you can tint the primer and then use one coat of paint. There is never an excuse for not doing at least two full coats of paint on the walls, even with the best paint. Highest-quality paints have more pigment and binders and acrylic in them. They are designed to be washable, and to be applied liberally.

The roller sleeve and paint brush are also critical to the perfect finish. A five- millimeter sleeve doesn’t hold as much paint as thicker ones, but it minimizes the nap on the wall, giving the smoothest finish. A superior latex brush like the three-inch Purdy holds its shape and, when maintained properly, will last years, not months. Such a brush keeps paint inside its body. Paint in cheap brushes oozes out and runs down the handle onto your hands. A superior brush is stiff enough to allow you to squeeze it into a corner without turning into a blob. Having control of the edge of the brush allows you to finesse a perfectly straight line.

To achieve a perfect line along a ceiling or against another wall of a different color, take a roller scraper and run it down the bend in the wall or at the ceiling to make a slight groove. Then with a small amount of paint on the brush, apply paint up to the groove. It also helps to brush from the dry side of the wall into the finished section of the cut, thus avoiding a saw-tooth pattern in the paint surface.

Is perfection for you?

If you start on the road to perfect painting, that’s good; you will learn a lot about painting and a lot about yourself. In fact, you may discover that being perfect is not what you thought it would be. You may also discover you are not the kind of person who is good at dealing with the clients that perfection attracts. You may discover you are not interested in the lower income that the pursuit of perfection generally generates. Perfection is truly not a mainstream goal; It requires a different mentality. It is a unique niche in the decor market but it is not special, only different. Being a good painter who provides excellent value for your customer’s dollar may be much more satisfying to you and, ultimately, more financially rewarding. If that’s the case, don’t be shy to leave perfection to the perfectionists.