Common Mistakes: Paints and Wallcoverings

May 1, 2007
With respect to paints and wallcoverings, performance is affected by things other than the actual product alone

Paints and wallcoverings - often-underrated finishes - can expand room dimensions, scale down ceiling heights, reconfigure spaces, and fool the eye into downplaying almost any shortcoming. In terms of paint, says Deborah Zimmer, paint and paint-color expert at The Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute, Philadelphia, "You get what you pay for. With respect to performance, application, and appearance concerns that surround paint, facilities professionals should spec a high-quality, 100-percent acrylic latex paint."

Often considered the more "pricey" option, wallcoverings are dependent upon similar criteria. Premium materials and finishes won't degrade as quickly; they balance necessary performance characteristics with permeability attributes. More importantly, according to The Wallcoverings Association, Chicago, wallcoverings are "a great impersonator." They can make an impact in a single application, masking weak features while emphasizing a room's stronger points.

Lynnette Bush Clouse, coordinator of interiors/project manager at Ohio University, Athens, OH, has predominantly selected paint for most of the university's new construction and renovation projects. "It seems," she says, "that when a new department moves into a space that has wallcovering in place, they want us to take it out. Truthfully, wallcovering just doesn't transcend like paint." Bohdan Gernaga, owner of Chicago-based design firm Tyme Design, sees wallcoverings as an appropriate option in high-traffic areas that handle more abuse.

"With respect to paint, the key concerns surround fade resistance, water resistance, cleanability, and the capacity to hide joints, seams, and nails," says Zimmer. "The solution is really about the paint formulation and sheen. A lower-sheen product hides structural imperfections much better. A higher-gloss product has superior washability. Fade resistance - more problematic due to designing daylighting into a space and the desire to use deep-toned colors - is addressed through paint formulated to withstand UV resistance."

"Good-looking interiors vs. those that aren't goes back to initial prep work," adds Gernaga. "Taking the time to understand and follow proper application steps is critical. Then, it's important to educate those involved in maintenance about the required long-term programs to keep the painted or covered surfaces attractive and repaired."

"Paint is so easy," explains Ohio University's Clouse. "Good lighting, whether natural and/or artificial, can enhance its effect. Since we're unable to get a Level 5 drywall finish, we're requiring that our paint offer good coverage (rather than using a trendier wallcovering that won't remain suitable)."

SIMON SAYS: Avoid painted woodwork at lower levels. Instead, use stain on base boards to hide dents and scrapes. The contrast of these trims to painted window trims, wainscoting, and crown molding will be practically invisible.

Other common mistakes:

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