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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How to keep paint from bleeding behind the tape

Q: Why does Paint Bleed behind the tape?
A: You are not burnishing it or cleaning the surface.

Lots of times when I am visiting a homeowner who wants their walls painted I'll note a few paint dots that got behind the tape and stained the baseboard or door frame. I always try to point that out to the homeowner in a subtle way before I start painting because if they chose a similar color their may be confusion as to who got the paint there.
I would make the following points for homeowners who are going to do it themselves or homeowners who are hiring a professional painter:
1. Clean the surface. Lots of small particles sit on the surfaces of baseboard and sides of door frames and you have to wipe them, tack cloth them, or at the very least sweep them with a brush prior to taping the surface. The surface may look clean but I would make a point to sweep over it with a clean paint brush after giving it the feel test.
2. Use the appropriate tape. I'm not sure it makes a huge difference between 3m tan, 3m blue, frog tape, or inter-tape tan with regard to preventing bleed (depending on the surface). All of them will prevent bleed if you apply them correctly on the correct surface and all of them will fail if you do not apply them correctly. Generally stick to the instructions on the tapes wrapping. Delicate tape for freshly painted surfaces and the higher adhesion tape for wood that has fully cured varnish and paint, etc etc.
3. Burnish you tape line: Finally, make sure to take a small putty knife (preferably plastic or at least dull) and score over the top of the tape line prior to cutting. This will get rid of air bubbles and make sure all of the tapes adhesive surface will have been pressed into contact with the surface you are trying to protect.
4. Make sure to pull out the paint over the top of the tape line. This basically means that you shouldn't let a bunch of paint pool on the top of the tape line. Although, it shouldn't matter as much if you follow steps 1 through 3. It is still a good habit to make sure you have a nicely even pulled out surface.

It should work every time.

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