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Neatness counts when it comes to painting

Q: I am painting a room that has new carpeting, but I am scared to death that if I get one drop of paint on it, my wife will kill me and tell me that we should have hired someone. Anyway, I want to paint the walls and baseboards, but I don’t know how you paint baseboards without getting paint on the carpet when the carpet is touching the baseboards.

A: Some couples learn that doing home-improvement projects together can really strengthen a relationship or tear it apart. You may want to have a marriage counselor on hand in case the whole thing goes belly up.

Painting around carpet is a little scary, and the added threat of divorce doesn’t make it any easier. Carpet is expensive, so you must protect it as you paint. You didn’t say whether you are using a roller and brush or a paint sprayer, so we will take both separately.

If you are going to roll the walls and brush the baseboards, you can shield the carpet using one of several methods. Probably the easiest one is to use a large drywall taping knife. Slide the knife down the face of the baseboard and push it against the carpet. This will create a “V” shape between the baseboard and the knife into which you can slide your paintbrush.

A word of caution here: Use minimal paint on the brush. First, you will be working close to the carpet and the more paint on the brush, the more likely a drip will occur. Secondly, as you paint the baseboard, you will get paint on one side of the knife. Be aware that you don’t want a lot of paint on the knife because it will drip (wipe off the knife each time you get paint on it). Another reason to limit the paint is that sometimes the carpet will spring back and touch the baseboard, getting paint on it.

You also can buy a special baseboard painting tool to accomplish the same thing. It is essentially a piece of flimsy plastic about 3 feet long, shaped like the letter “L.” Slide it in between the baseboard and the carpet. The top of the carpet is protected by the plastic, but you have to be careful using it, because you will get paint on it and it is flimsy enough so that it will flop around and get paint on your clothes, carpet, drapes, etc.

If you are spraying the walls and baseboard, you have to tape everything. For the carpet, you will need to tape along the edge of the carpet where it meets the baseboard. Some painters use a drop cloth to cover the carpet, while others use plastic sheeting (although it can be slippery), but you have to protect the perimeter where the carpet meets the baseboard, and this is done with tape.

You can apply a 2-inch-wide length of tape along the baseboard, but you have to get it down below the height of the carpet so that you won’t see a difference in color once the tape is removed. It’s not difficult work, but you probably won’t relish the time you spend hunched over taping along the baseboard.

The trick is to apply the tape to the carpet and pull the pile away from the baseboard so that you can paint it. Lay the tape loosely on top of the carpet so that about one-half inch of it just touches the baseboard. A cross-section of this would look like a gradual arc from the baseboard to the top of the carpet.

Now you want to force the tape in between the carpet and the baseboard and pull it away from the wall. I know painters who use a putty knife or even their fingers to push the tape in.

You want to transfer the tape from the baseboard to the base of the carpet. Naturally, make sure that only the edge of the tape is just touching the baseboard before you start pushing it in. If the tape is actually stuck to the baseboard, you will tear it.

Once you push the tape to the base of the carpet, pull the tape away from the baseboard. This will grab the carpet along the baseboard and make it somewhat lay down.

Then you can push down on the top of the tape so that it sticks to the top of the carpet to hold it in place. After that, you can tape down some plastic or lay out the drop cloths.

All I ask is that you remember me on your anniversary.

Michael D. Klimek is a licensed contractor and president of Pro Handyman Corp. Questions may be sent by e-mail to: questions@pro-handyman.com. Or, mail to: P.O. Box 96761, Las Vegas, NV 89193. His Web address is: www.pro-handyman.com.

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