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Masking Paper and Drop Cloths
Line hard floors with brown masking or builders' paper, which absorbs spills, and tape it down around the room's edge. Cover carpeting with canvas drop cloths (paper tears in deep pile) and furniture with plastic ones.
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Joint Tape, Joint Compound, and Taping Knife
Patch cracks in walls with fiberglass-mesh joint tape (the self-adhesive kind is the simplest to work with) and joint compound applied with a broad, 6- to 12-inch taping knife.
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Caulk and Caulking Gun
Caulk is loaded into a dispenser gun and used to fill cracks between unlike materials, such as wood trim and plaster walls. Look for labels that say "paintable latex" or "paintable acrylic latex," which are easy to clean up with a damp sponge.
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Painters' masking tape helps ensure a clean line between the wall and the ceiling or trim. Also use it for painting windows. It's sold based on degree of adhesion, so select the one that's appropriate for your surface, such as low tack for glass or high tack for textured walls such as brick.
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Spackling Paste, Wood Filler, and Putty Knife
Cover holes in walls with spackling paste and those in trim and molding with wood filler. Choose a flexible putty knife for these tasks. (Sturdier ones are better for scraping.)
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Sandpaper, Sanding Sponge, and Dust Mask
You'll need coarse (80 to 100 grit), medium (120 to 150 grit), and fine (220 grit) sandpaper for smoothing filled holes and cracks; a sanding sponge, which can be cleaned and reused, is a newer option. Wear a mask for heavy sanding.
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Rags, Sponges, and Tack Cloths
For cleanup, cotton rags made for painting (they give off little lint) are invaluable. Use medium-size sponges to wipe down walls and smooth caulk. Tack cloths, which are sticky, remove fine dust from surfaces.
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This handy multitasker performs even more functions than its name suggests. Use it to open paint cans, tear masking tape, scrape paint, clean roller sleeves, and remove debris from fissures in the wall; the square end works as a slotted screwdriver.
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The best brushes have flexible -- not stiff -- bristles with flagged, or split, ends, which hold more paint. Use a 3- or 4-inch brush on walls (anything larger is unwieldy); angled 1- to 2-inch ones are ideal for windows, trim, and the technique known as "cutting in".
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A good-quality roller has a cage with springs, to prevent the sleeve from slipping off, and a rigid handle with a hole in the bottom for an extension pole. Popular sizes include 9 inch, 7 inch, and 4 inch. Use the largest one that fits in the area to be covered.
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Roller Tray and Liner
Invest in a sturdy metal roller tray that resists tipping. Placing a disposable plastic liner inside the pan makes cleanup a breeze (and saves you from replacing trays caked in dried paint). Double-check that liners fit your tray, as sizing is not universal.
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Before working with paint from previously opened cans, pass it through a metal strainer (find one at a paint or kitchen store) to filter out any debris or dried particles. Do not use a paper strainer, which is made for thinner paints such as oil or lacquer.
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Decant paint to be applied with a brush into small plastic vessels, such as those used for take-out food. (Don't use metal containers, which can rust.) This prevents paint in cans from drying out or becoming contaminated with dust or stray bristles.
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These come with naps of 1/8 to 2 inches or more. Usually, a 1/2-inch nap for priming and 3/8-inch for painting are best. (Textured surfaces require something fluffier.) Foam sleeves have low nap, so they work well with glossy paints, which tend to magnify roller marks.
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Anyone who has tried to balance a paint tray on a ladder will appreciate an extension pole, which snaps or screws into the end of a roller, enabling you to reach new heights. Telescoping poles, which can be adjusted in length, are handiest.
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Additives such as Floetrol emulate the smooth look of oil paint by rendering brush and roller marks less prominent. Mix a pint of conditioner with a gallon of latex paint. Test a swatch on the wall. For an even cleaner finish, add up to 1 pint more conditioner.
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