Norm's Notebook Masking Tape norm abram
Photo: Bevan Walker
No one wants the dust from sanding or demolition to spread all over the rest of the house. That why in any room I'm working in, I cover each opening with a sheet of 6-mil plastic and seal around the entire opening, including the floor, with painter's tape. The barrier stays there until the dust settles and I can clean it up. To get in and out of the room where the work is being done, I use another kind of tape—an adhesive-backed zipper like the one made by ZipWall—that lets you open and close a vertical slit in the plastic.
Of all the specialized masking tapes out there, I use blue painter's tape more than any other. It won't leave behind a sticky residue on surfaces if you take it off in time, and it's easy to see, making it far more versatile than the tan masking tape I grew up with. For instance, I've used the inch-wide blue tape on floors to help a client visualize where a kitchen island would be. And I've put it on the walls to determine the best size and location for a flat-screen TV in a media room.

Fast Masking
Applying masking tape up against any straight edge such as baseboards will go quickly if you follow these steps, which keep you from pulling the tape so hard that it stretches.

1. Brush or vacuum dust away from the area. Pull about 18 inches of tape off the roll, and anchor the loose end with a touch of your thumb. Lower the tape so the edge just grazes the baseboard.

2. Stick down the roll end with another light touch, then touch the tape every few inches between the two anchor points.

3. Smooth the tape by running your fingers along its entire length. Repeat with the next 18-inch segment. However, if the edge you're taping isn't straight, shorten the segments as needed.

Removing Tape
To get a clean edge on a flat surface, say when painting stripes, slowly pull the tape toward the painted side at a 45-degree angle to the stuck tape (Image 5, at left, step 1). If the tape is in the corner between surfaces that are perpendicular to each other, such as a wall and window trim, pull the tape away from the painted surface at a 45-degree angle (Image 5, at left, step 2).

Surface Protector
Any time I use a circular saw or jigsaw on a surface I don't want to scratch, I first cover the saw's metal base with a single layer of 2-inch-wide tape. That tape provides all the protection I need when cutting painted, laminated, or veneered surfaces. Make sure the tape rows don't overlap; their edges should butt up neatly, without any lumps.

Norm's Tip: Before caulking around my tub, I run masking tape on both sides of the joint to keep the caulk from smearing onto the tub or the tile.
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