• In this video, This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook shares tips for applying a flawless spray paint finish.

    1. After deciding on the spray paint's color, choose the appropriate finish. Spray paints are commonly available in high-gloss, satin, and metallic.
    2. Also consider a specialty finish, such as chalkboard, textured stone or hammered metal.
    3. Use a separate primer when spray-painting raw wood, rusty surfaces or when covering a dark color with a lighter one.
    4. High-heat spray paint, which can withstand temperatures up to 1,200F, can be used to paint barbecue grills, radiators and woodstoves.
    5. Look for spray paints that are specifically designed for coating plastics and metals, or use an all-surface paint, which is formulated for painting virtually any surface.
    6. Pistol-grip spray-paint cans are less fatiguing to use, and will spray when held upside down.
    7. Prepare metal surfaces prior to spray painting by first cleaning the metal using a variety of tools, including wire brushes, steel wool, sandpaper and sanding block, and a random-orbit sander.
    8. Use a sponge and warm soapy water to wash metal surfaces clean of all dust and dirt.
    9. After washing plastic pieces, wipe down all surfaces with denatured alcohol to remove any oil residue.
    10. Dry all surfaces with a clean cloth.
    11. Use painter's tape and newspaper to mask off any surfaces you don't want to paint.
    12. If necessary, apply a spray primer. Once the primer is dry, spray paint the surfaces with the appropriate topcoat spray paint.
    13. Hold the spray can 12 inches away from the surface and keep the can moving at all times to prevent drips and runs.
    14. Apply a second coat of paint, once the first coat has thoroughly dried.
    • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
      Prep work can be tedious, but spraying paint is fun and fast

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      Tools List

      • Wire brush
      • random orbit sander
        Random-orbit sander
      • bucket with sponge
        Plastic bucket and sponge

      Shopping List

      Spray primer

      Spray paint

      80-grit sanding disks

      Steel wool


      Liquid soap

      Denatured alcohol

      Painter's tape and newspaper