The Top 10 Questions that Painting Professionals Ask Time and Time Again

Long-time PPC Ask Your ProPartner™ columnist Rick Watson retired in December 2021. Before he left, we asked him about the most common questions he heard over his 34 years in the paint industry. In no particular order, here are his top 10 “ageless questions.”

What’s the best surface prep for my project?

This is one of the topics I always start out with when I’m interviewing or specifying or just generally talking about a project.

The first step is to make sure the area you are painting is clean, dry, dull and sound.1 I recommend that the surface be thoroughly cleaned with a good cleaner/degreaser to remove the grease and oils, dirt, grime or contaminants that might build up over time. Do this before sanding.

If you sand before you clean, you might push that contaminant deeper into the pore of the surface. That can cause poor adhesion and peeling down the road.

Once the surface is clean, you can always paint out a test sample to make sure the prep was done correctly and that you have sufficient adhesion.

Learn more about this subject, including pre-primed woodwork and how long to wait to paint after pressure washing, in Rick’s story Why is Proper Prep and Priming So Important?

How do you prepare decks for the coating to last?

This is an age-old question, and it pops up every year around springtime. The key to doing decks is clean, dry, dull and sound. Make sure the deck has been stripped, cleaned properly and check for porosity by sprinkling some water on the deck. If the droplets sink in, the wood may be ready to coat. If the water is not absorbed, remove any existing stain or sealer. Then test for absorbency again.

Final thought: More is not always better when it comes to application of the coating. Read and follow directions on the label and data pages.

Learn more in the PPC story Deck Care: Your FAQs Answered

Can I paint vinyl siding?

Yes! My tips:

  • First, clean the surface thoroughly by scrubbing with warm, soapy water.
  • Rinse thoroughly, and if needed, prime with the appropriate white primer.
  • Do not paint vinyl with any color darker than the original color.
  • Do not paint vinyl with a color having a Light Reflective Value (LRV) of less than 56. Painting with darker colors lower than an LRV of 56 may cause vinyl to warp unless VinylSafe® colors and products are used. If VinylSafe colors are not used the vinyl may warp.
  • Follow all painting guidelines of the vinyl manufacturer when painting.
  • Only paint properly installed vinyl siding. Deviating from the manufacturer’s painting guidelines may cause the warranty to be voided.

Can I paint brick?

Brick inherently needs no paint. But your customer may have several reasons to do so, ranging from cosmetic color changes to improving the look of a damaged substrate.

I answer some of the most common questions I hear from contractors on the subject of painting brick in the story How Do I Paint Brick? A Complete Guide for Pro Painters.

Is primer really needed?

You may not need a primer if you’re painting over similar types of existing finishes that are clean, dry, dull and in sound shape – such as latex to latex, or latex to oils.

We are going to recommend a primer when you need to promote adhesion, block stains, fill porous surfaces like concrete block, or resist alkali and efflorescence, provide corrosion resistance, paint white over deep, dark colors, and so on.

Learn more about primers, including the pros and cons of water vs. solvent-based primers, and “paint and primer in one,” in the PPC story The Six Most-Asked Questions about Primers

What’s the best way to prep and prime fiberglass doors?

Before you do anything, check with the manufacturer of the door to make sure it’s paintable. If the door is paintable and was previously coated from the factory, your first step is to make sure it is clean, dry, dull and sound.

After removing and/or taping off any hardware, I recommend that the surface be thoroughly cleaned with a good cleaner/degreaser to remove the grease and oils that normally build up over time. A quality filler or putty should be used to patch holes or imperfections in the surface.

Learn more about painting doors, including Rick’s recommendations for the best primer and paint to use, in the PPC story What Is the Best Paint for an Exterior Fiberglass Door. Another good story is Painting Doors Can Be Tricky: Here is Some Expert Guidance.

Do you have eco friendly paint? LEED® acceptable paint?

Things have changed here a bit and we have come a long way from only having one architectural product that was emissions tested. Sherwin-Williams has risen to the challenge and has many products that meet or exceed many of the sustainable building rating systems – like emissions, Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) and Materials Ingredients Disclosures (MI) – in the market today. We even have a sustainable review in our design profile for products we launch commercially.

Learn more about LEED-qualifying products, Division 9 finishing guides, and other green programs specification resources at the Sherwin-Williams contractor website

I would like to paint my kitchen cabinets. Can I?

Believe it or not, this is not a new question. I have been receiving questions about painting cabinets for several years now.

The most important step in painting cabinetry is to start with a clean, dry, dull and sound surface. Keep in mind that any surface prep short of clean, dry and dull may compromise adhesion and the overall effectiveness of the coating.

For laminate or previously painted cabinets use an adhesion promoting primer like Extreme Bond Primer. For unfinished wood cabinets look at Premium Wall and Wood Primer.

For the topcoat, I recommend Emerald® Urethane Trim Enamel, which comes in gloss, semi-gloss or satin finishes – all of which provide excellent washability and durability.

This product has excellent flow and leveling characteristics for a smooth and durable finish on cabinets, doors and trim. It also is an excellent block resistant and scratch resistant coating. It meets the most stringent VOC regulations with <50 g/L VOC and is available in a wide range of colors.

Learn more in the PPC story Cabinet Refinishing: An 8-Step Guide for Pro Painters

What’s the best paint for bathrooms?

Of all the rooms in a typical residential repaint, bathrooms are among the most challenging for professional painting contractors.

Blame it on water. Humidity levels in bathrooms are always rising and falling, and damp air and steam collects on walls. That makes bathrooms prone to mildew and moisture problems. Water also inevitably splashes on bathroom walls, doors and windows, and sometimes there is water damage to deal with as well.

Your paint needs to be up to the challenge. You need a durable, washable and moisture-resistant coating to do the job right. Using a high-quality acrylic latex paint such as Duration Home® Interior Acrylic Latex can make all the difference between success and failure on bathroom repaint jobs. The key is the product’s advanced Moisture Resistance Technology™.

Get more expert advice on painting bathrooms in the PPC story Painting Bathrooms Can Be a Challenge: Here Are Some Secrets to Doing it Right


1 WARNING! Removal of old paint by sanding, scraping or other means may generate dust or fumes that contain lead. Exposure to lead dust or fumes may cause brain damage or other adverse health effects, especially in children or pregnant women. Controlling exposure to lead or other hazardous substances requires the use of proper protective equipment, such as a properly fitted respirator (NIOSH approved) and proper containment and cleanup. For more information, call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD (in US) or contact your local health authority.

Rick Watson is the retired director of Product Information and Technical Services at Sherwin-Williams. For more of his answers to professional painter’s questions, visit the Ask Your ProPartner™ archive.