Basic Interior Paint Maintenance

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Feb 10, 2010 | Steve Graham

Few homeowners think about their paint until they want new colors. However, interior paint may need some regularly scheduled attention. Here are tips for maintaining paint, reducing maintenance needs and staying safe around lead paint.

How to Maintain Existing Paint

Moisture can warp or ruin paint and underlying drywall. It can also attract dangerous mold. Ventilate properly and avoid getting paint wet beyond a quick wipe with a damp rag for cleaning.

Check for cracks in your paint. You may need to touch up paint after one year in a new home. Settling often occurs and creates small cracks, but it should no longer be an issue after the first year. Cracks from settling are most likely to appear around door and window frames. The cracks are likely in the drywall, and they need to be mudded and fixed before repainting. Otherwise the cracks will return.

On the other hand, small cracks and peeling in the middle of the wall may be caused by a poor paint job. You may need to peel away the paint and replace both the primer and paint.

To match the color, keep leftover paint for a couple of years. Latex paint typically expires after two to five years. After that, recycle the paint at designated facilities. First, write down the paint name or code and the brand, if possible, in case you need to return to the store and buy more of the same paint.

Prevent Future Maintenance

The right preparation and paint can help avoid maintenance headaches later. Primer is usually a good idea, even if painting a darker latex paint over a light-colored latex paint. Primer helps the paint adhere better and last longer; plus, it protects the wall.

Use a glossy paint in kitchens, bathrooms and maybe kids' rooms. Glossier paints absorb less dirt, grease and moisture. They are also easier to clean.

Lead Warning

If you live in an older house, take care around any cracking or flaking paint. Most paint from before 1960 contained significant amounts of lead, and lead-based paint was still in wide use until 1978. Lead can damage the brain, central nervous system, blood cells and kidneys. The Department of Health and Human Services has labeled lead the "number one environmental threat to the health of children in the United States."

Don't try to sand, remove or cut away cracked or flaking paint that might predate 1978. Contact a federally certified lead abatement specialist. For a list of specialists in your area and for more information, contact the National Lead Information Center.

Lead paint in good condition should be safe, and it can be sealed with a new layer of paint.

Interior paint maintenance is fairly straightforward, especially if the paint is applied properly, but older paint can be dangerous.

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