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Match old paint color on wall repairs

Dear Ms. Builder: I am sprucing up my dining room with new drapes and rods and repairing a few damaged spots on the wall. I don't have the old paint can. How can I match the paint perfectly on the repairs? - Barb T.

Dear Barb: Pick a day when you are in a relaxed mood. Matching paint color on small repaired spots can be a frustrating experience. Expect to make many trial paint mixtures until you zero in on an acceptable match.

Notice, I called it "acceptable", not perfect. Since you know where the spots are, you may always be able, or think you can, see them. With the proper matching technique, even if you offered a prize, 99.9% of your guests would not notice.

The first step to any paint matching, or wall painting job for that matter, is to wash all the walls with soap and water. I am not saying that you are a sloppy homeowner, but it is impossible to match paint to a dirty wall surface. In any home, over time, a fine layer of dust, cooking grease, smoke, etc. settles on the walls.

Let the wall dry thoroughly and take a good look at it, both under natural light from the windows and with the curtains closed and lamps on. You may find that after the cleaning, the various areas of the wall have faded enough that you will want to paint the entire wall. Just natural light from windows, not necessarily direct sunlight, can fade walls.

Assuming it still looks okay, peel off at least a one-square inch sliver of paint. Use a utility knife or sharp scraper for this. Select the samples near two of your repair areas because the colors can vary. You are going to have to repair these spots anyway.

Take the paint slivers to a reputable paint store to have an experienced person match them. Plan on leaving the slivers there for several days for them to make a reasonable match. Tell them to stay on the slightly darker (more rich) side if they cannot get a good match. The store lighting is probably different than your house, so it will look different at home.

While the paint is being matched, make your wall repairs. It is important to understand that the color appearance of wall paint is as dependent on the wall surface texture as it is on the paint pigments. Use sandpaper with grit to approximate the old wall

surface. Don't sand it mirror-smooth or the repair will stick out like a sore thumb.

Go back to the paint store and have them mix up a gallon of a slightly richer color than their matched color. Also buy a can of the same type of paint in pure white. You will use this white paint to fine tune the color match.

Also, buy one of the short (four or five-inch-long) rollers. The surface texture from brushing will make the spot look different from the rest of a rolled painted wall no matter how good the color match is. You can use different spots on the same roller for several color matching tests.

First, try the paint as the paint store mixed it. It always looks darker when it is wet, so don't start swearing about the salesperson just yet. Let it dry for at least 30 minutes. A hair blower dryer can speed the process.

It is probably a little dark. Mix one TABLESPOON of the colored paint with one teaspoon of pure white paint and try again. Repeat this process until you zero in on the match. Keep track of the ratio of colored paint to white paint and then mix enough to finish the job.

Tools and materials required - bucket, sponge, wash rag, drop cloth, utility knife, scraper, sandpaper, sanding block, measuring spoons, stirrer, paint roller, colored and white paint

Send your questions to Ms. Builder, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com/msbuilder.