Spray Painting Preparation

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Dear NH,
I have an old file cabinet which I spray painted black and yellow 30 years ago. Wanting it to blend in better with my beige walls, I bought some beige spray paint. I did not bother to sand the file cabinet before repainting it. It took many coats to cover the black, but most of it turned out just fine...except for blisters on three of the four drawer fronts. Why did this happen? Is this due to spraying too thick a coat in one place? Why in only 3 spots, and not all over the big cabinet? Is it because the drawer fronts were lying face up when sprayed? But one drawer front, and the top of the cabinet, turned out fine. Finally, what do I need to do to repair the blisters?

Dear KS,
Tsk, tsk, tsk... no prep, huh? You are fortunate that anything stuck at all, though in time you may get more peeling. The drawer fronts may have been more in need of sanding and cleaning than the rest of the cabinet surfaces because of the fact that drawers get lots of close human contact! They are always being touched, so they tend to buildup accumulations of oils, grease, polishes, waxes, and cleaners... baddies that paints just don't like to adhere to.

Of course, there is the possibility that you may have sprayed too heavily or waited too long between coats. Spray paints have a window of time during which you can apply additional coats... usually within five to ten minutes of the first coat. If you wait longer than that to apply additional coats, you must wait at least a day before applying the next coat. Otherwise, the new coating of paint can cause the first coat to soften and release from the surface. This might not occur instantly... but will eventually appear as easy chipping or blistering. The label on the spray can will give you your marching orders.

To repair a few isolated blisters, let the new paint dry at least a few days so you have a hard paint film. Sand off as much of the new paint as necessary until you get a smooth surface. 220 grit sandpaper should do the job nicely. Then respray the entire drawer front. However, if the blisters are widespread, sand all the old paint off. Then, wipe the drawer front down with Wilbond, a cleaner and deglosser that prepares surfaces for painting. It is also known as "liquid sandpaper". This will remove the oils, etc that caused the original problem. Then you should be able to successfully repaint them. A word of caution... don't ever use Wilbond on a freshly painted surface. It is reactive enough that it could cause the paint to dissolve or even slough off!

Another option would be to use a primer before repainting the drawer fronts, but be careful in your selection of the primer. If it is not compatible with the spray paint, you will have another mess on your hands!


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