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A clean, well-prepared surface is essential for good paint results.

The best way to clean a surface before painting or repainting is to use a tack cloth – a varnish-impregnated, open-mesh cloth that picks up and holds loose dirt, sand and other foreign particles adhering to wood, metal, plastered and other surfaces.

Use a tack cloth on a surface immediately before applying each coat and between sandings. Even though the surface is cleaned with a chemical, lint and dust can accumulate rapidly, leaving a less-than-perfect finish if not removed.


Drop cloths can be made of a variety of materials, but usually they are plastic. You should use these to protect furniture, fixtures and floors against common paint splatters and spills.



Wall scrapers are used to scrape old wallpaper off walls and peeling paint from work surfaces, to tape joints, and to patch plaster.

Most do-it-yourselfers prefer 3″, 4″, 5″ and 6″ sizes, but 10″ and 12″ taping knives are used by professional painters.

Quality wall scrapers have mirror-finished, flexible, high-carbon steel blades that are hardened, tempered and individually ground. One piece of steel from tip of blade to the end of handle is another quality feature. Handles are made of shatterproof plastic or wood.

Drywall joint knives, used in the same manner as wall scrapers, come in larger sizes, ranging from 5″ to 16″. The most popular size is 6″, followed by 10″ and 12″.

Quality features are similar to those of high-quality wall scrapers. Less-expensive wall scrapers or joint knives are manufactured from high-carbon steel with blades securely fastened into a seamless, shatterproof handle, frequently wood.

A corner tool is used to apply tape and joint compounds when a perfect corner job is desired. It is available in 3″ or 4″ sizes.

The installation of drywall and gypsum wallboard is pretty straightforward, but finishing out the project requires more skill and a set of drywall-finishing tools.

To achieve a smooth-looking surface, the taping process covers the joints between the wallboard panels. Then joint cement is applied in thin layers and sanded to create an even wall surface.

The basic tools used in this project are a corner-roughing knife, a corner-finishing knife, a broad knife (usually about 10″ wide) and a utility knife. The corner knife embeds the tape on both sides of a corner. A point on the knife pushes the tape into the corner joint.

The corner-finishing knife feathers the joint compound over the edges of the tape and leaves a smooth, sharp corner.

The broad knife feathers and smoothes joint compound over flat joints. The utility knife is used to smooth spackling compound over nail holes, cracks and other rough areas.

Sponge rollers are also available for both corners and flat areas to pick up and roll out joint compound.


A paint and varnish scraper, often called a wood scraper, is used to remove old paint and smooth the surface with a sharp cutting blade.

Scraper sizes range from a 1″ blade, used for scraping small, hard-to-reach areas, to a 5″ blade. Most blades are made from tempered, high-carbon steel and can be sharpened with a file.

Razor-blade scrapers are tools that hold either single-edged or double-edged razor blades. The most popular type has a retractable blade that slides in or out of the handle. They are used to scrape excess paint off windows.


Putty knives range from 1″ to 2 1/2″, with greatest demand for 1 1/4″ and 1 1/2″.

Finest-quality putty knife blades are made from mirror-finished, high-carbon steel and are hardened, tempered and individually ground.

The way the blade is attached to the handle is a means of determining quality. Top-quality models have blades running from the tip of the blades through to the end of the handle.

Putty knives are used for scraping paint, chipping out old putty, scraping off accumulated grease and scraping old finishes off furniture.


Manufacturers are marketing items that make sanding easier and more efficient for do-it-yourselfers.

Examples: sandpaper cut and packaged with complete use information; lightweight tools with aluminum, plastic or rubber-like composition, sanding surfaces, and sanding attachments for electric drills that strip off paint and rough the surface for new finish with wire tines.

Five general types of sandpaper are used by do-it-yourselfers: garnet, emery, aluminum oxide, silicone carbide and zirconia alumina. Of these, the first two are natural minerals or abrasives; the others are synthetic materials that are tougher and longer-wearing than the natural abrasives.

Each of these types may be manufactured on a variety of backings, including paper, cloth and fiber.

Garnet is a reddish-brown natural abrasive. By special heat treatment, a tougher, sturdier grain is produced. Garnet is used almost exclusively in the woodworking field.

Emery is a black natural abrasive used extensively to polish metal surfaces.

Aluminum oxide is a brown synthetic abrasive, exceptionally hard and long wearing. It is used on wood, metal or painted surfaces, and is well suited to finishing high-tensile materials such as alloy steel, high-carbon steel, tough bronzes and some hardwoods.

Silicone carbide is the hardest and sharpest manufactured abrasive, bluish-black in color. It is effective in sanding low-tensile materials such as cast iron, aluminum, copper, plastic, etc.

Zirconia alumina is another type of manmade abrasive. It is harder than silicone carbide and tougher than aluminum oxide for heavy-duty material removal.

All U.S.-manufactured sandpapers conform to the same numerical system for grading coarseness. The smaller the number, the coarser the grit. Coarseness runs from 12, extra coarse, to 1,500, ultra-fine. Grit finer than 600 is usually measured on the European FEPA scale identified with a prefix of P.

Sandpapers for wet sanding have a flexible, waterproof backing that permits them to be dipped into water or light lubricating oil for finer cutting action. Usually coated with silicone carbide, this type of sandpaper comes in several grits (from 60 to P1200) and is used for fine finishing and polishing.

Sandpaper comes in two styles: open coat and closed coat, which refers to how densely the grain is adhered to the surface. Closed coat means 100 percent of the surface is covered with grain.

Open-coat sandpaper has greater spacing between the grains so it does not clog (fill up) with sanding residue as quickly, thus extending life. Closed coat sandpaper, however, fills more rapidly with the substance being sanded and must be discarded.

Nearly all sandpapers for dry sanding sold through do-it-yourself stores are open coat and resist filling to some degree. The best paper for dry sanding when filling is a problem has a special antistatic surface treatment that resists clogging.

A special sandpaper is available for drywall and plaster sanding. This abrasive screen cloth is durable and resists fill from drywall compound and plaster.


Steel wool is a must accessory item. Its uses include removing grime and sludge prior to refinishing; preparing new surfaces; removing old coating to raw wood; and for application in between coats of enamel, paint, shellac or varnish. It removes paint from glass, furniture, tile and other surfaces.

More water-based strippers and finishes have led to a manmade synthetic steel-wool product. This product will not cause spotting in wood, as standard steel wool can when used with water-based finishes.


Although a relatively safe method of paint removal, an electric paint remover must be handled carefully. This tool, which contains a heating element similar to an electric appliance, is placed on the coated surface and pulled along slowly, following with a scraper to remove the softened paint (not recommended on latex). Tool should be kept in motion to prevent burning or scorching of wood.


Hot-air guns, similar to blow dryers for hair drying, produce heat up to 1,000 degrees F to melt paint for easy removal. Some guns have variable heat settings. Unlike electric strippers, the guns are held above the painted surface (usually 2″-4″) and a putty knife or scraper is used to remove the paint after it is melted.

Hot-air guns can be used to remove varnish and all types of paint, soften and remove putty, laminate or dry paint and wood finishes. Never sand or use a torch or heat gun on a surface you know contains old, lead-based paint.


Caulking and sealing is an inexpensive way to seal air and water leaks in homes.

Sealants are used to close the crack or joint between sills and foundations; where siding joins window and door trim; openings around external electrical outlets, electrical and telephone cables; dryer vents; kitchen, attic, and bathroom vents; flashings; skylights; other cracks and openings that leak water into homes or leak heated air-and energy-out.

The following important factors can help you choose the right caulk for job success:

  1. Where is the sealant going to be applied?
  2. What substrates or surfaces are going to be caulked or bonded?
  3. How much movement or stress will the joint that is going to be sealed undergo?
  4. What type of performance requirements does the caulk need to meet?

Caulks come in formulations that can withstand movement and temperature changes. Most caulks are available in bulk form and in caulking-gun cartridges.

Oil-and-pigment caulks – effective for one to three years. Should be used only in cracks and joints that have no movement and that are accessible for re-caulking. Oil-based caulks become hard and brittle and are characterized by low movement capabilities.

Vinyl-latex caulks – economical caulk effective for five years. Interior use for baseboards and windows. Water cleanup, easy to apply, nonflammable and paintable. Least flexible of latex caulks. Becomes hard over time. Very low movement capabilities.

Asphaltic caulks – asphalt based. Exterior use for roofing and driveways. Poor flexibility and low-movement capabilities. Best used in areas that do not get too warm or too cold and in joints accessible for re-caulking.

Acrylic-latex caulk – good general-purpose caulk. Water based, easy to apply, nonflammable, water cleanup. More flexible than vinyl-latex caulks. Adheres to most surfaces, can be painted shortly after application. Effective 10-15 years. Not recommended for area subject to excessive water collection.

Butyl-rubber sealants – solvent-based sealant with life expectancy of two to 10 years. May be difficult to apply and slow curing. Most efficient when applied to openings between similar surfaces. Not recommended for openings wider or deeper than 1/4″ or in 90¾ corners. Good for sealing out water in lap joints. Exterior use for chimneys and gutters. Low to moderate movement capabilities.

Siliconized acrylic latex caulk – medium performance water-based caulk withstanding greater joint movement than acrylic latex. Moderate movement capability. Interior or exterior. Good adhesion. Applies easily, nonflammable, water cleanup, paintable, mildew resistant. Endures moderate temperature changes with a life expectancy of about 25-35 years. Available in a variety of colors.

Tub and tile caulk – specialty performance caulk with added mildewcide to protect against ugly mildew growth in areas of high humidity such as the kitchen and bathroom. Soap and water cleanup caulks have low odor and are easy to apply. Silicone tub and tile caulks may give off a strong odor and are more difficult to apply. Some tub and tile caulks are more flexible and crack resistant than others. Adhesive formulas available to reset loose bathroom tiles and repair grout as well as caulk around tubs.

Adhesive caulks – specialty all-purpose caulk that combines a sealant and adhesive in one. Interior and exterior. Water based, applies easily, nonflammable, water cleanup, paintable and mildew resistant. Available in a variety of colors.

Solvent-based acrylics – good performance exterior caulk with life expectancy of about 25 years. Has a longer cure time. Some types must be heated prior to application. Difficult to apply. Moderate movement capability. Poor low-temperature flexibility.

Hypalon – type of elastomeric sealant with 15- to 20-year life span, good adhesion and excellent color stability.

Neoprene and nitrile – characterized by resistance to oil, heat and chemicals. Neoprene is used for driveway sealing; nitrile is used for small cracks and joints in metal frames and gutters. Long life expectancy.

Polysulfides – exterior high-performance sealant available in one- and two-part formulations with a life expectancy of 25-50 years. The one part is easier to use but is not recommended for joints greater than 3/4″ wide or 3/8″ deep. Can be used in high-movement joints. Objectionable odor, poor low-temperature applicability, remains tacky. Use on building joints, highway and runway joints. Low shrinkage, good adhesion. Usually requires a primer.

Polyurethanes – exterior high-performance sealant available in one- and two-part formulations with life expectancy of 25-50 years. The one-part formulations are easier to use but slower to cure. Polyurethane sealants are tough and abrasion resistant. Use on windows, building joints and driveways. Low shrinkage, good adhesion. High-movement capabilities.

Silicones – most weather resistant and elastic of all sealants. Silicones accommodate greater joint movement over a wider temperature span (-65 degrees F to 400 degrees F) than any other class of materials. Lifetime warranties of durability are available from some manufacturers.

Silicone sealants have excellent adhesion properties and will bond to nonoily woods, metal, ceramic tiles and glass.

However, most are not paintable and many surfaces must be primed before use. Also, there is the possibility of the silicone’s offensive odor; it should disperse in 24 hours.

Many silicones may be used for both interior and exterior applications and do not crack or become brittle with aging. Most silicones are moisture resistant and can be used in high-moisture areas such as bathrooms and basements. Bathroom silicones have a mildew-resistant additive. Check labels and manufacturer literature for proper usage of the silicone sealants you sell.

Water-base sealant – new technology that provides almost the same properties as silicone at a lower price, with a better adhesion to wood and porous materials. Easily painted and cleaned up with water, this type of sealant should last up to 50 years.

These sealants take longer to cure because the water needs to evaporate. They should not be applied during wet weather, because they may wash away, and they should not be applied during cold weather, because they will freeze.

Solvent-based rubber – is a sealant with extreme clarity and excellent adhesion to most surfaces, including plastics, woods, metal, concrete and masonry, ceramic tiles and glass. Can withstand moderate movement and is abrasion resistant, mildew resistant and is paintable. Tends to have relatively high shrinkage. Sealant can be used indoors or out with a long life expectancy.

Specialty caulks – formulated for consumers who don’t want to deal with caulking guns or for specialty applications. Rope caulk comes in a roll and can be pressed into place with the index finger. New roll caulks have a liner to prevent the caulk from sticking to itself or your fingers during installation.

Foam caulks are actually an insulation material more than a caulk or sealant. They come in pressurized cans with plastic tubes so foam can be squirted into small gaps and tight areas that don’t require adhesion. This type is recommended for areas to be covered by a different material later because it can be messy and hard to apply. Works well in fairly large gaps but should be covered by a caulk for sealing.

Peel-away caulks are normally transparent, for use in high-visibility areas. They can be peeled off the caulked surface without marking.


Masking tape is a general-purpose, pressure-sensitive tape. A quality masking tape unwinds easily without splitting. It has excellent ability to stick immediately and securely to nearly all surfaces, yet pulls away without damaging surface.

Pressure-sensitive tape is also available for securing carpeting, underlay and rugs. This is a double-faced tape that adheres securely to both fabric and flooring, forming a bond that prevents creeping, bulging and overlapping.

A pressure-sensitive tape is also available for padding and absorbing shock. It is suggested for covering bottoms of lamps, ashtrays and bookends and is more durable than felt.

A multipurpose tape consisting of asphalt adhesive with aluminum facing makes general repairs in roofing, guttering, leaking pipes and hoses, in addition to sealing cracks.


Manufacturers have developed nonflammable adhesives that will do the same job as older formulations. Latex-based and chlorinated solvent-based adhesives have taken the place of some petroleum-based products.

White glue (also known as a PVA adhesive since it is made from polyvinyl resins) is used mostly for interior woodworking jobs where a waterproof joint is not required. Usually packaged in plastic squeeze bottles, these inexpensive, milky-white glues dry clear and are fast setting.

Ready for use from the bottle, they are widely used for bonding paper, fabric, cardboard, cork and leather, as well as wood. They can withstand a moderate amount of strain, often exceeding 2,800 psi.

Woodworkers’ glue has a faster grab than white glue. It is usually tinted an off-white or yellow. Woodworkers’ glue is used in applications where better water resistance and heat resistance and ease of sanding are desired.

Instant-setting glues, technically known as cyanoacrylates, create a strong instant bond with a small amount of glue. Regular cyanoacrylates will bond almost all nonporous materials such as ceramic, some plastic, rubber, metal or synthetics. Most manufacturers recommend that consumers do not use cyanoacrylates on glass although these glues will perform acceptably on Teflon and polyethylene surfaces.

Instant-setting glues have also been developed for use on porous materials such as wood, leather or paper; the exception is foam which cannot be bonded with cyanoacrylates. These instant-setting glues are in a gel form.

Instant-setting glues are not poisonous, but because they do form such a strong bond so quickly, these glues should be handled carefully. Keep glue off hands.

Epoxy glues are one of the strongest adhesives known. They are designed primarily for the bonding of nonporous surfaces, but can be used effectively on wood.

Available in clear, white or metallic finish, all true epoxies come in two parts-a resin and a hardener or catalyst. These must be mixed together before the adhesive is used.

Once mixed, the material will set permanently in a specified length of time-most will permanently bond even under water. The bond will withstand practically all common solvents when curing is complete. Epoxies are used on pipes, radiators, wood, metal, ceramic tile, china, marble, glass and masonry, since they are excellent for sealing gaps and will withstand vibration and shock.

Urethane adhesive is a one-part adhesive offering the strength of an epoxy without mixing. It requires clamping and 24 hours to fully cure but bonds most materials. Its strong bond will endure stress and strain such as that required to mend furniture, tool handles and children’s toys.

Contact cement can be used on many surfaces, but the joints it makes may come apart under a heavy load. Good to bond laminates to counter- tops and cabinets or to glue plastic foam, hardboard or metal to wood.

Contact cement is most effective when one or both surfaces are porous or semiporous. Contact cement contains solvents that should be allowed to flash off before assembly. Nonflammable versions are available.

Instant adhesion makes contact cement extremely difficult to use. It bonds immediately without clamping and resists water, temperature extremes and fungi.

Clear cement works best on porous materials. With non-porous materials, clear cement makes a good bond when applied only around the edges. Clear cements are familiar to youngsters as model-airplane glue. Glue is clear and colorless; it resists water and is suitable for use on flexible as well as rigid joints.

Plastic-resin glue is a powdered urea-formaldehyde glue. When mixed with water, it makes highly water-resistant bonds.

When used for furniture repair, it is applied to clean, close-fitting surfaces and cured under pressure for at least 10 hours at 70 degrees F. The finished glue is nontoxic and impervious to most materials.

Waterproof glue (also called resorcinol glue) is a two-component adhesive of liquid resin and powdered catalyst. Used in wood joints, it cures under pressure in 10 hours at 7 degrees F.

Casein glue is powdered casein that mixes with water. Is less expensive than plastic resin and waterproof glue; has good filling qualities for heavy wood gluing. Sets in three hours at 70 degrees F.

Acrylic adhesives are nonflammable, waterproof, two-part adhesives that hold well under stress. Applied without mixing, acrylic adhesives bond most surfaces including oily or porous surfaces. Bond forms in 30-60 seconds, with permanent strength reached in 45 minutes. It is not recommended for use on polyethylene or polypropylene.

Anaerobic adhesives are nonflammable, waterproof, two-part adhesives that hold well under stress. Applied without mixing, acrylic adhesives bond most surfaces including oily or porous surfaces. Bond forms in 30-60 seconds, with permanent strength reached in 45 minutes. It is not recommended for use on polyethylene or polypropylene.

Hot-melt adhesives come in several types, including clear hot-melt glue sticks for general-purpose use, white caulk sticks and sticks formulated for wood repair. Hot-melt glue sticks are used only in hot-melt glue guns.

Heavy-duty adhesive is solid adhesive for flat surfaces indoors and outdoors. The adhesive permanently attaches rigid plastics, ceramic, metal, finished woods and glass. It has an industrial strength bond and resists temperatures, water, oil, gas, detergents and vibrations.


This is a fine-ground, slow-setting powder. It remains workable for three to four hours; excellent for repairing small hairline cracks and filling cracks between trim and plaster.

To save mixing, most companies make spackling compound in paste form. However, this is difficult to work with, especially in larger holes. Lightweight spackling is the easiest to use, since it won’t shrink, crack or sag. The compound can be painted almost immediately. Patches with lightweight spackling, however, are not as sturdy as those made with powder-mix compounds.

The best tool to use for all crack repairs is a flexible putty knife at least 3″ wide.


Tile grout is a white powder (also available in paste form) which, when mixed with water, becomes a strong patching agent for areas subject to moisture and strain. Frequently used to fill cracks between bathtubs and walls, it is also used to repair cracks around kitchen sinks, towel racks, soap dishes and wash basins and for filling breaks between floor and wall tile. Unless tinted with dry color, it dries white.


Glazing compound is a long-lasting material used for glazing wood or metal sash. It remains semielastic under a smooth, firm, wrinkle-free film that forms when the material sets. It does not dry rock hard and so is easier to remove when re-glazing. It resists cold, heat and moisture and is used for patching or sealing small openings or cracks. Glazing can be tinted with oil color.


Joint cement is used in drywall construction as a bedding compound for the joint tape and as a filler for nail holes. It is available in powder or ready-mixed form. Some ready-mixed types may also be used as texture paint. One pound is sufficient for four lineal yards of joint surfaces.


Patching plaster is a white, fast-setting powder ready to use by adding water. It repairs large holes in plaster walls and ceilings.


Plaster pencils are used for repairing fine-line cracks and small holes in plaster. They require no mixing, have good adhesion and dry quickly.

Putty pencils serve a similar purpose and are colored to fill holes in wood.


Plaster of Paris is a quick-setting white powder used to set bathroom wall fixtures-towel racks, soap dishes, etc. It sets in five minutes. No more water than necessary should be added; when water evaporates, plaster shrinks.


Available in either dry or pliable form, putty repairs cracks, dents, breaks and holes in furniture, wood and concrete floors, woodwork, metal and other interior surfaces.

In dry form (known as water putty because water must be added), it dries to the shade of new wood but can be tinted with dry color. It sets rapidly, cannot be reworked, dries hard and can be sanded, tooled and finished like wood.

Pliable putty (also known as wood putty because it is made from hardwood) is rubbed on wood surfaces before painting to close pores in certain woods-usually oak, mahogany, walnut, chestnut, elm, butternut, hickory, ash, rosewood and satinwood. It is not synonymous with patching materials, which fill up holes or cracks in finished or unfinished surfaces.

Most wood putties come in paste form and must be thinned-the container label tells which thinner to use. Putty is brushed on, rubbed, sanded and sealed before finishing.

Wood putties are available in water-based form, allowing greater safety, rapid drying and less shrinkage.

All wood putty patches must be sanded flush with the old surface. Patches can be stained, painted or varnished.


Epoxy menders have excellent adhesive qualities and are effective in repairing auto bodies, appliances, plumbing, rain gutters, playground equipment and garden tools.

Epoxy is a two-part resin and hardener. These menders usually are white or metallic color. Surfaces must be free of all foreign materials, including paint, for epoxy menders to work effectively.

The two must be mixed together before the adhesive is effective. Once mixed, the material will set permanently in a specific length of time – from a few minutes to 24 hours, depending on the room temperature.

The bond formed is completely waterproof and permanent and will withstand attack by practically all common solvents when final curing is complete.

Because epoxy adhesives harden into solid mass when mixed, they can also be used as a patching or filling material for repair jobs. They can be used to make permanent repairs on cracked pipes or radiators, or on rotted wooden or metal gutters.


Vinyl patching kits contain a patching material that forms a permanent patch over holes, tears, etc., in vinyl. Some kits require heat, while other patching material cures in air and requires no heat. Also included in these kits is an assortment of “graining paper,” used to reproduce any design in the vinyl.

With a backing behind the hole in the vinyl, patching material is brushed over the hole and proper graining paper is laid over the patch.

With material that requires heat, an iron is then pressed over the graining paper to apply the proper heat to the patching material, causing it to take on the pattern of the vinyl and to properly set.

An assortment of touchup colors is available to blend the patch into the color of the vinyl.


Laminate countertop repair kits provide adhesive and filler to patch chips, burns and scars in laminate surfaces.

Assorted decorator colors and wood tones are available. Mixing time for color compounds is usually unlimited to provide time for a perfect match before hardener is added.

After adding hardener and mixing, filler cures in about five minutes. Filler stands up to shock and is heat resistant up to about 200 degrees F.


Fiberglass fabric for patching and waterproofing is popular because of its continued flexibility after application, preventing reappearance of the same crack.

Sold in kits, it includes fiberglass tape and an oil-based mastic. After the tape is applied over the crack, the mastic is brushed over the tape and the edges feathered to blend with the surface being repaired.

Kits can be used for repairing rain gutters, roofing, interior walls, wood surfaces, etc.

Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.