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Expert Advice: Paint Prep

Here's some paint additive and prep advice from home improvement gurus Heidi Baker and Eden Jarrin of Be Jane.

We posed our most perplexing paint questions to Heidi Baker and Eden Jarrin of Be Jane. These savvy DIYers dish out projects, products, news, and more advice at their Web site,

Dear Janes,
I am getting ready to paint most of my house and one of my friends was telling me about an additive that I should add to my paint. I just can't remember what it was she was talking about. Can you tell me what it is?
Pam M.

Dear Pam,
We can tell you about several beneficial additives for your paint:

  1. Insulation. Insulation powders (Insuladd,, is one we like) can be added to most interior or exterior paints or primers. This additive helps keep your rooms cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Keep in mind these additives can reduce the sheen of a paint, so it's best to add them to your primer or your first coat of color.
  2. Mildew Resistance. Mildew can be one of the most stubborn problems for painted areas, specifically around a bathtub or shower. You can add a mildew-inhibiting additive (such as ADD-2TM; that will help alleviate this problem.
  3. Fireproofing. One simple step to prevent a fire from spreading from room to room is to add an antiflame-spread paint additive to your paint. If a fire starts in one room, the additive will help prevent the flames from spreading to another. Be sure to check before you buy, however, as many of these additives work only with flat paint. Visit for various fireproof paints and paint additives.

Dear Janes,
Okay, I really need some help here. Can you please tell me what in the world is TSP?! Does it stand for "Too Sour Paint"? Every time I talk to the guys in the home improvement center about a paint project the first thing out of their mouths is, "Are you going to use TSP?" Considering the fact that it seems like a staple of the painting process (and I'm always afraid of looking like an idiot) my response has always been, "Oh, yeah, definitely!" So please make an honest woman out of me and fill me in!
Sheryl C.

Dear Sheryl,
Bless your heart! We totally understand your fear of "Asking the Stupid Question" -- we've had thousands of women write us with the same worry. The "big secret" really isn't that big. TSP, which stands for trisodium phosphate, is a powder you mix with warm water and use to wipe down your walls before painting. It acts in three ways to improve your paint's stick-to-itiveness:

  1. Degreaser. TSP helps to remove stubborn greasy areas. It is crucial to use when painting walls in your kitchen, specifically ones that are near your stove. Any grease that isn't removed before painting can adversely affect the paint's adherence.
  2. Cleaner. Most of us don't think that our walls are dusty or even dirty, but if they aren't clean and dry before painting, the paint won't stick properly.
  3. Deglosser. When a wall has been painted with a high-sheen paint (satin, semigloss, or high gloss) you need to remove or "dull" that sheen before applying another coat of paint. Otherwise, the slipperiness of the paint below won't allow the next coat to stick and your new paint will crack before its time. Sanding and proper preparation of the surface is a must, and wiping the area with a solution of TSP and water will help break down a bit of the glossiness of the top coat. Be aware that TSP will darken some wood, such as mahogany. Use eye protection and gloves when applying and simply "wash" your painting surface with your TSP and water solution and then rinse with a clean, damp sponge. That's all there is to it! Crisis averted, and now you can tell them the truth when they ask if you're going to use TSP. Best of luck on your future Jane projects!

Jane Tip: Make sure you completely rinse TSP from the walls (and let the walls dry) before you paint -- otherwise, the new paint won't adhere properly. Rinse the solution with a clean, damp sponge and you should end up with a beautiful paint job.

Hugs 'n' Hammers,
The Janes


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