#askapainter Can I paint my furniture

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When painting my furniture, like anything most surfaces can be painted, the key is always good preparation and the use of the correct products. I’m sorry I’m not a fan of the “shabby chic” look in my opinion its just a poor excuse to half paint something and get away with it when it wears off quickly.

Yes I’m aware that done correctly, with a base colour, followed contrasting top colour systematically “worn back” to create the desired effect you can seal the whole thing in with either a wax coat or simply varnish, but it still doesn’t impress me sorry.

We have done several items of furniture over the years both for customers and some more adventurous items for Ideal home shows or Grand Design live exhibitions, the process is basically the same. Wash of any contaminates, abrade surface to remove defects, old runs or sags wont look good on your newly painted chair legs.

Do any minor repairs, tighten legs or table tops fill any minor holes or cracks that have appeared with age. At this point it depends on the item your painting, some may require a good adhesion promoting primer to allow your paint to adhere properly. If its a factory finished item or laminated surface I would recommend this certainly.

Then finish with two or three coats of your favorite paint, current trends go towards various chalk paints at the moment such as Annie Sloan or Rustolem. Which these can create a pleasing finish to the eye and occasional touch, if used for higher traffic items I’d recommend a finishing wax on top at least. Or perhaps paint the item in a modern water based eggshell finish which will give you more durability providing your substrate has been prepared correctly.

#furniturepainting #lakedistrict #cumbria

Old Card table

Modern twist

TV Cabinet

Don’t sit there, their still wet

Painted plant stand


Free estimates

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Naturally the term Free estimates can be used in many context’s, it could just be a verbal agreement between two people, or a fully written specification itemized and priced to customers requirements.

There is a broad difference in the customer service you may receive. If you accept a free estimate usually verbal or via a text message format, which is woefully cheap I do not imagine much customer service will be given.

From experience these are usually people who price things well below the minimum wage as often its a supplementary form of income, either from their primary job, or more than likely the benefit system. Their expectations in this scenario is usually limited to turning up and applying whatever materials you have spent your spare time sourcing. Sadly more often than not because this is operating within the grey areas, once they have money in their hands they will disappear and if faults occur you’ll have very little comeback.

I am not suggesting that legitimate businesses wont offer estimates via text or messages, but more often than not its backed up with some form of paperwork. The important factor here is to explain why there is a price difference between the two.

Even a lone owner operator trades-person will command a living wage, enough to cover the cost of living, insurances, taxes and minor business expenses. Although that is only half the story, any half decent trades person will advise on best products for the specific job. Most will source the products on your behalf and ensure they are delivered to your job on time.

Admittedly this is viewed as trades persons buying cheaper “trade” products and placing a huge mark up, which once again I can refute as predominately “trade” products are made to a superior quality than retail ones. What I will say is the added value of customer service that is gained from employing a professional trades person far outweighs the minor mark up the trades person would gain on material costs, considering all the work of actually sourcing materials and getting them to your property would eat into your valuable free time it makes sense.

If choosing a trades-person to work in you Home, or premises first point of call is word of mouth or personal recommendation, if a business has built a good reputation over a few years it will wish to maintain it, so repeat customers are a good starting point.

Also do a little research, if your trades-person is visible in your local area, they may have social media presence or a website. Another good research tool is “TrustMark” one of the government endorsed schemes    .

There are various other schemes around where tradesmen have to “bid” to provide quotes, while these schemes still offer a customer voice in terms of feed back, still be wary choosing the cheapest quote via this route and I would always recommend never just choosing solely from that route, without knowing exactly who your getting.

I hope this has enlightened readers that entrusting your home to the cheapest option isn’t always the best as customer service doesn’t usually come as standard at bargain basement prices.


Should I PVA new plaster before painting?

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#askapainter.  Many times I have been contacted by customers with newly plastered rooms. In their misguided wisdom they are happy to inform me “oh to save paint I have given the new plaster a coat of PVA”

Sadly despite what many DIY books suggest this is never the correct system. PVA is essentially a bonding coat prior to applying plaster, cement or any two porous surfaces together. I think this fad of applying PVA was imported from our cousins across the pond in USA as they term their emulsion paints as Latex, which gets mistaken for PVA over here .

Best practice for most new or well prepared plaster surfaces being made ready to accept Emulsion paint is to apply a ‘mist coat’ or thinned coat 15% – 25% water of the same Emulsion you’re going to finish with. You can purchase Contract emulsions for new plaster with less Vinyl content to allow the plaster to breathe more, but the process is still the same as you want that first coat to bond with the surface of your wall or ceiling.


Second part of more thoughts

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  • At times being self employed can be a roller coaster ride, this last 18 months has been an emotional journey for me in many ways with some real low times and some memorable events as well. Hopefully these little blogs will help others see whatever life throws at us, we can be resilient.

Following on from my previous blogs https://v-wilkinsonandson.co.uk/thoughts/ here is my, fingers crossed, some closure to this current journey then I can get back to posting about decorating things. So after July’s surprise hospitalization once again I was recovering, this time only four to five weeks as instructed and I was soon back on the tools.

I was even more determined to make 2017 a special year in many ways, first of all it was my wife and I’s 50th, secondly our son graduated from Glasgow university, our daughter had her prom and the dance school she attends had been invited to dance on Broadway in New York.

Things were going good, daughters prom went well, despite initial reservations I had ordered a new van for work, we attended sons graduation and then I noticed a small lump on my pacemaker scar.

Sadly after several courses of antibiotics, no improvements had occurred even when we went away whilst travelling home from New York unaware to me the lump had actually burst at some point, I only realized  once we were home and went to change my shirt. Misguided treatment by a locum GP didn’t help and once a pacemaker nurse seen me on a regular check up I was admitted immediately back into Carlisle hospital.

Stronger intravenous antibiotics where given and doctors discussed with me the need to remove and replace the pacemaker due to the fact infection can easily travel down its wires to my heart, or infect my blood system. At this point I had not felt ill, I had assumed the infection was only surface based, my wife and family have since told me I was a different person, short tempered, no patience and quite nasty, for which I’m truly sorry.

I was allowed home for a few weeks until appointments were arranged at Freeman’s in Newcastle where my surgery would take place. I’m ashamed to say my temperament didn’t improve, plus I was frightened of going through surgery so soon again afterwards.

Thank heavens for the close family ties we have and good friends I have around me, my wife and family took everything I threw at them and gave me so much support, Mark who has been with me 14 years kept the work going and always remained in touch with bit of light hearted banter to try and boost my grey mood, I am grateful to Riah from the Dulux Select office for her much needed assistance when I was in incapacitated.

I had my first operation, or procedure the day after I was admitted into Freeman’s early December, then I had to wait for blood results to be all clear, after 10 days there was hope the second operation would be following day, only to be told they had ran out of theater time and couldn’t guarantee when time was available over the coming days.

Once again I was at a low point, my wife had spoken to the nurses before she went home that day, early afternoon one of the surgeons came over to chat, he said “you’ll be fairly pee’d of are you?” but promised I was second on the list for Monday 18th December. true to his word on Monday at about 11 am I was sitting on the ward when another of the surgeons appeared and simply said “would you like a new pacemaker?”

My wife was there as I underwent both operations, she stayed over in Newcastle as much as she could, returning home at weekends, she would let me know about messages from friends that had heard about me in hospital and I always felt humbled, I don’t think I could have went through this without her.

I cant explain the feeling I had after the operation, one of the nurses brought toast and tea, my wife was there and I felt a huge weight had been lifted off me. I was told after a few tests I would be discharged the next day. The next day after X-Ray, ECG and Pacemaker checks had been done, we waited for a course of antibiotics to be made up and my son had traveled over to drive us home.

Anything at all like this is emotionally and mentally draining, financially difficult especially if your self employed. I would suggest definitely speaking with your suppliers, explain the situation, pay what you can when you can until you get back on your feet. Yes you can have personal sickness policies and if your lucky money for a rainy day, there is government assistance for being temporary unemployed or off work through illness, although you need to have patience to negotiate through the paperwork and bureaucracy. It might take me a few months to get my business back on level footings, but without being too dramatic at least I’m here to do so.

The most important lessons learnt is no matter what life throws at us, although work is an important part of our lives, don’t let it over shadow the bond between your family, friends and those who you cherish. I’ve said it before I was truly humbled by the support I received, not just from family and local friends but from friends made via my trade from all across the country, customers, suppliers, fellow tradespeople too numerous to mention but they know who they are.

2018 is another big year not only is V. Wilkinson and Son celebrating 50 years in business, but my good lady and I will have been married 25 years also, so I’m now looking forward to getting back to my old-self and continuing delivering Quality Professional Decorating to our customers and maintaining a good work/life balance.

Thank you all

View from Empire State Building

Luke Graduates 2017

Cowper School of Dance, 42nd Street on Broadway NYC 2017

Toyota Proace Van 2017









Truestar MF review

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Gone are the days when one brush did all, now there is so much diversity and not every brush suits every decorator so these are my personal findings.

I first became aware of Truestar as a company at the

National Paint and Decorating show in Coventry November 2013. Where I was actually given a free MF brush to try, being a big fan of another major brush brand Purdy, if I am honest I didn’t take this new pretender seriously.

Short description

Over the next few months the Truestar MF remained in my van, but gradually I found my existing brushes where not creating the desired finish in many water based trim products so I began to use a variety of brushes. I believed I had come to a solution with another new brush firm but still found their bristles a little course meaning more care was needed laying off.

Until one day I gave the MF a try, its bristles felt too soft and floppy although once they were actually in the paint the weight feels just right. Over next few weeks I flirted between both manufactures products until the latest Dulux formulation of water based trim came out. Here I found the MF far superior than any previous brush I had tried so it became my brush of choice for the next 6 months. I purchased more and began to use them every day pushing them to the limit.

Never during this time have any of my MF brushes shed a bristle. Most manufacturers recommend washing your brush out every two or three hours when using water based trim products to prevent clogging. Whilst I agree this is best practice on a couple of occasions I have worked eight hours without the MF clogging or needing a wash. Then at the end of each day, washed out lovely, combed and stored in its protective cover and it was ready for the next day. The MF is like most synthetic brushes used in water based, dependant how hard you treat them there lifespan will be between 6 – 12 months.

Even after this because the bristles still maintain their edge you could still use the brush for light duties for some time.

The MF is ergonomically designed slimmer than many major brush brands, but the natural handle sits nice in your hand and remains comfortable for long periods of work. With the design of the bristles being long and thin you will find you can cut in precisely with a wider brush than you normally could of some others.


Outstanding build quality

Comfortable design

Precision bristles

Excellent value for money


Not widely available

Sadly as with all synthetic brushes lifespan is shorter than traditional bristle.


This is one of those companies you should not judge for their interesting marketing because behind the glitzy promotion is a genuine professional product, which has been designed and manufactured to the most demanding standards.

After quite a lot of research the MF is my preferred choice of synthetic brushes in water based products. I would recommend lightly moisten the bristles before use and ensure it’s thoroughly cleaned after use before putting it in a protective sleeve to store ensuring maximum longevity.

Build quality 96/100

Design 90/100

Value for money 90/100

Foot note: This review was written in 2015 and its content is still relevant in the current market.


More thoughts

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Once again in too short of a time frame I find more thoughts appearing in this little decorating blog. After last years sabbatical,  I had hoped for a year of recovering and getting gradually back to work properly from 2016’s events https://v-wilkinsonandson.co.uk/painters-have-feelings-too/

Things were going great I got the all clear from the bowel surgeon and was back full time working by February 2017, just steadily at first, but wasn’t finding any restrictions in my ability. Just when you think you have things sorted another surprise comes along.

It was late July 2017 I was working alone on a small motel, changing the colour of feature walls on the first floor, after carrying steps, sheets and decorating materials up there I noticed a shortness of breathe, forcing me to stand for a minute and recover. Once I had done so I felt fine and continued with my days work without further incident.

Carrying my things back to the van at the end of my day I had similar breathlessness but soon recovered so didnt think it was too serious. I arrived home and during our evening meal I mentioned it to my wife, saying perhaps an appointment with my GP might be in order.

Immediately she suggested we visit the local Primary Care center at hospital, so we got into the car and drove through. After chatting with the Doctor she suggested she’d like to run a couple of tests an ECG was first, having had many in the past at this point I wasn’t concerned at all as they connected the sticky pads and wires to me. Only when she ran the test and looked a little surprised at the result, showing it to her colleague before coming to inform me of the diagnosis.

Apparently I was in full heart block, no wonder I was a bit breathless when my heart wasn’t behaving its self properly, so I was told I was to be transferred to Carlisle Hospital, with likelyhood of getting a pacemaker fitted.

To say I was a little surprised is an understatement although having said that with my previous history it was only a matter of time before it caught up with me one way or another. https://v-wilkinsonandson.co.uk/knowing-history-makes-stronger/

So I was in Carlisle for several days, the procedure as they like to call them these days was initially scheduled for Thursday, but postponed due to my unusual body layout shall we say, the doctor just wanted to double check with another test and confirm his findings with cardiologists at Freeman’s hospital in Newcastle.

So Friday morning came and the Dr ensured me it would be later that morning once he had spoken to his colleagues over in the cardiac unit in Freeman’s again. Despite me saying for her not to my wife had got up at the crack of dawn and was already in the hospital as she believed I was first on list for that mornings procedures.

As 11 am approached the nurse came and said I was to go down to have the pacemaker fitted. In Carlisle its an odd experience as you get pushed into theater  past the coffee shop and there was my wife. So I was prepared on the operating table, given a local anesthetic in my left shoulder and once it was numb, the Dr, who by now we had built up a bit of a rap-our over several chats we’ve had previously started. Yes it was uncomfortable at times, even a little unnerving but on the whole manageable and we even managed to chat a little as he carried out the procedure.

I was back on the ward by 2 pm, that first cup of tea and toast is always welcome after any procedure. Thank heavens I was no longer attached to a heart monitor, I was told need three tests, an ECG, and Pacemaker test was done on the ward, followed by a quick trip to X-Ray.

Then Amazingly I was good to be discharged and I was home by 7 pm that evening. I honestly cannot fault the Nurses or Doctors at Carlisle hospital, they all showed so much care. After leaving hospital I thought a few weeks recovery as I’d been instructed to take care using my left arm so as not to dislodge anything, then I should be back to normal.

Once again I believed, things will improve now, sadly fate had a hand in things again and my journey wasn’t over yet….






Mural installation

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A short video made via stop frame pictures showing a small mural installation job recently carried out at our customers in West Cumbria.

The mural was Glasgow Skyline, supplied by http://www.photowall.co.uk as you will see it came in six panels. As we were installing it to appear above a desk and headboard in a bedroom after installing the panels I needed to trim the lower edge to suit the height we desired. The width was determined by the heigh we were working at so as not to distort the image we requested the original proportions when we ordered.


Why wont my water stain go, with Emulsion

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If you have ever had a water leak on your ceiling leaving a brown mark, you’ll know how untidy it can look. Also if you’ve tried to redecorate just by covering it with several coats of Emulsion paint you’ll realize that is not an ideal solution to the problem.

Sadly there are very few water bourne products that will successfully trap and prevent a water mark bleeding through till finished coatings. Traditionally oil based undercoat would be used to seal the stain. There was also products such as Gulttonglass or Stipptick sealers which were faster drying, but unfortunately didnt work best with emulsions.

Nowadays there are various priority stain sealers in brush and spray applications which perform the task very well and enable you to successfully prevent the stains reappearing.

A word of warning ensure the source of the stain has been cured fully first as no stain blocker can actually hold back a persistent water leak


Painters have feelings too!

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For the second time on my business website, I’ve let you see Painters have feelings too, while previously I’ve talked about my early beginnings, Knowing your history makes you stronger.  here we discuss more recent history and something that could happen to all of us out of the blue.

Generally I’m not a superstitious person, my mum is but something strange did happen 12 months ago today which did make me think.

Thursday 23rd of June 2016 around 5.45am, I was awoken by a loud tapping noise, unsure of where it was coming from I peered out of my duvet only to see a young Magpie sitting outside the bedroom window tapping the glass with its beak.

Thinking at the time it was unusual but I wasn’t the slightest bit flustered, I laid back down for half an hour before getting ready for work. Now this is where my mums train of thought enters the equation, (one for sorrow, two for joy and so on) during the days work I started to get pains in my stomach, I put it down to trapped wind, early start, quick breakfast, longer drive to job all those things where in my mind.

After work at home I mentioned to Michelle, (The wife) I’m going to lay on the bed as my tummy will ease its self *cough, tried to word that as delicately as I could. It was only the fact I decided to take a paracetamol which triggered her into action, “you never take tablets, so I there must be something wrong with you” she said.

By this time it was after 11.pm but we drove the 7 mile to the local access center to get checked, the duty doctor did examine me, and gave me two tablets saying trapped wind which would ease by morning. Sadly it didn’t and by 7.am Michelle was on the phone to our surgery. A locum doctor visited and immediately said I was to go to hospital 35 miles away, for tests, there would be a bed waiting, so once again off we went.

Arriving at hospital I was greeted by the registrar Martin, who tried to ease my mind that it would just be some simple procedure to “free” the pressure if that failed they intended to investigate with the camera the following morning. I did say to my wife after the procedure, that she could take me home that night rather than taking up a hospital bed unnecessarily, but she insisted I stayed.

So on the morning of the 24th June 2016 after a reasonably comfortable night on the ward, the registrar came to explain the next steps, quite simply it was just to investigate. I was gowned and taken to the procedure rooms, In my mind I knew Michelle would be waiting for me as soon as I got back on the ward, I thought I could do with a cuppa as I’d been nil by mouth since early morning.

The nurse and radiologist where talking to me and he began, next thing I knew my stomach ballooned and I was rushed into another room surrounded by about ten nurses and doctors all working on me as I drifted in and out of consciousness. I remember entering through some doors, I now know into theatre and a fairly tall man saying “Don’t worry we have got you” or words to that effect….

I didn’t know at the time I awoke how long I’d been under, a nurse was standing beside me and explained I was on a ward, my wife came, my daughter was with her, my son had caught the first train from Glasgow as he had been to celebrate his girlfriends birthday, Mum and Dad had came through too.

I was extremely grateful to see my family, my wife had rushed through as soon as the hospital phoned I was going into theatre, my sons girlfriend wouldn’t let him travel alone and despite her due to go out for her birthday, she had told him “family was more important” as all he just wanted to “be there for his best friend”, my daughter was the bravest showing no sadness in front of me, my little hero.

After an emotional reunion I must have drifted back to sleep, dozing on and off till morning. That morning I learned that I had to have two thirds of my colon removed due to it being four times the size it should have been and a restricting growth around it, the surgeon Mr.Avalapati had discussed this at length with Michelle following my surgery. He reassured her the operation had been successful and that I currently had a storma bag, which my wife replied “he wont really like that” then Mr Avalapati had mentioned if I had got my way and gone home that night and the colon had burst, that would have been it….I would not have made it out of Workington let alone 35 miles to hospital, so having a bag is a small sacrifice, although it had been done in such a way to be reversed at some point in the future. Obviously I’m very grateful to my wife for being so stubborn and loving.

Coming around the following morning I too discovered I had been fitted with a colostomy bag, this did concern me at the time, I was an active 49 year old and I wasn’t sure what this meant. After a few days on the ward and several discussions with nurses including the Storma nurse who’ s role is to assist, teach and support those with the variety of bags fitted during surgery, my mind was a little more at ease. A new gentleman was brought into the ward, just having had his Storma removed a few days previous. Roy’s advice to me was “You’ll cope no bother with it, just get it inside your head and its not a problem” those words stuck in my mind and Roy and I became friends who still speak to this day. Thank you mate.

Over the coming weeks I made a slow recovery, after a week in hospital I was allowed home, unaware how much this operation had taken out of my body, the first four weeks at home needed lots of help, even washing myself was so tiring I needed help. again Michelle was my rock…naturally my family rallied around, if Michelle was at work my parents came to sit with me, I can’t thank them enough.

Also Michelle had put basic information on social media, to inform friends and family further a field I wasn’t well. I was overwhelmed by the support we received and messages. Everything from offers of help from decorators all over the country, who would have assisted getting through jobs to keep my business going, to friends offering to collect shopping or run errands to save Michelle, one special friend offered financial assistance, should I needed it I am so grateful to everyone who kept in contact with us, your kind words, and acts of generosity will never be forgotten.

Regarding the business Mark who has been with me for 14 years now, was in constant contact with Michelle during my hospital stay, the first day I was home he visited and basically said my first priority was to get well, he would manage the jobs, all I had to do is send them to him. Over those first six weeks when I was mainly house bound that’s what we did. I could text and email jobs out, or Mark would pop in. He would manage each job sending me progress reports and pictures as he went. I couldn’t have asked for a better work college and friend.

Over the last year finances have been tight but we muddled through, I have always known health and family are far more important that money. Yes you do get basic assistance from the government if you fight for it, perhaps more on that another time.

Please if your self employed look after your health naturally, don’t be afraid to ask for help, you might be pleasantly surprised who will jump to your aid. You can of course insure yourself for these events, which is everyone’s personal choice, many don’t as they think it will never happen.

The biggest thing for me is the amount of kindness shown, in person and via all forms of social media, not just from friends and family but from the wider painting and decorating community. In total I had about 9 months away from the brushes, two operations, various tests, was house bound, relied on family taking me to see jobs at first until gradually I could drive myself and do the estimating side. The important thing is I got though it, and should you be unfortunate enough to have similar circumstances you will too. Oh final thought, remember to say “good morning Mr Magpie” just in case….





Basic decorating advice intro

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I’m going to do a basic series of common misconceptions and decorating advice posts to assist a home owner who may be attempting to under take painting and decorating themselves, hopefully it may assist them, or at the very least minimize the decorating faux-pas our trade has to correct on a daily basis from well meaning DIY’ers

In one respect its my way of putting a little back from the trade I have worked hard in for over thirty years, even I’m still learning new things every day. From the current increase in water-based products, to changes in fashion from wall paper borders to bright coloured feature walls, the ever growing list of new paints manufacturers invent to fill niche markets,  to the advances in dust free sanding systems there is generally something new happening

Another aspect is perhaps it might encourage an interest within the trade, sadly there will be a shortage of proper time served trades people in the future, not just in painting and decorating but in all trades and with our elderly population slowly increasing, they will need reputable trades people to undertake work in the future. Yes its a shock to the system actually coming to work for the first time after a school enviroment, but providing they are willing to learn, skills taught hands on will stay with them for the rest of their lives and possibly provide them with a rewarding way to earn a living in the future.

So look out for posts #askapainter hashtag or if there is anything decorating related I may be able to answer, feel free to ask a question below, I will try my best to answer within a couple of days.The video that accompanies this post is a bit of light heart fun, mainly jobs that are in progress so you can at least view the variety of work we do.


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