Our guide to the top ten Christmas decorations for 2018

1 - Good Christmas decor is less about ornaments and all about light. Cluster lights like these can be used to create a soft, traditional effect




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2 - These geometric baubles will be the perfect addition to a more contemporary tree




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3 - Fairy lights are essential; these tiny frosted jars add a subtle vintage note to any Christmas decor




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4 - We’re using this light-up tree from Aldi to give a little festive bling to a more minimalist room





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5 - John Lewis is one of my favourite places to shop at this time of year. My personal favourites from their current collection include this Russian doll set





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6 - And this moonstone owl snow globe







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7 - It's not a proper tree without baubles - get your names on this gorgeous personalised set





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8 - These hand-painted ‘baby's first Christmas’ baubles from mamas&papas are the perfect keepsake for any little one who’s still too small for sweets




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9 - I can't get enough of these guys - A Nisse, or Tomte, is a creature from Nordic folklore, that looks a bit like a cross between father Christmas and a garden gnome, only better. Here's one seeking gainful employment as a door stopper



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10 - Here's three more, hanging out in this unusual wreath



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11 - And here's an especially hairy one, just for cuddles




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(Ok I know that's eleven but if it was me I'd have a house full of them! )


Merry Christmas and happy shopping :-)


Our guide to the top things to do this Christmas!

We love Christmas time at Craig Brooks Painting & Decorating. Especially the activities and days out that we have in the lead up to the big day, when Santa squeezes down the chimney to leave presents and get tipsy on Sherry and mince pies.

Here is our list of favourite things we like to do


Buy a real tree

We always visit farmer Gow’s for our tree. They have a great selection and the trees last a long time. Whilst there, why not take the kids to meet the animals. They even have a goat named after me!

Find out more


Visit Santa

Santa will be at Dobbies Cirencester until December 24th. Booking is advised as they do get busy. They have a nice selection of gifts, you can choose from for all children of all ages, and Santa's grotto is just gorgeous!

Book now


Christmas markets

Arkell’s Christmas market is on December 1st 10am-3pm. Come along for food, drinks, crafts and gift stalls. Arkell’s have even brewed a special seasonal ‘Sir Noel’ Ale. A great place to pick up some local - made treats.

Find out more

Bath Christmas market. We usually hop on a train for this one. Highlights include mince pies and mulled wine as well as a good selection of gifts. Bath is especially well lit and beautiful this time of year, and if you get time you can catch the carol singing at the front of Bath Abbey.

Find out more


Prepare your dinner

Wild cooking Bath offer courses throughout the year, but at Christmas it's all about the Venison.

Spend a day in the woods skinning and butchering a whole deer, which you then get to take home with you!

Not only this but Ed And Guy are the perfect hosts, preparing a delicious breakfast and lunch over a campfire and plenty of tea and coffee.

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Go ice skating

Millet’s farm in Oxfordshire have a real undercover ice rink right up until January 6th. They also have a moose lodge ice cafe with a variety of festive treats.

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Scam domain sales call?

I received a phone call this morning from a Manchester based company called Ceom.

They claimed that a Mr Steven Sanderson was trying to buy the .com of my .co.uk web address. No further info could be given due to the data protection laws stated.

I was informed that as the owner of the .co.uk address I had first rights to buy it before he could. This obviously comes at a high price, approx £150 with vat.

I said that I was unprepared to pay that fee as a small business, to which I was told they could speak to the manager about discounting the Vat to save me some money.

Again, I declined and said I would face whatever it was that Mr Steven Sanderson had in store for me.

It was left at that, with only a snide remark that come lunchtime tomorrow if I typed in the .com of my web address I would find out what Mr Steven Sanderson had planned for the site.

I immediately went to my domain supplier, who has a sale on and purchased my .com for £8.39, just to be sure....


Monarch brushes. Australia's answer to the Purdy?

When I first started decorating, over 18 years ago, the best brushes on the market were Hamiltons. We'd have new brushes for undercoating and older brushes for gloss work. Always in a constant cycle.

Things have changed alot since then, advances in not only the tools of the trade, but also the paints. Whilst oil based paints are still available, they have changed so much as to be inferior to the newer water based/bourne paints.

Water based paints are not only quicker drying, but also non-yellowing, lower odour and better for the environment.

Using water based paints previously meant a lower quality paint, with worse adhesion and durability, but there are so many products out there now its a wonder why anyone would still use oil paints.

As paints have advanced, so has the technology to apply them. Unfortunately this means the market is saturated. Most painters have too many brushes. I have tried all kinds, whether purchased or more recently given to me to trial for this blog.

The standards are now really high, and whilst most brushes will do the job, a few stand out. I recently started using Decorating Directs Fossa viper trim brush for woodwork and it blows the others out of the water. Its a fantastic brush for applying water based finishes, cutting in and laying them off beautifully. The best bit is the price. They are really cheap at only £24.98 for 6 brushes!

But the brush range I really want to mention is by Monarch painting. These are all handcrafted in Australia and available in Homebase (if your store is still open). I actually got mine in the closing down sale at our local store, at 40% off.

They have a lot of brushes available, including some shapes I have not previously seen, such as the cornice brush. My particular favourite for interior emulsion is actually the weatherboard, eaves and fascia brush. Its oval shaped and is great for cutting in sharp lines, whilst being soft enough to lay the paint off well.

The whole range is great, professionally crafted and reasonably priced, even when not in the sale. These are definitely my go to brushes at the moment.

Product testing for PPE Work solutions

I recently received an email from Dean Else regarding my blog. Dean is the owner of PPE work solutions, an ecommerce company based in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, who specialise in selling painting and decorating supplies.

Dean said 'we are looking collaborate with business' like yourself and offer you some free supplies to review on your blog.'

I accepted, but with the caveat that the review will be honest, whether good or bad. Dean accepted this and sent me over a few products, of my choosing, from his website.


ProDec Advance 12" x 1.75" Medium Pile Microfibre Roller - I have had issues getting the Picasso rollers I like recently, so I’m really keen to find a suitable replacement. This roller looked hopeful.

I have managed to use it on a few jobs, and the roller itself is lovely. Good paint pick up and application and lays off nicely with minimal 'orange peel'.

My only issue is its a little tight fitting on the Purdy adjustable frame I use. It does fit, but not all the way and not if there is any dry paint on the arms. That said some rollers are too loose and wobble around, so its not necessarily a bad thing.


ProDec Ice fusion mini 4'' rollers
I have stopped using rollers for woodwork in most scenarios, its not worth it, getting hairs in a smooth paint finish and I never could get on with the foam ones, as they don't hold enough paint.

But then along came the ice fusion. I have previously tried a 12'' in emulsion, but don't rate it, but I have heard great things about the 4''.

This roller is fantastic, it holds a lot of paint and can be used, from new, with finishing coats without any issues of hair loss.

The only issue is that they do not clean out well or last long. They go rather flat and stop holding as much paint pretty quickly.

They are cheap enough to buy and throw away after a few jobs though, so I wouldn't worry about it.


ProDec Advance X-Zero Synthetic Paint Brushes

ProDec Advance X-Zero Synthetic Paint Brushes


I used these brushes with a few different products and initially did not want to be impressed. As I have written in another blog, the market is saturated with brushes these days and the standard is very high with the likes of Fossa and Monarch.

I started off using this with Benjamin Moore's aura exterior satin. It picked up plenty of paint, spread it out and laying off nicely without any hair loss.

Its everything you want from a brush. I have since used it to cut in emulsion and again, it does the job well. I can't really criticize it other than to say the Fossa viper is cheaper to buy (though currently comes in less size options) and the Fossa feels better in the hand.


Prodec contoured plastic mini scraper

ProDec Contoured Plastic Mini Scraper

This is a nice mini scrapper and feels good in the hand.


I had high hopes for it, but within minutes the blade snapped. As it only comes with one and I’m not willing to waste money on more that may snap, I won't be using it again.


ProDec Advance 24mm x 50m Precision Edge Masking Tape

ProDec Advance 24mm x 50m Precision Edge Masking Tape

I used this to mask up a job on some oak beams and new PVC windows. The tape adhered well to the oak (Fossa TrueMask 82 had trouble with adhesion).

The tape came off cleanly and easily with no bleed underneath. Its well priced at £3.79 - significantly cheaper than some of its rivels. The only real issue is you can only leave it down for 24hrs.




Many thanks to Dean for getting in touch and letting me try out some of the products available




Halloween inspiration

Are you glad it's Halloween tomorrow? Do you love fog, frost, and glittering spiderwebs? Create the perfect room for ghost stories all year round with these spooktacular decorating ideas.

photo by Benjamin Moore

Kendall Charcoal from Benjamin Moore’s 2019’s colour trends is sure to make a dramatic statement to any room.

Shop here


 Photo by @Mydarkhome_ on instagram

Photo by @Mydarkhome_ on instagram





Check out Eniko on instagram for some inspiration on how to use dark colours in your home. Their page mydarkhome also includes pictures of their dogs!






Have a think about chalkboard paint. It's not just for kids! The Matt finish and charcoal colour is just as trendy as any other dark grey right now, and it gives you a chance to play with your artistic side and make something unique. Check out this chalk headboard created by Anthropologie.

Take a look at some great ideas from Homesynthetics.net for adding a chalkboard to your Kitchen here


Get some of that folk horror magic with this gorgeous Wicker Man print


… and add some stark and spooky ‘woods' wallpaper from Cole & Son.










Add a few Victorian touches with these Alice in Wonderland cushion covers




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and capture two of this season's hottest trends - geometric and copper - with this stylish string of 20 pendant lights

Have a great Halloween!

Benjamin Moore's colour of the year 2019

 Image taken from Benjamin Moore’s Colour trends 2019 colour card.  Walls - Metropolitan AF-690  Cabinets - Hale Navy HC-154

Image taken from Benjamin Moore’s Colour trends 2019 colour card.

Walls - Metropolitan AF-690

Cabinets - Hale Navy HC-154

Benjamin Moore have just announced their colour of the year for 2019. This means a lovely new colour card to look through and gain some inspiration.

The colour is called ‘Metropolitan’ and I can see this being a very popular choice next year. That said I actually prefer another colour featured in the colour trends 2019 card, ‘Hale Navy’.

We have plans for this one at home. From repainting our dining table and chairs, along with the Skirting boards, window sill and, if I can find the time, the Kitchen cupboards.

So watch this space. We are currently renovating the conservatory and replacing the roof. Once this is done I can get on with the redecorating. I just hope I can find time to get it all done before Christmas.

What do you think of the new colour card? Which is your favourite colour in the palette? Let us know in the comments below or get in touch if you'd like to discuss a future project.

Centurion brush review

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Centurion brushes got in contact with me a little while back, after seeing my blog. They wanted to know if I would be interested in trying out some of the brushes in their range. They are a wholesaler with over 27,000 products, from ironmongery, to gardening and plumbing supplies.

They say they have ‘a dedicated Customer Service team, nationwide network of Area Sales Managers, 24 hour online ordering and 99.5% picking and order accuracy, we offer much more than your average wholesaler.’

Once I received the brushes my initial thoughts were that they looked and felt cheap and would not suffice for a professional decorator. So in my eyes I was reviewing them on behalf of the average DIY user. My wife commented that the packaging and handles felt cheap, but the bristles felt good.

To look at, they put me in mind of Harris brushes. So I contacted Centurion to ask where in the market the brushes were aimed, as this would be the only way to do a fair review. The response I got back was that they were for professional and DIY users and that their competition is with Harris and Diall.

I was sent 2 ranges in various sizes to try. The Platinum range and the Craftsmen pro. Both have Polyester Bristles and stainless Steel Ferrules, but the Craftsmen has a wooden handle, whereas the Platinum has a cheap plastic one, much like Harris and Diall brushes. I do wonder if they are made by the same company, but haven’t done a side by side comparison, so can’t say how similar they are, but they do look the same.

As far as prices go a 1" Platinum or Craftsmen pro costs £1.99. A 3’’ is £4.99 and a 5 piece set of Craftsmen pro brushes, with brush comb is £14.99.

So more importantly what were they like to use? Both ranges were comfortable to hold. I used them in a range of products, from Sandtex masonry, Zinsser gardz, wallpaper paste, Valspar emulsions, to a large portion of the Benjamin Moore paints that I mostly use - Advance satin, Aura Matte and Eggshell, ceiling paint, Stix and fresh start primers and the new scuff-x.

Initially both ranges had some hair loss, maybe 4 or 5, but not much of an issue after this. They held a good amount of paint, spread and lay off well, though a little springy for my liking. I was able to cut in nice sharp lines quickly and easily. The Craftsmen pro definitely had the edge over the Platinum range and was the higher quality of the two, performing particularly well when painting with water based woodwork finishes.

When I opened the delivery from Centurion I was not impressed and did not want to like the brushes, and while they are not my favourites, or the best quality (something they do not claim to be) they did, and still do what they are intended for. I will continue to use them and for the price you could do far worse than to buy a set.

Thank you to Kerri from Centurion brushes for getting in contact and allowing me to review the brushes. For further info please visit their website at https://www.centurioneurope.co.uk/

Fake quote requests

There seems to be a huge ‘fake’ quote request email scam going on lately. Several times a week I get an email telling me how good I am and how they love my reviews, but something about the wording and language doesn’t add up.

They usually end up sending some kind of attachment, with a claim that its the plans for the work required (similar emails are for a ‘due balance’ to an unknown company requiring payment via an attached invoice).

I do not open attachments from unknown sources. In all probability they will infect your device and monitor app activity for payment/card info, passwords etc.

Now, some of these emails could be genuine, so I do reply saying I do not open attachments, and not one of them has ever replied to question why.

I do always try to respond to email requests, but these fake emails are becoming such a waste of my time, added to the unlimited amount of calls, texts and emails that try to sell me some kind of advertising (I had hoped these would stop with the new data protection laws, but lately it has gotten worse).

But worse still is I have to wonder how many people fall for these emails and open the attachment. How many people have had passwords and bank details stolen, all with the hope of gaining honest work to put food on the table. They probably have no idea that it even happened.

What to look for in a decorator?

There seems to be an increasing number of poor quality jobs being done by so-called decorators lately. I’m repeatedly being called upon, either to correct the work or advise on how the homeowner can best rectify the situation.

I’m not sure what the cause is, but it's putting a bad name onto the construction industry.

I’m not talking about being overly fussy either. Examples include wall paint being all over the ceilings (which weren't being painted), paint on carpets, furniture and windows, peeling paint from recently finished woodwork, the list could go on. One guy even turned up on the bus!

The worst part is in every case the ‘decorator’ has been paid for the ‘work’ done - often up front. One had even asked to paid early only to not ever come back to finish the job. When I ask why they paid them the answer is always the same ‘I just wanted to get rid of them’.

If I'm too busy to fit a job in, the question usually follows - 'what should I look for when choosing a decorator' or 'who do I personally recommend, or not'. So I thought maybe I should make a small list of checkpoints for what to look out for when picking a decorator. It's worth noting your consumer rights as well. If you didn’t get what you expected from a job, you do not have to pay for it. However you do have to have given the person who did the job a fair chance to put right the problems with the work.

 

So here is my list (in no particular order):

  • Comes recommended either by someone you know, preferably that you have seen the work of, or at least has testimonials and customers you can speak too. Where this isn’t possible pictures and videos should be available. A decorator should be proud of their work.

  • Turns up on time,by appointment, to quote for the work.

  • Smartly dressed, in uniform, possibly logo’d (bare in mind they have probably just come from a job, so won’t be spotless)

  • How much experience do they have, what qualifications and in what area of decorating (domestic, commercial, exterior, interior etc)

  • Has a vast range of knowledge about the industry and can answer any of your questions clearly and with ease.

  • Has a prefered range of paints and products that they use and can supply sample books if needed (I have a top 3 paint brands for example)

  • Has the correct tools to complete the work (ladders for access, dust sheets, plastic sheeting, dust extractors/sanders etc)  

  • Has a waiting list of work more than a week or 2 (though cancellations do sometimes allow things to be slotted in last minute, they should have plenty of other work lined up)

  • The quote should arrive within a week, or at least within the agreed timeframe.

  • Get 3 quotes and don’t necessarily go for the cheapest. Look at why one is cheaper than the other. Does one have more detail about the kind of job you will be getting? For example - one just says ‘paint walls’ and another says ‘fill and sand walls using a dustless system before painting with 2 coats using brand x’

  • Is the quote clearly laid out using proper spelling, a logo, name and address.

  • Find out whether the person doing the quote is going to be carrying out the work themselves.

  • Is it a quote or an estimate? A quote is a fixed price, pending changes to specification or unforeseen circumstances. An estimate is a ballpark figure that could go up or down.

Betsy paint mate

I was contacted recently by Steeve from the Betsy group limited. After having read my blog they wondered if I could try out their product - the Betsy paint mate. I had some initial concerns, like why so many paint tools have 'mate' in the title. I replied to Steeve saying 'I'd be happy to try it out. It does look a little cumbersome and a little DIY in the video, but it would be good to take a closer look.'

The video I refer to is this one:

Having received the Betsy Paint mate I took it to show some customers. Reactions were mostly along the lines of laughing and saying its not the sort of thing they expect a professional like myself to wear and it looks too cheap and like a DIY tool!

I decided to give it a go anyway and see how it was from a practical side. Whilst it frees up your hands for working at height, switching between high and low areas becomes an issue - as you can not bend or move far without spilling paint. I work quite quickly and so being restricted in this way is going to cost money. I found the pots to be on the small side and when you consider that you can only put a very small amount of paint in them, to avoid spillage, you spend a lot of time refilling the pots.

I'm not sold on this at all. Wearing it is cumbersome and they look cheap and unprofessional. Perhaps it would work fine for a DIYer who potentially works at a slower pace. Another concern is that this is held too close to my workwear. As a professional I like to keep my uniform looking as clean as possible and I don't think it would take long to have paint all over my worktop.

After posting a picture on social media of me wearing this I'm not convinced that many people would be willing to give this a go. Certainly, from the ridicule I received on Twitter from fellow decorators, I think they can forget the professional market completely! Comments were all long the lines of 'that's the most ridiculous invention I've seen!' and 'Please get that off before anyone else sees you...'

The comments on Facebook from customers and friends were 50/50 as to whether it was good. Comments varied from 'I assumed it was something from Mothercare!' to '👍 if it helps why not !!'

Many thanks to the Betsy group ltd for getting in touch and sending me the product for a review

 

 

 

 

It's the end of my working year....

I have a baby due in under a week! So with that I have taken the rest of the year off to be with my wife and at some point, baby.

This year I managed to complete a big range of projects: 31 Bedrooms, 21 Bathrooms, 3 Cloakrooms, 13 Kitchen, 4 Utility, 14 Lounge, 7 Dining room, 3 Studies, 17 Hall, stairs and landing, 1 snug, 1 Nursery, 1 Conservatory, 1 Therapy room, 1 Office, 1 Foyer, 1 Party room, 7 Exteriors, 1 piece of furniture

I have decided that for the foreseeable future I will not be taking on any exterior projects, this being partly down to the unreliable UK weather and also down to an injury to my shoulder, that reappears whenever I start lifting my ladders around. With a baby due I need to have a more reliable workload and as exteriors only make up a small percentage of what I do, its not going to make a huge difference to my workload.

I have currently stopped taking requests for quotes until the new year, as I am already booked till the end of June, which is incredible!

I hope you all have a good Christmas and get some time off. Thanks to all my customers new and old, I look forward to working on future projects for you all.

Craig

 

Californias Proposition 65 and cancer causing chemicals in paint

I was recently asked about a statement on a tin of Benjamin Moore paint that reads 'WARNING: Contains a chemical known to the state of California to cause Cancer and birth defects, or other reproductive harm'

The person who asked me was particularly concerned as they have a baby due soon and most of their house is now painted in Benjamin Moore paint (some by me and some by themselves).

I fully understand the concern as I had the same thoughts when I first heard of Proposition 65, so I thought I would do some research and try to clear things up a little. I first became aware of Proposition 65 on an Amazon listing for 3M masking tape, which you can read their response too on an earlier blog post.

So what is Proposition 65? In 1986, California voters approved an initiative to address their growing concerns about exposure to toxic chemicals. That initiative became the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, better known by its original name of Proposition 65. Proposition 65 requires the State to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. This list, which must be updated at least once a year, has grown to include approximately 800 chemicals since it was first published in 1987.

The link to the current full list is in the above paragraph. But what is it in Benjamin Moore's paint that requires it to be included on their tins? It isn't a legal requirement in the UK to have the warning and is only their tins because they are imported from the U.S. - but should we still be concerned?

I have done a bit of further research into what exactly is in BM's paint that is on the list of chemicals for prop 65 and came up with one thing - Titanium dioxide. This is listed as being known to cause cancer when airborne in unbound particles of respirable size. So as far as I can tell is of no concern when used in paint.

After doing a bit of a search around I found that it is also commonly used by UK manufacturers like Dulux and Crown, so whilst Benjamin Moore bought it to our attention, it is not solely them that include it in their manufacturing process. It replaced lead compounds as the primary white paint pigment shortly after WW II. But in fact, Titanium dioxide is used in the manufacture of a lot of products that we use all the time.

It accounts for 70% of the production volume of pigments worldwide and is found in paints, plastics, papers, inks, foods, and toothpastes. It is also used in cosmetic and skin care products, and it is present in almost every sunblock, where it helps protect the skin from ultraviolet light.

Most interesting of all is that it is added to skimmed milk to make it white instead of blue!

So whilst it is concerning to see that a paint contains a cancer causing chemical, its more concerning that we are consuming it daily and applying it to our skin. However in all these cases it would seem that it is harmless because its not being inhaled.

Update after some more research:

I have been doing a bit more research on titanium dioxide and discovered a few more listed ingredients in Benjamin Moore paint.

Titanium dioxide is only listed as possibly carcinogenic in humans. in studies high concentrations of dust have been shown to cause respiratory tract cancer in rats exposed by inhalation. The same has also been seen in people working in dusty environments during titanium production, if there are insufficient dust control measures in place.

Silica -  is also on the list of carcinogenic chemicals used in paint manufacture. It is mostly obtained by mining quartz. 95% of Silica production is used in construction for Portland cement. It is also used to make glass products, micro chips, ceramics, fibre-optics and in food production.

ingested orally Silica is essentially nontoxic. However inhaling finely divided crystalline silica dust can lead to silicosis, bronchitis or cancer, as the dust becomes lodged in the lungs and continuously irritates them, reducing lung capacities.

Interestingly a study that followed subjects for 15 years found that higher levels of silica in water appeared to decrease the risk of dementia . The study found an association between an increase of 10 milligram-per-day of the intake of silica in drinking water with a decreased risk of dementia of 11%

Methylisothiazolinone - This is just a biocide and preservative. As well as paint it is used in cosmetics and some mouthwash. There has been an increase in the number of people with an allergy to it, so companies are now starting to remove it from their products.

Diatomaceous earth - consists of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled Protozo. It is used as a filtration aid, mild abrasive in products including metal polishes and toothpaste, reinforcing filler in plastics and rubber, cat litter, a stabilizing component of dynamite, and a thermal insulator.

In a study of workers, those exposed to natural D.E. for over 5 years had no significant lung changes, while 40% of those exposed to the calcined form had developed pneumoconiosis. Today's common D.E. formulations are safer to use as they are predominantly made up of amorphous silica and contain little or no crystalline silica.

Propylene glycol - Is produced on a large scale and is primarily used in the production of polymers but also sees use in food processing as the E-number E1520.

The acute oral toxicity of propylene glycol is very low, and large quantities are required to cause perceptible health damage in humans. Prolonged contact is essentially non-irritating to the skin. Undiluted propylene glycol is minimally irritating to the eye, producing slight transient conjunctivitis; the eye recovers after the exposure is removed.

 

So from all the chemicals that I can see, only 2 require the proposition 65 label. Interestingly I noticed that Benjamin Moores Natura range doesn't carry the prop 65 label. It stills contains both Titanium dioxide and Silica - both of which are know carcinogens, so I have no idea why the label is not required. I did notice that it contains half the amount of silica, so perhaps this puts it within the legal requirement? The Titanium dioxide is still present in the same quantity as the other paints.

From what I can find nobody in America takes notice of the warning and discussions are taking place to change it, as people largely ignore it, even on product that are potentially dangerous. In California it is found on everything including houses, swimming pools and mail boxes!

Shaw paints who import Benjamin Moore into the UK may one day change the labels to their own, so the warning would not be present. They currently add a sticker to the label that covers the info required for the strict UK and EU labeling requirements and full safety data sheets are also available, which list more chemicals than the American Technical data sheets do.

Aiden & Parker Paints challenge Benjamin Moore to become my go too paints...

This week I took a call from Randall Mallinson, the business development manager of Aiden & Parker paints. I'll be honest and admit that, up until that call, I hadn't heard of them.

Aiden & Parker are a UK based paint manufacturer supplying paint to 'architects and interior designers who specify for Royalty projects, 4 & 5 star hotels, Boutique hotels, pubs, clubs, Luxury home developments over £2 million'

The key points made to me over the phone and via email were:

Unbelievable opacity, awesome coverage, Amazingly durable and beautiful finishes, Desirable Pricing
If a chosen colour is outside our range of 120, we colour match to any colour card, ref. brand in your desired finish.
Manufactured in UK, Kent
Only the top quality materials are sourced to maintain our strategic position in the market
Minimum carbon footprint – every pot of paint is made to order (raw materials come from Europe and are transported in bulk, by road, not air)
Zero VOC’s
Only sell 100% Acrylic paint
Minimal or no odour
Quick drying
Non yellowing
All packing is recyclable
Highly Scuff and Stain resistant
Dependent of finish – wipe or scrubable
Use standard UK sizing
eliminates any existing surface colour in 2 coats

Randall explained to me how he had read my blog and was interested in me trying out some of their paints. They seem to have a keen interest in supplying high end clients with a quality product. He made one very bold claim, that I decided was worth me testing. He said that Aiden & Parker paints were at least as good as Benjamin Moore. That is a very high bar to aim for, which is exactly what I told him.

To make this test fair I needed to be able to run similar tests to that which I have done with Benjamin Moore, so when he asked which colour of 5L emulsion I would like to trial, I asked for several 1L tins instead. My suggestion was 1 in red, 1 in white and some eggshell for woodwork, with a primer.


Quick next day delivery by Randall of Aiden & Parker paints

The next day I received my pots:

1 red in the 'chalky matt' finish - Ultra flat matt that enhances both period and contemporary living spaces; for use on interior walls and ceilings - rrp £64 for 5L

1 white in the 'ultra durable' finish - Ultra Durable Emulsion providing an extra tough scrubbable surface; suitable for interior walls in high traffic areas. Reduced maintenance - rrp £71 for 5L

1 dark blue in the Kitchen & Bathroom finish - Steam resistant cleanable emulsion with a satin finish; ideally suited for walls and ceilings in kitchens and bathrooms - rrp £73 for 5L

1 white eggshell finish - Durable flat matt finish for interior wood and metal surfaces - rrp £87 for 5L

1 white in 'Mason's premium' finish - Superior masonry paint providing a smooth finish for all-year-round weather protection; suitable for all exterior masonry - rrp £72 for 5L


So on with the tests. First off the packaging of this 'premium brand' wasn't. Its cheap plastic pots. Now it may sound silly, but if I pay for a premium product, I want to know it. Anyone who has had a delivery from Benjamin Moore can attest to the quality of the boxes, invoices and the tins themselves - its all very impressive.

Aiden & Parkers paint was delivered in an unbranded box with 'paint' printed on the side. The pots were in amongst those annoying little polystyrene bits of packaging. I found the pots a bit tricky to open as well, but maybe that's just me?


But how does the paint apply, that's what we all want to know, right?

First off I applied some of their eggshell. Now in fairness the Technical data sheet does say that a primer is required, but so does Benjamin Moore's and I tested that without a primer, on old glosswork and previously unpainted radiators, so successfully, that I rarely even bother to use them with primers any more!

I applied the paint over a door panel that was previously painted in Bedec's 'aqua advanced' satin. I should note at at this point that over the phone Randall did not seem to have much confidence in their woodwork products, stating that they were more focused on the emulsion finishes. Perhaps this is why it applied like an emulsion? It went on OK, but in all honesty, there are much better finishes out there. I also found it dried too flat for my liking.

Left for a day I did the obligatory finger nail scratch test to see if it would come off and, despite them claiming to need a primer the paint held fast! But the thing is Benjamin Moore's advance has a much nicer, high end finish that levels better, is much nicer to work with and apply and has a cheaper retail price per litre.


Out of the pot the paint was very smooth, unlike some of the major UK brands, with no scum or bits in sight

Next up was the 'chalky matt' in a lovely red colour called 'letterbox'. I should note at this point that they do have some very nice colours, though 120 is a little limited when Benjamin Moore has 1000's. Aiden & Parker made a cheeky claim to me too. They 'are the only UK, Kent based luxury paint manufacturer able to colour match any designer brand, colour or reference card' - notice the word 'Kent' slipped in there, as they know they aren't the only UK company who colour match - everyone does!

Now, with all the emulsion I should note here that the recoat time is 4-6 hours, pretty standard for most paint, but I switched to Benjamin moore partly because my production time went up with the fast recoat times of 2 hours. I have even recoated in under an hour in some cases. This is a massive let down and would prevent me using Aiden & Parker in the future.

 

 

The red chalky matt was applied over a vinyl matt white emulsion. Out of the pot the paint was very smooth, unlike some of the major UK brands, with no scum or bits in sight. It applied nicely, without thinning required and almost covered in the 1st coat. I did find the paint went a bit 'bubbly' when applied to the wall, alot like Crowns Vinyl matt does. This doesn't leave the best finish.

My biggest gripe is that once dry it didn't have a 'flat matt' finish, it was rather shiny, not unlike many main brand wipeable paints

 

But my biggest gripe is that once dry it didn't have a 'flat matt' finish, it was rather shiny, not unlike many main brand wipeable paints, certainly shinier than a vinyl matt. On the phone Randall had compared it to Farrow & Balls estate emulsion, which meant I was expecting a rather flat finish.

As for wipeable? Left for 24 hours it took little effort to get colour rub off, with a big wipe and, with a bit of force, a lot of rub off. I thought maybe I'd heard wrong before, but Randall confirmed in an email today that 'The chalky matt is definitely wipeable'.


Next up I tried the Kitchen & Bathroom paint in the colour 'Rainford's jacket'. This is a lovely blue, I assume sent to me to compare to a blue Benjamin Moore colour on my previous blog? I didn't have a big enough area to test this one at the time, so I had to just brush some out on the wall. This had the same issue of being 'bubbly' that the chalky matt did. In fact after the second coat you can see little white dots where the bubbles were, so not a great finish.

That aside the paint applied nicely and again was very smooth, with excellent coverage, covering white in one go by brush. The finish is satin, so OK if you want that, but would be nice to have a matt finish available too, as not everyone wants shiny walls. This paint survived a gentle wipe test, with a big wipe, but again had some colour rub off after a more heavy scrubbing.


Finally I tried out the 'ultra durable' finish in the colour 'Arosa white'. This Randall had compared to Farrow & Balls 'modern emulsion'. Application was similar to the others, but without the 'bubbling'. The paint dried to a matt finish, more matt, in fact, than the 'chalky matt' paint! I'd say it is a flatter finish than F & B's modern emulsion, which I always thought was too shiny anyway.

Coverage was as expected from any normal emulsion and having applied 2, a third is still required, despite being told that it 'eliminates any existing surface colour in 2 coats'.

When pressing firmly the paint did rub off

When it came to wiping the paint was ok being wiped gently with a 'big wipe', but again when pressing firmly the paint did rub off. In my email to Randall earlier he said 'The chalky matt is definitely wipeable. The Ultra durable - is even more so - a friend has informed that they tried a foam backed scourer lightly and was extremely impressed that no colour came away. That's a little extreme and I have yet to try on my walls yet'.


I'm a little confused as to how Randall is selling a product he hasn't tested for himself yet, probably as I'm used to seeing tests performed by Benjamin Moore on a pretty regular basis. Benjamin Moore remains the only paint that I have come across that has no colour rub off when wiping.

Overall whilst the paint is OK, it is probably marketed and priced in the wrong area. Its as good as some of the main stream brands, but pricing for being a premium product. The biggest mistake was to compare themselves to Benjamin Moore, meaning I tested them as a direct comparison. I warned Randall on the phone that the bar was very high and unfortunately their paint was not up to the challenge.

Many thanks to Randall and Aiden & Parker for supplying me with the samples for me to do these tests. I now need to repaint my spare room ready for the arrival of our first baby! :-)

 

Update 31/07/2016

After feedback and a few question I thought it best I do a little update, so here it is.

I was asked if they bubbles were caused by me using a long pile roller. Firstly I should say that up until recently I have always used a long pile (including in my Benjamin Moore initial test - which was picked up on then too), I recently switched to using Picasso sleeves though, which are a lot shorter. Secondly the bubbles only happened on the areas done with a brush (cutting in of the red and the patch of Kitchen paint). I still put it down to the paint, as I have known this with certain paints before and it does ruin the finish once dry.

Next point was the fairness of wiping and scrubbing the paint after just 24 hours and using a Big Wipe. Ok so this was a harsh test, but as I have said I always do things like this to test a new product. I did this same test to Benjamin Moore's Aura on the first occasion I tried it and got no colour rub off. I initially wanted BM to fail after all the hype and companies making big claims that turn out not to be true. But BM have proved themselves worthy of such praise.

Now that said, when I mentioned this to my wife, she wanted me to prove it. I re did the scrub test in my Kitchen and have to admit that I did get some colour rub off onto the big wipe. However in my Bedroom I had no such issues. Both have been painted for some time, so perhaps it is colour dependent?

So I retested the Aiden & Parker durable and the Kitchen paint using first a wet cloth (no colour rub off on Kitchen, a little on the Durable) and then a Big Wipe (no colour rub off on Kitchen, a little more than the cloth on the Durable). Perhaps then the paint needed longer to dry before testing this. I'll admit and apologise now for the test being a bit rushed as I am mid way through redecorating our nursery and had to use this as my testing ground.

But I had checked the TDS's for the Durable and the chalky matt, both state 24 hrs drying time with no mention of waiting to wipe (Benjamin Moore state 2 weeks is needed before washing). Of course the one I didn't check was the Kitchen & Bathroom, as I wrongly assumed it would be the same, but this states 7 days before wiping. Perhaps this is just a case of needing to update the TDS's to contain the correct information and maybe include the info on the pots too? The TDS's for the 'chalky matt' make no mention of being wipeable that I can see, I got this info, as mentioned before, from Randall. So either porkies are being told or he doesn't know his products - both are bad imo

Does this mean I'll run out and buy Aiden & Parkers paint? Well no. My other points in the original blog post still stand. When using Benjamin Moore you are instantly impressed, which is what you expect from a premium brand. I didn't get this impression from Aiden & Parker.

Asides from the wipability my main concerns are:

Flatness of the eggshell
Non coverage in 2 coats of white over red, as was told and is on their website too
The bubbles issue
Chalky matt is rather shiney - not a matt at all
Kitchen and bathroom only available in shiny satin finish
Not mould resistant
Long re-coat times
Pots and packaging

Dunlop Pro decor range

I have been meaning to do a blog on Dunlop's range of filling products for quite some time, but have only just found enough time to do it. (Apologies Dunlop - I have been promising for some time now).

Launched in 2013, Pro Décor is Dunlop’s revolutionary range of preparation products for decorating, designed to provide professional decorators, tradesmen and DIY enthusiasts alike with the perfect surface prior to painting or wallpapering.

Pro Décor is formulated with Hydroloc™ technology – a pioneering system which means the product dries through chemical reaction rather than water evaporation. Drying times are reduced and finishes dry uniformly throughout – whatever the thickness.

These products are not only fantastic at what they do, they also dry quickly, allowing you to get on with the job and speed up completion times.

Here's a run down of the main ones that I use on almost on every job (where necessary). There are still a fair few others that I am yet to try, but if they are as good as the ones I use now they will be worth trying!

Fine surface Filler - This stuff is great for smoothing out imperfections and small knicks in woodwork. It dries in less than an hour in most cases and adheres extremely well. It can be quite hard to sand and I find its best to leave it as smooth as possible to minimise this. I used to use 2 pac filler for this purpose but this is much easier to use and alot less smelly! My only complaint would be that it is for interiors only, Dunlop need to make an exterior version.

Lightweight filler - This is a bit like other tub fillers (red devil etc). I find adding a little moisture useful to make it nice and workable. I use this mainly in between coats for small wall and ceiling imperfections that may have been missed first time round and for topping up the rapid repair filler.

Rapid repair - This is a massive time saver. This gets used all the time, as its dry in only 90 minutes, its great for filling old screw holes and other plaster repairs around switches etc. It does need a light fill over the top to make it nice and smooth, though waiting 20 minutes and wiping with a wet sponge does help! There is also a rapid repair mortar for external jobs that I have also used, in a pinch, internally. To be honest I can't really tell what the difference is, other than the pack sizes.

Flexible Acrylic filler (caulk) - This is the answer to all the problems with 'crazing' that happens over normal cheap caulk. Its over-paintable in just 1 hour, though I prefer to leave it overnight. It smooths out easily with a wet finger, is a nice consistancy and doesn't block up the nozzle half way through, like I have found with many others.

My only complaint would be lack of availability, there are no local shops that sell it, so I always stock up online at Mypaintbrush.

Peterson's Predator synthetic brushes

I had a little surprise delivery last weekend of Some paint brushes, a football, travel mug and notepad. There was a letter accompanying the package that said I had been selected by their social media team to review the Peterson's synthetic paint brush 3 pack.

 

I have not heard of this company before and so did a bit of research on their website. They say that:

''Petersons is a brand from Decor Ireland Ltd. Petersons has long been established in the painting and decorating market, offering a concise range of decorating tools and equipment that meets all the basic requirements for a paint project, under one brand. Petersons’ aim is to offer quality, well packaged products at attractive. Along with this, Petersons constantly innovate and develop new products which ensures that they maintain their position at the cutting edge of the market.

Peterson's have 5 ranges, with the Predator range being the second highest quality in the range - so a good mid range brush. They are quite cheaply priced at £8.50 for a pack of 3 - a 1'', 1.5'' and 2'' brush.

The specification on their website states that they are:

• 100% synthetic SRT filament filling to provide a smooth finish
• Long length out gives extra workability
• Untreated wooden handle absorbs excess moisture from hands when in use
• Stainless steel square-edge ferrule resists rusting and provides sharper cutting-in
• Use with water and oil-based coatings
• Packaged in a re-usable cardboard packaging to help keep its shape
• Available in 3 pack (1 x 1”, 1 x 1.5”, 1 x 2”)

I notice they are in plastic packaging and not reusable cardboard packaging as described above. This appears to be an error in the marketing on the website, as the picture on the website is also in a plastic package.

Upon removing from the package I noticed a few curled, stray hairs on the 2''. This could be a one off, though its hard to say without seeing more of the brushes.

I have used the 2'' brush on a couple of jobs this week, unfortunately I haven't had any woodwork to trial them on yet, so this is reviewing them in Benjamin Moore Aura emulsion only.

They hold a good amount of emulsion and spread it quite well, though I find them a little too 'springy' for my liking. Throughout my 2 jobs I only had 1 hair loss (asides from the few I cut off initially).

Whilst I was able to cut in a good sharp line to the ceiling, it was more effort than it should have been to control the shape. The bristles do not hold their shape well and spread out in clumps.

Washing out was easy and cleaned out very well.

Overall I'd say that whilst they aren't fantastic, they are a good budget brush and you can do far worse than to buy these. I will continue to trial them and update if/when necessary.

Thanks to Peterson's for letting me try out their brushes. You can purchase them from Peterson's website here

Hand painted Kitchen in Alton Barnes, Wiltshire

For the last few weeks I have been working on a complete Kitchen redecoration in Alton Barnes. I thought it would be nice to talk through the process and products that I used.

The most important part of this job was protecting the stone floor, so I used some corrugated plastic sheets from Wickes. These are easily cut to size with a sharp knife and give good impact resistance, while being easy to keep clean, so as to avoid dust that could contaminate the surfaces that were to be painted.

I started off with cleaning down and de-greasing all the surfaces. For this I used a product called Fluxaf, mixed as per the instructions and put into a spray bottle for easy application. All surfaces that were to be painted got sprayed and were left to soak for a few minutes before being rinsed with clean water.

Next up I removed everything possible - doors, hinges, handles, magnetic catches etc, which were all stored away safely. The last thing that is needed on completion is to find you are missing parts!

The next task was to mask up the inside of the cupboards and the glass. I find this necessary not just for quick clean painted lines, but also to give protection from scratches while sanding. For this I used a mixture of Tesa yellow and Fox green tape.

All surfaces were then sanded. For large flat areas I used my Mirka sander and Festool extractor and finished up the smaller details with Mirka goldflex sanding pads - great for getting into awkward places and shapes, but without leaving little black beads everywhere, like with normal pads. Everything then got hoovered to remove the bulk of any dust made and wiped down with Axus tack clothes to remove the finer dust particles.

I applied a coat of Otex primer, which I'd had tinted, by Holmans specialist paints in Swindon, to match the final colour that was going to be used. I thinned this slightly with white spirit to ease application. This coating adheres really well and once dry sands down really well to give a good base for the final coatings.

All the doors were painted and stacked on an erecta-rack, a great, easy to use, system that allows stacking of multiple doors in a small area, which can then be left until the doors are dry.

Most of the cupboards were in pretty good shape, but for the odd small dent or split I used Dunlop's fine surface filler. This is great for smoothing small imperfections and dries in 60 minutes, but leave it as flat as possible as it dries really hard and is not too easy to sand!

The client had chosen colours from the Little Greene range of paints, which I had matched into Tikkurila feelings furniture paint in a semi matt finish. This gives a really long lasting, tough finish for furniture and is ideal for Kitchen cupboards. I applied 2 coats of this using a mini roller, to achieve even coverage and layed this off with a 2" silver Fox brush from Mypaintbrush and Staalmeester sash, also from MPB.

Once dry, the doors were rehung onto the cupboards and all handles and catches replaced. The insides of all cupboards were then cleaned to remove any last traces of dust. Below you can see a time-lapse recording of one section of the Kitchen. If you look very closely at the beginning there is some cheeky product placement at the start - my new syslite from Festool. How I managed without I'll never know, and I have only had it 2 weeks. It shows up so much and is a great addition to my kit, which will improve the finish achieved on all my work.




Bentley triangular trim brush

I was sent this by the Painters pitstop forum to try out and review for them. I have been giving it a go all week. My first impression is it looks cheaply made, so wasn't expecting much.

 

First trial was making some pastry. It got into the corners of the pie really well whilst applying an even coat of egg white.

Next up was some Tikkurila emulsion. At first I was finding an excuse to use it. I used it to cut in small areas between the window sills and splashbacks and between the cooker hood and splashbacks. It cut in very easily and sharply.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then came across an area I couldn't quite fit a normal brush into very well, due to the angle, so out it came again and did the job perfectly well.

I actually liked using it and ended up putting it in Otex to prime the smaller framework areas of some Kitchen cupboards and again can't fault it. Sharp cutting in and lays off well.

I never had a single bristle loss during use either.

Its definitely a good brush to have in the collection and I will continue to use it, not just for the odd difficult job either! You can buy them from Mypaintbrush. They have more in the range too and I would definitely like to try the others, though I already have too many brushes so will have to wait to try them out.

Fox masking tape

I have been trying out some masking tape from the Fox range from Mypaintbrush recently

Along side the standard Scotch blue the Fox blue outperformed it. It has similar level of tack, but I find it comes off the roll cleaner. As you can see from the pic the 3M tears as it comes off the roll. I find this very annoying as it wastes time, especially when attached to the handmasker, as you have to remove it and then reset up the masker.

Another plus is how cheap it is. Including vat for 1.5" its only £3.04 vs £7.99 for Scotch blue.

Fox blue is a 14 day UV resistant interior/exterior tape.

I used it under a sill on fresh painted walls recently, with no bleed and it came off clean without pulling the emulsion off. This is not the recommended tape for no bleed, they have the green tape for clean sharp edges. With further use I have found that the blue tape gets a small amount of bleed, the edge is not as sharp as it could be, but sticks OK to recently painted surfaces without pulling off the paint. I find its good for my hand-masker on kitchen cupboards, windows, bathrooms etc where bleed resistance isn't needed.

 

So on to the Green. The green is also interior/exterior use, but is used for sharp, clean lines. I have been using it this week on a Kitchen, taping the inside edges of the oak cupboards to protect from the painting of the exteriors. This has pulled off easily and cleanly with no bleed through. I have also used this round fixings and fittings with no bleed. This costs £2.54 for a roll of 1", compared to my usual cost of £3.08 for Tesa yellow

As a little test I did try it on a wall to see if it worked before I risked it on a real job, here's the result - nice sharp lines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also did a test on some glass, as I'd read someone saying it didn't work. As far as I can tell this was user error and was not correctly applied. I have yet to see any bleeding on any surfaces I have used it on.

 

 

I have since done a test on a few brands of tape on a piece of plasterboard. In the picture below you can see they mostly performed OK, apart from the Tesa yellow, which is a surprise, as I use this a lot. The Scotch and the frog left the 'fattest' edges, but then they are the thickest tapes and are not as easy to work with to get into position.

From top to bottom the tapes are (the blue/grey colour being where the tape was placed):

Prodec advance
Purple Axus
Yellow Tessa
Green Fox
Green frog
Scotch blue with edge lock

I have just purchased some of the Fox general tape which so far I am not so impressed with, but will continue to use what I have to give it a fair trial. Also due to the result of the above test I have been sent some more Tesa, yellow and pink to retry the test. As soon as I have the results I will post them here.