Types of Paint Sheen

Whether you are painting your home in Ellicott City or Rockville MD, or anywhere up and down the Chesapeake Bay, the sheen of the paint can be just as important as the color.  The sheen will determine the washability and can help create subtle and even dramatic differences.  There are certain rules of thumbs about paint sheen that can help guide you to improving the look and longevity of the paint.   The information I have provided is largely based on experience and knowledge. I have been painting homes for almost 30 years.  And like the Farmers commercial “I know a thing or two because we have seen a thing or two”  applies to the over 30,000 homes I’ve painted and the knowledge and experience I’ have gotten along the way.  I’ve also included some short examples of when I picked the wrong sheen to help you avoid those pitfalls as well.

Sheen Durability

Here are the sheens and durability from least to most:

  1. Flat – least washable
  2. Matte
  3. Eggshell (also called Low luster)
  4. Satin
  5. Semi-gloss
  6. Gloss (or High Gloss) – most washable

Do all sheens clean basically the same?  Back in the day the answer was always no.  But today with new technology flat and matte finishes have come along way and a small select few very high end paints have excellent durability and clean-up, but for the most part as you increase the sheen to a higher more reflective level the durability increases as well. The more reflective or smoother the surface the less dirt can fit in the grooves of the paint.  This is how it was explained to me almost 30 years ago.

If you looked at flat paint under a microscope, it would look similar to a plate of cooked spaghetti noodles without the sauce.  There would be plenty of nooks and crannies for dirt fill in and had to get it out.  Wiping it off would just of smear it around.

On the other hand, if we looked at a high gloss paint under a microscope it would look like a piece of glass.  And we all know that if you spill something on glass it just wipes right off.  That is the same for gloss paint as well.  They are cleanable.

Flat paint

Flat paint has the dullest sheen of all paints and,  comes in many different grades.  From maintenance paint that would be used in apartments to premium grade flats that would be used at the White House.  Most major paint manufacturers have at least 4 or more lines that fall between the two.    I hate speaking in absolutes but most low-end paints will have poor results in washability and scrubbablity.  Some poor paints do actually cover just fine and touch-up easily.  For the purpose of this article,  I will be referring to mid- grade to premium grades.

Advantages of flat paint

  • Least expensive
  • Covers the best
  • Self-priming
  • Touches up perfectly (no need to paint the entire wall)
  • Hides imperfections
  • Best choice if you have removed wallpaper and are repainting.
  • Best choice for ceilings


Why choose a flat paint for the ceiling – most interior house painters will shutter at the thought of painting anything other than flat on the ceilings.  Why?  Because flat paints non-reflective properties it hides subtle imperfections of roller marks, and unevenness of surfaces.  We recently painted a home in Parkville MD with flat paint on the walls and ceiling because the house was built in the 1920’s and had lots of imperfections in the plaster.  The customer did not have any children or dogs and wanted a clean finish that could be touched up when needed as opposed to cleaning.  Also, flat paint hid so many of subtle defects of the plaster.

A second advantage to interior flat paint is it touches up well.  Some of customers would prefer to break out a roller and touch up areas as opposed cleaning the walls.  If so, flat paint is the way to go.  As you will see shortly, one of the disadvantages of using a paint with a sheen is it does not touch-up very well.  Flat paint do.  So, if drywall refinish service needs to be done, flat paint can be done in just the repaired areas and the flat paint will blend right in without repainting the entire wall.

I highly recommend using a flat paint if you are removing wallpaper.  Wallpaper removal is a service we provide as well.  The reason why you want to use interior flat paint after wallpaper removal has taken place is because of the ruff conditions of the walls.  Flat paint will help hide the drywall imperfections better than all other sheens.

Flat Paint Disadvantages

  • Does not have the washability or scrubbability compared to the other sheens.

Recently a customer who we painted for in Columbia MD wanted a highly washable flat paint.  Yes, all paint manufactures have a washable flat paint, but in truth most are not true flat.  They need the slightest sheen to some wash-ability.   These premium grade flats paints are definitely more washable than a good grade flat, but they do not have the washability that an eggshell / low sheen paint can handle.  There is a compromise, if you want to wash the walls but desire a minimal sheen than a Matte finish is best choice.

Is there a difference between scrubbable and washable paint?

Washable refers to the stains ability NOT to adhere to the paint.  Stain can easily be washed off with a sponge and mild detergent.

Scrubbable has to do not with a paints ability to be cleaned.  In order for a paint to be labeled scrubbable, it needs to be able to scrubbed with a stiff bristle brush repeatedly and resist erosion.   The stain can still exist, and the paint can be reduced in sheen as well.  But the paint did not come off.

The goal of a good quality paint is to handle light duty cleaning to remove dirt and stains (washability) and not wash the paint off the wall (scrubbability)

Matte Finish

If hiding imperfections on the walls is important but the customer would like some washability as well, than a matte finish is the perfect choice.  It is very hard to tell the difference between a flat and matte finish unless you are looking at the wall from an angle.  Matte finish have an ever so slight sheen that they can easily be confused for a flat finish.  But it’s that very slight sheen that it ability to be washed and scrubbed.

I have yet to see a mid-grade matte paint but I am sure some manufacture is working on it.  Maryland Paint in Annapolis has a multitude of premium grade matte paints and I highly recommend you check them out if you are a do-it-yourselfer.  Maryland Paint & Decorating is a full-service independent paint dealer in Annapolis that carries at least 4 different manufactures of Matte finish paint that all of exceptional quality.

Insert [Picture #4]  Caption:  A matte finish in this Parkville home has a very subtle sheen

Matt Paint disadvantages

  • The major disadvantage of a matte finish is it is expensive.
  • Matte paint does not work well on ceilings

Don’t make this mistake

Matte paints are very close to a flat finish but please never confuse the two and apply a Matte finish on a ceiling.  Many years ago, I wanted to apply the best Matte finish paint on the market to make please a painting customer in Bethesda MD.  I painted the ceiling 3 times before I throw-in the towel.  Matte paints are impossible to get looking good on a ceiling with lots of light.  I ended up getting a flat ceiling paint that did the trick.   The customer in Bethesda was happy with our painting service and has recommended us to many other neighbors and friends.  Thanks!!

Matte paint advantages

  • It hides imperfections on walls about as good as flat paint. It is an excellent choice for plaster walls.
  • It can be touched up and will blend right in to surrounding areas.
  • It is self priming
  • It has very good washability and scrubbability.

Eggshell Sheen

Eggshell Advantages

  • Eggshell paint has several advantages and is now about as frequently used on walls as flat paint. The advantages are it has subtlety, sophistication and an elegant sheen.  Eggshell finishes are durable and washable.  Minor scuffs can be easily cleaned with a mild detergent and sponge.  It’s soft creamy look gives it a t contrast between flat and satin finish.
  • As a rule of thumb, a good grade eggshell will have better washability than a premium matte finish.
  • It is easy to apply

Many homes including this interior painting job in Towson MD used eggshell paint on all the walls.  The eggshell sheen was a great choice and Towson shined just little brighter.

Long or tall walls with open space will show drywall imperfections. Short walls, or walls with a lot of pictures, or windows will help hide the minor imperfections.  Eggshell is the highest finish that slight imperfections will not be that noticeable unless walls are long and open or tall like a 2-story foyer.  Kitchens and bathrooms used to be painted with a semi-gloss sheen.  Most customers have switched to an eggshell finish because it still has the durability without the sheen of s semi-gloss.

Eggshell Disadvantages

Eggshell Interior paint does not touch up well.  Every time an additional coat of paint is applied the product gets a hair shinier.  The results are noticeable, and any professional painting contractor should know that the wall will have to be painted in it’s entirety.  At Klappenberger & Son our professional painters are trained to do the following procedure when repairing wall damage to a wall with a sheen other than flat of matte finishes.

  1. Spackle and sand to smooth finish
  2. Prime spackled area
  3. Paint repaired area only with eggshell finish
  4. Paint entire wall

Therefore, some professional painting companies in the Maryland areas and elsewhere that charge more for painting with eggshell sheen or other higher sheens.  Recently, in we painted a tall foyer in Clarksville MD and the 20’ high walls were flat paint.  The customer wanted an eggshell paint applied to the walls because of its washability (they have 4 children and 2 large dogs).  But it was also important to the Clarksville family to have the walls look excellent as they liked to entertain.  So, they wanted a professional paint job using a durable paint but were also concerned about not showing the imperfections.  Even though the walls looked good with flat paint, new areas of concern will now appear because of the reflection of light bouncing off the walls is more reflective.  The solution is to bring in halogen lights and shine them on the flat walls which will highlight the imperfections prior to applying the eggshell paint.  Klappenberger & Son is a professional painting company in Maryland that follows those best practices.  In other words, if you are switching from flat to eggshell, be prepared to see flaws in the walls that were not noticeable before.

Typical places to use Eggshell Interior Paint

Government painting jobs such as this one at the Smithsonian.  Selvin is applying  Ben Moore Eggshell finish to walls.

  1. Commercial painting business in Maryland: Office buildings are routinely painted Eggshell to handle the daily scuffs.  Some of the Maryland commercial painting services that we have painted using eggshell paint on the walls include:  Interior painting of schools, churches, Medstar, and assisted living.  Klappenberger & Son in licensed and insured commercial painting contractor in Maryland that is also an expert on Eggshell finish epoxy paint which what we have been using in a High School in Baltimore City.  This epoxy eggshell paint is a remarkable product with amazing durability and washability.  We painted the interior of Coppin State High School Academy in Baltimore several years ago and I had the privilege of returning a year later and cleaning the walls the we painted.  The result was amazing! Strong scuff marks wiped off so easily and left no evidence on the walls after the cleaning dried.


  1. Residential places where eggshell is commonly used.

Some of the most common areas where rooms that would benefit by having eggshell paint would be bathrooms, kitchens, and high traffic areas, such as hallways, and laundry rooms.  Also, if you are not concerned about having your walls look perfect and free of small blemishes eggshell is a good choice for any wall.  It has a similar sheen to a stick of butter but with no calories.  Remember, a mid-grade eggshell paint which cost about $25.000 will have better wash ability than a premium grade flat that would cost a range from 45.00 – 65.00 dollars.   So if you are likely to clean your walls instead of touch -up, eggshell paint is your best bet.

This Gaithersburg painting home had several small children that will require a highly washable low sheen finish.  The product used was Sherwin Williams Cashemere Low Luster which is the same sheen as eggshell.

Do you ever wash or clean your walls?

If you don’t wash your walls, why bother getting a washable paint?  You are paying for something you won’t benefit from.  It reminds me of when I saw a button in a rental car for seat warmers in Hawaii.  Nice feature but can’t imagine when they will ever be used.

What about rental properties?  I recommend paint a rental property with a mid-grade flat paint because it touches up so well.  Just get an extra five-gallon bucket and leave a roller in it.  When tenants leave you maybe able to get away with just rolling the areas that need it.  You certainly should not have to edge where the walls and ceiling meet.  If you touch up with an eggshell the areas that were re-coated will look shiner than the areas that were not re-coated causing a patchy look.

Satin finish

Satin finish is certainly the least common sheen used.  Why?  No real reason but it is already visible in your home.  Your kitchen cabinets sheen is a satin finish.  Recently we got a referral from a previous customer who was asked if she knew any house painters in Baltimore who painted kitchen cabinets.  When I meet the customer in Towson I showed them samples of cabinet grade satin finish paint and explained our best practices.  Satin has great durability and wash ability with a slightly less sheen than semi-gloss.  It is often used in historic restoration work both on the interior and exterior of homes.  The reason is wood work is often in ruff shape on historical homes and the slight duller finish from a semi-gloss has noticeable differences in hiding dings and dents.  Also, if the walls are flat and the trim is satin finish there is still significant contrast.  Most historical properties have beautiful trim and it do not need a semi-gloss finish to be noticed.

Disadvantages of a satin finish

If you have modest trim and you switch from a semi-gloss finish to a satin finish the paint looks slightly duller as if the painter did not apply enough paint.

If you paint walls a satin finish and the walls are bowed or wavy the work will look horrible.  It may take hours for a professional painter or drywall finisher to make the walls look acceptable.  In some cases it might not even be possible.  When we were repainting this historical project in Baltimore City the customer viewed the flaws in the plaster as character.  These walls didn’t need to talk to show all their character.

The walls are a satin finish glow in the dark green with jet black semi-gloss and high gloss white trim.  This interior painting job is from a historic property in Baltimore City.

Advantages of a Satin finish:

Satin finishes can be used on walls, ceiling and trim but come with the same warnings as eggshell sheen does.  Namely, it will accentuate imperfections if the previous coat was a lesser sheen.

It is great in bathrooms for moisture.  In fact, most bathroom paints have a satin sheen.

Other great places to use a satin finish are painting furniture, kitchen cabinets, and closets.  Yes, closets get all scuffed up and a satin finish is like making it bullet proof.  If you have paintable shelves you can just paint everything in the closet the same color (white is best).   Life is complicated enough, painting your closets white satin from top to bottom just made life a little easier.

What does a satin finish look like?   Furniture and kitchen cabinets are usually satin finishes.

Semi-Gloss Paint

Semi-gloss is most commonly used on woodwork like windows, doors, baseboard etc.  It’s durability and contrast to eggshell and flat paint make it a nice partnership with walls and trim.  At one time it was very common to paint kitchen and bathroom walls semi-gloss, but it’s urethanie look can leave a cold impression.   Today customers are more likely to just use an eggshell sheen because it has a more subtleness to it and does not highlight the imperfections.  Plus if your walls are eggshell and the trim is semi-gloss there is still a contrast.  In my opinion semi-gloss on walls has an institutional look to it.  It is something that I would recommend in a daycare facility, or a gym.  But on trim it is still king at and is the most common choice by far.

Right: Dave Perella is painting a pool bathroom in Gaithersburg MD

Semi-gloss the disadvantages

Semi- gloss does not look good on walls unless walls are in great shape.  This may require extensive  drywall spackling services.  Drywall services such as skimming walls can double the time and cost of the paint job.  Touching up trim is no problem but touching up walls will often look patchy.  Meaning every additional coat get a little shinier and will be necessary to repaint the entire wall.  The process is the same as it would be for all the other sheens besides flat and matte finish.  First prime, then paint the primed area, the paint the entire wall.  This is a best practice that all professional painting services in Maryland should follow and is certainly incorporated by Klappenberger & Son.

Semi-gloss the advantages

The advantages of painting the interior of homes in Maryland with a semi-gloss is its durability and also it’s coverage.  This is the highest sheen you can apply that will typically cover in two coats.  Whenever you change colors or sheens it best to figure on 2 coats of paint.  In 95% of the time semi-gloss will not let you down.

Semi-gloss finish has more washability and scrubbablity than any other sheen except gloss.  Because of those features it is the best product to apply to doors and door trim.  It is also the most economical product to apply for durability because of its superior coverage to gloss paint.

FYI – Please stay away from any white paint that reads “brilliant white.”  This paint is so white that it does not have enough pigment to cover.  Some customers who want interior painting service in md want their ceilings or trim to be “brilliant white”.  This is a poor choice.  I try to educate the customer and let them know that it will always take multiple coats and lead to additional costs with no real visual difference.  Paint colors like “Extra white, Super white, and just White” will cover and work just fine.  If you buy paint and it says Brilliant White I hope you enjoy painting –a lot!

High Gloss Sheen

Gloss paint looks like glass and just sits on top of the surface.  It can have a very dramatic and powerful feel.  In this historical restoration project in Baltimore City the owner understood the effect of gloss paint and wanted to maximize its effect.  Gloss paint is difficult to work with and is more susceptible to drips and runs than other sheens.   Once we used gloss paint on walls.  We had to spackle walls all the walls from top to bottom (called a skin coat).  The walls then needed to be sanded and primed and rechecked for further imperfections.  It’s also difficult to apply the paint but that is for another article.  The bottom line is gloss on walls has a dramatic effect and can look amazing but it very labor intensive.

This historical restaurant in Baltimore City (The Elephant).  We painted the walls Fire Engine Red and in high gloss.  Talk about dramatic!

High Gloss the Disadvantages

The disadvantages of gloss paint will become apparent very quickly.

  1. They show every flaw as if it was under a microscope. If glossy paint is applied with a roller it should be backed brushed to knock down the nap of the roller.
  2. The paint runs and drips 10 minutes after you think you are finished.
  3. It typically requires additional coats for coverage. Fine Paints of Europe does make high quality gloss paints that have exceptional coverage.  SW Emerald does not cover well and is difficult to work with.
  4. It dries more slowly that all other sheens.
  5. It fades quicker when on exterior surfaces.

High Gloss The advantages

You are king of the sheen!

High Gloss has an amazing effect.  It is very noticeable.

Very durable and has great washability

Best places to use Gloss paint

  1. Mantles
  2. Window sills
  3. Front door interior and exterior
  4. Newel post
  5. Book cases
  6. Wood shutters on historic homes look great if you don’t mind seeing the imperfections.
  7. Anything you want to show off.

Exterior Sheens

Picking the right sheens on exterior surfaces has few more standard rules of thumb.

It is a safe bet that if you are painting your siding, it will be either flat or Eggshell finish.

Satin and semi-gloss sheens have too much of a sheen and are better served to be used on trim, shutters, and doors.

When Maryland customers are in need of a professional painting company they often call Klappenberger & Son Painting for guidance on the pro’s and cons on choosing the right sheen.  On aluminum and vinyl siding the proper sheen to use is Eggshell.  Why?  When the siding was originally installed it had and an eggshell finish.  As time wears on, the color has faded and the sheen has become dull.  If a flat finish is applied, it will hold pollen and dust that can turn into mildew faster.  Also, as rain splatters mud or dirt on the siding, eggshell would be less likely to stick.  Because eggshell finish has a smoother finish it will clean easier when  power washed.  If you skipped eggshell sheen and went straight to a satin finish it will look to shiny.    Once I used an exterior satin finish paint on aluminum siding home and I thought it looked horrible.  It needed to be repainted.  The difference between satin and eggshell sheen is significant when you are seeing the tall gable side of a two-story home.

If you are fortunate enough to own a beautiful historical home such as this one in Annapolis MD.  You will find the rules for exterior paint sheen have some additional options.  When we meet with the customer, we suggested a satin finish on all siding and trim.

This would allow better wash ability than a flat or eggshell and would let all the character of the siding and trim shine.

Historical homes can be painted just about any sheen including High gloss. This store front in historic Annapolis has oil gloss paint applied to its trim and Low sheen paint on the bricks.

This Historic store front in Annapolis has high gloss trim and low sheen on the bicks.

Exterior Sheens Fade But How Fast

The Maryland summers are long and hot and the UV will definitely effect color retention as well as the sheen.  Color retention will fade depending on the color.  Reds and yellows will fade the quickest while taupes and tans  will hold there color the longest.  As far as sheen are concerned a quality paint will hold it sheen longer than a lesser grade.  Typically, most sheens will start to show a slight decrease in sheen in 4-6 years.  Hi gloss paints in full exposure may loose there sheens a bit faster … 3-5 years .  Flats will have hardly and change for about 10 years.

Picking the right sheen takes careful thought and understanding of the pro’s and con’s of each level.  Klappenberger & Son painting consultant’s will be glad to give you a free consolation on all aspects of interior and exterior painting and handyman work.

How to retard the loss of Sheen

The Maryland has strong seasonal changes and the hot strong summers are one thing but the dark winters play their own havoc on exterior painting surfaces especially in high wooded areas like this exterior painting job in Columbia Maryland.  The winters are a great time for mildew to spread which means it may need a spring power washing with bleach.  Bleach will reduce the sheen.  Chloride is a stripper.  It is an acid and will there for know the sheen down a notch.  It’s best to use about 10-15% bleach in combination with other milder cleaners to clean homes with as opposed to higher levels of bleach when power washing.

Power washing vinyl siding in Towson MD

I’ve included a few other exterior painting projects in Towson, Severna Park and Potomac MD

Some of the other exterior painting and handyman services that Klappenberger & Son provide include:

Power washing

Replacing of rotten siding and trim

Replacing of screen

Replacing of front door

Replacing Handrails and deck boards

Klappenberger & Son is a residential and commercial painting contractors serving most of Maryland.  Geographical locations that our professional painters service would include Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County and Baltimore City, Howard County , Montgomery County, Prince Georges County, and Queen Ann’s County.

If you are in need of professional painting services in Maryland but outside of the areas listed above please call us and we may be able to recommend another professional painting company if we are not able to service the area ourselves.


What to Expect When Remodeling A Bathroom

I have been remodeling bathrooms for over 20 years and if I can borrow a tagline from Farmers “we have seen a thing or two”.  I like to educate our customers on what the expectations are in a project that often disrupts the daily flow and the strategies I have developed to manage a project of this scale. In the end, our goal is to deliver an outstanding remodeled bathroom.

How Long Does A Bathroom Remodel Take?

Not as fast as tv shows depict. Home design shows that you see on TV make the projects seem faster and more fluid then what is possible.  The remodeling shows have real timetables with TV crews and major filming costs.  Trades work long days and weekends that overlap each other.  Materials on the shows are always available in a short period of time.  These shows can’t wait 3 weeks for a vanity to arrive, and another 2 weeks for countertop top to get fabricated and installed. How long does it actually take? Typically, we don’t start jobs until special orders have arrived, but there are always exceptions. For example, if you have a glass shower door and or walls, you can’t order it in advance.  It must be measured after all the tile has been installed.  When all the significant material has arrived we get started and we can usually do a simple bathroom remodel in 7-10 days.  Larger bathrooms that involves a new custom shower, with additional plumbing locations can stretch a project out for as long as 4-5 weeks. Throughout the process, we plan for these speed bumps and also let you know in order to have expectations.

Bathroom Sink in remodeled bathroom.

How much should you spend on your bathroom remodel project?

For resale value purposes you should have your bathroom cost fit the value of your house.  For example, if your house is worth $500,000 you want to have a bathroom that fits a 500,000 dollar house.  In Maryland, where I live that would mean a master bath that cost between $12,000 – $20,000.  Installing a cheap Hampton Bay vanity and $20.00 light, a noisy toilet will not help your home sell.    On the flip side, don’t design a 8 shower head $70,000 bathroom with premium grade ammenities.  Our philosophy is to ask a lot of questions to find out what your needs are and then incorporate your needs with the latest trends that fit budgets and raises the cost of the home.

What is the ROI in your bathroom?

Bathrooms and kitchens give a higher return on investment than anything else inside your home according to our good friends at HGTV.

If you start moving walls, plumping locations, and electrical outlets / switches the ROI will start to decrease.  But it sure is comforting to know that if you invest in your bathroom you will be getting your money back at resale and have all the benefits of enjoying in the mean time.

Shower after bathroom remodel.

Advice On A Bathroom Remodel

Older homes often have lots of hidden obstacles buried under the flooring or behind the walls.  Floors are much more likely to be uneven, and the walls are out of square.  In short, there are unforeseen problems and just like in the HGTV shows the often result in additional cost.

There needs to be an area (typically outside of the bathroom) where the tile is cut.   The closer to the bathroom obviously the better.  Space may be needed inside the bedroom for working, and storing daily materials etc.  At Klappenberger & Son, we work these details out prior to giving the estimate.  I learned this the hard way when I had to walk 3 flights of steps after every time I cut a piece of tile outside.  Yes, the bathroom was on the third floor!

We are able to do a variety of interior remodeling projects. From your basement project to your kitchen remodel. If you are looking to have your bathroom remodeled, we would be happy to give you a free consolation.  Contact us today!


10 Good Customers – Franchise Success

Here’s a question for you:  How many companies could survive with just 10 good customers?   Not many, right?  In fact, a lot of businesses must be constantly attracting new customers because their previous ones move from one option to the next based on convenience, price, or whim.  As a result, these companies spend a lot of money on marketing and advertising in order to attract a sufficient number of customers to maintain their current level of sales and continue to grow.  But what if you had 10 big customers who you did work for year after year, and who provided you with $100,000 worth of work each year?  That gets you to $1 Million in annual sales in a franchise business where your initial investment was less than $80,000.

So, who are these 10 customers and how do we find them?  Well, at Klappenberger Painting & Handyman, there are a few companies like this that all my franchises are doing work for which spreads the wealth, provides better coverage for the customer if they have multiple locations, and creates more opportunities for work in the future.

Example Customer

For example, we do work for Medstar which is a medical facility with two dozen major hospitals and 380 walk-in clinics.  All of our franchisees are averaging $123,000 per year from this one account.  The work we do includes painting, carpentry, small remodels and handyman services.

We also have developed great relationships with retail chains like Crate and Barrel, Verizon, Bass Pro, J Crew, PJ Welinhans and Cracker Barrel restaurants where we do all their painting on a semi-annual basis. We are averaging $57,000 in 2018 and that is expected to increase significantly in 2019.   We currently have the opportunity with PJ Wilinhans in the Philadelphia and New Jersey markets to do approximately $900,000 worth of work over the next year or so.

In addition, we are expanding our relationships with some major property management companies such as Long & Foster.  They provide us with a steady flow of work that includes, painting, handyman, and power washing. We are looking to start our ideal franchise owners off on the right foot.

Franchise Success

Developing these kinds of relationships for and with our franchisees allows them to build significant businesses that continue to grow because they have customers like this who will give them repeat work.  Some of these are large projects that can rapidly increase our revenue and demonstrate our capabilities and expertise to other companies we want to attract.  This is another example of how, at Klappenberger Painting & Handyman, we work hard and smart to help our franchisees succeed. Contact us to start a franchise with us!

What Separates Klappenberger From the Rest?

The Klappenberger Franchise Advantage

A fundamental question I asked myself when I decided to franchise my painting and handyman business of thirty years is “What are the key advantages I can offer in my franchise that will set me apart from the other franchise companies in this segment?”  It is a question that I thought long and hard about.  Because my painting and handyman business was going to be the model that I would be using, I wanted to make sure I included in the franchise model the same elements that made my own business a success.  And using the decades of learning and experience I had accumulated along the way, what could I then provide, reward, and teach that other companies do not?”

What Klappenberger & Son Provides To Franchises

I can provide 6 weeks of training instead of the standard 2 weeks.  For the life of me, I don’t know how someone can be trained in two weeks to run any business!  During training we help our franchisees find customers, give estimates, identify and hire their staff, and start doing actual jobs in their territory.  I am not aware of any other painting/handyman franchise that does this.  Truth told – this can’t be done in two weeks.

I can provide the largest territories of any painting and handyman franchise in the country.  My territories are between 400,000 and 500,000 people.  If a franchise is to prosper, they need a large enough territory to build a significant business.

I can reward my franchisee’s with lower royalties as their business grows.  Our royalty fees drop as their gross revenues increase.  Why?  Because I believe in rewarding hard work that produces tangible results.

I personally teach my franchisees how to close the sale.  You can do a lot to generate customer leads and write estimates for prospective jobs, but if you can’t turn those estimates into actual jobs, that’s a lot of time and money wasted.  The close rates on job estimates by Klappenberger franchisees is almost double the national average, and we are not the cheapest guys in town by any means!

My goal is to have the most satisfied and successful franchisees in our industry.   My commitment is to provide the tools, mentoring, and support they need to achieve that goal.  We have a support staff that has been in the industry for decades and knows the obstacles and challenges that franchisees face.   With a commitment from the franchisee to follow the system and work the business, I know we can do great things together.

Moisture Content and Painting

When you want to have your home or business repainted, you want a paint job that will last for years to come. The last thing you need is chipped paint that peels off your walls just months after it was applied. But you might not know that there’s a simple step you can take to prevent peeling paint.

You can ensure that your paint will adhere to its surface by checking your walls for their moisture content before the paint is applied.

Many people take this for granted. After all, most online painting tips fail to mention that you should check the surfaces moisture levels before applying a stain or a coat of paint. You also won’t even typically notice high moisture content without using a professional reader. But moisture levels above 15% for primers, paints and most stains will result in paint peeling.

Couple painting walls in home.

At Klappenberger & Son, we know just how important it is to test the moisture content prior to applying any paint. It doesn’t matter how much prep work and sanding do. It doesn’t matter if you use the best primers, and premium grade paint money can buy. If the moisture content is above 16% the paint will peel. The higher it is the faster it will peel. We believe in focusing on quality from the beginning to the end of any paint job, so we consider the moisture content of any Maryland home or business before we begin painting. Read on to learn more about paint failure, the importance of moisture content management and the process we use to balance your walls’ moisture levels.

Man painting outdoor overhead trim.

Why Does Paint Peel?

Paint will allow a certain amount of moisture to pass through without peeling. But when the sun wants to bring its strong powerful rays down on that siding or trim after time the paint will fail and crack. It loses it flexibility, like dry skin it cracks. In the early stages of getting painted the paint has amazing flexibility. I painted a pergola before and it rained the next 4 days. Fortunately, most of the pergola was fine but there were a few bubbles. She described the as big pockets of water! I asked her to pop the bubbles and I would come back in a few days to repaint it. When I did we could hardly find the bubbles. The paint had reattached to the pergola. Amazing! We sanded them off and repainted. If the paint job was older the paint wouldn’t have been so flexible and it would crack and peel.

Exterior paint is susceptible to harsh elements, peeling with both excessive heat or rain and snow. But if your paint wears away in multiple places at once or without any apparent cause, you face a more serious underlying problem.

Interior paint is also exposed to high moisture levels from showers, cooking and daily wear and tear that can occur especially if you have children.


Several factors can contribute to the continuous peeling of paint, including:

  • Inadequate surface preparation or failure to prime surfaces
  • Wrong Primer
  • Wallpaper glue was not removed sufficiently
  • Dirty surfaces
  • High moisture levels


While you should consider each of these problems in determining the reason behind your paint failure, harmful moisture levels are one of the most common reasons for peeling paint, and they’re the number one cause of premature paint failure on wood surfaces. If you’re not sure why your paint is peeling, checking the moisture levels is one of the first steps you should take. Even if surfaces feel dry to the touch, they could still harbor excessive dampness that eats away at paint and damages the overall structure. The human hand is not able to detect moisture anywhere near the 15% threshold.

Orange roller painting wall.

Exterior walls are regularly exposed to moisture. And while these walls are built to be water-repellant, excessive water exposure over time can lead to moisture retention. Some of the factors leading to high exterior moisture levels include clogged gutters, worn-out caulking, heavy rain or snow, migration of high moisture from an interior wall, leaking roofs and paint that was applied to previously damp surfaces. The most common reason for paint peeling though is when trim is not installed properly. Butt joints in wood should be primed. Water loves to find a butt joint and wick into it just like a candle. Butt joints at bases of doors, but joints in trim absorb water. The solution is always to prevent water from entering but the common most painters do is caulk it and paint it. You can caulk it but don’t paint it until the moisture content drops below 16%. If the wood is rotten but dry, and you apply an epoxy or wood filler, unless all the softwood is removed, it will still peel.

Family painting walls of home.

Once moisture is trapped in a surface, paint loses its adhesion and swells and peels around the moist area. Peeling often begins along the edges of a board or drywall and spreads along the rest of the surface over time. You might notice a brownish water stain before the paint starts to chip shortly after.

And not only does moisture retention itself peel paint, but dampness might also result in surface rot to wood siding, boards or frames.

Unaddressed water retention can attract wood-decaying fungi, which creates rot. This rot eats away at and softens the wood. It can also attract mold, insects and other pests that further break the wood apart. Window frames and doorways are some of the most common problem spots for surface rot, but the fungi can easily spread to non-wood surfaces.

Pull out quote about surface rot.

When surface rot breaks wood apart and attracts wood-eating insects, the paint no longer has a smooth surface to stick onto and quickly begins to peel. You might first notice a white or grey growth on the wood, which quickly gives way to blistering, peeling or cracked paint. If wood surfaces feel soft or spongy, the paint is likely peeling due to surface rot.

How to Manage Moisture Content

Controlling both interior and exterior surfaces’ moisture content is vital in ensuring that paint sticks to your walls and surfaces for years. After all, you don’t want to waste your money on a paint job that is bound to fail from the beginning.

If you don’t currently suspect high moisture content but want to protect your walls from potential problems both before and after a paint job, you can choose to manage moisture content on your own. But if your paint is currently peeling and you suspect high moisture levels, hiring a professional to take a reading and quickly address any pressing issues with the walls and paint is your best choice in ensuring your paint’s longevity and your building’s health.

Man finishing deck.

1. Managing Moisture Levels Personally

You can take several steps towards managing moisture content on your own, especially if you don’t currently have a problem with peeling paint.

Taking preventive measures is helpful if you’re getting your walls painted soon or recently had your walls painted and want to make sure the new paint stays in good condition for as long as possible. You can also manage moisture content when building a new home or business to prevent any damage after construction is complete.

The Environmental Protection Agency created an extensive guide to controlling moisture content during the construction of new buildings. But these points can also be applied to current residential and commercial properties.

Man painting concrete wall outside.

According to the guide, here are some steps you can take towards lowering your walls’ moisture levels:

  • Drain any rain or snow away from the building. Weather conditions can harm exterior walls over time and make them more prone to damage and rot. Divert any water away from walls or other susceptible surfaces.
  • Provide a clear path for water to exit. Roofs need to slope to prevent water from collecting, and roof drains should stay clear at all times to channel rainwater away from the building. Clean leaves and debris from the drains regularly.
  • Prevent plumbing leaks. If toilets, showers or sinks continuously leak water towards your walls, the walls and floor will take significant damage over time. Monitor your plumbing lines and make sure they’re unlikely to freeze or to come into contact with porous insulation.
  • Use ventilation systems to keep interior walls dry. Exhaust fans remove water vapor from showers, cooking areas, locker rooms or indoor recreational areas such as indoor pools. Make sure that the fans in your building work properly, and consider installing air conditioners with dehumidifiers set to activate at a certain dew point.
  • Inspect walls, roofs, ceilings, plumbing systems and thermostats periodically. Inspecting the most common problem areas for moisture levels keeps you well-informed on the status of your home or business. You’ll also be more likely to notice if something is out of the ordinary and can more quickly take preventive measures if you routinely check the area.

Pull out quote with roller painting wall.

You can also manage your moisture content by monitoring your high-humidity activities such as showering or cooking. If possible, open a nearby window to allow the moisture to escape without draining into the walls. Remembering to turn on bathroom or kitchen fans as needed also helps increase air flow. These simple, everyday preventive tasks can save you hundreds on repairs.

But if you find that your walls’ moisture is dangerously high or if your paint’s already peeling, repainting over the spot or trying to fix the problem yourself won’t solve the underlying issue. It’s often best to contact a professional to get an accurate moisture reading.

2. Professional Moisture Content Management

Hiring a professional to check and manage moisture in your walls is always a good idea, but it’s especially important if you’re interested in getting your home repainted soon or if you suspect that water damage is already destroying your walls and peeling your paint. And if your building was recently flooded, it’s best to contact a professional even if you don’t immediately see any signs of damage. A professional painter will take the steps necessary to lower moisture content before repainting the affected walls.

Pull out quote about Pin Type Meters measure wall's moisture content.

An experienced painter can assess high moisture levels using moisture meters or other testing methods. In fact, it’s imperative for any painter to diagnose and repair water damage immediately so that new paint isn’t compromised. These professional moisture meters and tests accurately measure water damage so that necessary action can be taken:

  • Pin-type meter: Also known as a destructive or invasive moisture meter, a pin-type meter uses two contact pins that penetrate the desired surface at a set depth. The meter measures the electrical resistance between them to determine the percentage of moisture content. Pin-type readers are most often used to measure wood, but they can also be used on drywall, ceilings and other flat, painted surfaces. These meters are best when looking to identify precisely where a water buildup occurred.
  • Pinless meter: A pinless moisture meter — also called non-destructive or non-invasive — reads water content levels at a wall’s surface without penetration by using electrical impedance. Pinless meters are especially useful for assessing water buildup behind showers, bathroom tiles and other finished surfaces. Painting a bathroom or painting a kitchen requires extra attention to detail because of the amount of moisture content the walls are likely to have.
  • All-in-one meter: Perhaps the most useful type of moisture meters, an all-in-one meter uses both pin and pinless technology to measure moisture levels. This versatile option can be used to read nearly any kind of material.

Moisture meter readingProfessional readings can determine where the problem lies and how severe the damage is. If you’ve recently had a flood or other serious water damage, moisture levels will most likely be too high to repaint the area safely. Completely replacing a flooded surface is more cost effective than just painting over it. Further, repainting without taking care of underlying damage will multiply the problem and create more severe future issues.


But if your wall or surface is healthy enough to be fixed without complete replacement, it will still need to be sanded and repainted to protect the surrounding area and prevent further damage. Carpentry skills are a necessity when repairing and repainting damaged surfaces. Contact a painter with complementary carpenter skills — such as Klappenberger & Son if you are in the Maryland area — to guarantee that you’re getting the best service and a paint job that won’t chip due to untended damage.

What Happens If You Don’t Check Your Moisture Content

If you don’t check walls’ and surfaces’ moisture levels, you run the risk of repainting the surface in months not years. Remember, not amount of prep work, primers or premium grade paints will save you from painting damp surfaces. Painting contractors blame the paint, but most of the times its damp wood. A moisture meter can be purchased at some paint stores but a surprisingly small inventory is kept so call or just go online and order one.

Woman painting her wall.

1. Rot and Deterioration

Trapped moisture will result in surface rot and deterioration on both interior and exterior surfaces. Fungi and insects eat away at wood and other materials, which causes irreversible damage if not treated quickly.

Mold, which grows in any damp environment, takes hold of the area nearly as soon as dampness appears. A mold colony can form on a wet surface within 24 to 48 hours if preventive measures aren’t taken. From the original surface, mold continues to spread throughout the entire surface onto touching surfaces until it’s eliminated.


You might first start to notice mold through wall and ceiling discoloration or its musty smell. If it’s seen quickly, you can sometimes disinfect the area and prevent the mold from spreading. But if mold has damaged over 25 square feet of a surface, you’ll need to hire a professional to have it removed. Most often, the entire wall will need to be replaced and completely renovated. Renovation could cost anywhere between $500 and $1,000, a needless expense if preventive steps had been taken.

2. Degeneration of Old and Historic Buildings

Surface rot prevention particularly plays a critical role in the preservation of historic buildings. Rot eats away at the fragile building itself and prevents paint from sticking to the walls, which can completely deteriorate an old home.

The longevity of many historic buildings can be traced to their paint. Paint is one of the most important materials that preserve historic buildings, as it protects the wood siding from deterioration. Paint shelters a wall similar to the way sunscreen protects your body from the sun or the way insulated coats keep you from the cold winter elements. As you age, it becomes more critical to shield your body from harsh weather. Likewise, it becomes more crucial to protect a building’s paint as it ages.

You wouldn’t put on soaking wet clothes underneath a warm snowsuit before going out in freezing temperatures, right? You dress yourself to ensure your longevity and survival. Your building is no different. Historic buildings are especially prone to damage, and “dressing” a building properly with paint protects it from harmful elements.

When the paint wears away due to water damage, rot and mold quickly take its place. Failing to treat this high moisture and paint failure could compromise historical structures and even wholly decompose them.

3. Health Problems

The World Health Organization warns that dampness in walls and other indoor surfaces can fill your home with dust mites, fungi, bacteria, allergens and viruses that thrive in moist environments. Pollutants can have a lasting impact on you and everyone else in a building.

Man painting wall of his home.

You might never have considered the lasting effects that mold and other fungi and bacteria have on your health. But health concerns due to mildew and rot have been linked to allergy problems and severe lifelong issues. These include:

  • Respiratory problems such as wheezing and asthma
  • Nasal and sinus congestion
  • Eye irritation such as burning, itching and watering
  • Skin irritation such as rashes, hives, eczema, dermatitis and acne
  • Problems with the nervous system such as headaches, memory loss and mood swings
  • Aches and pains

People with immune system complications and chronic lung conditions can be severely impacted by mold introduced into the home when high moisture isn’t treated. Because high moisture levels affect both your building’s health and the lives of those living in it, testing your walls for dampness is essential before having them painted or finished.

Our Process

At Klappenberger & Son, we do what any good painter should — test all areas for water damage before applying paint.

We understand that you want your paint to last a long time, and so do we. We never paint over damage because you deserve the highest quality job possible for your home or business. Our process involves fully testing an area before applying paint to ensure that the paint lasts for years to come.

Before beginning the painting process, we use professional moisture meters to find any potential problem spots with both interior and exterior surfaces. We mark off any troublesome with blue tape and will bring these areas to your attention prior to doing and correction.

We also replace rotten renewable composite material that does not absorb water. This takes all the guesswork out of wondering if the surface is damp. It’s not. And when a premium paint is applied you can expect the paint job to last of ten years. If you are going to replace the wood you might as well replace it with these products like Borel or Azek. These type of product will never rot and the fact that the paint job will last twice as long as wood makes the extra cost a moot point.

The trained professionals at Klappenberger & Son focus on integrity and attention to detail from start to finish with every job we do. Rather than just doing a shoddy job quickly, we give our customers consistent and predictable results. And with over 400 positive reviews, our record speaks for itself.

We’ve been a leader in interior and exterior painting for residential, commercial and government properties since 1989, and we continue to paint some of the finest homes in the Annapolis, Baltimore and Montgomery County regions. Contact us today to see what we can do for you in managing the moisture content and repainting of your walls, and trust us to provide the high-quality work you and your building deserve.

3 Rules To Painting Over Wallpaper

Removing wallpaper must be like going to purgatory. I envision in purgatory a simple man saying in a monotone voice, “When you get the wallpaper removed in this room done I have another one ready for you.” It’s horrible work, and there isn’t an easy way to get stubborn wallpaper off. Whether you use Diff, a steamer, or a Tiger Claw the time it takes to take it off can feel like forever. So, what are your options?

  1. Announce to all your Facebook Friends that you are having a wallpaper stripping party. When no one shows, order your favorite small pizza and get whatever you want on it!
  2. Hire someone to strip it.
  3. Paint over it.

Wallpaper can come off in small postage stamp sizes to big easy wonderful sheets, and anywhere in between. There is no way to tell by looking at it. Only by removing it will you get a good idea.  However, the amount of time can be vastly different from not just one room to the next but one wall in the same room.

Chart displaying the level of difficulty in removing wallpaper.

Paint Over It Or Remove It Rules

Here are some tried and true rules to follow that will help you make decide whether to remove wallpaper or professionally have the interior painted over.

Rule #1

If the wallpaper it textured, it is going to have to be removed unless you don’t mind the texture.  My recommendation is – don’t paint over it.  It won’t help down the road when you want to sell.

Rule #2

If the wallpaper is in a full bath or kitchen your best bet is to remove all the wallpaper.  Why?  Because the steam from the shower or the abuse that a kitchen takes can cause the wallpaper adhesion to break over time.  If the bathroom does not have a shower, it is safe to paint over.

Rule# 3

Try removing the wallpaper first.  If it comes off in postage stamp sizes, stop and think about painting over it.  Where ever you started you will have to remove 100% of the paper and 100% of the glue, and then spackle the edges for a smooth transition.  Don’t worry, a good spackle and sanding job will hide where you started and where you stopped just make sure the glue is 100% off.

Steps to follow if you are painting over wallpaper:

When painting over wallpaper, oil and shellac primers are a safer bet to avoid the wallpaper from pealing.  Oil and shellac primers do not penetrate the surface of the wallpaper like latex primers do.  They sit on top of the paper and seal it.  If you dare to use a latex primer make sure it is a primer sealer not a bonding primer.  I’ve used latex sealer before and sometimes they work and sometimes they can make the wallpaper bubble in spots.  Only once did I prime with a latex primer and all the wallpaper bubbled everywhere.  In fact, it acted like a stripper and we ended up removing all the wallpaper.

Here are the steps in the proper order for painting over wallpaper

  1. Use an oil or shellac primer sealer. You might as well have the primer color tinted to the wall color.  It might save you from apply an additional coat of paint!
  2. Spackle seams on wallpaper and sand. A thin layer of spackle is all you need. Don’t build the spackle up to resemble a community speed bump.   Apply a tight spread of spackle to just bridge the seams.
  3. If you don’t like spackle dust everywhere I recommend you buying a sanding attachment and hooking it to a shop vac.  They can be purchased at any of the big box stores or Sherwin Williams store
  4. After the spackle is sanded, caulk the edges of the wallpaper to the trim with a premium acrylic caulk that is at least rated for 55 years. Let the caulk sit for required amount of time before painting. If you paint too early the caulk is likely to crack
  5. Prime spackle areas with the same primer used. The spackled areas need to be primed before the top coat is applied
  6. I recommend painting over wallpaper with flat paint because it hides imperfections. Low Sheen and Eggshell finishes would be fine as well, but they show imperfections more than a flat.  This may just mean that you must go back and spackle a few more areas again to smooth out differences.  The advantage of low sheens and eggshell paints over flats is that they are more washable.

Q & A on Wallpaper Removal

Questions:  What if the wallpaper peels down the road?

Answer: in 30 years that has only happened once, and we cut out the two pieces, removed 100% of the glue, primed, spackled and painted, and it disappeared.  As I mentioned earlier, don’t paint over wallpaper in bathrooms and kitchens.

Question: How much time will it save to paint over wallpaper?

Answer:  Hard to say for sure because every room is different but typically it reduces time from 10 hours (moderate) to 3 hours of work!

Question:  Will anyone be able to tell that we painted over wallpaper?

Answer:  If the wallpaper has no texture and the spackle was done properly.  No way.  Not a chance.

We have painted wallpaper boarder’s on top of wallpaper and you can’t tell.

Question:  If I ever wanted to get the wallpaper off down the road would that be possible.

Answer: No.  But let me ask you a question.  Why would you?  When you buy drywall it has a sheet of paper covering the white chalky substance.  Have you ever had a desire or need to remove that?  Now you have drywall with 2 sheets of paper on it.  That’s a good thing!

Question: Can I apply a low sheen or semi-gloss paint instead of flat?

Answer: Yes.  Just make sure you either you hire a professional drywall or painting company to do the spackling.  Because of the sheen these paints have it makes the imperfections easier to see.

Question:  What if I remove the wallpaper and it takes the drywall paper off and I am left with scrapes of that brown paper?

Answer: There is a different primer that needs to be applied on it and it is called a Drywall Conditioner.  It is clear and will prevent the remaining paper from bubbling. If you damage the drywall or find it to be molding underneath you will need to replace the drywall because the paint will not remain on the wall due to a high moisture content.

Question:  Can I use one of those paint and primers in one?

Answer:  Not for the first coat of primer but you could for the second coat where you are just priming over that spackle spots.


Steps to follow if you are removing wallpaper

There are just a few ways to remove wallpaper and if the wallpaper comes off in big easy pieces you can skip this part and go straight down to removing wallpaper glue.

There are a few methods:

Tiger Claw – it does penetrate the wallpaper and allows and makes the stripper or breakdown the adhesive faster but boy is it a lot of work.  Rolling the Tiger claw all over the walls is a lot of hard work and the marks its wheels leave in the wall will need to be spackled.  I don’t like it.

The Steamer – I don’t like it either.  Why? Slow….. slow……. my arms are getting tired …… slow…… strip a small patch (yeah) ………… slow………. boring………slow……..strip a bit more….. my arms are getting tired………..  did someone say pizza?

Diff Gel – It works and can be rolled on.  You need to apply multiple applications which is fine but you end up using quite a bit of product and the cost adds up.  But this is a good method.

Hot water with Diff Concentrate – this is my choice and works about the same as the Gel but it cost less.  You will need a pump sprayer.  You will also want to heat up the water as hot as possible.  The hot water really opens up the pores of the

Make sure you protect the floor from the overspray and apply over and over keeping the walls moist for about 25-30 minutes.  The longer they stay wet the easier it is to remove.  You are not going to damage the walls or cause mold and mildew damage from applying to much product.  Keep the walls wet!  If the wallpaper is still coming off in small bits keep it wet longer.

Klappenberger and Son is your got to interior and exterior expert. We perform interior work such as custom carpentry, interior painting and commercial painting. We also do extensive exterior painting work. Contact us today and get your project started!

6 Reasons to Franchise

Have you ever thought about owning your own business? Of course. The question naturally turns to what business should I get into it? Should I franchise or start my own? Can afford to buy a franchise? Here are some real benefits I’ve found to franchising. In full disclosure, I started my own professional painting business 26 years ago and am now franchising it. Having a painting franchise is great because I get to experience, work with and advise on how to build a painting business.


A common question I hear is “Why should I buy a franchise when I could start my own business for less?” It’s a good question and in my industry, professional painting, but there are a lot of reasons to join a franchise.

Reasons to Start a Franchise

Avoid Costly Mistakes

There are hundreds of mistakes you would make starting on your own business and each mistake will cost between $125.00 and $1,000’s. Trust me I have had some whoppers. I believe there are about 800 mistakes I’ve made and if each mistake cost an average of $250.00 x 800 mistakes I gave $200,000 to the school of hard knocks. Hey Bernie, do you cover tuition at the school of Hard Knocks? When you buy a franchise, they teach you how to avoid these mistakes. We have put together videos called “What Went Wrong” where we cover tons of mistakes and how to avoid them. We also have a franchise training process.

Franchises are Sellable

You buy a franchise for say $30,000 and build it up for 5-10 years you can sell it for about 2.5 -3 times your gross owners’ compensation! Having your own small business is harder to sell than one with brand recognition. Many times small businesses will just sell their assets and close their doors.

Franchises are More Successful Than New Businesses

Over a seven-year period, a franchise will fail 20% of the time as opposed to 70% of all startups fail. The learning curve has been figured out and the franchisee will the benefactor if they follow the system.

A Built-In Mentor

The continued support you get when buying a franchise helps you steer the ship with a team of experienced players. You don’t have to wing it or hire a consultant team. If you have a question your franchisor will have the experience to answer it.

Pre-Existing & Managed Marketing

I don’t know of a single franchise that won’t handle the website, social media. They have plenty of marketing info at your fingertips. It’s a great relief to have these things handled for you. So now your time is freed up to grow your business –or play golf (with an important client).

Business Growth Expertise

Business growth expert Dan Pena recommends growing a business as fast as possible and then selling it. He recommends surrounding yourself with whatever investors, experts (franchisor) you need and sell the mess in 5 years for a boatload of money and start something else. A franchise fits well because a franchisor has everything in place for you to:

  • Get the best RIO for your marketing dollars
  • Grow your customer base most effectively
  • Improve margins
  • Sell your business

Start Your Painting Franchise

If you are self-motivated and are willing to follow a proven process, start a painting franchise at Klappenberger & Son. Franchising will save you money, and allow you to build a business faster than starting one on your own.

For questions or comments please contact David Klappenberger at dklappenberger@klappenbergerandson.com or call 410-647-5700.

Knowing What Paint Stain is Right for Your Fence or Deck

Deck & Fence Staining

Since 1989 I have been power washing and sealing decks for hundreds of customers throughout Maryland and I have learned from my mistakes and others mistakes. There are a lot of misconceptions, and mistakes people have made on treating their deck and fence. Deck and Fence staining are extremely similar in basic practice, but they vary in how they respond to the elements simply because water can sit on a deck while it runs off of a fence. Knowing how to manage and treat your deck and knowing how to best treat and service you fence is important for any homeowner.

I thought it would be helpful if I shared my experiences and guidance in our property management services. For many of us, the deck is a place to retreat from life for a little bit and have dinner, relax and enjoy the changing seasons. So it’s important to have the deck being in proper condition and not a distracting honeydew project. Decks are also one of the most frequently improperly maintained areas I run across. Wrong stains, poorly applied, with bad results again turns your oasis into a mess. And to be fair, if your deck is a mess, and you did it, you might be able to shed some of the blame. Decks are not simple. There is room for error and this article can hopefully navigate you through the process of picking the right stain or paint to best suit you and your deck.

Side of fence burnt orange.

Differentiating between different deck & fence stains & paints

Deck Scale

Before we get started let’s define a few terms:

Damp – means a moisture content above 16%. New Pressure treated wood is considered damp and can take a full season to dry out. If the rained last night, the wood is damp. Some toners/wood preservatives and semi-transparent stains can be applied the same day it was power washed providing there are no puddles.
One coat products – One coat products seal themselves up when they dry. If it is sealed, and you apply a second coat and can dry to a glossy finish, and or also stay tacky for weeks!
Yes, I learned this lesson the hard way. The customer insisted we apply a second coat on her deck and it didn’t dry for about 2 weeks. Unfortunately, her party was one week out!

When to apply a second coat:

  • Prior to the first coat drying
  • If the wood is old and porous
  • If the surface is scuffed up with sandpaper or scrubbed with TSP. These two methods will break the sealant which would be blocking the second coat from absorbing.

Water test – drop a couple drops of water on areas that you desire to apply a second coat. If it absorbs in 10 seconds it is safe to assume that your wood will accept a second coat of the one coat product. But I still would try a couple sample areas as well.

Olympic toned fence.

Wood Preservative or Toners –When you see the words “Wood preservative” or “Toner” they mean the same thing. Think of a toner as a clear solution with a “tone” of cedar or redwood pigment added to it to give the wood some added color and protection. Wood preservatives will show the more of the natural look of the wood than the other stains and paints. They come in several different tones as well as a clear. Stay away from the clear unless you don’t mind redoing your deck next year, and they after that too. The pigment or lack thereof is what protects the deck. With clear wood preservatives, there is no pigment and very little UV protection. The darker the toner the better the production and the longer it will last and protect your wood. Wood toners and wood preservatives for the purpose of this article will mean the same thing.

Advantages of a wood preservatives/toners

  • Wood preservatives and toner do not peel, they simply fade over time.
  • Many wood preservatives are one coat products as well.
  • They are very easy to apply. Meaning wet drips and runs can be easily wiped off and blended in.
  • Can be applied over brand new pressure treated wood.
  • Future maintenance is easy. Just clean and reapply.
  • As the deck ages over the years, more opaque stains can be applied over wood preservatives.

Deck railing.

Negatives of wood preservatives/toners

  • Deck and Fence wood preservatives and toners cannot be applied over anything darker or opaquer than what is currently present.
  • Decks over 15 years old that have cracking and obvious age only look marginally better.
  • If not applied properly, it will certainly leave lap marks. Boards need to be done from one end to the other.
  • Clear toners with little or no pigment need to be treated more often than semi-transparent and semi-solid stains. Most toners last 2 ½ years on decks and 4 years on fences. Areas with significant shade can last at least a year longer. The reason decks last a shorter amount of time is because of the constant wear.

Semi-transparent Stains

Semi-transparent deck and fence stains come in a larger sample of colors than wood preservatives/ toners. Semi-transparent stains will allow you to see plenty of the wood grain on your deck or fence, but typically less than a wood preservative. Like toners, they also don’t peel, and some of them can be applied on damp surfaces. This will allow you to power wash and seal on the same day! Many semi-transparent deck stains are one coat products as well. If so, do not put a second coat on unless you try the water test.

How long will it last? Not as long as the can says. It depends the short answer is 3-5 years. For fences, railings and vertical surfaces expect 4 to 5 years. For horizontal surfaces 3 years max. This means if you are sealing your deck and handrail in 2018, in 2021 you will only need to seal the deck! Besides the very top of the handrail which can easily be re-stained all the spindles can skip a re-coat.

semi transparent deck toner. Gray deck.

Advantages of a semi-transparent stains

  • The darker semi-solids will give slightly more protection and longevity than a toner.
  • It never chips or peels.
  • Some products such as Olympic and Woodscapes can be applied on damp surfaces.
  • Recommended for decks less than 10 years old.
  • Can be applied with brush roller or sprayer

Disadvantages of semi-transparent stain

  • The pigment in semi-transparent settles quickly making it difficult to apply evenly and get even coverage. To avoid the settling of pigment it is necessary to stir every ten minutes or so. Many semi-solids are one coat products. If a second coat is needed, it should be applied before the first coat dries (about 15 minutes). This is a common problem.
  • Apply a second coat before the second coat seals. Within 15 minutes or so.
  • Should not go over decks that have had semi-solid stains or opaque stains or paints.
  • Should not go on decks with uneven areas where the deck is 15 years old or older. It will still likely look blotchy, less blotchy but not still blotchy.

Semi-Solid Stain – the stain shows a little of the grain and gives you the best possible protection that will not peel. It will chip over time but very little. Some grain of the wood will still be visible but not much. If you apply 2 or 3 coats of semi-solids over the years it will look like a solid, but it won’t peel. If you want to see some hint of the natural grain of the wood, a semi-solid is the most pigment you can have prior to having a totally opaque finish like a solid stain or paint.

Stained Deck stairs red.

Advantages of a semi-solid stain

  • It won’t peel but it will chip.
  • It has the best UV protection from any product that won’t peel.
  • Can be brushed rolled or sprayed.
  • Semi-solid deck stain comes in many colors.

Disadvantages of a semi-solid

  • After 2 or 3 applications of a semi-solid, it looks like a solid stain application.
  • Because it seals so well after several applications vertical surfaces can get stay glossy. If you don’t mind this look than it’s no problem. What the product is basically saying is “This surface was sealed, and the last application was unable to penetrate.” It’s like a sponge that can’t absorb any more water.
  • It will not fill in cracks in wood as decks start to age at the end of its lifespan.
  • The pigment also settles quickly and must be stirred frequently, or it can have an uneven finish.
  • Most be applied on the wood below 16% moisture content. Cannot clean and seal on the same day. Also, it cannot be applied to new pressure treated wood for 90 days.

Solid Deck Stains

Solid Stains – Experts say that solid stains provide maximum protection but I disagree. It peels too easily, and water gets trapped underneath the solid stain which provides more opportunity for peeling. Solid stains do not penetrate, so the heaviest traffic areas where you want the most protection are the first to go. Plus, they peel, which adds to the future prep work down the road.

When to use a solid deck or fence stain

I start recommending solid stains when the deck is around 15 or 18 years old. By this time the wood has typically had areas that look okay and areas where the wood is getting near the end and apply something other than a solid probably won’t hide the discrepancies and variations in the deck floor. Solid stains will solve this problem.
Solid stains will fill in minor cracks and can get multiple applications. In fact, most recommend two coats which I 100% agree with. I would strongly recommend always applying two coats on all surfaces because it greatly increases the longevity. You might not be able to see the difference right away, but you will down the road. Solid stains are also good choices to use if the deck is uneven with past wood preservatives.

The only practical solution to this deck is to replace it or apply a solid stain.

Advantages of a solid stain

  • Hides unevenness in deck wood.
  • Solid deck stains will fill in minor cracks.
  • You can make older decks look reasonable better.
  • You can pick any deck color you like.
  • Your deck wood can be brushed rolled or sprayed.
  • Your deck or fence can be touched up without flashing or getting glossy.
  • If you deck stain is maintained every 2-3 years, it will give maximum protection to the wood.

Disadvantages of a solid stain

  • Deck stain chips and peels over time.
  • Displays dirt and mildew faster than toners, semi-transparent and semi-solid stains.
  • Requires more prep work to apply future recoats if it is peeling.
  • Flat surfaces that are exposed to the elements rarely last more than 3-4 years.
  • The deck must be below 16%.
  • Applying two coats of solid deck stain results in more labor and materials.

Deck & Fence Age & Condition

Knowing what product to put on a deck or fence is no easy task. You will need to consider the age and condition of the wood. The age of a deck or fence can be divided up into 3 stages

Stage 1: Deck/fence is 1-6 years old (young)
Stage 2: Deck/fence is 7-15 years old, (middle aged)
Stage 3: Deck/fence 15 old? (seasoned)

What was the last product applied? Wood preservative, semi-transparent, semi-solid, solid stain, or paint
As we go through each product you will notice as the wood ages and becomes uneven appearance the options become more limited. It is safe to say though that unless you strip or sand a surface back down to bare wood you cannot switch to a less opaque look.

Pressure treated, PT, wood that is between 1-7 years old has the most options:
If the deck wood is untreated you can apply any of the four options:

  • Wood preservative
  • Semi-transparent
  • Semi-solid
  • Solid stain, or paint

Here is my recommendation for new or untreated decks under 15 years old: Use anything except a solid stain and paint on the deck because the deck stain or paint will start to peel. The other products fade over time. In my 30-year experience, I found when properly applied all products look great for the first year and good for the second year but start to fade and disappear in the third year. If you choose a solid deck stain and it just starts to peel, the others fade away leaving you with far less prep work. In fact, the only prep work is to clean the surface again with bleach and possible wood brightener and apply the product again. Some wood preservatives like Olympic and Deck Scapes can be applied on a damp surface. This means your deck can be cleaned and sealed in the same day saving money and time.

Solid Deck Stain vs. Paint

Semi-solids, solid stains and paint do not have that flexibility. Their moisture content needs to be 16% or less.
If your deck already has a semi-solid or solid stain or paint you will have to continue with that type of product or go all o
Paint vs Solid Stain. People often ask me what’s the difference between a solid stain or paint. There are several.

Stripped paint.

Solid Deck Stain & Paint

  • Paints have a harder finish and on flat surfaces will lead to quicker peeling.
  • Paints come in different sheens, from flat to glossy. Stains are mostly flat, and some stains have a low luster finish.
  • Paints can look fantastic, but I do not recommend using them on flat surfaces. Fences and handrails are a different story. Because they are vertical they don’t get the rain, snow, sun, and foot traffic that horizontal services do.
  • Solid deck stains are self-priming. Most paints that even claim to be self-priming would be better served to have a true primer applied first.

Advantages of Paint

  • Paint provides a classic look on fences, especially on historic homes.
  • Comes in thousands of colors and several sheens.
  • Paints with a sheen wash much better than flat solid stains and paints. Making periodic cleanings worth the effort.

Disadvantages of paint

  • It is the highest maintenance of all products. Especially on flat surfaces.
  • Paint on flat surfaces does not hold up well to the harsh elements and will generally peel in a year or so.
  • The fence wood needs to have a moisture content below 16 percent.
  • The fence wood should also be primed.

Thick Deck Paint

This is one last product that I have not mentioned yet but certainly needs to be discussed. Those super thick paints like that are supposed to fill in cracks on old decks. The paint state that they are 10 x thicker than normal paint. Unfortunately, I have used this product twice and both times it failed. I don’t think that they expand and contrast with the wood and they seem to come off in sheets. There are thousands of bad reviews and some lawsuits have caused me to come to one conclusion. These products have no advantages and should not be applied under any circumstances.

Advantages of thick deck paint

  • None – not even joking

Disadvantages of thick deck paint

  • Thick paint peels quickly.
  • Thick paint looks ugly.
  • Thick paint takes two coats.
  • Thick paint is expensive.
  • Thick paint is hard to apply (you could have 18 holes of golf played golf!).
  • Thick paint has horrible square ft coverage so you’ll purchase a lot of it.
  • Thick paint is uncomfortable to walk on.
  • If your deck is screwed on, good luck finding the screws after you apply this stuff. Repairs will become a nuisance that leaves the deck looking worse off afterwards.
  • Your oasis will be a bad memory.

Choosing the right product for you deck or fence

When considering the best product ask yourself a few questions. What is the purpose of maintaining your deck?

Are you:

  • Selling
  • Buying
  • Renting
  • Maintaining

Other circumstances that will dictate the proper wood material will be the use of the deck. If you have a lot of children and the deck is older a solid stain will help reduce the chance of splinters. If you have an active dog that will scratch the decking than something other than a solid stain or paint would be best.

Let Klappenberger & Sons take a look at your deck or fence situation. Our professional carpenters and painters will help to make your home’s paints and stains look beautiful and last longer. Contact us at 410-647-5700. We perform deck and fence staining for commercial buildings, local homes, and government buildings. We also perform historical restoration projects. Contact for all of your interior or exterior painting needs.

Solid Stain on Deck and Handrail