Every professional painter, whether a production painter or faux finisher, knows one of the most important things in his or her toolkit is painter’s tape, and not all tape is created equal. Choosing the right tape is the difference between a job perfectly done the first time around vs. a redo. As a painting contractor, you work on a tight margin and time is money; you don’t want to be stuck going back to a project because you picked the wrong tape for the job. Tim Brown and Brendan Zetts of tape manufacturer IPG, and two manufacturer’s representatives, Tom Neuman of JANA and Larry Ratliffe of the Pro-Mark Group, took some time to answer these frequently asked questions.
For years, painters only had one type of tape at their disposal: tan masking tape. Since then, tape for the professional and DIYer has evolved to include standard painter’s tape, tape for delicate surfaces, tape with extended clean removal time, tape in multiple widths and pretty much everything in between. Newer tapes have been introduced with edge coating to deliver a sharp, clean line during painting projects. It can be argued that there is a painter’s tape that exists for every need.
Desired performance is the biggest driver behind the choice of tape. It matters whether you are working on a freshly painted surface or whether you are using latex or oil-based paint or working on lacquered surfaces or hardwood floors. It’s best to read the product labels carefully, ask your paint supply or hardware store for advice, or check tape manufacturers’ websites for more information.
Generally speaking, tan tape is at the lower end of the tape scale and has a high adhesion rate. It is meant to be left in place for a very short time. Green painter’s tape usually promises an eight-day clean removal. Most brands of blue tape are typically designed to stay in place with quick removal for up to 14 days. Orange-colored tape often indicates a tape for delicate jobs, and teal-colored premium tape offers special edge protection to prevent paint bleed.
This often depends on the specific job for the tape. A 2-inch roll of tape would be appropriate when you want to leave some room for error. For example, when taping off a ceiling and using a paint roller, the extra-wide tape can help you avoid touching the ceiling area with a corner of the roller and leaving little “dinks” of paint. DIYers or newbies on the painting scene, who are not as proficient at painting as professionals, would probably benefit from having the wider tape. Among professional painters, the most popular width is 1 1/2 inch. A roll of this width saves on cost, especially when bought in bulk. One-inch wide tape is also available and might be adequate for working in smaller areas.
Two-inch-wide tape with synthetic rubber adhesive would be typically used in this application, providing enough surface to protect the wall or molding and enough to grab and hold on to the sheeting, keeping it firmly in place.
In most cases, it is sufficient to run a firm finger along the edge of the tape. This works best when running tape around molding or onto baseboards. When painting rows of striping and a large amount of tape will be used, it might be best to press tape into place using a simple putty knife. It is not necessary to apply pressure over the entire expanse of the tape, but it is essential that pressure be applied uniformly along the edge touching the paint. The protection against paint seepage that most painter’s tapes provide occurs at the point of contact with the paint.
There are different approaches to this task. Many have already learned the answer to this through trial and error. The first thing to remember is to wait at the very least until paint is dry to touch before removing it. Some professionals remove tape by pulling away from the painted surface. If pulled straight up from painted surface, tape can leave small rip-like marks in the painted area. This is because small pockets of wet paint could still be present. Other professionals recommend pulling the tape back from the surface rather than pulling it up at a 90-degree angle. Some say that tape pulled off at a 90-degree angle can pull some paint along with it.
It all depends on how long the painter intends to leave the tape in place without the worry of adhesive residue left behind. Many painting jobs are complete in one or two days. In those cases, it is a waste of money to use the more highly engineered tapes with longer guaranteed removal time. Other contractors, such as remodeling contractors, might be running several projects at once, so the ability to extend removal time to eight days might be important. The other thing to consider is whether the tape will be in direct sunlight, on window glass for example, which can in effect “bake” the adhesive into place. It’s best policy to use tape with the special properties that come with an extended release time to ensure optimum performance.
Generally speaking, the more expensive the tape, the more money the manufacturer has put into the adhesive. Extra ingredients must be added to the adhesive to make it stay in place longer, without leaving residue behind. A high-tack tape like tan masking tape can’t be left up long without leaving adhesive behind. Lower-tack products like blue tape, on the other hand, have adhesive properties that provide more UV resistance and can create a clean, straight paint line. The quality of the adhesive also helps with how smoothly and easily a tape pulls off the roll.
A few higher-performance tapes are made of specialty fine-structured crepe paper with an adhesive technology that repels paint and prevents bleed-through. This type of tape is ideal for the faux finisher, the professional working with striped walls and anyone who needs to be assured that they will get cleaner, sharper paint lines the first time around. APC
Tim Brown is the vice president of sales for IPG. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.