The painting process

These guidelines provide owners and carers of heritage places with information on what to consider when repainting a building or structure to ensure optimum results.

Repainting a heritage place should be carried out in accordance with the Burra Charter.

Checking the existing paint colours

  • Check the analysing paints to identify original colours fact sheet to identify original or significant colour schemes and/or previous finishes and decorative work.
  • Check which parts of the building were originally unpainted by using early photos and examining the original layer for dust deposits and weathering (may require specialist advice).
  • Test colours to ‘fine tune’ the selected colour scheme by painting a small surface area before buying the bulk of the paint.
  • Inspect all paintwork with a relevant tradesperson to detect and note unsound surface areas requiring repair and attention.
  • Carry out a test on a small unobtrusive area of paintwork (if paint is to be removed before repainting) to ensure there is no damage to the surface and a satisfactory result is achieved.
  • Test colours by painting small areas because the same colour can look different in a matt, gloss or semi-gloss finish.

Liaising with painters

  • Provide painters with a detailed colour scheme for the paintwork.
  • Provide painters with a secure paint storage area and adequate parking.
  • Check painters have access to all parts of the building that are to be painted.
  • Ensure qualified tradespeople are supervised by a foreman while working on a project.
  • Make sure painters follow a safety plan based on a site specific risk assessment to undertake paintwork in line with Workplace Health and Safety legislation.
  • Ensure painters use drop sheets, scaffold screening, safety barriers/signage to isolate and protect work areas.
  • Check the scope of painting work fact sheet which can be adapted for a specific project when contracting painters.

Cleaning surfaces before repainting

  • Dust and/or wash painted surfaces with mild detergent to remove cobwebs, dirt, dust, grease or other foreign matter.
  • Clean water-soluble finishes with a dry brush.
  • Use an anti-fungal solution to clean areas affected by mould.
  • Remove loose, flaking paint and accumulated minor rust by scraping, brushing with a stiff plastic brush (avoid using a wire brush which can cause rust stains) or sanding to provide an even and sound base
  • Remove wallpaper if applicable.
  • Thoroughly clean wallpaper surfaces if they are impossible to remove, by washing with fresh water and sealing with a suitable sealer.
  • Record and safely store any pieces of original wallpaper for possible reproduction and reinstatement.
  • Ensure powdery limewash and calsomine coatings are thoroughly washed.
  • sand, prime and undercoat all new and repaired timber to ensure a good bond for the undercoat and finishing coats.

Repairing surfaces

  • Fill all surface cracks and holes and then sand to the appropriate finish.
  • Rake-out defective window putty and re-putty windows as required.

Removing paint

  • Take special precautions when removing old paintwork as white lead (a very toxic pigment now prohibited and largely substituted by titanium dioxide) was used in most paints manufactured before 1930 and was still present in large quantities in the 1950s.
  • Use chemical paint strippers that are not toxic or flammable.
  • Use caution when removing paint layers with heat guns and blow torches as they are fire hazards and can damage the original paint layers.
  • Use an appropriate respirator mask when sanding back paintwork.
  • Leave as much of the original or significant paint layers as possible.
  • Remove later paint coatings and only repaint areas that were originally painted.
  • Avoid unnecessary ‘stripping’ to limit the possibility of damage to the original paint.
  • Record details of paint layers for future reference especially if layers of paint need to be removed.
  • Except for painted cast iron, never remove paint with disc or orbital sanders and sandblasting as they damage the original layer.
  • When removing paint from chimneys on a galvanised roof, be aware of run-off from alkaline paint removers, as it may corrode the iron.

Selecting paint

  • Use paints that replicate the original paintwork as much as possible.
  • Check paint suppliers for ready-made traditional paints and paints that can be made up by using oxides and other traditional ingredients.
  • Refer to traditional paints and finishes for more information.
  • Record the brands, colours and types of paint selected for use in each element of the building.

Painting and repainting

  • Take precautions when painting to avoid the hazards of flammability, toxicity and skin and tissue irritations.
  • Use environmentally-safe and non-toxic paints if possible.
  • Keep painted surfaces clean.
  • Record the brands, colours and types of paint selected for use in each element of the building.
  • Ensure paint is only applied to a clean, non-powdery surface.
  • Ensure colours are applied according to the selected colour scheme and a minimum of two finishing coats are applied to all surfaces.
  • Only paint when the temperature range is between 10 and 40 degree celsius and avoid painting surfaces exposed to direct sunlight in hot weather.
  • Use non water-based primers, undercoats and finishing coats when painting iron.
  • Powder-coat metals where possible to provide a better finish, particularly cast iron details and balustrading, by:
    • removing
    • sandblasting
    • baking the coating
    • then re-installing.
  • Repaint lime-washed masonry buildings with limewashes to maintain their original weathered appearance.

Maintaining paintwork

  • Keep painted surfaces clean.
  • Rejuvenate painted surfaces periodically with fresh applications of paint to slow down deterioration and prevent water from penetrating cracks and damaging layers underneath.

More information 

For more information, you can:

For more information, contact Council.

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Brisbane City Council acknowledges this Country and its Traditional Custodians. We pay our respects to the Elders, those who have passed into the dreaming; those here today; those of tomorrow.