The one job most of us do ourselves is paint.
For example, I repainted the walls along the staircase after nicking them with a Morris chair we move upstairs each winter so the Christmas tree has a spot in the living room.
I touched up a window frame here, a wall there, and plan to give the exterior of the house a fresh coat of paint in the spring - May is always a good month, although late September to early November is ideal.
I've been using paints without volatile organic compounds exclusively for three years now, and they appear to do the trick.
While choosing paint should involve thought and investigation, too many of us just run to the home center, pick a color, and start slapping it on.
Even the familiar is not necessarily a good choice.
"When choosing paint, don't assume a leading brand you swore by last time will do just as well this time around," said Bob Markovich, home and yard editor for Consumer Reports.
"Our tests found paints can vary year to year - and a bigger name does not always equal a better product," he said.
In Consumer Reports' tests of interior paints, Clark+Kensington, available only at Ace, was tops in satin and semigloss finishes.
While new formulas have improved some paints, others performed worse than they did just a year ago in Consumer Reports' tests. Compared with earlier versions, the Behr Premium Plus Satin Enamel wasn't quite as good at hiding and became dull when cleaned.
Some paints, such as Olympic One Flat Enamel, improved at hiding. Better hiding also helped move Valspar Signature matte and semigloss up in Consumer Reports' ratings, joining Behr in besting Benjamin Moore, which costs roughly twice as much, among flat and semigloss paints.
You can check out the complete test results in the March issue.
Before we leave Consumer Reports, here are some tips for choosing paint.
Since colors often look different in different lights, Consumer Reports suggests buying a sample, painting a patch and living with it for a day or two before buying more.
Here are three more things to consider:
1. Go online before hitting the store. Manufacturer and retailer websites and Facebook pages offer a wealth of tips on choosing colors, including photo galleries of finished rooms and calculators to help consumers figure out how much paint they need.
2. Find the perfect color. Certain hues are specific to a brand, but retailers can often match colors. Paint-color formula books and color-matching computer technology mean consumers don't have to rely solely on the skills of a salesclerk, though one with a good eye and mixing equipment with clean nozzles may be able to match colors, too.
3. Match sheen to surface. The best low-luster satin and eggshell paints offer easy hiding and durability, making them ideal for most surfaces. Flat paints hide flaws better but are less resistant to stains and smudges, so use them in low-traffic areas. Semigloss works well for trim and other surfaces that don't need to be wiped frequently, because repeated cleaning will dull most finishes.
Question: We have a white, fiberglass laundry tub into which the water from our air conditioner drains. This summer, for the first time, orange stains developed wherever the water dripped into the tub. What can I use to remove these unsightly stains? I really have no idea what to use that will not harm the tub.
Answer: It's probably rust. I've heard that RustAid Bathroom Spray Gel does the job and does no harm. Check the Internet for a source.
Mea culpa: In my Feb. 22 column, I referred to vinegar as a base, not an acid. I was off-base. Thanks for the trip to the woodshed.
Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at email@example.com or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies.