The following are frequently asked questions regarding the execution of faux finishes and murals.
What sort of faux finishes can you do?
I can do simple patinas that convey depth to the wall color and/or a distressed look, ranging from subtly to dramatically aged. The pattern itself of the finish can be ragged, combed, "strie", weaved like a raw silk, crisscrossed, stippled, dragged, sponged etc. The list can be infinite depending on the tool used. Next to these common finishes are "bravura" finishes such as: "faux bois" imitating wood grain, faux marble, faux stone, bronzing, gilding, tortoise shell imitation, leather, parchment, and so on. I can replicate almost anything except those finishes that take a long time to complete such as shagreen or snake skin - these finishes are not economically feasible, at least on a large surface.
What is a faux finish?
A faux finish is a sheer tinted film of water or an oil-based medium, usually not runny, applied onto a pre-painted wall. It is often imprinted with patterns or worked into the wall, leaving a range of hues of one, two or three colors. This effect makes the wall look old and faded, showing various interesting nuances.
Do I need a particular wall preparation for a faux finish?
Your wall surfaces have to be in most cases waterproof or sealed, that is to say, prepared with satin or eggshell finish paint. They cannot be prepared with flat paint, or else the glaze medium would become absorbed by the flat paint and leave random unsightly stains or aureoles all over the wall. The glazing liquid being sheer, the base color on the wall has to work with the final shade that you envision. For instance, if you want a red glazed wall, you first need to have a "dirty" orange or pink applied to the wall, and over it the right shade of glaze.
Can I do a faux finish in a kitchen or in a bathroom?
Yes, a faux finish can be done in these rooms due to the resiliency of the glazing medium. In heavy traffic areas the faux finish can be coated with acrylic or polyurethane varnish. In a kitchen, glazing can transform your kitchen cabinets or your island as well as the walls. In a bathroom, it will refresh or modernize a plain cabinetry. It can be a drastically economical way to transform an obsolete decor or sad cabinetry.
Is a faux finish fragile?
No, a faux finish is a sturdy finish similar to a varnish. An oil-based finish will be stronger than its water borne equivalent; however, you can remedy this by varnishing the water-based glaze. Faux finishes should not be cleaned with scouring or abrasive products: these may leave oil-based paint unscathed but would damage a glaze. Faux finishes can be washed with soapy water.
Can furniture be faux finished?
Absolutely! All sorts of glazing techniques can be used on furniture to rejuvenate them or to change their style. Just by modifying the background color of the piece, for instance switching a dark wood to a pale Swedish hue or a bright Mexican color, coupled with a sophisticated glaze technique, you will obtain a totally new piece. And vice and versa, aging a modern piece is also rewarding. The glaze medium can take the use and abuse of frequently used pieces of furniture.
I have a damaged faux finish on my walls, can you repair it?
In most cases it can be done, but overall it depends on the original technique, the color, the medium, and the size of the receiving wall. In general, a repaired patch in the middle of a glazed wall will always be visible, because you will necessarily overlap the border of the patching area while applying your new glaze, creating a darker circle underlining the re-glazed patch. In this situation, it is best to redo the entire wall: it will look better and take less time. On small or medium-sized patches, repairs can be done using acrylic paint. However, if the original technique is a "strie" crisscross or dragged technique, i.e. very accurate in its design, the wall should be entirely redone. An exception to this is if you can start the repair area from the top of a window or a door, where the repair line will be discreet. Another factor is color - lighter colors are harder to match and the sheen of the newly glazed area will be shinier than the rest as sheen dulls out with time. If the original finish was sprayed, it is also difficult to match it though not impossible. At last, bear in mind that a glaze color changes with its exposure to light, and an oil-borne glaze will yellow; any repair should address these facts.
Is faux finishing a smelly process?
An oil-based glaze leaves an odor ranging from mild to strong, depending on the chemical ingredients used in the process. Water-based glazes are odorless.
Why use an oil-based glaze rather than a water-based glaze?
An oil-based glaze gives more open time to work the glaze into patterns; it is therefore more suitable for covering large surfaces. It also offers better transparency and more strength. Water-based glazing liquids dry faster, neither yellow nor smell, and are environmentally friendly. Both media are often combined in the execution of complicated finishes, such as wood graining and marbleizing, to accelerate their execution and save time and cost.
How long does it take to execute a faux finish?
Provided that the surface is ready to be glazed and that the area to faux has been cleared, a small room with a simple ragging or padding effect can take as little as one day. Marbleizing the same room with a simple marble pattern would take a day and a half to two days. You must consider the difficulty of the technique - for instance some marbles can be quickly replicated while other will demand days - the size of the room, and most importantly the configuration of the walls: do they bear many windows, corners, fixtures, and hard-to-reach places? One small room with many corners and intricate surfaces can take longer to complete than a room twice its size with bare and plain surfaces. Many architectural features can greatly contribute to slowing down work.
How much does it cost to execute a faux finish?
This is dependent upon the type of finish you want done. The difficulty of a finish and the size and ease-of-access of your project are important factors in determining a finish's execution time therefore its cost. For example, ragging off or cheeseclothing off a small room without complicated features will cost $800 to $1000. If it calls for any additional work such as moving furniture, wall hangings or rods, this will increase the final cost. Ceiling work is far more arduous and costs at least one and a half times as much as wall painting.
Is a mural the same thing as a faux finish?
No, a mural is a figurative or abstract representation of a landscape, animal, trompe l'oeil, object, drape, garland, frieze or anything else. Murals count as decorative painting, but they extend beyond the mere imitation of a given material.
How much does a mural cost?
It depends on the difficulty of the subject, the size of the work and the details. A mural is more costly than a faux finish but more spectacular. One single element, such as a palm leaf, vase of flowers, or a toucan will cost several hundred dollars. The price of a painted sky on a ceiling will vary according to the clouds (and birds) that you want to incorporate and the ease of access to the ceiling. For example, a small sky will cost between $800 and $1,000.