Once in a while your house can use a bit of sprucing up. If you have
children in your family, that once in a while may come even more frequently than you
expect. Perhaps it is just time for a change of color. Whatever the reason, painting your
home is a great way to add variety and a feeling of newness that your whole family can
When you don’t paint everyday, the task of painting a whole
house can be somewhat intimidating. The biggest source of doubt in the project stems from
not being sure about how to proceed with it. No one wants to get half-way into a job and
decide that things are not going as planned. This article should help to eliminate those
fears by giving you a basic understanding of what you should and should not do when
painting your home. These tips and suggestions should clarify many of your questions and
help you to feel more confident in taking on this rather large task.
If you can, you should enlist your family to help in your paint
project. Don’t make slaves of your children, but give them a few tasks that they
are capable of doing. Point out areas that need repair, so that everyone understands that
what they are doing will actually improve the condition of the house. If it just feels
like a chore, no one will want to do anything for long; but when everyone believes that
their contributions are important, the work will mean more to them. This can be a great
opportunity for the whole family to enjoy working together to make things better.
Do – pick colors that you can live
with for a long period of time.
Do – Trust your instincts: If a
color looks risky to put on, it probably is.
Do – Be certain the color on that tiny square color chart
you got from the store is what you really want on the wall. If you are unsure
about how the color will match up with your expectations, buy a quart and put some on the
wall(s) you are about to paint. Paint tends to look different on the wall than it does on
a color chart. Once this paint dries completely, you will get an accurate idea of
what it will actually look like when you paint the whole area. Note: As an
alternative to painting the wall, you can paint a square of cardboard or other material
and when it dries, place it against the wall for evaluation. Apply at least two coats to
assure the true paint color.
Do - Get other opinions about your
colors. Before you paint a large area, let the
people you live with or trusted friends tell you what they think of your color selection.
This will likely spare you from long-term harassment about poor color selection.
Do - In general, try to find colors that have contrast to
each other, but still are complimentary to each other. Try to pick colors that
are quite different from each other, but that still look good together.
Do – be aware that bright colors make rooms look
“bigger” and more spacious, while dark colors make rooms look
smaller and more closed in.
Do – Think about how many coats your color will take
to cover. Be aware that if the new color is very different from what is
already on the walls, it is likely to require more than one coat to cover.
|Don’t choose a color that
makes a statement you can’t be proud of. It can be tempting after
years of the same old thing, to make a dramatic change that everyone will notice. The
irony lies in that fact that people WILL notice, so try to be sensible in your color
choices. If a dramatic change is still desirable with this considered, be sure to use
samples and listen to what others think about the colors.
Don’t talk yourself into a color
you don’t like.
Choosing a Type of Paint (Base and Sheen)
Paints come in a variety of bases and sheens. It is important to
decide what base and sheen is desirable for your application.
Bases: The most commonly used bases are oil base(alkyd), and water
base(latex and vinyl). Other bases are laquer, epoxy, etc. For residential purposes, oil
and water base paints are the standard. Oil base paints are being phased out as
environmental laws are getting tougher. Still oil base paints continue to be used today,
and there seems to be no conclusive date for their extermination. More than likely on
your project you will use water base, oil base, or a bit of both.
|Use your previous paint job as a
reference for the new one. Look at what is currently on the walls. If you are
pleased with the durability and “shininess,” use the same base and sheen that
was used before. How do you know what was used before? Good question! If you’re
lucky, you may still have a can of that old paint somewhere out in the garage. If you do,
you can simply stir up the old paint in the can and be sure it matches what is on the
wall. If it does, you can read the can to learn what base and sheen was used before. If
you can’t seem to find that old paint can, ultimately you will have to take your
best guess at what you have. Short of hiring a forensic scientist, it will be difficult
to prove whether your paint is oil or water base.
Try to determine whether oil or water base was used
previously. If oil base was used before, it is best to use oil base again.
Painting with water base over a previous oil base paint causes the new paint to chip and
peel. Oil base dries harder, so water base(the softer paint) will always have this
problem. Remember the old saying, “oil and water don’t mix!”
Use water base paints when possible. Why?
Water base paint is:
a. Easier to use
b. Easier to clean up
c. Dries faster
d. Safer for the environment
Choose a sheen that provides the durability and appearance you
desire: Sheens are in order of shininess from lowest to highest:
“Flat,” “low sheen” or “lo glo,”
“eggshell” or “satin,” “semi-gloss,” and finally
“gloss.” Flat has virtually no shininess, but it tends to be easily scuffed
and soiled. Flat is, however, the most commonly used wall and ceiling paint in homes. If
there is any concern about the walls being touched or there is a need to scrub the walls,
it is best to choose a slightly higher sheen. “Lo sheen,” and
“eggshell” are usually suitable substitutes for flat when cleaning is a
concern. Trim is usually done in semi-gloss. Remember, the shinier the paint, the more
imperfections in walls will show.
Protect your walls from moisture. In general, use at
least a “lo sheen” in places where weather or moisture are of concern. On
bathrooms, kitchens, and doors, use at least “lo glo” sheen,
preferably “semi-gloss,” or “gloss.” Do not use flat in these
Don’t use gloss sheen on large areas
like walls or ceilings. It will look odd to everyone, and it detracts from the
contrast between walls and trim.
Don’t use water base over oil. It cannot be
overstated. However bothersome it may be, use oil where oil has been used before. You can
curse your previous painter all the while for putting you in the predicament, but
don’t paint over oil with water!
Don’t make walls shiner than trim. This is a
“no no,” and if you do it I will laugh at you.
Deciding What Equipment To Use
|Decide how big your job is.
This will help you decide what is needed for the job. On small jobs, you may only need a
brush. On large jobs, you may need a sprayer, several ladders, and a variety of tools.
Determine what you need for the job ahead of time and it will save you time and
frustration(not to mention a bunch of trips around the house).
Use the right tool for the job. Picking the right tools
can make a big difference in the ease and quality of your paint job.
Buy high quality paint brushes. Don’t settle for
the cheap ones! “Purdy” brushes are the brand of choice for most
Use the right kind of roller set up. Have on hand a
roller handle, roller cover, pole, bucket, and bucket grid for most interior jobs where
you are painting walls. A 9 inch roller is typically used by most painters on jobs of any
Be aware of what roller cover nap(thickness) to use.
Roller covers come in various thicknesses or “piles.” Where semi-gloss is
used, generally stay with a 3/8 inch roller nap or less. On rough interior textured
walls, it is sometimes necessary to use up to a ½ inch nap. Anything larger than a
½ inch nap should only be used on surfaces such as stucco, or very roughly textured
Have a variety of ladders on hand. This is something
you should not take a shortcut on(if you value your life). Look at the highest point of
your job and decide what it is going to take not only to get you to that point, but to
get you there safely. On outside jobs especially, it is important to also look at the
ground your ladder will be placed on. Is it level and stable? If not, you need to find a
way to level the ground(or the ladder) and take safety precautions to make sure your
ladder doesn’t go crashing down, because if it does, you’re going to go
crashing down too(believe me, I’m speaking from experience). Always take these
things into consideration when setting up your ladders. Make sure that you have ladders
of appropriate sizes to reach your entire job.
If it is an exterior job, I recommend renting or borrowing a
sprayer to do the job. A sprayer will reduce the time of painting by about half
on an outside job. A sprayer is used to get a majority of your eaves and walls
Decide how much paint you will use. Usually paints will
cover approximately 300 square feet per gallon. An average room(10 feet by 10 feet) will
use about a gallon and a half of wall paint(if you also paint the ceiling and closet),
and a quart of trim paint. Take the room’s dimensions and calculate how much you
will need. Also consider again that you may need to give the room a second coat to make
it cover completely.
|Don’t forget to look the whole
job over before you begin. You will likely be back to the store several times to
buy supplies for your project, but you can minimize this by looking the project over
carefully and envisioning the challenges that are to come.
Don’t forget to consider closets and ceilings
when determining how much paint you will need.
Don’t buy a roller tray for rolling(you know,
that metal thing that looks like a cookie sheet on steroids). Roller trays are awkward
and spill paint easily. I personally don’t recommend them for projects of any
significant size. Instead use a bucket and metal grid. It is much easier, more practical,
and can carry much more paint(without a spill).
Don’t buy more paint than you need if it’s
a custom color. Most paint stores will not allow you to return excess paint if it has
been mixed. Many paint stores also mix all of their colors(except pure white), which
makes returning unused paint nearly impossible. Some stores will allow you to return
stock colors of paint so keep that in mind when choosing a paint supplier and your
colors. Try to estimate the amount of paint needed to complete your job, having only
enough left over to do routine touch ups.
|Prepare as large of an area as you are
comfortable with at one time. The more you can get done at one time, the better.
Preparation is a time consuming task. It is ideal to do everything at once if possible,
but if there is not enough “man power”(or woman power as the case may be) for
the job, just prepare as much at one time as you are comfortable with.
Move all furniture or anything that will be in your
way. Try to gather all obstacles that are movable into an area where you can
move around without too much trouble, or when possible get as much as you can out of the
Tape all floors next to walls and cover anything you don’t
want painted. Generally 2-inch masking tape is best. Don’t fool around
with anything smaller. Canvass tarps are great for paint resistance and durability.
Plastic can be used as a substitute, or in addition to tarps. Plastic comes in rolls
which can be cut to size and taped to floors, windows, and just about anything needing to
Remove all electrical wall plates, doorknobs, handles, towel
bars, and other items from walls, ceilings, and doors. Also remove window
coverings such as curtains or blinds.
Identify damage and imperfections in walls and trim that need
attention. Peeling paint, nicks, holes, etc. will need patching. Scrape any
peeling paint off until the paint is tight on the wall. Things that you will need to
repair these are a scraper, putty knife, wallboard compound(or spackle), and
Caulk all cracks in walls, baseboards, around doorjambs, and
especially areas where water can penetrate into walls such as kitchens,
bathrooms, and laundry rooms. Be sure to use a paintable caulking, because paint will not
adhere to pure silicone caulking(check the label on the caulking tube).
Sand any patches or areas from which you have scraped peeling
paint with 100 or 120 grit sandpaper.
Sweep walls and ceilings to remove any dust, cobwebs,
or anything that will reduce the quality of your paint job. A clean surface always
provides the nicest job.
Priming should be done on all areas that you have
repaired and on any areas that are discolored, stained, or on bare walls and
wood. In most cases, just about any primer will do. In areas that are stained, however,
or on bare wood or laminated paneling, an oil based stain killer/primer may be needed.
Prime all spots that look like they may not cover with the final coats of
|Don’t leave any gaps between the
tarps and the masking tape you have placed on the floor. Be sure that all floor
space is covered without any place for paint to reach the floor underneath. It
always seems that the one time you get lazy and leave a gap between the tarps and the
tape, that’s when the paint finds its way to the floor(and you usually won’t
find it until it has dried)!
Don’t put tape on lights or other sources of heat
or you could risk a fire. When possible, remove these types of fixtures. When it is
impossible to remove the fixture, and if you must cover it, keep the power to the heat
source off while painting and remove the masking immediately after you have painted the
area. Be sure to remove it right away, because if you leave it, there is always the
chance that someone will come along and flip the power on(don’t give them the
opportunity). Never leave airtight masking on a light or other heat source.
Don’t put thick patches over holes in walls. It
is better to put a few thin coats on that are smooth than to try to fill the hole with
one big blob. You’ll thank yourself later too, when you have to sand the
Don’t forget to check window sills and other hidden areas
for cracks and damage. The idea is to get these things fixed during the
preparation phase of the job, not to discover it while you’re finally painting the
Don’t use a power sander(in the house) unless
absolutely necessary on painted surfaces or to sand patches. It makes a huge mess and is
not worth the effort that will be spent in cleaning it up!
Don’t tape aluminum surfaces with regular masking
tape. Regular masking tape tends to bond itself to aluminum making it very
difficult to remove.
Don’t cover plants with plastic. This will rob
them of oxygen and additionally, expose them to extreme temperatures which will kill them
|Box your paint! This simply
means to take all of the buckets of paint that are the same color and sheen and mix them
together in a large bucket(or several buckets if needed). This will assure that all of
your paint is uniformly mixed and the same color. It is commonly found that different
batches of paint don’t match exactly. Boxing the paint eliminates this
Interior – Cut in all
walls with a brush. Paint all corners and edges.
Paint all areas that a roller can’t reach. Paint around electrical boxes.
On exterior projects, large surfaces are done first and
the trimming is done last.
Use a roller handle, roller cover, grid, and pole to paint the
remaining wall areas that were not brushed. Start with the ceiling and then do
the walls. Rolling after brushing will hide lines that are made from cutting in with the
Paint only as much area as you can keep wet until it is
finished. Ideally, all paint on a wall should dry at the same time. This
prevents “lap lines,” from appearing. Lap lines are areas where some paint
has dried before other paint was applied. Lap lines are undesirable and visible defects
that remain after the job is completed. It is not always possible to avoid these
imperfections, but by trying to allow all of the paint on a wall to dry at the same time,
you can certainly reduce them.
When the wall paint is dry, paint all of the trim.
Painting doors is usually done by first painting the doorjamb and the edges of the door.
Next, roll paint on the door with a roller, and smooth it out with long up and down brush
Keep in mind that trim paint can set dry quickly. Apply
it as quickly as you can, and don’t brush back over it after it begins to set up,
or it will leave rough looking brush lines. Use the minimum amount of brush strokes to
make your trim look right, and then leave it alone so it can dry.
Be aware of how much paint you have. Keep an eye on
your paint and be aware how much is in your bucket. If you are running low, paint to a
corner and get some more. You don’t want to paint halfway down one wall and then
have to run for more paint. Another reason not to let the paint get to the bottom of your
bucket, is that the bottom is usually where the “chunkiest” paint is. Once
you reach this point, your brush(or roller) starts to put more than just paint on the
wall. Try not to let your paint get down to such a level in your bucket.
If paint is thick, thin it by adding the appropriate
solvent(water, paint thinner, mineral spirits, etc.).
|Don’t spray inside
unless there is very little furniture or you have acoustical ceilings that need painting.
Interior spraying takes much more preparation time than exterior spraying, and it can
make a real mess. It should only be done when rolling and brushing are not
Don’t apply paint on poorly prepared surfaces.
Never paint over cracks, peeling paint, dirt, or other such poor preparation. It’s
not worth it. The paint is only as good as the surface it covers.
Don’t use a roller tray!!!!! Use a bucket
Don’t paint trim before the walls. There are some
exceptions to this. Some painters like to paint the trim first and then tape it all off
while they paint the walls. Paint can get under the tape, however, so while it is not an
entirely inappropriate practice, better results can be achieved by painting the trim
after the walls.
Don’t paint latex over oil base! Although this
was explained earlier, it cannot be emphasized enough.
Don’t leave a wall halfway painted, allow it to
dry, and then return to finish. Always paint to a corner or edge before walking away from
your project(even if you think it will only be a short break).
Don’t allow paint to pool or run on surfaces.
Brush out any pooling paint or running paint to assure a uniform finish.
Don’t thin paint too much. Thinning paint too
much reduces its covering ability and the hardness it will have when it dries. Thin paint
only to make it easier to apply. Never thin paint to try to make it cover a larger area
than it is intended to cover. Although excessively thinning paint will make it cover more
area, it will reduce its quality and the overall durability of the paint job.
Don’t forget to check the job over when you think
you’re done. Look for areas that need improvement. Look for light areas or places
that may not have even been painted at all(these are commonly found). Address these areas
immediately when you find them, or make a note of them and return to make the
|Put all like paints in one
bucket(unless there is too much left over).
Keep brushes from drying. Put all brushes and rollers
into a bucket of their respective solvent until you are ready to clean them.
Get the big messes out of the way first. Fold up all
tarps and throw away all used plastic.
On hard floors, cut along the baseboards at the painted edge of
masking tape with a utility knife(be careful not to cut visible portions of the
floor). Cutting the tape will assure that you don’t pull the paint off of the
Watch for any paint that has managed to get on the
floor. If there is paint on the floor, clean it up immediately with the
appropriate solvent and a rag.
Remove roller covers and throw them away, or clean
them(cleaning rollers can be a messy proposition, but cleaning them can save you
Clean all brushes with a wire brush and solvent. A good
brush is worth cleaning well. The only way to get a brush clean enough to use again, is
to remove all dry paint on the bristles, and any wet paint inside the bristles. To remove
the dry paint, first use a wire brush and briskly brush off any dry paint on the
bristles. The wet paint in the brushes can be removed by running water over them(for
water based paints), or by dipping them repeatedly in paint thinner(for oil based
paints). Repeat this process until the solvent coming out of the brush is clear and free
of paint. When cleaning with paint thinner, plan on discarding old thinner and using
fresh thinner at least 3 times(repeat until the solvent remains clear through brush
Take care of the details. Put any handles, electrical
wallplates, or hardware that have been removed back on the walls.
|Don’t allow dirt or debris to
get on the walls while you are cleaning up. It is common to make the mistake of
pulling up tape carelessly while paint is still wet. This can throw all kinds of dirt on
the walls(which can really be frustrating at this point). Tarps, tape, and plastic are
all subject to the accumulation of dirt and debris which can be easily transferred to
freshly painted walls upon removal.
Don’t pull tape away from baseboards without cutting the
painted edge first.
Don’t delay getting paint off of the floor. The
longer you wait, the harder it is to remove.
Don’t leave any wet paint on roller handles, brushes, or
any equipment you hope to use again. Clean it all meticulously.
List of Items Needed for a Paint Job
- Masking tape
- Plastic sheeting (”Painter’s Plastic”)
- Tarps (canvass), or sheets, blankets, newspaper, etc.
- Drywall joint compound or spackle
- Caulking gun
- Putty knives
- Broom or dusting brush
- Stucco patch
- Wire brush
- Wood putty
- Screwdrivers (Phillips and standard)
- Utility knife
- Buckets (1 gallon, 2 gallon, and 5 gallon)
- Bucket grids for rollers
- Roller handles
- Roller covers
- Roller pole
- Paint brushes
- Paint thinner
- Mixing sticks
- Ladders (“A” frame, and extension)
- Putty tray
- Stain killer
- Texture spray
- Color chart
- Masuring tape
- Paint strainers