Room Painting Tips and Tricks

Originally posted on October 7, 2009 at 7:36 PM

I can count close to twenty rooms that I’ve painted in my life. (I’m twenty-two.) I don’t claim to be a pro, but I have learned a lot along the way. I’d like to share some tips.

Buy good supplies if you plan on EVER painting more than one room. It took me over a dozen rooms to learn this. Disposable foam brushes, cheap rollers, etc. are only better if you have no water supply or plan to never paint again. Otherwise, buy these things:

• a 5-gallon paint bucket, empty (even if you’re buying one gallon of paint)
• a 5-gallon bucket grate… I don’t know what it’s really called, but it’s a metal mesh piece that hooks onto the inside of your bucket.
• a decent, lambskin roller. $8 vs. 2, and it lasts indefinitely. SO much better. Easier to clean, easier to paint. (It releases the paint more easily, so you don’t have to push hard and go over again and again.) Washes out quick, dries quicker, fluffs back up. *wet the roller before you paint to help performance.
• a quality brush, not foam brushes. 1 1/2” works best for me. Wash it after every use and dry it bristles-up
• a small-sized tray for hand-work
• painters tape. yes. always. very much so worth the extra time.
• unless you’re a pro or can cut-in ceilings like one, get a ceiling edger. I use “Shur-line” but there are others. They come with disposable pads; use the pad once and throw it away.
• drop-cloths. Now, here, quality vs. cheap is debatable. Usually, even the disposable ones can be reused several times. The canvas ones are heavier, though, and are less likely to flutter in a ceiling fan breeze.
• paint. Over the years I have learned to prefer Behr from Home Depot to any other brand. Valspar from Lowes and Sherwin Williams brands just don’t cover as well in the end. Behr is more true to color, also. How much should you buy? More than that. It always takes more than you think. A gallon can cover a small bedroom with one coat, usually. If in doubt, keep your color chip. This is also an excellent reason to buy standard colors rather than mixing your own… if you ever need more, the new paint will still match.
• when you buy the paint, grab a stir-stick and a little metal paint-can opener for free. Or several.

Now that you have what you need, you can start.

• It’s always best to do the big expanses of wall with the roller last. I prefer to tape first, to get it over with. Tape along all edges that you don’t want paint but want a straight line: baseboards, molding, around windows, etc. Do this carefully and press the tape down firmly. It’s easiest to remove if you use long strips and overlap your pieces slightly.
• Remove all light switch and outlet plates. Always.
• Put down drop cloths.
• Stir your paint and pour some into the small tray. Using your brush and carrying this small tray with you, go around the entire area to be painted and “cut in” along your taped edges and around all of the removed switch plates. Go ahead and paint right over the edges of the tape. If you’ve pressed them down, it won’t go under. The only exception to this is if you have very textured walls, in which case you want to have less paint on your brush when you do this to prevent it from seeping under. Something you can do much better with your decent paint brush: don’t just do the minimum along your edges; go ahead and blend it out several inches. This will make rolling easier, and will give you better results in the end.
• Cut in all of your corners with your brush, as well as areas too small for the roller.
• Once you’ve finished cutting in, it’s time to edge your ceilings. The trick to using the edging tool is to go slow, and to not get too much paint on your pad. If your paint squishes up, you will end up with wet wheels. If your wheels get paint on them, you’ll have paint on your ceiling. Be patient with this part and you’ll get professional-looking results. If you start to get a sloppier line, grab a tissue and clean off your wheels.
• Now you can roll. This is the fun part where you start to see results. Don’t worry that your paint looks like a different color than the trim; it’s only because paint changes as it dries and you did those parts first. Pour some of your paint into your 5 gallon bucket, put in the metal grate, and wipe the excess paint from your roller onto this grate. This is a much easier setup than the traditional trays; all slop stays in your bucket, and you can grab it by the handle to move around the room. There’s no big secret to rolling—everyone does it differently. I like to use longer strokes and go over the same area in different directions to catch all sides of any texture. The most important thing: don’t skimp on paint. If you start seeing a lot of wall, reload instead of killing your arm by pressing harder.
• Some colors need 2 coats. If you’re going over a dark color, use a primer first to cut down on the number of coats. If you’re using a really dark color, use a tinted primer. If you’re using white, always use a primer unless you’re going over white. If you need more than one coat, just roll twice… you usually don’t need to cut-in more than once if you use a good brush instead of foam.
• Clean all of your supplies with soap and water, assuming your using water-based paint, and store them in a place where they won’t get damaged.
• Pull off all tape within a couple of hours, to get the cleanest line. If you’re using semi-gloss paint, pull it off while the paint is still slightly wet.

A couple of other tips: Close your paint can well with a hammer or mallet to keep your paint fresh longer. Also, while painting, if you see a spot you missed a section or two back, DON’T TOUCH IT UP NOW. If your paint is anywhere between wet and dry, new paint will just pull it off the wall instead of cover it up. Instead, keep moving along and go over it in a couple of hours.

How many people will read this? Either very boring or very useful, depending on if you paint!

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