Ten Tips for Your Next Painting Project

Painting seems to be one of those projects that people either love or hate.  No problems here if you hate it because we prefer to handle all the painting for our clients.  We do realize though that many of you enjoy painting yourself but you are looking for a refresher course on the basics.  So, with you in mind, I present to you Ten Tips to get you back on track and painting with precision!

Tip#1: PREP! Remove old paper, loose paint, plaster, etc., then patch, sand and wash down the walls before painting. There are many cleaning compounds you will hear of but it doesn't need to be fancy.  A mixture of five parts water to one part vinegar can be used to clean the walls. This works especially well after removing wallpaper to remove any remaining adhesive.  Keep in mind, you want to wipe the walls, not soak them.

Tip #2: CAULK! After walls have been cleaned and primed, you should now go through and caulk all gaps between moldings, trim and baseboard from wall.You do not want to just pick up the cheapest one you see.  The point of this is to fill in the gaps and you want that to stay over time, so look for one that has minimal shrinkage and will accept paint.

Tip #3: PRIME! I always recommend primer coats.  The primer coat prevents "bleed through" of old paint, as well as allowing you to get smooth, even color with less coats.  Gray primer has long been recommended as an undercoat for walls that will be painted in red, but it is often the best tint to use as primer and sealer under many other colors.  Ask the paint specialist where you are purchasing to assist you in getting the proper shade of gray.

Tip#4: MATCH! When purchasing primer, it is best for paint adhesion to match base coat to top coat: oil to oil, water-base to water-base, latex 2 latex, etc.

Tip#5:  SELECT! There are many paint finishes available these days, so study up to determine which finish will be appropriate for your needs.  Here is a quick summary to help you out:
  • Flat: Provides the smoothest coat, is excellent as a camouflage to flaws, but can not really be cleaned. This is often used as a base coat or primer and works excellent as a base coat for decorative and faux finishes.
  •  Satin: leaves a subtle sheen. It's great for trim, moldings, cabinetry and hi-traffic areas. Easy to clean.
  • Eggshell:  Just as the name implies, it leaves a finish similar to an eggshell.  It is a great base for faux and decorative finishes, can be used throughout the home and is washable.
  • Matte: Is said to be between eggshell and semi-gloss, though I'll be honest, I've gotten several different answers and I don't see a huge difference.  Where some of my painters have said they see a difference though is in application and re-touching. According to them, they feel the matte finish is better for touch ups if needed and goes on smoother.  If you have thoughts and experience on this, I'd love to hear them!
  • Semi-gloss: Highly durable and washable this is most often used for trims, moldings, doors/drawers and cabinetry.  It requires perfection in wall prep and application because the added sheen allows flaws to be much more noticeable.
  • High-gloss: Most often see this as an exterior finish but can be used inside the home as well.  If you are looking for durability in a laundry room, bath or kitchen, this will provide that. Like the semi-gloss however, drip marks, streaks and flaws in walls are much more apt to be noticed.
Tip #6: SPEND! You're not helping yourself if your sole focus is price when it comes to the selection of brushes and rollers. All brushes are not the same and believe me, you do not want to be pulling paint brush hairs off the wall every two seconds. You want a brush that will last, provide an even coats and edging and a roller that can get through the day and even the next if necessary.  Need to hear it from another source? Take a look over here and see what Old House Web has to say on the matter.  Myself personally, I don't buy anything but Purdy brand.  They have never let me down.

Tip #7: EXTRA!  Get yourself a treat.  Pick up one of the mini-long-handled roller for the hard to reach places.  Seriously, this little gem is one of the best things ever invented and if you find yourself having to get behind radiators that you are unable to move, get the underside of shelving in linen closets that are permanently in place you will be loving this little tool. 

Tip #8:  TINT! Consider your ceiling as another wall and restrain yourself from painting it the standard boring ceiling white. You can choose a complimentary color to really stand out.  Often times I'll have the wall color mixed 20% - 25% lighter for pale shades or a higher percentage for deep tones.  It really pulls a room together, especially in rooms with high ceilings, where all that empty white space can make a room feel cavernous. 

 This isn't the best shot, but this is one of the rooms we recently worked on and the cathedral ceiling predominated the space more than the walls themselves and made the room feel very cold.  I had the paint mixed 20% down and now the room feels like warm candlelight when you enter.

Tip #9: TAPE? Notice the question mark? That is because I'm hoping you haven't already made up your mind on this topic.  I say, NO TAPE!  If you use a quality angled brush and you maintain steady, consistent application you can get professional results with your edging.  This is one of the critical elements to any painting job.  I am not ashamed to say that its one of the first things I look for when I go in a house to inspect a paint job.  Tape wastes time, money and causes more problems than its worth.  Get your technique down and skip the tape, that is my advice.

Tip #10 ORGANIZE! Have a system to go around the room(s) and you will find the job will go more quickly.  I recommend you do the ceiling first, then walls and finish the trim, moldings and doors at the very end.  Keep in mind, if you haven't painted the ceilings and trim in ten years or more and you are thinking of painting the walls a new color, you should do it all.  Invest in the ceiling and trim paint and give the entire space a fresh coat.

Now are you ready to start painting?  What did I leave out? I'd love to hear your questions and any great tips you may have.  If you've got some good pointers, please share with us.

Go forth and paint with precision!

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