Overview

illustration of how to paint a room
Illustration: Carl Wiens
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A Poorly executed paint job is easy to spot, with its drips and slips and uneven lines. More often than not, haste is the culprit. But with some thorough preparation up front, many of the possible pitfalls will be eliminated—and the actual painting will be much easier, as well. So before you crack your first paint can, schedule in a full day for prep.

The best prep starts with sanding and sometimes requires scraping. Sanding scuffs up the existing surface so the paint grabs hold; scraping will take off any old bumps or drips. (Be aware of how many layers down there may be lead paint, last sold in the early 1980s; sanding isn’t likely to reveal it, but scraping might.) You should also take your time patching holes, caulking gaps, and cleaning dust or grease with soap and water so you start with a pristine surface.

If you’re working with new walls, or if you’ve patched any holes before you start, you’ll also need to prime. Primer fills in spongelike pores and creates an even, solid base that takes paint well. You should also prime if you’re going from a dark to a light color or vice versa. (In the latter case, have the paint store tint the primer to go with your wall color. It will save you at least one coat of paint later on.) Primer should also be sanded before the paint goes on the wall; for a top-notch job, sand between paint coats, too.

First-time painters tend to tape every edge to guard against misstrokes. But that can bring on its own problems if paint bleeds under the tape or if you peel paint off when removing it. It’s more efficient to use angled brushes, which draw a straight line when turned on edge. Proper use of an angled brush can save you hours of setup and touch-up.

Angled brushes also come in handy for cutting in along corners and ceilings and around trim, where rollers can mark. Fill in a few inches at these spots, then marry the line with the field by rolling over them. Keep a wet edge to avoid dark spots or paint pulls.

As you paint, be sure to keep moving: Put the paint on the wall, level it out where it’s heavy, and get on with it. Don’t use back-and-forth brushstrokes, and don’t spend time making the first coat look perfect (it won’t be). Finally, take a tip from the pros and always keep a damp rag in your pocket to quickly wipe up your mistakes. Even the best painters color outside the lines once in a while.
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    Tools List

    • drill
      Cordless drill, for removing and replacing door and window hardware
    • paintroller
      Paint roller for painting walls and ceilings
    • paint pan
      Paint pan, for loading roller with paint
    • telescoping extension pole
      Telescoping extension pole with pole sanding head for reaching ceilings and the tops of walls without using a ladder
    • caulk gun
      Caulking gun, for filling gaps between the woodwork and wall
    • wire brush
      Brush, roller spinner, and wire brush, for cleaning brushes
    • nailset
      Hammer and nail set, for recessing nail heads
    • synthetic brush
      Synthetic-bristle brushes (2 ½-inch blunt, 1 ½-inch angled sash, "throwaways" for touch-ups), for painting molding, doors, and windows
    • putty knife
      Putty knife for applying spackling compound
    • five-in-one tool
      5-in-1 pinter's tool for cleaning roller covers
    • utility knife
      Utility knife,
      for cutting tip of caulk gun
    • window scraper
      Window scraper and razor blades, for removing paint from window glass
    • drywall sander
      Drywall sander, attaches to shop vacuum for sanding joint-compound patches
    • paint strainer
      Paint strainer, for removing impurities when paint is poured from can into pot
    • bucket
      Bucket, to fit with liners and hold paint
    • wetdry vac
      Wet/Dry Vaccum with broom attachment

    Shopping List

    1. Paint

    A gallon of paint covers about 400 square feet. To figure how much you need, add up the lengths of all your walls, then multiply that sum by the room's height. Subtract 20 square feet for each door and 15 for each window. Divide the result by 400 to get the number of gallons you'll need for one coat. Most walls will need two coats.[BR][BR] For the trim in most rooms, one or two quarts should suffice. If your room has a lot of molding, you may need more. If you think you'll need more than two quarts, it is almost always more cost-effective to buy a gallon.



    2. 120-Grit silicon-carbide sandpaper

    Get about a dozen sheets and cut them to fit the pole sander or fold them for hand sanding.



    3. Sanding sponges

    Get three coarse-grit and three fine-grit sponges.



    4. Large cleaning sponge

    5. latex painter's caulk

    Get one tube per room.



    6. Patching compound

    To fill holes.



    7. Primer

    One quart will cover patches, but you'll need more to prime entire walls.



    8. Painter's tape or blue tape

    for protecting hardware and trim.



    9. Bucket and tray liners

    10. Roller covers

    Use a shorter nap 3/8 inch) for latex paint on smooth walls; a longer nap ([FRACTION 12]-inch and up) is best for rougher surfaces.