One of the simplest and cost-effective ways to freshen up a room is with a new coat of paint. Unlike painting your house’s exterior, which is a huge undertaking, painting a room is relatively pain-free — if you use the proper supplies and take the correct steps. Good preparation makes the job easier.
Tools and Supplies
- Drop cloths (canvas and plastic)
- Plastic wrap and rubber bands
- Sponges and clean rags
- Dishwashing soap
- Dust mask
- Spackle or patching compound
- Putty knife or five-in-one tool
- Paintable caulk and caulking gun
- Painter’s tape
- Brushes (1½-inch to 3-inch angled and straight-edged)
- Paint roller, extension handle and tray
- Paint buckets and glass jars for cleanup
- Paint thinner or other solvents
First, remove furniture from the room or move it away from the walls. Remove artwork, mirrors, window treatments and electrical outlet switch plates. Cover the floor and any furnishings with drop cloths and tarps to protect them from drips. Cover chandeliers and pendant lights with paper and plastic drop cloths. Attach plastic bags around doorknobs using rubber bands.
Canvas drop cloths are ideal for floors because their rubberized coating prevents dripped paint from seeping through the cloth, says Jeff DuPont of Sound Painting Solutions in Seattle. They also prevent slips.
A clean wall surface is important so the paint will adhere evenly. Benjamin Moore recommends using a sponge and a mild dishwashing detergent mixed with water to remove dirt from the walls and ceiling. If there are cracks or holes in any of the surfaces, fill them with spackle or caulk, then sand the area smooth.
To Prime or Not?
Applying a primer isn’t always necessary if the previous color is light and the surface isn’t damaged. Patched areas can be spot-primed. “We prime all drywall patches, damaged areas and stains. We also prime newly installed drywall, older trim boards, raw wood and dirty or stained walls,” DuPont says. If you do want to prime an entire surface, DuPont recommends using a primer that’s pretinted at half the new color.
Apply painter’s tape along the edges of what won’t be painted, pressing the edges as you go with a putty knife or five-in-one tool. That way if paint overlaps, it will go on the tape, not the surface. As you paint each surface, carefully remove the tape before the paint dries.
Start With the Ceiling
Paint manufacturers recommend dampening brushes and rollers before painting. Pour paint into a small bucket for doing brushwork and into a tray for using a roller. For brushwork, dip the brush about a third of the way into the paint and tap it against the inside of the bucket to remove excess paint.
Using a 2-inch or 2½-inch trim brush, start by “cutting in” — painting a 3- to 4-inch-wide strip on the ceiling where it meets the wall, starting in a corner and working your way around the room.
Switch to a roller with an extension handle to paint the main part of the ceiling. Be sure to remove excess paint from the roller by slowly rolling it over the ridges of the paint tray.
Roll on paint in a “W” pattern about 3 feet wide. Without adding more paint or lifting the roller, fill in the “W,” blending the paint into the cutting-in line. Continue painting across the ceiling in this “W” pattern, loading the roller with paint as needed, until the ceiling is covered.
The “W” technique helps evenly distribute paint on the wall, according to Behr. Benjamin Moore recommends working across the width of the ceiling, rather than the length, rolling across the body (horizontally rather than vertically) to avoid back and neck strain.
Paint the Walls
After the ceiling dries completely (latex paints generally take four hours to dry; oil-based paints need 24 hours), apply painter’s tape where needed and paint the walls one at a time. Use the cutting-in technique to paint a strip along the edges at the ceiling, baseboards, doors and windows on the first wall. Switch to the roller and use the “W” technique to paint the rest of the wall. Repeat this brush-and-roller process for each wall.
Paint the Trim Last
After the walls are completely dry, apply painter’s tape to the walls and floor around the trim, pressing it firmly in place.
A smaller brush, about 2 to 2½inches wide, is best for wainscoting, baseboards and the trim around doors and windows. Use long strokes to cover the trim.
For painting the edges, DuPont recommends dry-brushing over the painter’s tape, which will prevent the paint from seeping under the tape. To dry-brush, use very little paint on the brush and do an extra coat or two.
DuPont recommends checking the paint about 10 minutes after applying to make sure there are no runs (drips). “If there are, you’ll want to make sure you roll or brush these out,” he says. “Any necessary touch-ups should be performed within a day or two at most to prevent flashing [shiny or dull spots] or paint not blending.”
How Many Coats?
Two coats is the standard when painting a room. Be sure to wait two to four hours between coats, DuPont advises. “With some trim paints, it can be a 24-hour recoat time, as with some oil-based products. Always check the product instructions to be certain,” he says.
After you finish painting, clean your brushes, rollers and other tools with soap and water or paint solvent, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Pour any remaining paint back in its cans and reseal the cans.