How to Paint Walls




About: I work on engineering and construction projects for a living and I design and build stuff (everything from jewelry to major home renovations and things in between) for fun. I watch a lot of movies, I love re...

Painting your walls is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to make a huge impact on your space.

Unfortunately, that impact can be positive ("wow, the room looks so much bigger") or negative ("why is there a big purple stain on the carpet in your bedroom?"). However, if you take your time and pay attention to what you're doing, painting is a fairly easy skill to pick up (it just takes a little practice... and sometimes some trial and error).

I'm hoping that this instructable will help anyone who's new to painting. Whether you want to set yourself up with some good basic gear to tackle your fixer upper, or you just want to get your dorm room or apartment painted. In a pinch, I'd say you can paint an average sized bedroom (without major drywall/plaster issues for a little less than $50US (including paint, primer, sandpaper brushes, and rollers) and the price can shoot up from there.

Step 1: Figure Out What You're Doing.

First of all, you need to figure out what kind of paint you have on the walls. If you use a little denatured alcohol on the paint, it will tend to have a noticeable effect on latex paints and it won't really do anything to oil-based paints. You often also tell by feel, latex paint will tend to have a slightly rubbery give to it, oil will be smooth. However, figuring this out by feel usually requires a fair bit of practice so if you have any doubts, go with the chemistry approach.

Why is this so important?

Well, you want to know what kind of paint you have so you can either put the same thing on top of it, or so you use a primer that will let you switch to a different type of paint. This is most often done in going from oil to latex paints. Latex paints are preferred for general wall painting because they can be cleaned up with water and are therefore much easier to work with, but they really don't like sticking to oil paints (at least not without some help from specialty primers).

Once you know what you have on your walls, you can go to the store and talk to the folks there to find out what they recommend for your situation. One thing I would add though is that you shouldn't feel like you need to buy the most expensive paint out there. I usually go for "one coat" store brands. You might need to use more than one coat, but they do tend to go on better than your average paints. More expensive paints do have somewhat better qualities for painting with them and in some situations do last better once painted, but IMO they aren't that much better. If you're painting something that you may want to repaint soon-ish (e.g. dorm room) you might want to seriously consider saving some money there. That's a personal and financial preference though. However, if you can, you should try to buy yourself some good quality brushes, rollers, etc... If you take good care of them they can last you many many years and they really do make a difference in painting. However, a perfectly reasonable alternative is to buy something very cheap and plan on throwing it away after one or two uses (very cheap brushes tend to do things like starting to lose bristles as you paint which is a pain).

Also, depending on how much you plan to paint (e.g. 1 room vs the whole house/apartment), buying the primer in larger quantities (e.g. 5 gallons) can be a good cost savings (this applies to paint too if you're going with one color for the whole house). You probably don't want to tint it if you plan on using it with multiple colors, but I've haven't really seen a major need for it. Tinting can make things a little easier, but I personally like having a lot of primer on hand so I can really make sure I prep my walls as well as possible rather than worrying about running out of primer in a specific tint (so one 5-gallon can of white primer was my choice for painting 5 rooms in my house in various colors and I still have a decent bit left).

As far as paint goes, there are quite a few options, but three of the more common ones are:

Flat - It's your standard issue paint in areas that don't see a lot of moisture or prolonged dampness. However, it does have a tendency to get dirty easier than other alternatives.

Satin - Is my preferred paint for areas that don't see a lot of moisture. Unlike flat paint, satin has a slight (hence satiny) sheen to it and it looks good without looking outright shiny like semi-gloss. This also means it tends to resist dirt and grime better than flat paint.

Semi-Gloss - This is what you should use in your kitchens and baths. It's got a good bit of shine to it and it tends to handle moisture and humidity better than satin or flat so it's easier to keep clean (you can wipe it down as needed). If you have kids, this is also an option in areas that see a lot of hand-to-wall contact like a hallway or a playroom.

Once you know what kind of paint you want and you've settled on a brand, you can go ahead and choose a color. Some people might say that you should pick your color before the brand, but in my experience and given the color selection for even the least expensive paints, you're better off keeping you budget in mind and then working within what you can afford.

I'm not even going to try and suggest how you go about picking a specific color, but if you're very picky about shades and slight differences in colors, don't rely on a the small paint chips you find at the store. Buy a small sample can (or cans if you want to try multiple shades/colors) and paint it onto something fairly large (a piece of canvas or piece of plywood or sheetrock, whatever is convenient for you.. oh and don't forget to prime it too). Then put it in your room and see how it looks at various times of day and see how it looks against your furniture etc... Make sure you really like it before you proceed. This step isn't absolutely crucial, but it's certainly one to consider before you jump in and start painting.

Also keep in mind that the actual colors and their lightness or darkness can significantly impact your mood. Do a little research into how colors affect mood, and consider how you and your other household members feel about the colors you're considering (some people are more affected than others). The last thing you want is to make a space unpleasant to be in by choosing a color that is not conducive to the room's activity (e.g. concentrating in an office, relaxing and resting in a bedroom, etc...).

Step 2: Clear Out Room/area

You may not want to schlep all the stuff in your room out of it, but you should try your best to clear/empty out the room/area you're working in as much as possible. If you have plenty of space along the perimeter by putting everything in the middle of the room and covering it with a tarp, that's fine, but for small rooms or those with a lot of stuff, clearing them out (either partially or completely) works best.

You really don't want to be tripping over things while you're dealing with paint. Paint isn't particularly hard to work with, but you would be amazed at how easily you can get it places you didn't intend to. Keeping that in mind, you should try to make plans so that the furrier and smaller members of your household are not going to get into mischief while you work.

Step 3: Evaluate the Condition of the Wall(s)

Aside from properly prepping the wall, this is probably the most important step you can take to make your life simpler during this project. In general the newer the house the less critical this step is, but it's always good to give the area a thorough inspection before you start.

Try to figure out if you have any wallpaper on your walls (sometimes painted over by previous painters), see if there are any damaged areas in the drywall/plaster or trim. This is the point where you really want to poke and prod anything that looks even remotely odd and make sure it's in paintable condition.

Working on my spooky old house, I've had to replace base molding, patch holes in walls & ceilings, scrape off gunk from walls and moldings, and remove wallpaper before painting. Figuring out what you've got to work with will make it easier to plan ahead for what you need to do and you may realize that you can't get it all done in one weekend/day/afternoon.

Step 4: Brushes....

This was brought up earlier and while it is possible to do a good job painting with cheap brushes and roller covers, you can do a better job with good high-end ones (but they aren't cheap). In order to find out what makes a premium brush, I went to the most knowledgeable painter I know (my brother's spouse). He was a professional painter for quite some time and he knows his brushes ;). To paraphrase what he told me (I actually took notes so I could get this right and for my own future reference):

If you're painting with oil based paint, you would want to use a "china bristle" brush (these will mainly have black bristles). If you are doing mostly fine varnish, the softness of the bristles of a horsehair brush would be better (blond bristles). The "heel" is the part that fits to the handle. A good paintbrush will have a well built heel and you can generally feel the difference between cheap brushes and premium ones. All good brushes also have an empty space where the bristles are placed in the heel. This space is made by a wedge and you can see the space if you check between the bristles. The spacing is where the paint reserve is going to go. Do your best to avoid brushes that have a solid heel (in these the bristles are usually glued into the heel with no spacer). Look for the same design features for a brush used for latex paint but the bristles should be polyester (better) or nylon. Handmade brushes, in general, are better and clearly say they are handmade to justify the premium cost. For both oil and latex though you want wooden handles and you want to see that the heel and handle are joined with nails.

When you're done using them they should be washed properly, combed , and wrapped for storage.

When you're looking for roller covers, the best cover for any but very smooth surfaces is lambswool. Hands down with no comparison, nothing else comes close, but you will have to pay for that quality and they may seem rather expensive compared to the other covers available. Composite covers are a very distant second. However, lambswool will hold more paint, leave a nicer finish, and last for many uses (with proper care). You are lucky to get 3-4 uses out of a cheap roller cover.

If you need to paint smooth and ultra-smooth surfaces then you want to use a solid-fill foam roller cover. It doesn't leave bubbles that last so you can get a finish that does not need to be brushed (combed) out to get rid of them. These rollers look almost like inking rollers. You usually find them in small sizes like 3" or 4". The 6" & 9" sizes are harder to find. The smaller sizes mount on a frame that does not have a cage, the 6" & 9" need a good quality frame with a cage (the spinning thing left on most rollers when they don't have a roller cover in place).

Step 5: Some Tool & Material Recommendations.

A) The folding utility knife is a really neat invention. Get yourself one of these and some blades if you need to do any drywall work. It'll make a big difference and it's a lot nicer not to have to dis-assemble your knife to change blades (and dull blades can cause problems and even be dangerous).

B) Some tools for hard to reach spots:

A sanding block on a pole - You don't really NEED this, but if you have a lot of sanding to do, it can be a huge help and a major time saver. The alternative is often having to move your ladder around to get to higher spots and it gets tedious. With one of these you can do most rooms from the ground.

A paint roller on a pole - If you're concerned about weight, consider buying a cheap (and light) mop handle instead of a telescoping painter's pole. The thread is usually the same and the mop handle is a lot lighter. I've been using the gray one in the photo for several years now and for any standard height room (say 9' and lower) it reaches everywhere..

A floor scraper - If you're painting on a solid floor (i.e. not carpet) and doing any sort of drywall work, you may find that you need it. If you should happen to be painting new construction where the drywall has just been taped and mudded, you almost certainly WILL need. it.

Oh, and ignore the pipe bender, that's for a different project ;)

C) Fiberglass Drywall Joint Tape & Wall Repair Fabric - Once you try this stuff you will not want to go back to paper tape when you're doing drywall. It really is that much better to work with and it seems to resist cracking better than paper tape does.

D) Lightweight Setting-Type Joint Compound - Ditch the standard joint compound and go with this stuff. It's a little more expensive, but it really does dry fast (very nice if you're trying to get this done on a weekend or other tight schedule) and it's easy to work with. Well... so long as you don't let it setup in your tray.

In case you're wondering what the bag says it also mentions:

"Weighs up to 25% less.
Easy mixing, smooth applying.
Low shrinkage, excellent bonding."

All good things if you're not a professional.

E) Ladders - If you should decide to buy a ladder, find one similar to this one. It has spaces for tools, screws, paint cans AND roller trays (the long slits are meant to hook into the tray). This is a great use for the top step you're not supposed to be on i the first place ;).

F) Here you have some of the standard issue tools you'll have to get familiar with. Oh, except that white one there, don't bother with it. Totally not worth it.

Step 6: Prep the Wall(s)

Now this is the most important part of the project. If you aren't willing/able to spend the time to do this right, you might want to hold off painting until you can. It's not going to be hugely satisfying and it will not be anywhere near as much fun as actually seeing the paint go on the walls, but if you do this right, the painting process will be much less painful and you'll have a final product you can be proud of.

If necessary:

Protect floor with a drop-cloth, pretty self explanatory. In some of my photos you see no drop cloth, that's a function of having wood floors that need refinishing. If you have a carpet you really want to preserve then make sure you really do a good job of protecting it with the drop cloth and if it's new construction and you have no floor, don't worry about it, you're set.

Deal with wallpaper - Notice that I didn't say remove wallpaper. Some folks may tell you to just take it all down, but in my experience that should be a function of house age and condition of the paper (e.g. how many times it's been painted). In several of the photos with the green and red walls you can see where I did have to pull off a lot of wallpaper, but I left some of it because it was adhered to the plaster better than the plaster was adhered to the lathe. My rule of thumb is to pull down all the paper that feels like it's not really firmly stuck onto the walls. If the paper isn't painted or if you're in a newer house, then you can definitely try to get it all off, but in an older house you may need to be more cautious.

Patch cracks and holes in drywall/plaster, fix moldings, etc - Self explanatory, but it can take forever. The second photo shows how I had to replace one of the moldings that was just torn apart by the previous owners. This is your chance to also make sure you have the smoothest results possible. As much as possible you want to get rid of bumps and other things that may cause problems while you paint.

Things you probably have to do:

Fill in any cracks or small holes with paintable caulking - Once you have the main stuff done, go back around and use caulking to fill in any remaining cracks of small holes that you may have missed. If your walls are in good shape, you might start from here and skip the previous 2 steps.

Lightly sand the walls - You are not trying to sand your walls into perfect smoothness. In fact you're actually trying to make sure they're roughed up enough to make it easier for the primer to hold on. You'll want to use heavy to medium grit sandpaper for this.

Clean up all the dust and wash the walls - You can use a tack cloth for this, or just grab a sponge and bucket and go to work. This is really not fun, but you'll appreciate doing this later. If you don't you're liable to find your paint job does not turn out the way you wanted it to.

Also remember, sometimes you just can't get your walls perfect no matter how hard you try. The third photo in this set shows one bulge that I tried fixing and I couldn't get completely smoothed out without pulling all that plaster off the wall. While that's certainly an option, I didn't think it was worth it. Ultimately, one thing you do need to accept when doing home improvements is that you can reach a point of diminishing returns and you may have to accept that something is "good enough" or at least "good enough for now given my time and budget constraints"

Step 7: Prime the Walls

The final bit of prep work is to go through and prime the walls.

In my house, one nice thing about using white primer is that it matches the trim so little mistakes are effectively invisible. It also made it easier to fix some of the moldings that had been painted by the previous owners.

See the next steps for how to cut-in and paint. You usually don't need to be quite as worried about the primer as you do about the paint so you may be able to get away doing the priming without too much cutting in, but you may also need to treat the primer exactly like the paint (for instance if you have stained wood molding). You'll have to evaluate the situation with your walls and the trim (e.g. crown molding, window and door trim etc....) and see what makes sense. Don't hesitate to use multiple coats if you're trying to cover up very vibrant or dark colors.

Step 8: Cutting in (corners & Edges)

Give a general description of the StepFinally, you can put color on your walls!

Unfortunately it's going to look kinda crappy because you're only doing the cutting in along the edges and corners. If you really want to, you can paint the walls and then do the cutting in, but you run the risk of having the lines be more pronounced. Cutting in and then rolling the paint on with a paint roller seems to work better at minimizing lines. If you can, you also want to paint fairly soon after cutting in, don't let it sit there for days or weeks (I've seen it happen).

There are tons of options for how to cut in at your edges (e.g. trim and molding) and most of the commercial ones kinda suck. I know, I tried them. Your best bet is to learn how to cut in by hand. Unless you're going through the DTs, most people can paint a straight line against something like a molding with a bit of practice. If you don't have a molding then you can carefully draw a straight pencil line where you want to stop painting. It will give you something to guide yourself by just like a molding would. However, remember, you want to go right up to whatever you're using as a guide, you don't want to go onto it or over it, when in doubt stop before you get to it, relax and try again. It's a lot easier to add a little paint than it is to remove a little paint.

If you want to take out some insurance then tape along the edges of your trim or the line you drew, but do NOT think this gives you a license to slap paint up against the tape. It's surprisingly hard to get tape to stick to a molding or wall perfectly and ANY space or gap where it didn't quite stick correctly will let paint seep under if you lay it on too thick. What you really want the tape there for is to block the occasional inadvertent light brush stroke that goes onto what you're trying not to paint. Even with tape though, you should basically be cutting-in freehand. Always use painter's tape, do NOT use masking tape as it has a tendency of not sticking when you want it to and sticking really well when you don't and it can become very hard to remove cleanly after a few days)

If you do it freehand and you make the effort to do it neatly you may end up with tiny imperfections that you can actually just ignore. You'd be surprised at how many mistakes disappear once you're more than 6" from the wall and you're not staring at it intently. Don't be afraid to cut in, take the tape down (if necessary), and walk away for 10-15 minutes. Come back and see if any of the little mistakes you made show up at all. A lot of them probably won't and if some really do stand out, you can fix those.

Step 9: The Fun Part, Finally

Make sure your paint is thoroughly mixed and now you paint... Don't worry, after everything else, this is the easy part. Be prepared to do multiple coats if you're changing colors dramatically.

Some things to remember.

A) Don't overload your paint brush or roller. It shouldn't be a race from the can to the wall while you hope it doesn't dribble over everything. Experiment a little and get a feel for what the paint is going to do. The once coat paints especially tend to be a bit thick so they're somewhat less prone to drips if you're careful (by the same token if you overload your brush or roller they can drop a lot of paint very quickly).

B) Try to get as much painted at one stretch as possible. Do your best not to drag out the actual painting process for too long. At the very least, paint entire walls at one time.

C) If you are going to use multiple gallons of paint, mix them together and paint from that combined paint. Generally paint is mixed accurately, but you don't want to get caught with a subtle color difference after you've painted the walls.

D) Roll the paint on in a W, N, or M pattern. Don't do this -> l l l l l that's a lot more likely to show lines.

E) As much as possible don't carry the whole gallon (or 5 gallons) of paint around with you. Aside from being heavy and tiring you out, you're a lot more likely to spill them that way. A 1/2 gallon jug of milk with the top cut off makes a great container (complete with handle) for painting. A roller pan is much easier to work with than a whole 5 gallon bucket. If you decide to work with the 5 gallon bucket, consider using a paint strainer that fits inside it. This will help you manage the paint on the roller more effectively than if you just dunk it in the paint.

F) If you're using latex paint, keep a fairly damp cloth with you at all times. This will make it a lot easier to clean up the inevitable drips. Rinse it out and re-wet as necessary.

G) Trash bags make good liners for roller pans. You peel them off and you're done, one less thing to clean.

Step 10: Clean Up

Don't forget this step, especially if you bought good quality tools.

Latex paint is easy to clean up. Just rinse your brushes and rollers with water until the water runs clear, let them dry and store them in a zip-top bag so they don't end up dusty and grimy the next time you want to paint. Make sure they're completely dry though, you don't want to seal in moisture with them.

If you went the cheap route, chuck the brushes and rollers in the bag you used as a liner for the roller pan and you're done.

For cleaning up oil based paints, follow the manufacturer's recommendation and be sure to do it in well ventilated areas (oil based paints and cleaning fluids tend to be volatile and pretty foul smelling).

If you have any paint leftover, use a rubber mallet to seal the can again and (carefully) flip it upside down and put it somewhere out of the way. Storing it upside down is a great way to avoid having your paint dry out even if it's years before you need it again (just be really sure you sealed it right ;)

Finally put you stuff back in the room and enjoy.

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    32 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    You have to love that lightweight joint compound, beats the hell out of waiting for spackle to dry, just to put another coat on! Looks like the place turned out nice, I like your choice of color, so many people just go boring white with everything. Just a couple of comments from my experience..The one big thing that I disagree with here is the roller tray, once you've used a 5 gallon bucket (with 1/2-1 gallon of paint in the bottom) with a drop in roller screen, you'll wonder why they even sell roller trays. It puts the right amount of paint on the roller with minimum drips and minimum time(roller trays by contrast slop paint around without getting it on evenly). And with the right length wooden or extendable roller pole your arms never need to stretch far, which makes an enormous difference if you are working all day(usually plastic mop handles and such are too floppy to paint well with). The other thing is it doesnt matter how you get the paint on, the important thing is a laying off pass with straight vertical lines overlapping 50% every 5 or 6 ft section you do(to get the paint even thickness everywhere)..the way you avoid those lines mentioned in this article is by trimming the edges of your roller with scissors..they should be rounded not box square like they come from the store. Lastly higher quality rollers hold much more paint and will let you work less, but are almost impossible to clean, Im happy to chuck mine at the end of a job.


    10 years ago on Step 9

    My advice:
    1) Paint selection. If painting all of the walls one particular color, pick out your favorite color. Then go at least one shade lighter. Consider a second. A brighter room looks larger and the color is usually more than noticeable. Buy quality paint.

    2) Use a handle on the paint roller. Snag the handle from the broom. Place the paint tray on the floor, directly in front of you, about 4" from the wall. Practice first - the trick is to get only a little bit of paint on the roller, then roll it out a few times in the tray. Buy quality paint - it tends to be less runny/thin and will not drip nearly as easily. Pause when lifting the roller up from the tray. You can twirl the roller, but that is usually unnecessary. Start at the top and roll straight down, then back up to the top, forming a very large N. Personally, I work left to right, so it would be horizontally flipped N. Roll the entire wall vertically - you will get a much nicer product than using a ladder, etc, etc, etc. And you'll be no more likely to dump the paint than standing on a ladder with a paint tray 4' off the floor, going up, down, etc, etc, etc. PRACTICE is the keyword here. I was a little clumsy at first but I would never go back to painting without a handle....unless it is in cramped hallway or bathroom where I can't stand back from the wall without banging the handle into the wall behind me...

    btw..with the handle, I stand about 3 - 4 foot away from the wall, about 2' away from the paint tray. Don't overfill the paint tray (you won't slosh it all over the place) and you can just slide the tray across the floor with your opposite foot - especially on wooden floors or non-shaggy carpets.

    3) if you do drip anything, relax. Immediately and carefully set down your roller in your paint tray (near the top so it doesn't "dip" into the paint at the bottom. Grab a ~3 bucket of water (should be kept handy anyway) with a sponge or washcloth. Sponge up the excess and wash it out in the sink. Then wet the carpet were the paint was, then sponge (pushing it down into the carpet) to get it out. Wring out, wash in the bucket, apply more water, sponge, wash, apply. Repeat 3-5 times until it all comes out. Just don't drop your paint bucket or paint tray...that stinks. I've gotten up lots of little accidents up without any issue. Mostly because I probably should have not fallen behind on my sleeping ;-).

    4) Paint buckets and paint trays demonstrate potential. Keep them as low as possible when they have ANY paint in them. Keep both opened and unopened paint buckets on the floor. They will never fall if they are on the floor to begin with. A (former) employee never observed this simple rule of potential energy...I lost at least 1 or 2 carpets (costing me about $1500-$2000) and a few spirit levels before....=(

    I have used this technique to paint many many rooms in our office building.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 9

    Thank you thank you thank you thank you so much for that idea, attaching the roller to a broom-handle (or in our case, one half of a curtain rod...) It made painting our massive living room wall, and all four walls of our bedroom, so much faster thank last time we took on this endeavor. It's amazing. Both you and dragonvpm rock for your tips. <3


    10 years ago on Step 9

    Nice paint liner idea. Does the bag stay in as well as the plastic ones? They are usually about $0.50 for one, but I never have a clean one handy =)


    10 years ago on Introduction

    i love that purple!!! i painted my bathroom in the same color and love it still to this day, four years later!

    1 reply

    10 years ago on Introduction

    I just painted my room over the weekend for just over $150 to buy paint and tools. I had two different painters came and estimated the job for around $900.

    Thanks for the painting tips. More paint tips at


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent instructions! Great photos too!
    Here are some additional tips to consider also.
    Dropcloths: If using old sheets, go for a double or triple thickness layer. Any less and drops will seep through to the carpet below. Throw-away plastic ones are good for covering furniture, but are a real trip-hazard underfoot, so avoid them there.
    Clothing: Grab a few sets of baggy shirts and pants at a thrift store. They are so cheap you can wipe your hands on them, then toss.
    Handles: Putting even a short handle on a roller makes it MUCH easier to use and easier to bend over for loading with paint from the tray.
    Cardboard: Put the tray / bucket on piece of corrugated cardboard. You can throw rollers and brushes on it and slide it around easily when moving to a new area.
    Power Rollers: For a big multi-room job in a single color, investing in a power roller is a time saver. They are pump and hose units that inject paint through the inside of special perforated rollers. Roller covers cost more and cleanup takes 30 min. to flush the hose, but you get it back in speed.
    Dip the Brush: If using fast drying latex, it helps to dip the brush in water first to wet the ferrule near the handle. Work out most of the moisture from the tip bristles before starting. This keeps a blob from drying to quickly where the bristles attach.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Here's a tip for cutting in. Use an airbrush. Its fairly in expensive to pick one up in any department store that sells models. I have a Testors airbrush kit I got from Kmart that included extra paint bottles and a can of compressed air for $20. Just fill up a bottle with paint(dilute if its too thick) put the can of air in your pocket and go to town. I tape everything but the ceiling off and use a piece of cardboard about 2 feet long and 6 inches wide to avoid over spray as I go. We cut in and painted our entire kitchen and dinette ( a 12 by 20 room with 9 foot ceilings) in less than an hour. The longest part was moving the ladder and waiting for the wife to catch up with the roller (always keep a wet edge going). Air brushes leave no brush marks, leaves a nice edge that is easily blended in with a roller and uses way less paint than would be wasted with a brush ( I used about 6 oz of paint). Its also handy for touch up's and perfect for Stenciling borders. Clean up is pretty straight forward. With latex paints use warm water, oil based use spirits. You can cap off and save the paint in the bottle for later if you need it or rinse them out. Air brushes are great for a wide array of painting or staining projects and don't wear out or leave hairs behind. Lextone


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I'm a 3rd generation painting contractor, and have over 30 years of personal experience; commercial, residential and industrial. This may have been better named in a way to show it's more about refurbishing than just painting. Wall prep is rarely this involved, except in severely abused situations. Though I would do things differently, this is a good instructable. Go to a paint store like sherwin williams and talk with some of their people as well. They'll try to sell their stuff, but will also give some good pointers. Paint quality is a significant issue, if you plan repainting often (like the dorm room example) commercial grade paint is fine. On the other hand, if you don't want top paint again for 5 or more years, get a professional grade paint. Make sure you get interior paint. Latex vs oil paint: latex is used almost exclusively in homes built within the past 15 years in most parts of the country. That doesn't mean it's better than oil though, it is easier to use, and there are less environmental issues with it. Oil base will almost always outperform latex in nearly any test, and is easier to clean and more resistant to molds and moisture. Even though oil is superior, I would recommend against it except in a few cases. Every year, latex paints get better. Dark or bright paints are more difficult to cover and more difficult to get to cover, especially red. It's not uncommon for red to take 5 or more coats, depending on what it's going over, and the brand of paint. Lambswool roller pads and china bristle and horse hair brushes are overkill. High quality synthetics are much more suitable for general painting. Keep in mind, a high quality horse hair or china bristle brush is easily $40.00, where a high quality poly/nylon brush is closer to $20.00.

    3 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for your comments you have some good points that I'd chosen not to cover. I was trying to walk a line between encouraging people to try painting their walls without ignoring some of the more common pitfalls I've either seen or dealt with myself.

    I don't quite have your painting pedigree, I'm only a 2nd generation general contractor with most of my life spent around buildings in all stages of construction from surveying a property all the way out to performing maintenance on them for years after they've been lived in (my folks own rental properties, some are older than I am and I designed and built others). Nowadays I make a living working for one of the bigger home builders in the country, so I'd like to think I know a little bit about homes in general and painting in particular.

    I'm not entirely sure why you thought I put too much emphasis on wall prep. If you look, the basic level of wall prep is caulk what needs to be caulked, do a little sanding and cleaning of walls, and you're good to go. IMO there's a good bit of planning that should go into this sort of project (especially for someone new) and I tried to touch on some of the more significant issues that might come up for an decent cross section of people (e.g. someone working on a fixer upper, someone painting a new addition, someone just painting a room in a dorm), but actual prep isn't necessarily that involved (but it can be so it seemed worthwhile to warn people about it so they can be on the look out and not get unpleasantly surprised).

    Stores - I've had good and bad experiences with paint stores and good and bad experiences with home improvement stores so I'd kind of leave it up to folks to go somewhere and talk to someone who deals with paint and perhaps try different places. I did think it was worth warning them that they don't have to spend lots of money to get a good result from painting. I wouldn't go so far as to recommend any one large chain of stores.

    IMO paying attention to detail and being careful with what you're doing will more than make up for any differences in brushes or paint (i.e. a sloppy person with a great brush will do a much worse job than a careful person with a cheap brush). So I disagree that paint quality is that big of an issue. It is AN issue and something people should consider in deciding what to buy, but again, results vary a lot by how much attention you put into the work you're doing. You did make a good point about using interior paint although you can use exterior paint indoors, generally what you want to avoid is using interior paint for exterior uses.

    Latex vs oil paint: As I said earlier, this instructable was meant for people who don't have a lot of experience and are looking to learn about painting. So, for that audience, latex is the better choice. The ease of use and clean up is far and away superior to oil's and that counts for a lot for someone who doesn't necessarily have access to all the equipment or materials that a professional painting contractor does. Also oil based paints and products related to their use (e.g. thinner) also tend to have noticeably stronger smells that can really bother people who aren't as used to them as professional painters and volatility of the chemicals in oil paint also means that ventilation is often a much more critical issue when using oil vs latex.

    I considered mentioning the dark/bright color issues wrt repainting, but depending on the primer you use though it's not always that difficult to cover up. I've repainted a lot of walls (tenants are great about painting and not repainting sometimes) and I don't think I've ever had to use 5 or more coats for any color (I don't remember if we've had red, but I know we've had black).

    Brushes & Rollers: All along I've been trying to make the point that there is no need to buy anything terribly expensive. Since there was an interest in what qualified as good I put that up, but my personal take on most things (painting included) is that budget should determine what people buy. If they can afford a top of the line brush or roller, that's great. If they can't then at least they can look at what goes into a premium brush (like the heel, how it feels, how it's constructed, what it's made of) and buy something in the middle and they can decide which of the features matter most to them.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I didn't intend to come across as attacking you. I think your instructable is very good. For prep, I was simply trying to let people know that most walls won't need as much prep work as your needed. Stores: Paint stores will have employees with the working knowledge and advice that most home improvement places won't have. My only purpose in in mentioning any single place was to give an idea of where to get information. My personal preference for paint supplies is not Sherwin Williams, it's just a well known outlet across the country. Paint quality isn't a matter of neatness, it's a matter of protection, which is the primary purpose of paint. If you want to see just how significant the difference of a good quality paint and a cheap paint, buy some WalMart/HomeDepot/Lowes paint and some professional paint (Kelly Moore/Benjamin Moore/Sherwin Williams). Get 2 4'x8' sheets of wood and paint them, both sides, 1 type of paint per sheet. Put them out in the sun and see what happens after a year. Exterior paints are designed different than interior paints. Though you can use them inside (I never said you could not) exterior paints will take longer to dry inside, and have a higher VoC level. Interior paints are also designed to be scrubbed. Latex vs oil: I brought this up more to enforce the idea to use latex when possible. It's easier to cover dark and bright colors than it is to put them up. I've had burgandies that have taken over 10 coats to cover.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks, given your expertise in the area I do appreciate your thoughts on the subject, but your initial comment did come off as a little condescending (although I may have also misinterpreted it). Regardless, sorry if I was overly defensive.

    Prep is tricky. I really wanted to focus on some of the more common, bigger issues that might come up because, from my own experience, they're the kinds of things that I would want to know before I start a project. Not necessarily to stop anyone from doing something, but just so they go in prepared and they knew if their project might be more involved and take more time than they originally hoped.

    Stores: In my experience, home improvement stores do a decent job of not overselling people who come in looking for help. They're not perfect and their service does tend to vary store-by-store, but on the whole it seems like the folks that work there have a decent understanding of the basics in their departments. Specialty stores (OTOH) seem to have more "experts" who seem to upsell or oversell more often than the other stores. They're great if you have an unusual situation (e.g. I went there when I needed supplies to spray on black lacquer onto some cabinets where I wanted the wood grain to still be visible) but they can be overkill for a budget minded consumer.

    Paint quality: We may have to agree to disagree on this point. I understand the point you're making about longevity, but in my experience, cheaper paints last just fine under "normal" circumstances, especially in interior applications. However, as I've said before, a person's budget should inform their decision. For instance, someone living in a home they plan to stay in for years, but one where they don't intend to paint more than once, could choose to go with cheap tools and premium paint. By the same token, someone who thinks they may move often, or who may decide to change paint colors frequently could decide to invest in better tools and cheaper paint, knowing that they don't need it to last more than a year or two. There's not just one way to approach these projects and I'm hoping that anyone reading this instructable and the comments will take into account what's written here and their own situations and come up with a solution that works best for them.


    Looks pretty good. We ended up doing that same thing on a rental house we own that's about 100 years old. I went through about six of the 5 gallon buckets of drywall mud. Some areas were so bad we just broke out all the plaster in something like a square and replaced it with a piece of drywall of the appropriate thickness, and then mudded that to blend it in. One thing you mentioned that made me shudder - the sanding. In a house as old as yours, or our rental, it's bound to have had lead paint. Sanding will get that stuff _everywhere_, so people should be really careful to use a sander with a vacuum attachment or something similar to keep the lead dust under control. You also mentioned at one point to use caulking to fill cracks; wouldn't you want to use drywall mud/spackle so you can sand it? The caulking I'm familiar with can't be sanded. Nice instructable, though. Clear instructions and decent photos.

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    Thanks for the comments. wrt lead paint - That's a tough call at this point. IMO, it really shouldn't be an issue on anything that's been painted since the 80s. At this point any lead paint left on walls of older homes is likely to be buried several layers down. Even so, the amount of light sanding necessary if you're just roughening up the paint really isn't likely to produce enough dust, let alone lead paint dust, to affect your health. If you think about the house you worked on, most of the sanding you did was on new drywall and mud. In addition to lead paint, an older house may also have lead in solder used for water pipes, as well as asbestos in insulation, floor tiles, some wall coverings, and other items. If folks are concerned about lead paint or any other potential hazard in their homes, they can have their homes tested, however an important note for homeowners is that once you've tested your home for something and found that it tested positive you are legally obligated to notify people of this when decide to sell your home. If you haven't had it tested then you or your agent are only obligated to provide them with the standard "this house was built before 1978 and MAY contain lead paint" document that some of you may have seen when buying an older home. WRT caulking, that's intended more for situations like, for example, a small crack between the trim and the wall, or perhaps a crack that runs around an outlet or light switch, or any nail holes or minor wall damage that isn't significant enough to warrant actual joint compound (or tape). In my experience latex caulking (the most common type you come across) is pretty easy to leave as smooth as you want on it's first application. If you're using it to fix a crack between the wall and your trim you can often use a moistened finger to leave it about as smooth as you want so there is no need for sanding.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Just echoing what others have said - it is worth spending a little extra on good brushes. They'll do a better job, and they will last a long time if you take care of them. Those wire brushes sold in paint stores ($2 or so) do a great job of cleaning them out. A dinner fork will work too. They get it dry - pro painters use a brush spinning tool, but you can spin the handle between your hands (you might want to take it outside...). another cleaning tip for latex paint on a roller - garden hose on the jet setting. Messy, but FAST. Might have to hose yourself down after, but when I get done painting a room it's time for a shower anyway... Great instructable.

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    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Well the difference between cheap brushes and good brushes is pretty decent. Personally, I prefer using good brushes to using cheap ones, but having worked with the cheap ones, I can say that they aren't completely useless. Particularly if someone really doesn't want or need to keep the brushes a long time, a cheap set of brushes can get the job done for a lot less than a single good one. Also, when starting out (as with a lot of things) you're focusing on the basics so much that you can't appreciate a fair number of subtle differences between a good brush and a cheap one. The suggestion that cheap brushes are ok is really aimed at people who might not want to make a huge investment in something they might absolutely hate after trying once or those who already know they have no interest or desire to do it more than absolutely necessary to get their living spaces looking the way they want. I definitely liked your idea about using a fork to clean them out though. I need to give that a shot next time I paint. Your comment about spinning the rollers made me think it would be cool to rig up a roller cage onto a fixed post of some sort so it could be mounted on a drill. I always have my drill around and that could be a neat way to make taking care of good rollers reasonably painless.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    awesome, thank you. great tips - trash bag liners for paint pans? I never would have thought of that, and so simple. we bought a c1907 house last year in august and so far just pulled the carpeting and wallpaper and re-painted the living room. Our dining room is in progress, but underneath the paper was...wood panelling...argh. It's actually a nice light maple stain, but very dated. we were going to rip it off and drywall, but for now I think we're just going to paint it w a textured paint. the previous owner spackled all the faux joints b4 papering, so im just touching that up, then a few coats of primer and sanding, and we' are going to try to find some stuff our fiend told us about, material you add to the paint to give it a texture. Any tips or experience in that regard? We plan on a bold color below a chair rail, neutral color up top, then some of that lightweight crown molding to dress it up. It will be my 1st time cutting molding, and I thought that synthetic material would be easier for me to work with alone if the wifes not around. Thanks again!

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    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks. I think the trash bag idea was born out of laziness and cheapness (I hated cleaning the pans and I rarely bothered buying the plastic liners they sell at hardware stores). I'm not really familiar with the texture product you're talking about. My best advice when trying out new products like that is to read the instructions, make sure they make sense, and then try it out in a small, inconspicuous area (or if you don't really have one, maybe on a piece of plywood or drywall). Most stuff sold in your average home improvement store is within the capabilities of your average DIY-er, but some take more fiddling with than others so a little practice doesn't hurt. Good luck with your old house, speaking from my experience, they may be tempermentel and full of surprises, but they're definitely worth it!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Yowza! Good job!! I see why it was featured. I think there is a mental block about painting for some people. Once you try painting, the block fades away in about 10 minutes. I agree about using good brushes. If you are going to paint wood or a room larger than a bathroom, spring for good brushes and take care of them. I have a trick for cleaning rollers. You need a hose, some pretty good water pressure, and an adjustable hand grip type nozzle. First you have to know where the wind is coming from or you will be covered in paint. Then you hold the roller as far away as you can so that when it spins the flinging paint and water will not hit you directly. A 90 degree angle to your body is best. Then with your other hand, aim the nozzle at the upper surface of the roller and let the water fly. The roller will spin very fast and fling paint out of the roller. Aim the nozzle along the top surface of the roller from one end to the other and back again. Then stop and inspect the roller. You may want to resoak the roller slowly with the sprayer and start spinning it clean again. You can clean a roller in just a couple minutes and not waste much water at all. Don't try this anywhere near surfaces that you don't want to get paint on. Take off your watch and jewelry and wear grubby shoes.