Interior painting is a great do-it-yourself project that can freshen up a room in no time, but there are risks to going it alone. Amateur paint jobs can be easy to spot because, unlike professional jobs, they leave tell-tale signs of paint spatter, mottled color or missed spots behind. Here are seven steps you should follow before you dip your roller to help you paint like a pro.
1. Remove Furniture
Professionals don’t stumble over coffee tables and stretch to paint behind the sofa, and neither should you. Remove furniture from the room before you paint to make the job easier and avoid ruining wood and upholstery with spilled or spattered paint. To ensure that your furnishings remain in good enough condition to be brought back into your newly painted room at the end of the project, refrain from just shoving everything into the hallway where it could be damaged or cause accidents. Consider renting a temporary storage container or a storage unit while you work. If there’s an item that just won’t fit through the doorway or is too heavy to move, pull it to the center of the room, away from the walls to be painted, and cover it with plastic to protect it.
2. Protect Flooring
Assuming you want to keep your carpet or hardwood floor in place after you paint the room, protect it before you get to work. A few sheets of newsprint under your roller tray just aren’t sufficient. Use professional-style drop cloths throughout the room instead. Plastic sheeting is cheaper, but it’s easily punctured and can shift under your feet while you work, exposing areas of flooring. A heavy canvas drop cloth or a professional grade butyl-backed cloth protect against spills and also help keep paint from being tracked through the rest of your house if it accidentally gets on the soles of your shoes while you work. (Lots of do-it-yourselfers prefer to paint barefoot so they know when they step in paint.) Butyl-backed cloths have the added bonus of keeping spilled paint from soaking through to the flooring below.
3. Remove Wall Hangings
Maybe you think you’ll save time by leaving your paintings on the walls and simply painting around them. That’s great, unless a painting shifts a little bit one day in front of company, exposing your cut corner. Cutting in around paintings and clocks is actually more time consuming than removing them, and it risks damaging your décor as well. Plus, you might want to change your wall art before you paint the room again. So, it’s always better to take everything off the wall and paint the entire surface. Again, protect your things so you have something to bring back into your finished room. Use bubble wrap and storage bins to make sure delicate pieces don’t break, and be sure to store them well out of the way. If there is any chance that you might want to reconfigure your pictures and clocks when you re-hang them, remove nails and picture hangers and fill in the holes with spackle before you paint. Be sure to let the spackle dry before you cover it.
4. Clean the Walls to Be Painted
Why should you clean something you’re just going to paint anyway? Because clean, uniform surfaces will assure you of a smooth, professional-looking result. Dark smudges can show through a coat of paint, and oil or other substances on the wall can change the consistency of the paint being applied. Clean all walls to be painted with a solution of water and mild detergent. For tough stains or smudges, like kitchen grease or soot stains, professionals rely on trisodium phosphate. Mixed with bleach, trisodium phosphate can also remove mildew and mildew stains before you paint. No matter what kind of cleaning solution you use, be sure to rinse the walls thoroughly when you’re finished and leave them plenty of time to dry before you get to work. House painting professionals might even use fans to speed the drying process.
5. Remove Outlet Covers and Switch Plates
The pros don’t try to cut in around tiny little outlet covers, and neither should you. This will inevitably result in visible brush strokes around the outlet or smudged paint on the outlet cover. Remove the outlet covers and switch plates in the room to be painted, and take care not to paint the actual sockets or switches themselves. Again, that looks very unprofessional. Childproof plastic outlet covers can help protect wall sockets from paint while you work. Use caution in a home with young children after protective coverings have been removed, and be sure to replace them promptly as soon as the paint around them is dry. If you’re going to paint the ceiling of the room, don’t forget to remove light fixtures and ceiling medallions whenever possible. Turning off the electricity to the room at the circuit breaker first is always a good precaution to take.
If only you could take all the moldings and trim out of the room as well before you paint. Alas, this is not the case. To avoid the amateur mistake of smearing paint along your baseboards and windowsills, tape off these areas before you start. Don’t rely on household tape to get the job done; invest in professional painter’s tape, available at most hardware stores and paint suppliers. Taping is simple, but time consuming. Doing it right, though, makes for truly professional-looking results. While not protecting trim is a common mistake, so is over-taping. Be sure that none of your tape is on the wall to be painted, or your old wall color will be playing peek-a-boo around the perimeter of your room. You can also use painter’s tape to tape out patterns or color blocks on your wall. If you’re brave enough to try that, tape out the entire design and make sure it’s perfect before you even open a can of paint.
7. Set Up a Staging Area
Think you’ll save time by just carrying a gallon of paint with you from wall to wall? Wrong. Whatever time you save in set-up will probably be doubled in clean-up. Set up a staging area in the center of the room or just outside it for pouring paint, storing open paint cans, and cleaning brushes and rollers. This will cut down on spills and accidents, or at least keep them contained to one designated area. Plus, you and any helpers you’ve enlisted will always know where the painting supplies are and won’t waste time looking for misplaced paint keys or roller trays. Boards placed between two saw horses make a great staging area. So does an old folding table covered with a drop cloth.
By taking the time to prep a room, anyone can achieve professional-looking paint results. Invest the time up-front to get off to a great start, and your project will go smoothly and look beautiful. Once you’ve got the hang of interior painting, you can freshen any room at will and transform your home one space at a time.