They make it look so simple on HGTV when the homeowners miraculously paint a room over an afternoon or evening! If you want professional-looking results, there’s a bit more work involved than they show on TV.
However, suppose you have the time, patience and inclination to do the work. In that case, you can achieve beautiful, long-lasting results and the ultimate satisfaction of having completed a home project yourself at a greatly reduced cost.
Here are nine tips for a professionally painted interior for any home project.
1. Clear the Room
Before beginning your actual prep and paintwork, it is extremely helpful to work in a room that is cleared of as many obstacles as possible. Remove your artwork, rugs, smaller pieces of furniture and any fragile objects. Uninstall light fixtures so you won’t have to paint around them and disassemble beds so they can be moved to one side of the room. Take doors off their hinges for painting, remove and bag any hardware to be kept together when it’s time to replace everything.
Set up your drop cloth for your first work area.
You may find canvas drop cloths more user-friendly than plastic sheeting because they can be washed, and you will not risk a slip when walking on them.
2. Prepare, prepare, prepare!
Proper preparation is the key to achieving a professional-looking finished result. Before doing any interior painting, find and fix any cracks, scrapes or dents in your ceiling, walls and trim.
Utilize the right material to fill them in, depending on whether the finish is wood, drywall or plaster. Spackle, plaster of Paris and wood filler may fit your needs, but be sure to consult your local paint shop for other recommendations. Follow the product directions closely, especially when it comes to drying time and any sanding required.
Take off all the switch plates, outlet covers or anything else that is on the wall. You want to create a clear field for your painting, and if you leave on the covers, it will create brush marks. Evaluate if you want to update and replace your existing covers, especially if previous paint jobs have resulted in overspray.
Take the time to strip or clean off any hardware that has been painted over in the past. Door hinges and pins covered in paint do not create professional-looking results.
If the room you are painting has wallpaper, unfortunately, your preparation time will need to include removing the wallpaper. Painting over wallpaper will not give you the smooth, painted finish you desire.
There are numerous products available to help with stripping wallpaper, and many times good results can be achieved with a spray bottle of water, a putty knife and lots of patience.
If you are painting a room where there has been a lot of smoking, it may be necessary to wash the walls during the prep period.
Quality preparation will pay off, and if you are working on an older property, it is not unusual for the actual prep work to take more time than the actual painting itself. Take your time, and do it right!
3. Sand Glossy Surfaces
It will be important for a professional-looking paint job to sand items like doors, crown molding, window frames and even baseboards. This is because these items are usually painted with a semi-gloss finish, and for the new paint to adhere, the gloss needs to be removed.
Unless your walls are extremely damaged, with lots of holes or chipped paint, you will not need to sand them. After removing wallpaper, evaluate whether the walls are free of residual paste and paper, and sand if necessary.
4. Choose Quality Tools and Paint
Like most home improvement projects, having the right tools makes a huge difference in the final project quality.
When painting, make a point of choosing the right rollers and brushes for the job. The roller width and its nap are also important considerations, as textured surfaces require more texture on the roller itself, and smooth surfaces will warrant a low-nap roller. It never hurts to grab a few roller covers if you plan to do another painting job in the future.
Paintbrushes are available in several different quality levels. It’s tempting to get a throw-away foam brush, but it will not give professional-looking results for your trim and cut-in work. Buy a quality, name-brand brush, and plan on cleaning it properly so that it lasts you through several projects. You'd be surprised how easy it is to see bristle strokes with a cheap brush once the paint dries!
Benjamin Nguyen, Owner of Full Color Cleaners, agrees with the importance of using hi-quality materials.
Nguyen adds, “Make sure the material you're using is of high quality. A lot of times people will go for cheaper paint rollers or brush that just won't apply paint well onto the walls. Also the cheaper stuff makes it much longer and difficult to paint.”
If you are painting a few rooms the same color, consider using a 5-gallon bucket with a grid for your roller. This helps assure a great color match for your complete project. If your project requires 2-3 gallons of paint, you may want to purchase all the cans of paint at once and pour it in the same container to eliminate any possible color variations between gallons.
Purchasing name-brand, quality paint, can include store brands from your local big box hardware store. Talk to the store representatives who can help you choose the right paint for your project.
Paige NeJame, Owner of South Shore CertaPro Painters, recommends, “Don’t rush your color choice because after all the time you invest in this painting, the color is what you will live with for the next 7-10 years.”
An extension rod for your roller is a great tool to add to your painting equipment. It will allow you to reach high up on the walls or paint a ceiling and minimize the time you need to be up on a ladder.
If you have a lot of cutting in to do and want to use tape to protect window frames and the like, make sure that the tape you use is painter’s tape. Trying a short cut like masking tape will result in color bleeding underneath the taped surface.
5. Prime to Cover Old Colors and Flaws
If you are painting a light color over dark paint colors, or your surface has water damage or stains, it might be worthwhile to prepare it with a separate primer before painting. However, quality paint with primer in the formula will work well for most projects.
Another time to consider a separate primer is if you are painting a surface that has been painted in a high gloss sheen. If you are painting over any specialty finishes or lacquer, consult with a paint store professional for guidance about using a separate primer.
6. Cut in With or Without Tape
Cutting in is the process of painting with a brush where the roller does not reach. This requires brushing around window and door frames, at the baseboard, down the room corners and where the wall meets the ceiling. If your hand is steady, doing this without the use of tape will get the best results. Tape, even high-quality painter’s tape, can bleed underneath or pull off new paint when it’s time to remove it.
Since your room will require two coats of paint, cut in twice before rolling. Unfortunately, it can be the smaller rooms that create the most challenges when cutting in. When the wall surface is broken up by windows or fixtures, such as in a bathroom, cutting in properly requires lots of patience to do properly.
7. Begin Painting
Finally, you are ready to paint! It can be efficient to work from the top of the room downwards, painting the ceiling first, then the crown molding and window trim, and then the walls.
It usually makes sense to paint your baseboards at the point in your sequence where you are painting the rest of the trim. Since your trim paint is most likely a higher sheen, it is easier to wipe off roller overspray on the glossy trim as opposed to covering up a glossy paint mistake on your walls!
Even if your paint coverage looks terrific after one coat, it’s a given that your most professional looking paint result is going to come with two coats. Plan for that in terms of both time and paint!
8. Take your Time and do Quality Checks
Before you are finished for the day, it’s a great idea to quality check your work before cleaning your tools and closing the paint cans. Take a walk around the room, under good lighting to make sure that everything is painted properly.
Using the roller as the day goes on and the nap gets compressed can result in some sketchy areas, especially on walls with texture. Having someone else look other than the primary painter is extremely helpful. Use sticky notes to identify any areas that need touch-ups.
When planning your painting project, make sure to note whether you will have adequate lighting in the room to work, especially after table lamps are moved out, or light fixtures are removed. Use temporary work lights on a stand, if necessary.
Paige NeJame also reminds everyone, “Most importantly, don’t get frustrated and don’t rush the process.”
9. Clean Tools Properly
Cleaning up after a day of painting is important so that your tools last, as well as being ready for a follow-up day of painting. Other than oil-based paints, which are not necessary for most interior paint projects, mild soap and water cleanup works well. If you have a utility sink in your garage or laundry room, wash your tools there, but if not, washing them thoroughly in the kitchen sink and then rinsing the kitchen sink out very well works fine.
For breaks during the day, there is usually no need to wash your brushes and rollers, especially if you are coming back to the project within an hour. Wrap the tools in plastic wrap or bags and unwrap when you are ready to get back to work. Some professionals even wrap their rollers and brushes overnight when planning for a second day of painting.
Painting results can be affected by the weather, especially the level of humidity.
Read the can label to assure you are painting within the recommended temperature zone for the brand and paint type. If you are washing your brushes and rollers for use the next day, make sure that the humidity will not interfere with the tools drying properly when you are ready to use them again.
Now that your project is complete, you will appreciate how transformational color can be!
Saul Cerni, Founder of HomeISD, also adds some insight from the numerous paint projects he has done over the years. Cerni shares, “My main tip is to follow a simple but trusted painting technique. The more simple you keep the process, the better the result (it's easy to get tangled up in the painting techniques you can find online, but most of them are an overkill).”
Your investment in your painting tools and equipment will make it easy for you to go on to the next painting project in your home and the tremendous satisfaction of professional-looking results! These painting tips and painting techniques will help you with any future house painting project.
9 painting tips for professional-looking results:
- Clear the Room
- Prepare, prepare, prepare!
- Sand Glossy Surfaces
- Choose Quality Tools and Paint
- Prime to Cover Old Colors and Flaws
- Cut in With or Without Tape
- Begin Painting
- Take your Time and do Quality Checks
- Clean Tools Properly
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