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I have done no surveys, but painting must be the number one do-it-yourself project. With the right supplies, quality paint, proper preparation and your own effort, you can restore a brand new look to your rooms or paint your brand new rooms like a pro. Read on as we go step by step:



  • Brushes
  • drop cloth
  • spackling compound
  • roller tray
  • roller
  • painter's tape
  • Paint


Stick with quality brushes. They cost a bit more, but they are worth it in the long run. Clean them after each use and they will last a long long time. You will need a 2 or 2 inch angular sash brush and the same size trim brush. Choose a premium brush with long dense flagged bristles. (Flagged bristles are not square cut but are split on the ends). These brushes will hold more paint and drip less.

Use a synthetic brush when painting with latex paints. Although synthetic brushes can be used with Alkyd paints, I prefer a natural bristle brush.
Make sure the brush holds the bristles tightly. (nothing is worse than a shedding brush)
You will want brushes for cutting in and painting in areas that your roller can't reach. Foam brushes may have their uses, but interior wall painting is not one.


On large flat surfaces rollers work best. You can even buy rollers that are fed from the can via a small pump, however I prefer a simple tray. Rollers should be chosen based on the the texture of the surface and the type of paint you are applying.

Eggshells..............3/8" nap (longer)
Alkyds..................3/16" nap (shorter)
Higher glosses use a shorter nap

For surfaces:
smooth...................1/8 3/8
semi- rough............ -
rough...................... - 1

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Painter tape.

When masking off areas around trim etc. Use quality painters tape. This tape is wider than most masking tape, it doesn't absorb the paint and is easy to apply and remove. It usually comes with an adhesive strip along one edge which covers about a 1/3 of the width of the tape. Don't use plain old masking tape.


To determine how much paint you will need, determine the number of square feet of wall (and ceiling) surface you will be covering. Don't subtract for doors and windows unless they are a major part of the wall area. Simply multiply the wall height by the length, for each wall. Now divide the surface area by the spreading rate (or coverage rate) indicated on the can of paint. Figure the primer and top coats separately as they may have different spreading rates. With a tinted primer and quality paints you should not need more than one topcoat of paint.


Empty the room. Remove everything you can, furniture, pictures, lights, switch and outlet covers, you name it. Then cover the rest with drop cloths. I even take all the nails out of the walls (unless they are firmly in there and I am sure I will use them again after.) It is a pain to paint around them.. they get too much paint on them and then they drip.

Clean the walls. Use something like Spic and Span. Paint will adhere much better to a clean surface. ( be sure to rinse/wipe off and remaining detergent then allow the walls to dry)
For stains.. especially water stains, seal them with shellac. There are also some good spot primers like B-I-N but these are typically just shellac mixed with paint. The shellac will dry quickly. Cover any stains like magic markers etc, the same way.

For mildew, if there is any, clean the walls with bleach mixed into some TSP. You shouldn't just paint over the mildew.. or it will come through.

Repair the drywall/plaster. Fill any nail holes. For nail pops, if they are nails, pick off the old compound, reseat the nail with a good shot from the hammer and respackle them. For screws, pick off the old compound and tighten the screw, then respackle. You may need to cover those holes with one or more coat, sanding in between to get a nice smooth surface again. If you are painting your wood trim, fill any cracks or nail holes with wood putty, sanding it smooth.

If there is any loose paint, sand and/or scrape it off.

If you are repainting a wall with a gloss or semigloss finish, you will need to degloss it before painting to ensure adhesion. This can be done one of two ways. Either lightly sand the paint with fine sandpaper or wipe the wall down with a liquid deglosser. The liquid deglosser has quite an odor, and the surface needs to be painted within an hour, so it has its limitations. It is a bit quicker and less messy though.

Thoroughly clean the room by vacuuming.. and if you deglossed with sandpaper, wipe the walls down with tack cloth to remove all the dust.

Using your painter tape, mask off all areas that you need to be careful cutting in around. Stained trim, etc. Usually you won't need to mask off around the ceiling (and with some of the textured ceilings this is difficult to do anyway) you can cut in that angle by hand. Don't remove the tape for about 24 hrs so the paint can dry, to keep from pulling up any paint along its edge.


Priming is typically a good idea even on already painted surfaces. Latex paint can often be quite absorbent and should still be primed. Priming seals the surface which in turn prolongs the wet edge of finish coats which will help minimize lapmarks. Priming helps ensure uniformity of color and texture on the wall.

Primers can be tinted toward the color of your top coat. Ask for this when you buy your primer. This will definitely help when repainting the wall a significantly different color.

Prepainted surfaces coated with enamel or gloss finishes do not need to be primed.

For new drywall, latex primers are recommended. For new wood often a alkyd based primer is recommended. (Latex can be used over either)


Are you ready to paint finally? I think the prep work is the hardest most tedious and most important part of the job. The painting is actually the fun part.

Cutting in.

Use your trim brush to paint a 3 inch wide strip along the perimeter of the wall/ceiling line. Start in a corner, where the ceiling meets the wall. Cut in only one section at a time. Then you will roll the paint on that wall's surface. This maintains a wet edge to blend the line between roller and brush.

If you are painting the ceiling.. paint it first. Always work your way down. Paint the whole ceiling at one time. Use an extension in the roller handle. A broom handle will usually screw right into the end. Paint across the room's width, rather than its length. This helps maintain the wet edge too. Do not stop until the whole ceiling is painted. When using the extension pole, roll the paint on in a motion across rather than along your body to keep from leaning backwards straining your neck and back.

Cut in around the ceiling, the corner, the baseboard and the windows or doors etc, and then paint that wall. If you have a partner, one should cut in, the other follow with a roller. Doing one wall at a time. The wetter the paint in the cut in strip when the roller comes along, the less likely there will be of any noticable line between the two.

Painting Trim

Using your sash brush first coat the edge close to the wall, then the flat face of the trim. Use the painter's tape on the wall only if the wall's paint is completely dry. (Wait at least 24 hours, 48 hours is better)
For baseboard molding, again make sure the wall and or floor are protected. Keep a rag dampened with paint thinner or water (for alkyd or latex) handy to clean any drips off the floor or carpet.

Painting Doors

Remove all the hardware. Use a wedge underneath to hold it open part way. Paint the edge first. If the door has panels, paint the panels first, then the horizontal sections and then finally the vertical sections always painting with the grain. If the door is a flush flat surfaced door, begin at the top and work your way down painting a third of the door at a time. (Top third, middle third and bottom third) Paint as quickly as possible to try to keep a wet edge, blushing into the wet areas. Keep a rag handy to clean the reverse side of the door if paint runs on to that side.

Painting Windows

Remove any hardware. Lower the upper window and raise the bottom window. Paint the sash then the rails. DON'T paint the sash tracks. Return the upper window to near closed and the lower to near closed position. Don't shut the window completely until the paint is thoroughly dry. Paint the remaining parts of the window. Use a razor blade to clean the paint off the glass. It is best to remove the paint soon after the paint has dried. Waiting a long time will make this task significantly harder.


For Alkyd paints use solvent (paint thinner) first then soapy water. For Latex paints, just soapy water.
Clean the brushes by working the solvent into the bristles. Squeeze out paint and solvent and repeat until the paint disappears. Using two cans of solvent helps for this. A dirty can.. to clean most of the paint out with, then another clean can to clean out the last bit.

Then use soap and water to clean the solvent out of the brush. Work the soap into the bristles again and again. Finally rinse and rerinse until the soap is all rinsed out. Hang them up to dry. I wrap them in newspaper, making a nice tight, square cover to hold the bristles nice and flat and square, taping the paper shut with some masking tape.

For rollers, clean and rinse them the same as brushes. Clean all the paint from the tray and roller hardware with a solvent (or water) soaked rag.

painter painter


Left over paint can last for years. Cover the opening with plastic wrap and replace the lid tightly. Store the can upside down. Use a black marker to label the can with the date, the room and the color. This paint can be used for touchups or future projects for years to come.

If you finish a can, leave the top off to allow the remaining paint to dry completely in the can. Check with your local landfill, sanitation service or recycle center for directions on disposal of the cans. For cans with paint in them, you may need to wait for a hazardous waste pickup day or special hazardous waste centers for disposal. (Be good to your environment and dispose of paint and cans properly)

If you have any questions or comments about this article, please email us.

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