Prepping to Paint
The excitement builds while flipping through paint cards and brochures at the paint store. All the pretty colors and soft new brushes, fluffy new rollers and shiny cans of eggshell gray beckon one to just start slathering the walls with layers of gorgeous new color. Whoa…hold on a little minute. Way before dipping a single brush into the first can, there’s a bit of work to do, to make the job go smoothly.
First and foremost, choose a knowledgable paint salesperson. Pick their brains about which paints work best for the surfaces you’ll be covering, what supplies work best, and any tips or tricks they might have up their sleeves. Unless you’re an experienced, professional painter, I’d recommend popping on YouTube and checking out a few painting videos. I’ve painted quite a bit through the years, but the ability to get quick tutorials from the pros changed my methods, gave us better results and saved us some time. I’ll share some of the best tips I gleaned here.
Don’t be afraid of making an upfront investment in the best paint you can afford, and good brushes and rollers. If forty or fifty bucks sounds expensive for a gallon of richly-colored paint that rolls on like pudding in one coat, then consider the fallacy of “bargain” two-coat paint you can snag off the bottom shelf for half the price. The colors will not be as full, it will take twice as long as it’ll need a second coat, and chances are the cheap paint won’t hold up as well over time. To make our painting lives easier, create a sense of flow throughout the house–and to have less waste at the end of the project, we chose just two basic colors for the entire house: gray for the walls, and white for the ceiling, trim, and closets.
A couple good, quality brushes will save you loads of frustration. Having at least one good angled edging brush and one nice wider flat brush will make the process much more fun. Be sure to get the correct nap (or “fluffiness”) for your rollers. We found it convenient to have one large and one small roller for each paint color. Make sure you have good painters’ tape (there are different types for different surfaces, so do some research or ask at the paint store!). Paint pans and liners are essential, a paint grate is very useful, especially if you’re buying in five-gallon pails, and don’t forget drop cloths and some rags to catch the oopses. Save some plastic lidded bottles or containers from mayo or ice cream or whatever, for carrying paint up the ladder and to hold the last quart at the end of the huge bucket. Plastic food wrap works great for wrapping brushes and rollers and other supplies between paint sessions. Beware of all the gizmos and gadgets that could funnel funds away from where it should be invested–the best of the basics will serve you well for years.
We didn’t need to cover the flooring as we are ripping it all out, but if you want to keep your carpets, cover them completely before you go any further! Protect or remove any furniture, counters, or other objects that might get dripped or splattered on. Have a couple clean, damp towels on hand as you go, as no matter how careful you are, there’ll be a few stray splatters that fly and drips that fall, and they are way easier to get off when they are wet. In my experience, regardless how careful you are, you’ll find some stray speckles now and then for months anyway, but damage-control at the beginning can save hours of scratching at little dried paint blobs. Un-painting is way less fun than painting!
After cleaning the dirty parts of the walls with a TSP cleaner, we removed all the stuff that we didn’t want to have to paint around. We used patching compound to fill in all the holes, and sprayed the larger patches with “orange peel” texture spray so they’d blend in better with the rest of the wall. We spent a good deal of time patching actually, as the previous resident apparently had a great affinity for push-pins and also left a few rather significant dents in the walls…and even a couple holes. Patching is a process in itself: smooth on the patching plaster, let it dry, fill in to account for shrinkage, sand it smooth, and then apply texture. It may be a bit tedious, but if you crank up some good tunes and let go of the temptation to cuss out the former resident, it’s really not a bad job.
We painted all the ceilings white first. When they dried completely, we taped them off and we started in on the gray walls. We rolled gray paint on the walls to a couple inches under the tape, and came back with a brush the border near the ceiling. Then, we went around each room and removed the tape as soon as the paint was dry to the touch.
In the first room we painted, the tape pulled off some of the ceiling paint. Frustrated with having to touch up what we had so carefully taped off, we returned to the paint store to solve the issue before moving on. We learned that there’s not just one kind of masking tape. I thought by choosing painters’ tape, we had narrowed it down far enough, but little did I know there are subgeneras of tape in the paint world! We needed a softer-release tape because we were applying tape to the white ceilings only a day after the paint was applied, so it hadn’t fully cured (or hardened).
A trick I learned from a professional painter is to use the wall as your guide while taping. To do that, you just hold the tape roll firmly against the wall as you go. Unroll only 6-8 inches of tape at a time, and pat it gently before pressing on firmly in a gliding motion, to avoid wrinkles. When ready to paint, dip just an inch of the bristles into the paint and tap off the excess (after all the taping, we don’t want globs oozing under the tape or dripping down the walls….). Even on lightly textured walls, a light back and forth motion of the brush helps get the paint into the little dips and divots.
When painting the big surfaces, use a clean roller that is well-coated in paint, but not drenched in it. As tempting as it may be to just dunk the whole darn fluffy roller deep into the bucket, resist! If you get paint inside the roller, it’ll come flying back out on you, your hair, your partner, the nice new door on the other side of the room, ANYthing you didn’t cover, as you roll. It’s just not worth it. Trust me; go easy on the paint. We want enough to cover well, so can’t be stingy with it, but too much of even the best paint turns the humble roller into a paint-spitting demon.
As we wrap up the painting, the whole place feels fresh and clean. Now that we have finished that messy step, we can move on to other remodel adventures! Next up: choosing and installing the floors!