Tried-and-true tips for a successful DIY painting project.
By Matt Weber
Experienced painters know that professional results come from careful planning and prep work. Before you revitalize a room with a new coat of paint, the walls need to be free of all dings, dents, cracks and holes.
Repair your Walls
Over time, walls are often damaged from accidental impact, or cracks can develop from the house settling. Pictures and artwork are rearranged to update the interior décor, and fastener holes are left behind, pockmarking the walls. These types of minor drywall damage can be easily repaired with a putty knife and vinyl spackling or lightweight joint compound.
Clear out the holes then recess the edges below the wall surface using the blunt handle of a putty knife. Use the blade of the knife to fill the hole with repair compound, flush with the wall. Allow to dry overnight and reapply as needed if any shrinking has occurred. Lightly sand smooth if necessary. Coat the repair with two coats of primer before painting. Some of the new spackling pastes are formulated with primer already in the product, which eliminates the extra step.
For larger holes you might try an aluminum screen patch, which are sold at hardware stores in 4-, 6-, and 8-in. sizes. Choose a patch that is larger than the damaged area on all sides by at least an inch, and stick the adhesive patch over the hole. Trowel on the first coat of drywall compound so the screen is barely visibly, then allow to dry overnight. Follow with a wider coat of compound, feathering the edges smooth 8 to 12 inches outside the patch. Allow to dry, then add a third coat, sanding as need to blend the repair with the surrounding wall.
Tape & Protect
When priming and painting, DIY’ers can use painter’s tape to mask off all areas where one color meets another, such as window or door trim, accent walls, etc. When applying the tape, use a roller or putty knife to burnish it to the surface you are masking for the best seal. And always remove the tape immediately after you’ve finished painting. This helps prevent dry paint from bridging over the tape and peeling when you remove it, which can mess up the crisp paint lines.
Cover everything you don’t want painted with a plastic or canvas drop cloth. Don’t skimp by buying the cheapest, thinnest plastic sheets, either. The thicker the plastic the more durable it is, and the better it stays in place without wadding up beneath your feet and exposing the floor or furniture beneath. If you’re painting a large room, cover the entire floor with thick plastic and seal the seams with tape.
Starting with a good primer ensures the truest color for your top coat, no matter the surface you’re working with—walls, cabinetry or trim. Beyond the truer color, primer offers stain- and odor-blocking properties and also provides a more enduring top-coat finish.
One thing to consider is that priming will never hurt anything.
If in doubt, prime it. And it definitely helps to use a primer if you’re painting a lighter color over a darker one. For darks over lights, you can use a tinted primer to reduce the number of topcoats you’ll need to achieve the desired color.
To load a brush, dip it only 1 to 2 inches into the paint. Gently tap the brush on the side of the container, first one side and then the other. The excess paint will stay in the container and leave you with a fully loaded brush for field painting or cutting in.
“Cutting in” is the art of drawing a straight line that separates two colors using only a paint brush—no masking tape or other aid. When cutting in, always keep a fully loaded brush. Using it parallel to the area to be cut, let the brush open up into a semi oval and bring it into the line you are cutting. Follow the line until the paint begins to break up. Repeat this procedure, working into the previously painted area.
If you find “cutting in” free-handed too difficult to maintain a crisp line, simply mask the lines with painter’s tape. However, avoid pushing paint into the tape with the brush, which can cause the paint lines to bleed.
Also, don’t paint out of a can. The brush picks up debris that will make its way back into the source can and create specks and lumps in the paint. Furthermore, the air interacting with the paint in the can will dry it prematurely. Instead, load paint into a separate lightweight container, working with a 1/2-in. pour of paint. Refresh the paint often to keep it in a fluid state.
For field painting, rollers get the job done quickly with a consistent surface texture. One often overlooked step in a painting project is prepping the roller cover. All synthetic covers require some form of preconditioning to improve their performance. Before use in latex paints, rinse the cover with a faucet or hose, then spin it to remove excess water. Before using oil-based paints, the cover should be lubricated in the solvent used to thin the paint. Mohair covers should also be preconditioned in the solvent used for thinning. Preconditioning prevents the lack of paint release caused by the paint attaching to the fibers. (Lambskin roller covers have natural oils and don’t require preconditioning).
When rolling, fill the paint tray no more than 1/3 full. Load the entire surface of your roller cover with paint, rolling it slowly down the tray, then back several times so the cover absorbs. Use the tray’s grid to prevent overloading. When painting walls, start at the top and work downward. Roll a large “W” in a space about 3 by
3 feet. Then fill in between the gaps, blending into your initial strokes. Always work from the unpainted into the painted surface. Repeat the process when you start a new area.
Avoid painting with a worn roller. When the roller cover deteriorates, roller material will tear free and become embedded in the new paint. This will require you to clean the debris from the paint and re-coat the area. Or worse, you could miss the debris, and it could dry into the new coat of paint. Make sure to have replacement covers handy and keep the roller saturated with paint while you work.
After your project, clean all rollers, brushes and related paint equipment immediately after use and store in a clean, dry place.
Paint with a Sprayer
When applying paint with a sprayer, either HVLP or airless, movement of the gun is extremely important. Keep your wrist straight and the spray nozzle parallel to the work surface for consistent application (rather than flexing your wrist and swinging the gun, which causes overspray and uneven coating). The gun should be held 7 to 12 inches away from the work surface. Start at the top and work downward. To avoid excessive paint accumulation, don’t pull the trigger unless the gun is in motion. Squeeze the trigger as you move into a spraying pass over the work surface. Follow the tool manufacturer’s guide-lines for tip selection, cleaning procedures and paint-thinning recommendations.
Once the job is over, always flush the sprayer using the appropriate solvent. This is an absolutely critical step and ensures the machine will be properly stored without contaminants that gunk up the system.
Follow these pro-grade tips to get professional results on your next painting project.
Side Note 1
Store Paint Correctly
Since air is the drying agent of paint, its exposure should be limited if you want to keep it performing like new. Air thickens the paint, which causes brush marks during application. Keep the can capped immediately after pouring the paint you need. When capping, blow into the container before sealing to increase its shelf life. Carbon dioxide in your breath reduces the oxygen level that causes paint to skin over.
For long-term paint storage, transfer excess paint to a smaller container if a can is less than half full. This will ensure less air exposure. Filter the paint through a paint strainer when transferring. Use a plastic bag to cut a gasket an inch larger than the mouth of the container to help seal the paint inside. Tap the lid closed with a rubber mallet, sealing all the way around the rim.
Side Note 2
Pick the Right Paint
Interior vs. Exterior— Paints have this designation for a good reason. Exterior paints often have a fungicide or UV blocker to ensure better outdoor performance, but these chemicals may pose adverse health effects to the home’s occupants when used indoors, where an interior-grade paint would be a better choice.
Oil-based, Latex or Enamel— Oil-based paints are typically composed of pigments dissolved in a mineral spirit such as paint thinner. Latex-based products are an emulsion suspended in water. The biggest difference for the DIY’er is that oil-based paint requires mineral spirits for cleanup, has a longer dry time and a stronger odor, but it dries to a harder finish. Latex products typically will dry faster and are easier to clean up, requiring only water. Oil-based paints are used primarily where a harder finish is required. However, today’s improved latex products can be used in most applications that traditionally called for an oil-based paint. Enamel is a broad classification for finishing materials that dry to a smooth finish. In the past “enamel” referred only to oil-based coatings, but some new latex products area also referred to as enamels. Always refer to the paint manufacturer’s recommendations for specific usage.
The Right Sheen for the Job— Flat paints conceal imperfections in walls and other surfaces, making them a good choice for ceilings and rooms that aren’t exposed to moisture or heavy soiling (bedrooms, home offices, living rooms). High-gloss paints tend to highlight imperfections in walls and woodwork, but they are durable and stain-resistant—and much easier to clean than paints with less gloss. High-gloss sheen is ideal for windows, baseboards and moldings. Paints with semi-gloss sheen are a smart compromise between the two sheen extremes, providing some of the benefits of each. They can be used on the walls and cabinets of kitchens and baths. Additional sheens include eggshell and satin, which are less shiny than semi-gloss paints so they won’t highlight nicks and imperfections quite as much, but since they have a little gloss, they’ll be easier to clean than flat paints.
Side Note 3
On your next paint-prepping project, use the AeroSander from Wooster Bursh Co. It reduces drag for highly efficient drywall sanding, plus the unique 9-1⁄2-in. triangular shape covers large surfaces and also reaches into corners for faster results than rectangular sanders. The sander mounts onto an extension pole and offers stable 360-degree pivoting for full surface contact, so it won’t flip or gouge the wall. The Velcro-brand hook-and-loop pad ensures easy abrasive changes, and the system now offers a new 220-grit paper for finish sanding. Visit www.woosterbrush.com.