A Fresh Start With Paint

There is no easier or less expensive way to transform a room than by painting it. Even if you paint it the same color, the clean look will both thrill and inspire you. While painting a room is not complicated, visiting your local paint or home-improvement store can feel overwhelming. By selecting the proper paint and using good painting techniques, you can ensure a successful outcome for your labors.

Paint Selection

Consider four things when choosing paint: type, color, finish, and quantity. Type means latex or oil-based. Latex is easier for several reasons, but if you must have oil, be sure to ask the store's paint expert about special concerns when using oil-based paint. For color, start by picking up some paint chips and bringing them home. The colors will look very different in the lighting of the chosen room compared to the store lights. Once you have purchased the paint (after choosing the finish) you can paint a "test board", a spare wooden board approximately 3' by 3', to really know if the paint color is appropriate for the room. Place the painted board in all areas of the room and view it at different times of the day. While this step may add an extra day to your painting project, it's worth it for the added assurance.

The finish indicates how glossy the paint is. While glossy paint is easier to clean, it will reveal wall imperfections the most. Use flat paint for walls that won't be scuffed often, such as spare bedrooms and the living room. Eggshell (also satin or low luster) can be cleaned more easily and is perfect for family bedrooms, hallways, and dining areas. Use semi-gloss for high-traffic areas such as family bathrooms and kitchen walls. Semi-gloss is also perfect for trimming windows and doors in rooms that you paint with a flat or eggshell finish for the walls. Gloss is for areas you know you will constantly need to clean. Also, if you used semi-gloss for kitchen walls, use gloss for the trim to provide contrast. Just remember that a gloss finish will be very shiny.

To calculate how much paint you need, compute the area of the wall space (so you DO need geometry in real life!) Measure the perimeter of the room (add the lengths of the walls). Multiply this number by the height of the room. For each window, subract 14. For each door, subtract 20. The result is the area of the room's wall space. On the paint can, there should be a number called the "spreading rate". Divide your area by this number. The result is how many cans you need for each coat. (It is typical to apply one coat of primer and two coats of paint.) For trim paint, you need about 1/4 the amount you calculated for the walls.

Other Necessary Materials

Be sure to purchase a paint tray and plastic liner, rollers, roller covers (higher nap number for textured walls), and blue painters' tape. You will need good-quality brushes for painting trim and "cutting in" (painting edges that the roller can't reach). For ceilings and walls in big rooms, buy poles that can be attached to the rollers to lengthen your stroke. You will also need several drop cloths, preferably canvas if you want to reuse them, and rags for wiping up spills and cleaning paint cans. Many other items will seem enticing at the store and are useful, but the above are the basics.

Room Preparation

First, wash the walls with a mild cleanser and water. Use a sponge mop for the ceiling. Then make any necessary repairs to cracks, uneven seams, etc. Sand any necessary surfaces, especially those that currently have semi-gloss or gloss paint on them. This will help the new paint adhere to the surface. Wipe off any dust, then get ready to paint.

You are sure to end up with some paint in your hair or on your clothes, but do your best to keep it off of:

1. The floor and furniture. Move furniture out of the room or into the middle and cover with drop cloths. Cover the floor with drop cloths, too. Canvas is better since plastic can be slippery.

2. Wall hangings, outlet covers, and light fixtures. Remove wall hangings, gently pull out nails and fill holes with putty. Detach outlet covers and label with tape on the back for easy replacement. Remove light fixtures or cover with plastic bags (only if you won't be turning them on!)

3. Trim. Since you are painting the walls first, cover the trim with blue painters' tape. (This tape has less tack than masking tape, so it won't leave sticky stuff behind.)

The Real Work Begins

If you have several cans of the same color, you may want to mix them in one larger, clean bucket and stir to ensure color evenness.

When painting with a brush straight from the can, first punch a nail hole through the inner rim so that paint will drain back into the holes instead of spilling over the sides.

Paint with long strokes for a smooth finish.

Try to alternate "cutting in" with painting with the roller, or split these duties with your painting buddy, for a less noticable difference between the two areas.

Wait until paint is dry to the touch before applying the next coat.

If possible, direct a bright light onto the wall you are painting to better see your progress.

When you need a break while painting or must continue the following day, wrap your brush with plastic wrap or foil and place it in the freezer so that you don't have to wash it out immediately.

Always replace lids on paint cans when not in use.

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