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Paint a Room

Find essential information on painting tools, paint preparation and how to paint walls and ceilings. The more you know up front, the better your results will be.

W pattern on the wall.

Preparing to Paint

Taped outlet.

Clearing the Walls

Before painting the walls, remove all hardware in the room and anything hanging on the walls, such as:

  • Electrical switch plates and receptacle plates
  • Cable TV outlets
  • Phone jack covers
  • Curtains
  • Art/pictures
  • All decorations
  • Nails/screws

If you've decided to paint the ceiling as well as the walls, remove all ceiling fixtures. For fixtures that are suspended by a post:

  1. Remove the cover plate.
  2. Cover the fixture to protect it from paint drips.
  3. Paint the area covered by the plate.
  4. Once the ceiling is dry, simply replace the plate.

 

Protecting Furniture and Immovable Items

Remove any furniture from the room that you can. All other furniture should be pulled away from the walls and, if possible, moved to the center of the room. After you've done this, protect all areas that won't be painted.

  • Use painter's tape and plastic sheets to cover electrical receptacles and switches.
  • Cover all of your furniture and floor area with drop cloths. Paint brushes sometimes drip and rollers emit a fine spray of paint that settles over the room like dust.

 

Repairing Walls

A new coat of paint should be applied to a clean, hole-free surface. If you're painting over a pre-painted wall, make sure there's no loose or flaking paint.

All holes and imperfections in the wall should be repaired. Be sure to wear a dust mask when sanding. The basic repair steps are:

  1. Apply the spackling compound with a putty knife. Spread the compound over the hole several times using an X motion. Scrape off excess compound from the wall.
  2. Allow the spackling compound to dry overnight according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  3. Close all doors and vents to prevent the sanding dust from spreading to other areas of the house.
  4. Sand the repaired area smooth using fine-grit sandpaper (150 to 200 grit).
  5. Clean the repaired areas to remove dust.

 

Cleaning and Taping the Walls

Now that everything in the room is removed and/or covered, it's time to wash the walls and remove dirt, dust and other substances. Wear gloves to protect your hands.

  1. Wash the walls from the bottom up using TSP (tri-sodium phosphate).
  2. Rinse the walls with clean water and a sponge.
  3. Allow the walls to dry before taping.
  4. Protect your moulding and window sills with painter's tape.
Caution

If your home was built before 1978, you may have lead paint on the interior walls. Use a lead paint testing kit to help determine if you have lead paint and need to take proper safety steps.

Good to Know

You should have plenty of air circulation and ventilation in the room you’ll be painting. Use an oscillating fan for additional circulation.

Painting Tips

Stirring paint.

Priming

New construction, patched or repaired areas, and pre-finished surfaces that have a high-gloss paint will need to be primed. Priming seals the surface and helps the paint cover more evenly.

 

Stirring the Paint

Be sure to stir well and mix down into the bottom of the can. The paint pigment needs to be thoroughly blended.

 

Suggested Painting Order

The order in which you paint a room should be:

  1. Ceiling
  2. Walls
  3. Windows and Doors
  4. Trim

If you’re painting your room in radically different colors, apply the lighter paint color first and then the darker color.

 

Taking Breaks and Overnight Drying

  • If you take a break, never leave your brushes/rollers in paint. Cover paint trays with a damp rag to keep a paint skin from forming.
  • When taking overnight breaks, tightly seal paint cans and throw away tray liners.
  • Clean rollers/brushes and allow them to dry overnight.
  • If you’re using the same paint colors the next day, you can keep the paint on the rollers/brushes by wrapping them in plastic wrap and placing them in the freezer. The rollers/brushes won't dry out or get hard.

 

Good to Know

If your paint is a deep color such as red, use a gray or matching tinted primer to match the paint. The tinted primer will reduce the number of coats necessary.

Painting Ceilings

Painting a ceiling.

Most people dread the thought of painting the ceiling. If you use a paint extension pole, the job will be a lot easier. You can stand on the floor to paint the majority of the ceiling. If your ceilings are vaulted, you may have to use a stepstool or ladder in conjunction with an extension pole.

 

Step 1

Start in the corner of the room and paint the edge of the ceiling along the walls using a paint edger. Be careful to not get paint on the guide rollers on the edger.


Step 2

Roll the paint on with a series of diagonal swaths (shaped like the letter W). Fill in the open areas by cross-rolling.

Painting Walls

Rolling paint on wall.

Step 1

Pour the paint in the reservoir area of a lined tray.


Step 2

Use a small angled brush to paint next to the floor boards, ceiling and corners. This application will take some practice. In addition to the brush, use a long painter's shield to help with edging around moulding. Paint the area about 2 inches above the floor moulding and 2 inches below the crown moulding.


Step 3

Load the roller and apply the paint in a large W shape, beginning in a corner near the ceiling. Fill in by rolling across the W.


Step 4

Paint the wall in blocks of 4 feet by 4 feet from the ceiling to the floor. Paint each adjacent block before the previous one dries to blend the edges together.


Step 5

If using high-gloss or semi-gloss paint, apply in smaller sections that measure 2 feet by 2 feet.


Step 6

Allow the walls to dry completely. This usually takes about three hours.


Step 7

Add a second coat of paint if the first coat isn't the desired color.

Good to Know

Dip the roller in the paint tray. Roll it back and forth on the ridged part at the top of the tray to evenly distribute the paint.

Painting Windows

Paint the windows starting with the sashes. Then paint down the window casing to the sill.

Painting Doors

For raised panel doors, paint the panels first using a sash brush. Then paint the door from top to bottom.

Flat panel doors can be painted with a roller.

 

Painting Woodwork

Paint the woodwork using a sash brush. Paint with the grain of the wood.

Cleaning Up

Before you remove the drop cloths wait at least three hours for the paint to completely dry. Don't re-hang pictures for at least a day.

 

Latex Paint

Brushes and rollers can be re-used if properly cleaned.

  1. Scrape away as much paint as possible from the brush/roller using a paint stirring stick.
  2. Immediately soak the brushes/rollers in water. Remove the roller from the frame before soaking. Use a brush comb to remove additional paint.
  3. Squeeze the brushes/rollers to remove excess water.
  4. Clean them with warm, soapy water.
  5. Rinse thoroughly and squeeze out as much water as possible.
  6. Allow the brush/roller to dry.
  7. Wrap brushes in paper towels to help keep the bristles in good condition.


Oil-Based Paint

Soak brushes/rollers in paint thinner and follow steps 2-5 above.

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