painting tips



Tint the Primer

Whether you're painting interior walls or exterior siding, a coat of primer is key to obtaining professional-looking results. This goes for previously painted surfaces as well as raw wood and new drywall. Unfortunately, most homeowners never bother with primer, which explains why they end up with blah-looking paint jobs. Primer serves three main functions: First, it blocks stains and resinous knots from bleeding through; second, it provides one-coat coverage for the paint topcoat; most importantly, it improves adhesion, which greatly reduces blisters and extends the life of the topcoat. 

To further enhance the coverage of the topcoat, try this pro tip: Tint the primer toward the finished color by mixing a small amount of topcoat paint into the primer. (Be sure the primer and topcoat are both latex-based or both oil-based; never mix coatings with dissimilar solutions.) This will greatly enhance the ability of the topcoat to hide the prepped surface completely, especially when painting a lighter topcoat over an existing darker color. 


Roll With a Pole
When painting rooms, forget the ladder and get a telescoping extension pole for your paint roller. Extension poles come in various sizes, but one that extends from about 18 in. to 30 or 36 in. offers plenty of reach for painting rooms with ceilings that are 9 ft or lower. There are also extra-long extension poles that telescope up to about 18 ft for painting cathedral ceilings and loft spaces. 

To attach the extension pole to the paint roller, simply thread it into the hole in the paint-roller handle. Check to be sure your paint-roller handle has a threaded hole in its end; most of them do. The shaft of the pole telescopes out and can be locked anywhere along its length with a twist of the wrist. 

When shopping for extension poles, look for one that has a soft, nonslip rubber grip and a rigid metal core. And be sure the threaded end of the pole is metal, too. All-plastic handles are too flexible, making them hard to control, and the plastic gets fatigued over time and can snap under pressure. Also check to be sure the telescoping shaft locks securely in position and doesn't collapse when forced. 



Paint Off a Grid

When it comes to poorly designed hardware items, it's hard to find one that matches the futility of the paint-roller tray. Here's a device meant to hold paint for paint rolling, but it spills easily, only holds a small amount of paint, is hard to carry from one spot to another, and is difficult to clean. Plus, you must place the tray on the floor, where someone--okay, me--invariably kicks it or steps in the paint. 

I stopped using paint trays years ago, and have never regretted it. Now I roll paint directly from a 5-gal bucket using a paint grid, which is a rectangular, rigid metal screen that hooks onto the rim of the bucket. Start by filling the bucket about halfway with paint, then hang the grid in the bucket. Now dip half of the roller sleeve into the paint, and roll it against the grid to remove excess paint, which drips back into the bucket. At the end of the day, just drop the grid into the bucket and snap on the lid. 



Plain a day for prep
  • Don't try to get everything done in one day. Use the day before painting day to gather furniture in the center of the room, patch cracks and holes, put blue painter's tape around doors and windows, and cover wall and ceiling light fixtures (light bulbs removed, of course!) with large plastic bags.
Clear out the room

If you can, clear out all the furniture and accessories. Take everything off the walls. If you can't move everything out, place the furniture and lamps in the middle of the room and cover them with a good drop cloth. Be sure that you tape the cloth around the furniture. Then put a second cover of plastic or old sheet over everything. 

Remove all hardware


It may seem easier to paint around door knobs or cabinet hinges, but unless you're a professional, very experienced painter, you're bound to get drips around. So carry around some zip top bags and remove all cabinet knobs and hinges, door knobs, light switch plates and outlet covers, and light fixtures. Place the pieces together in separate bags and clearly mark the contents and location (top left cabinet, bathroom door, etc) you took them from. This is a great time to clean the hardware! Put them back when you're done painting. 


Get yourself ready

  • No matter how hard you try, you're bound to get drips (or more) of paint on whatever you're wearing. So take off all jewelry. Reserve some old, but comfortable, clothes for your painting jobs. Slip-on shoes are easy to take off if you need to leave the room. You won't have to worry about tracking drops of paint into other rooms. When you paint the ceiling, put a scarf, shower cap, or old baseball hat over your hair and some plastic over your eyeglasses.
Dont paint over problems walls
  • If your walls have holes or cracks, fix them before you start with the paint. Any home center or paint store has knowledgeable personnel to guide you to the best products for the job. Wide cracks and large holes can be "bridged" with fiberglass tape, spackle will fill small holes and cracks, and texturizing products are available to match your existing wall finish.