Your Go-To Guide to Interior Painting

Painting Guide

Ready to paint the interior of your home but have no idea where to start? This step-by-step painting guide can help.

Find Pros 1. Choose a Paint Finish and Gloss

With all of the paint manufacturers and dealers offering so many different products, it's understandable that most homeowners have no clue which paint to buy and use.

The first thing to understand is that paints have different gloss ratings, or sheens: flat, low-sheen, eggshell, semi-gloss and gloss.

Flat paint has little or no sheen and is used primarily for walls and ceilings. The remaining are considered enamels and can range from a 5 percent to 85 percent sheen rating – the higher the rating, the higher the shine. These are used for trim, cabinets and walls -- primarily in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms.

Many homeowners use enamels on all of their walls because enamels are more durable and easier to clean; low-sheen is recommended because it is more attractive than shinier enamels.

2. Decide How Much Paint You Should Buy

You'll need to measure the square footage of your walls and ceilings to determine how much paint you'll need. Most paint will cover from 300 to 400 square feet per gallon. It's best to double that and apply two coats on all surfaces to ensure good coverage and maximum durability.

Don't buy the cheapest paint; it probably won't give you the coverage or durability you need. But you don't necessarily need to buy the most expensive paint either.

Painting Guide 3. Purchase Paint and Tools

Be sure to have the following tools on hand before you begin painting:

  • At least one good 2.5- to 3-inch paint brush
  • A 9-inch roller frame
  • A 9-inch screen
  • A 9-inch roller cover with a 1/2 to 1-inch nap (lambs' wool is best)
  • A 2-gallon bucket
  • A 5-gallon bucket
  • A 4- to 8-foot rolling pole 
  • Foam brushes and rollers (optional; give a smoother finish on trim and cabinets)

Find Pros 4. Prepare Rooms for Painting

Resist the temptation to take shortcuts to save time and effort; proper prep work can make the difference between a good paint job and a great one.

1. Remove everything from walls. Take down window coverings and remove the switch plates and hardware from doors (and cabinets, if you'll be painting them).

2. Protect furnishings and floors. Move all of the furniture to the middle of the room and cover it with plastic. Use drop cloths and/or plastic to cover floors as well. (Disposable plastic drop cloths work just fine.)

3. Sand trim. Enamel paint on trim needs to be dulled using either sandpaper (be sure to wear a dust mask) or a liquid de-glosser. (Be sure to follow directions on the label.) Sandpaper is good because it enables you to buff out old brush marks and roughness.

4. Spackle over cracks and holes. Fill cracks with a paintable latex caulk, fill nicks and dings with spackle or Bondo, and spot prime these areas. 

5. Remove all grease and dirt. Clean any grease, wax or dirt with Tri-Sodium Phosphate (TSP) or another degreaser, then rinse.

6. Apply primer. Walls that were previously painted with an oil-based enamel (most likely in older kitchens, bathrooms or laundry rooms) should be primed with an oil-based primer. If there is oil-based enamel on the trim or cabinets, you'll need to apply a prime coat there as well. A slower-drying oil-based primer with good hiding ability is recommended. However, you'll probably need paint thinner to clean up.

7. Cover stains. Smoke stains should be primed with a stain blocking primer.

8. Tape off the area. Cover baseboards with 2-inch masking tape.

Painting Guide 5. Start Painting

Make one final appraisal of your prep work to make sure it's complete. Read paint labels for any special instructions and familiarize yourself with what you're using. You should be ready to go.

1. Put your 9-inch screen in your 5-gallon bucket (eliminating the need for a roller tray) and pour three to four gallons of paint in the bucket.

2. Attach your rolling pole to the roller frame, slide on the roller cover, and dunk it into the bucket.

3. Roll only three feet at a time to spread the paint evenly over the wall, using the roller to get as close to the corners as possible.

4. After rolling, pour some paint into the 2-gallon bucket, dip your new brush and start "cutting in" around the trim and corners.

5. Make sure the paint is completely dry before applying the second coat.

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