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Throughout high school, my job was working as a monitor at the education branch of the Art Center, Des Moines' art museum (and quite a good one too, at least for its modern art collection). Each semester, I was assigned to two particular classes, to help the instructor with setting up, cleaning up, operating dangerous equipment for the young'uns (i.e. hot glue guns), modeling for the drawing classes, and generally being useful.

As a result, I've done quite a bit of work with paint. All kinds of paint. Cleaning up after acrylic paints was my favorite. The large dollops of leftover vivid colors apply smoothly and evenly over hands, perfect for experimenting with alternative skin colors. (I was particularly fond of turquoise and lilac.) I've rubbed hundreds and hundreds of brushes clear of oil paint, pouring out the turpentine into heavy containers for safe disposal. I've masked the edges of innumerable pieces of paper and canvas for painting. I've painted in dollops and washes, water and oil.

So that's what I know about paint.

Now what else do I need to know in order to do a good job painting the walls of a room?

P.S. I'm equipped with roller, tray, brushes, ladder, newspaper, extra-wide masking tape, and know what color of paint to buy. I'll be doing two coats. We've already tried out samplers on the wall. The light fixtures, hooks, and blinds are off the wall. I'll work around the sockets. My biggest worry is that I have no idea how to make brushwork blend in with rollerwork.


( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 15th, 2008 05:25 pm (UTC)
first: prepare the walls. remove old paint/paper. sand til smooth. wash the walls with sugarsoap. tape up the floor/skirtingboards/power points.

then: seal the walls with a paint/PVA mixture

finally: paint one or two white basecoats then as many colour coats as you want.

dont worry too much about brush/roller blending, it should be ok once it's dried.

edit: if you want a hand, one weekend, please say so! painting is my favourite DIY :)

Edited at 2008-06-15 05:28 pm (UTC)
Jun. 15th, 2008 05:30 pm (UTC)
How important is it to remove previous paint? I was rather hoping to just paint over it.

If we ever paint anything over a weekend, I will! This ended up being a necessary rush job. It's only the one room, and C. isn't even available to help with it. I'm hoping that allowed one day per coat is plenty. Tuesday for grading. Thursday for furniture delivery.
Jun. 15th, 2008 05:35 pm (UTC)
if the paint job is good enough, you might be able to paint over it (just sand and wash).

my house was papered, so that all had to come off first :)
Jun. 15th, 2008 06:13 pm (UTC)
you already sound way more expert than me and i've done my whole house several times over ! if you have a break i'd like it done again actually.. white or magnolia will do,,...
dont forget pitures bfore and after please!
sorry typuing with icre cream in hand,..
Jun. 15th, 2008 06:27 pm (UTC)
I like being strong on theory before I try out the practice of these sorts of things. Especially things I've not done before that I'd rather not have to redo afterwards. Urgent arrival of bedroom furniture later this week!

Will post pictures. Do you ever have dripped ice cream problems over warm keyboards?
Jun. 15th, 2008 06:19 pm (UTC)
That bit about working around the sockets? Don't. I've not learnt much from my brief exposure to painting - our room here, and Ciaran's room when we arrived - but what I do know is that anyone who does it profesionally does the "cutting in" (fickle painting around the bits and bobs) first and then the main painting afterwards;. It's a lot easier and my understanding is that you're less likely to end up with the unblended brushwork afterwards.
Jun. 15th, 2008 06:26 pm (UTC)
I already know which circuit breaker those sockets are on, so that'll be easy. (Thank goodness for buying lots of screwdrivers.) Thanks for the edges-first advice. Easily done. (Well, easily prioritized. We'll see about quality after the fact.)
Jun. 15th, 2008 06:32 pm (UTC)
Sand the existing paint until it is smooth and nothing flakes off.

Paint with undercoat.

Let it dry and then sand it again.

Paint with undercoat

Let it dry and sand gently.

Paint with top coat.

Let it dry and sand gently.

Paint with top coat again.

NB This gives a really professional effect if you're painting on top of plaster or existing paint. Painting on top of wallpaper requires a different approach.

NB2 Don't paint over acrylic/plasticised wallpaper.
Jun. 15th, 2008 06:40 pm (UTC)
No wallpaper, thank goodness. It's just paint that's already there.

I understand the importance of undercoat and its usefulness. What usefulness does all the sanding provide?

I presume that B&Q/Homebase/etc. can provide advice on efficient sanding methods, rather than small pieces of sanding paper and a whole lot of time.
Jun. 15th, 2008 08:43 pm (UTC)
the sanding provides an even surface for painting.. i wish you'd said - i have a handheld sander you could have borrowed ;)
Jun. 15th, 2008 09:02 pm (UTC)
I didn't know until yesterday that I was going to be painting this week!
Jun. 16th, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)
The initial sanding gets rid of things like flaking paint. If you paint over paint that is in bad condition, it will come off. The subsequent sandings remove stray paintbrush bristles, bits of thread etc. It also smooths out any brush/roller marks and keys the surface to receive the next load of paint.

I always used to just put a single coat on and then touch it up, but my mother had her house professionally painted by an old-style decorator and this was the regime he followed. So I tried it out myself and it does give a very... deep is the only way I can describe it, effect. It does, however, take a lot of time.
Jun. 15th, 2008 07:59 pm (UTC)
If the paint is already in good condition and not flaking, you don't need to sand. If it looks clean and unsmudged, then I wouldn't worry about actually washing the walls either. Unless they are greasy, the paint should stick with no problems. Unless you need to patch the walls with spackle/etc. because of existing holes or unless the paint is in bad condition, there's absolutely no reason to sand.

If the colour on the wall is significantly darker than the colour you're painting it, I'd advise using a primer/undercoat, simply because it will save you paint. Primer is cheaper than topcoat, which means that if you could get away with doing only one coat on top of primer rather than two coats of topcoat, you will almost certainly save money, and primer can help paint adhere better. However, some colours (very light ones) will essentially always require two coats, so unless the old colour is very dark a primer is probably not absolutely necessary.

Always cut in around the sockets/outlets first. You don't even need to turn off the electricity to do so - just pull off the socket/outlet cover and paint around it with a paintbrush. This makes roller-ing the walls a LOT faster. Do NOT cut in after you roll, or you will make that cut-in pattern OVER the rollered section and you'll notice it on the finished wall. In other words, you'd end up with little rectangular paint patterns around all your outlets and light switches, whereas if you cut in first, the roller eliminates the rectangular pattern so that it all blends in, if that makes sense.

My father is a builder and I've never, ever seen him do as much sanding as miramon recommends, even in our own homes over the years! If you have very rough plaster walls it might be worth a preliminary sanding to get it smooth but otherwise it sounds like a lot of fairly unnecessary work. It probably would give an incredibly supersmooth finish...but unless the plaster or current paint is in bad shape, I suspect that much more than a preliminary sanding (if you wanted to do one) isn't going to make a noticeable difference and will mean added time and expense!
Jun. 15th, 2008 08:04 pm (UTC)
Oh, and regarding primer, if you have fairly porous plaster walls that are absorbing a lot of paint, you might want to use a primer to "seal" the plaster before you put on the topcoats, essentially again to save you money (since otherwise you could end up using three or more layers of topcoat when you could get away with two after using primer, etc.)

It's also worth considering using a paintbrush rather than a roller on trim. Some people like the look of brushed rather than rolled trim - the paintbrush generally adds more texture, which gives a nice look on trim.

And, in case you didn't already know, do NOT use matte finishes on bathrooms/kitchens. They might LOOK nice, but you'll be sorry if you ever need to wipe them down! Semi-gloss really is much better than matte in situations where you have moisture because it's much easier to clean.
Jun. 15th, 2008 09:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you for all the advice and the reassurance on not sanding! I'm sure it will look better sanded. If I don't like how this paint job turns out, I'll know to follow that advice for future paint jobs. But I'd rather be able to complete this in two coats.

I think I can get away with two coats of topcoat. The color I'm covering is a relatively light yellow. I'm covering it in a much lighter pale green, but based on putting on two layers of sample paint, it should cover up pretty effectively in two. Also, based on the sample layers, the existing paint should be protecting any plaster wicking that might occur.

This is a bedroom, so we should be able to get away with matte on it. Good to know for wet spaces though. We're certainly going to be repainting the kitchen at some point in the next few months. (Possibly the bathroom too, now that C. pulled the towel rail out of the wall by accident.)

I won't be painting the ceiling or the trim. The paint in that room is in good shape. I just don't like the main wall color. Everything else is a tasteful white so - as long as I don't drip on it - shouldn't need repainting.
Jun. 15th, 2008 09:46 pm (UTC)
It sounds to me like you don't need to prime or sand it, especially if it's still in good shape! We're in the process of redoing the bathroom here at the moment and the only thing we're sanding is some of the spackle that my dad used to repair the walls.

Perhaps it's different in plastered houses (ie, plaster on brick) but I still don't think that sanding would be necessary if the plaster was smooth and in good shape. Maybe if you were painting a brand new plastered job (in which case I'd definitely use primer first anyway) but in the situation you're in, I think just painting on two coats of the colour you want should be fine.

Just be sure to tape well around that trim and keep a damp cloth handy in case you drip anything. As long as you wipe any drips while the paint is still wet, it'll come up nicely with a damp cloth.

Matte in bedrooms and other not-high-use areas is perfect and, in my opinion, does look nicer than semi-gloss :) I just remember all the nicks we made in our matte kitchen/hall/bathroom in Manchester, where they hadn't used the high-gloss (or multiple coats of paint, for that matter!).

Before and after photos, please!
Jun. 16th, 2008 04:55 am (UTC)
With all the recommendations for sanding, I thought I'd ask my dad for clarification. He said that if the old paint is a gloss or semi-gloss, it's generally a good idea to sand it lightly to get the shininess off, as that will help the new paint to adhere better. If it's a matte finish that you're painting on and the paint is in good condition, no need to sand. If you do sand, be sure to wipe down with a damp cloth so that you get all the dust off the wall before painting, or it won't stick as well.

Also, he said that in terms of washing the wall, you need to do that in places like kitchens, where the walls can be greasy. If you only sand over that, the paint won't stick well - wash, then sand and paint. Again, this is only necessary if the wall is dirty or, as in a kitchen, has grease/oil on it that builds up over time.

Jun. 16th, 2008 08:01 am (UTC)
Thank you! It looks like a matte finish to me. I'll wipe down the top of the wardrobe before painting it, as there's certain to be dust there, no matter how recently it was cleaned. Also, it's good to know that washing is just to get rid of sanding dust, so I'll wash the bits of wall where I've filled in with Polyfiller (it's so exciting to finally understand what spackle is!) Otherwise, I should be good.

I'll have my camera with me to document it all!
Jun. 15th, 2008 08:37 pm (UTC)
Buy bamboo canes or equivalent and fix your roller to them. This makes it sooo much easier to cover large areas of wall without having to climb up and down stepladders all the time. It's also a lot easier on the back/ shoulders/ arms.
Jun. 15th, 2008 09:03 pm (UTC)
I know where to buy rollers with built-in long handles. I don't actually know where to buy bamboo canes.
Jun. 15th, 2008 09:48 pm (UTC)
You can get bamboo canes in a garden centre. B&Q probably has them too.

I'd just go with a long-handled roller, though, or, better yet, one with a telescoping arm like we use. My sister and I are short and it works great - if you have really high ceilings, though, bamboo canes might be a good stand-in if your roller handles weren't long enough!
Jun. 16th, 2008 08:01 am (UTC)
I was eyeing one of the telescoping ones in the store the other day. I'll buy one when I go back for paint later this morning.
Jun. 16th, 2008 01:21 am (UTC)
Before painting, Craig repairs any defects in the walls, then sands the walls, then washes them (I *think* with just plain water), and then primes and paints. If the previous paint job is decent, you shouldn't need to remove the previous paint--although if it's a bright or dark color, you may need more than one coat of primer. (You can also use tinted primer.)

Craig would also recommend removing the switchplate covers and covering the outlets/switches with painter's tape. It's not a huge deal, but removing the switchplate covers is a good idea if you think you'll ever want to install different ones.
Jun. 16th, 2008 08:03 am (UTC)
I'll remove the outlet covers. It's only a screwdriver-and-circuit job, easy enough. C. already removed the switchplate cover in the room, along with a badly wired-in lamp on the wall.

Thank you for the advice!
Jun. 16th, 2008 02:30 am (UTC)
Eh -- too much work for me. IME, you do need to know whether you've got an oil- or water-based paint on the walls already. If you have an oil-base, you probably need to prime, if you'd like to move to water-based (I can't remember the UK name for it, but over here, we call it latex paint -- better for the environment, apparently, and far fewer fumes. If the old occupants were smokers, you will need to sand and prime, and might need to in the kitchen, if there's grease.

If you're doing ceilings, do them first.

Otherwise, mask along the joins to avoid going over.

If you can remove your fixtures, plate covers, etc, do so and get that bit of painting down. Cut in from all the joins and edges with a smallish brush or edging tool 4-6", then roller. I hate using extensions, because I have not so much upper body strength, and I also like the control of the shorter handle. BUT -- lately, I've used paint pads for almost everything. I LOVE them. Much more control over the amount of paint and coverage.

Don't forget drop cloths!!
Jun. 16th, 2008 08:10 am (UTC)
They weren't smokers, fortunately.

I'm fascinated by the verb so many helpful people are using, "cut in" for "paint around the edges of". I wonder why that's the verb that came to mean this?

Having just gone away to read up on what paint pads are, they look interesting and good for achieving a brushstroke-free finish.

I presumed the pre-existing paint was oil-based. I'll be painting with oil, I think, with the windows wide open. Thank you for all the advice!
Jun. 16th, 2008 02:37 pm (UTC)
I'm fascinated by the verb so many helpful people are using, "cut in" for "paint around the edges of". I wonder why that's the verb that came to mean this?

I don't know, but my first guess is that it comes from wallpapering, where one does cleverly cut holes in the paper to get a snug fit around the fittings. With the same end result in view - a neat look around the fittings - it's a short step to using an established phrase to apply to a different process with a different medium.

But as I say, I'm guessing.

Also, what everyone else said. I sand woodwork - anything glossed, basically - before repainting, and anywhere I've had to make good on the wall, but not regular paintwork.
Jun. 16th, 2008 08:54 am (UTC)
Run away from Dulux paint. We did four coats over the B&Q paint we used to even up the tone on the walls, and it took four coats to cover completely (with the B&Q paint being a shade darker of the same colour!), and then it bubbled up. Run away.

Plus, y'know, what other people have said. :-)
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )