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Main paint troubleshooting guide | Selecting the best paint colors
Tips for painting interiors | Tips for painting exteriors

Tips for painting interiors

Painting your home's interior can perform wonders! You can change it from drab to dynamic, from shabby to sophisticated, and from faded to fresh! The proper materials and a few basic painting tips are all you need to transform one room or an entire home. Doing your own painting can save you money, and if you plan carefully and follow these instructions, you will achieve professional results.

Things to consider before you begin painting

The first step in any redecorating project is to select an overall color scheme. That means taking all aspects of your decorating plan into consideration -- furnishings, carpeting and wall color. Color can create a mood, accentuate architectural assets and hide flaws. Be sure to consider the items listed below when selecting decorating colors:

  • What type of mood you want to create.
  • What furniture, artwork, architectural features, or other aspects of the room you want to emphasize
  • Any awkward physical characteristics of the room you would like to overcome.

The color you decide to paint your walls should be an integral part of your decorating decisions. Once you have decided on the wall color, you can select a specific paint shade using samples of all materials to be included in the room. Remember, color may appear differently depending on how large the painted area is, whether a glossy or flat finish is used, what other colors are nearby and the type of lighting used in the room.

Material you will need for the painting job

Before beginning any new paint project, assemble all of the items you will need to complete it. Here's a list:

Paint -- in a sufficient quantity to do the entire job
Appropriate applicators (brushes, rollers, etc.)
Dropcloths -- old sheets are fine
Screwdriver -- to remove wall hooks, door knobs and switchplates
Plastic automotive tape -- to edge window panes and cover other areas you don't want painted. (Used for painting stripes on cars, it is available at auto supply and paint stores.)
Hand cream -- to rub on your hand and arms before painting to make paint removal easier.
Turpentine or paint thinner -- when using oil-based paint

Interior paint selection

Paint comes in a wide variety of brands and types. These brief descriptions will help you decide which type best suits your needs:

Latex paints -- These are water-thinned and apply easily with a brush or roller. Clean-up with soap and water is a distinct advantage. Latex paints are available in most gloss ranges and will do a good job in most interior areas. They are not flammable and have a very mild odor.

Alkyd (oil) paints -- These are solvent-thinned paints. They apply well with a brush or roller but need turpentine or mineral spirits for clean-up. Sometimes preferred for areas where constant cleaning is necessary, like kitchens and bathroom shower areas. Very high gloss enamels are usually solvent-thinned. Odor is stronger during application than with latex paints, but disappears after a few days.

Enamels -- Enamels are generally smoother and dry to a harder surface than other interior paints. They are available in high or low gloss and can be either latex or alkyd.

Gloss -- The gloss is the luster or shininess of a dry paint. Paints are usually classified as flat, eggshell, semi-gloss or high gloss. A wide variety of gloss ranges is available.

Special paints and coatings -- These are available for most surfaces. Wood floors, concrete or masonry and metal surfaces require specific products. Consult your paint retailer and read the paint can label carefully for recommendations.

Since masonry usually contains alkali, the paint used to cover it should be alkali-resistant. Special paints are generally recommended.

Over iron or steel, a rust-inhibitive primer is usually desirable. Any type of enamel or paint may be used over the primer as a topcoat -- depending on the use of the area to be painted.

Choose the best applicator for the paint

It's always wise to choose good quality paint applicators. They produce more satisfactory results and a better looking job. Here is a list of the various applicators:

Natural bristle brushes -- recommended for thin-bodied coatings such as varnish, enamel and shellac. They should not be used with water-thinned (latex) paints. They wear down faster than synthetic brushes.

Polyester bristle brushes -- especially suited for use in water-thinned coatings because of their stiffness. However, on rough surfaces they wear down faster than nylon brushes.

Dulley painting guide - Tips for painting exteriors -- similar to polyester, but more abrasion resistant. They lose some of their stiffness after long exposure to latex paint on hot days. The type of bristling material should be stamped on the handle of the brush. Any brush you choose should be flagged (split tips). This enable sit to retain more paint and spread it more uniformly.

Rollers -- when you want to paint a large area in a short time. They are available in a variety of widths. Like brushes, some are better for one type of paint than another. A power paint roller that thumps paint out of the can and through the paint roller is also available and is useful for large jobs.

Pad applicators -- apply paint smoothly and fast, but require some skill. They come in various widths and are used with a roller tray.

Spray applicators -- mechanical spraying equipment can be purchased or rented. These can be either airless (hydraulic) or conventional air-atomized spray types. They are good for large jobs or hard-to-paint areas like shutters and louvered doors. Use spray applicators safely by following manufacturers directions. Open doors and windows and wear an appropriate paint spray respirator.

Spray cans (aerosols) -- clear coatings, paints and enamels are available in convenient spray containers. They are ideal for painting wicker furniture or other small difficult-to-paint projects. Open doors and windows to improve ventilation.

Surface preparation

Proper surface preparation is the key to a professional-looking and long-lasting paint job. Follow these steps for preparing your surfaces:

  • Examine plaster walls for cracks and mars.
  • Fix small hairline cracks with spackling material; fill larger cracks with special matching plaster. Sand lightly when dry for a smooth surface.
  • Clean the surface to remove dirt, oil, grease, rust and flaking paint.
  • Remove all hardware from doors and windows and loosen lighting fixtures or cover these areas with masking tape and scraps of paper or cloth.

How to prime the surface first

Bare or new surfaces and surfaces with areas where the paint has deteriorated will require a prime coat. If the old coating is intact and free of rust and peeling or blistering paint, it can serve as the prime coat after a light sanding. The topcoat you have chosen will usually name the proper primer to accompany it on the paint can's label . Sometimes the topcoat itself is recommended as a primer -- consult the can label.

Final preparation before starting to paint

  • Read all label instructions on the can of paint thoroughly and follow all suggestions especially for stirring.
  • Rub protective cream into your hands and arms -- it will be easier to remove all paint from your skin by washing with warm soap and water when the job is done.
  • Cover floor and furniture with dropcloths or sheets. Clean up paint splatters as you go along. They re much easier to remove when they are wet.
  • If you are using solvents or solvent-thinned paints be sure all pilot lights and fires are out before you begin. When using any type of paint or coating, be sure there is plenty of fresh air and ventilation in your working area.

How to paint ceilings

  • To prevent one lap from drying before you paint the next lap, work across the width of the ceiling rather than the length, painting about two-foot wide, slightly overlapping strips.
  • If you are using a ladder to reach the ceiling (rather than using a long-handled roller), be careful not to reach too far or risk falling off the ladder.
  • When you move the ladder, remove paint, brushes, or rollers to avoid spilling.

How to paint walls

  • Begin at the upper left-hand corner if you are right-handed, and at the upper right-hand corner if you are left-handed; work down toward the floor.
  • When using a roller, paint the outside edges with a brush first for a neater job.

How to paint woodwork

  • Use a round, one-inch brush for window sashes and a two to three-inch brush for the remainder of the trimwork throughout your house.
  • Before painting floor molding, put tape along the floor, to protect it from paint.

How to paint windows

  • Use tape along the edges of the glass, and then paint the various window parts in this order: mullions, horizontal sashes; vertical sashes; vertical frames; horizontal frames; sill; and apron.

Reprinted with permission of the National Paint and Coatings Association
Copyright National Paint and Coatings Association