What to Know Before You Paint

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Painting is an intense process, and one that many people like to do themselves. However, most don't know just how much each aspect of the home painting process requires. For a quick overview of some of the most important facts of DIY home painting, look no further. We've got you covered.

The type of paint matters. Don't worry about brand names, unless you're particular to one specifically. The type of wall that you're painting should dictate the type of paint you use, so keep these general guidelines in mind: For kitchens and baths, use a moisture- and peel-resistant satin or semigloss paint that also has mildewcides. This helps fight bacteria, mold and mildew buildup from the excess steam and moisture produced in those rooms.

For ceilings, choose a paint that is specifically labeled as "ceiling paint." They are thicker and less splatter-prone than wall paint, keeping messes to a minimum while coating. The colors are also extra flat, so as to avoid any excess glare from lights in the room. For any entryway, stairway or family room, choose a durable, easy-to-clean, 100 percent acrylic latex paint in an eggshell sheen. The durability will stand up to high traffic and fingerprints that are common in these rooms.

It costs more than you think... For the average 12-by-12-foot room, a do-it-yourselfer will still pay about $200. In all, the 3 gallons of paint will usually cost close to $11, the brush, roller and cover will tally up to around $30, tape, drop cloths and sandpaper add to another $25, and 2 gallons of primer cost $35.

...and takes more time than you'd like. You can't rush painting, but a lot of people try to. Take note: The average 12-by-12-foot room takes about two days to finish completely. Here's a breakdown: Prep takes three hours, and primer one more. Primer dry time is four hours. Your first coat will take two hours, and then you have to let it dry overnight. Your second coat will take about an hour and a half, while dry time and cleanup is another five hours. Your touchups will last about an hour, and then your paint needs another overnight sit. Trust me; the right time investment makes a big difference.

You need the right tools. There are three main types of roller covers and three types of brushes. Smooth rollers with a 1/4-inch nap work best for semigloss or gloss on smooth drywall or plaster walls. Semi-smooth rollers with 3/8-inch naps work well on semigloss, flat or eggshell on lightly textured plaster or wood-paneled walls. Rough rollers have 3/4-inch nap and are best for flat or eggshell paints on highly textured stucco or masonry walls.

Brushes come in 1-inch angled, 2 1/2-inch angled and 3-inch straight models. The 1-inch angled brush is best for details, such as moldings and window muntins, while the 2 1/2-inch angled brushes work well on window and door casing, cabinetry and cutting in. Large expanses, such as wainscoting and doors, are best handled with a 3-inch straight brush.

There's a preparation checklist. Before starting paint jobs in any room, there are seven things you need to do. Remove all window treatments, wall-hung art, area rugs and outlet and switch-plate covers. Cover any remaining furniture with drop cloths, and wrap chandeliers and wall sconces in plastic sheeting. Protect window and door hardware by removing them or covering them with tape. Sand all walls and trim. Dust with a tack cloth, and treat plaster with a solution of 1 pint vinegar and 1 gallon water. Finally, tape exposed outlets and switches, window panes, HVAC vents and any other areas that need to be kept paint-free.

Different tapes are for different things. You also want to stick to the best-quality tapes, because paint bleeding is extremely difficult to remedy in most cases. For striped designs, choose tape with a polymer-based adhesive that forms a gel barrier at the edges. This will keep the stripes precise and clean. For general masking, choose a UV-resistant tape with a 14-day adhesion time. Multi-week projects require a 60-day tape that won't leave residue when you remove it. If ever you're unsure of the type of tape you need, do research online and speak to a hardware professional. He or she can point you in the right direction.

You should calculate how much paint to buy. The process is actually quite simple, so just get your calculator ready. Divide the square footage of your wall surfaces by the coverage per gallon listed on the can. That's it. For example, a 20-by-23 foot room with an 8-foot ceiling is 688 square feet. Say your paint gets 350 square feet of coverage per can. 688 ÷ 350 = 1.97. Always round up. Here, you'll round to 2. Because you're probably doing two coats of paint, double that number, so your total is 4 gallons.

In the end, precision is the most important part of your process. One misstep, and you could have to start all over, or hire a professional to fix the damage you've done. So, before you begin your next painting adventure, review these important facts. You'll likely save money, and you will be generally better prepared for this big project.

Last Updated: July 23, 2012
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About Emelie Battaglia Emelie Battagila is a contributing writer for Idealhomegarden.com

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