Disclaimer: I’ve been wanting Chris to write this post for so long. He’s an awesome painter (painted his way through college) and taught me the tricks of the trade as well. Most people think painting is “easy” and although it can be, a good paint job and a bad paint job can really make or break a room. I can’t stand going into a restaurant, or store, or home and just see horribly painted spaces. It’s really easy to mess up, be sloppy and not use good materials. A great paint job though sets a great base for a room and makes a difference. Without further ado…
Meryl wanted me to write a bit about painting efficiently and effectively. So, here it goes.
I’m pretty lazy sometimes, but I’ve learned over time it’s best to put dropcloths everywhere to start. You’ll spend more time cleaning up splatter than you will laying down the cloths. Just do it.
Don’t go crazy with the masking tape. It’s usually more trouble than it’s worth. For cut-ins you’re better off using a steady hand (more on that below) and for most other stuff there are ways of avoiding it. If you’re cutting in around ceiling lights or smoke alarms or outlet covers…you shouldn’t be. Take down lighting canopies, smoke alarms, and switch/receptacle plate covers before painting. Quicker and better job than it would be trying to paint around them. Masking around window muntins sometimes makes sense. Other times it’s better to just brush the muntin and clean the glass with a straight razor afterwards. Other than windows, it’s pretty rare that I find myself using masking tape while painting inside.
Prep is key. Most clean surfaces don’t need much prep, to be honest. If you want to do everything by the book then even a clean surface should be given a light sanding prior to painting to provide a good key for the new paint to grab onto. This is a good idea with semi-gloss paint, but I don’t bother with eggshell or flat. Using a quality paint can let you skip steps if you know what you’re doing. If the surface is dirty or has any kind of peeling or trouble areas then you’ll need to do more prep. I could write a whole post just on this topic, but the basics are that you want new paint to go on a clean, sound, dry surface. Prep is about getting that to happen. A basic job will include light patching, sanding, caulking, and priming. Caulk where trim meets the wall, patch with a decent spackling (lightweight spackle, drydex, mh patch, etc.) where there may be small holes, and prime (glidden gripper or zinsser 1-2-3) over any stains or patches. This is something a homeowner can do without trouble. If you have a lot of peeling paint, wallpaper, bad staining, etc. then it will require more specialized prep. There are a lot of specialized patching compounds, paints, and primers that can solve a variety of problems, but that gets pretty far into the weeds.
Box paint. This means if you need to buy two gallons of paint for a room, you need to mix them together before you start. Pour them both into a 5 gallon bucket. Even if paint is mixed with the same formula, it can vary can by can. The way to avoid mismatched paint on the wall when you’re finished with the first gallon and move to the second is to pour them each into a large bucket and mix them together before you start.
Sequencing. I’ll assume the room has crown, base, and casing. Paint all the trim first with your first coat. Carry the paint onto the adjacent surface – no need to be fussy at this point. Second coat the crown. Next, cut in the ceiling to crown with the ceiling color and then roll the ceiling; do this twice. Then cut-in the wall color to the crown and roll the walls; do this twice. Finally, do your second coat on the casing and base. I like this order because you don’t have to worry about splatter on the base or casing because you’re going to give it a second coat last anyway. I prefer to cut-in from the wall to the trim, instead of trying to cut-in the trim to the wall; I’ve just found it a lot easier.
Cut-in tips. If the corner that you’re cutting in is rough (like a textured wall or ceiling meeting each other) then it may make sense to run a good bead of caulking there beforehand to get a smooth transition that you can follow with your brush. Use a good quality angled sash brush (2-2.5″ Purdy or Corona are my favorites). When cutting in the ceiling to wall or ceiling to crown transition it’s better to have the ceiling paint come down slightly onto the crown/wall as opposed to the other way around. A steady hand is important. Make sure you don’t overload the brush. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, it’s better to keep the brush moving pretty fast. It’s harder to get a wavy line if the brush is moving briskly.
Rolling. Use a small extension pole. Run the roller as far up and down as you can. A lot of times you’ll see amateur painters roll up and down about 2-3′ at a time. It’s much better to load up the roller, spread out the paint a bit and then finish it off with long strokes from a few inches away from the ceiling to a few inches away from the baseboard. BTW, this is one reason I like to cut-in first. You want to see as little of the brush strokes as possible. If you do the brush work first and then roll over it, there will be very little in the way of brush strokes showing. Keep a wet edge and look for runs. Rolling the ceiling can be a pain, but try to keep the roller in front of you instead of right over your head. The extension pole should be at about a 60 degree angle, if a 90 degree angle is directly above you. Use a microfiber or lambswool roller cover for best results. Clean new roller covers well before using; the best roller covers have been broken in with at least 2-3 jobs. Get them slightly damp before loading with paint. Use an 18″ roller if you’re into production work and have big open spaces you need to roll.
Clean up can be a pain. Roller covers can be tossed if you’re lazy or the cover is inexpensive, but I don’t recommend that. Wring it clean first with a painters’ tool and then use a hose on the jet setting to spin the roller. You need to get the jet on the edge of the roller and it will spin fast and the paint and water will go flying everywhere. If you’ve done this a few times you can angle the roller just right so that you don’t get wet and the roller gets clean in less than a minute. If this method scares you then you’re in for some fun standing over the utility sink for 10 minutes.
Brushes are tougher to clean, but the battle is won and lost before you are even ready to clean. Keep them clean in the first place by brushing carefully and not loading them up with paint up to the ferrule. Don’t be sloppy with your brushing. If painting in warm weather, it’s a good idea to clean them a bit at lunch time so they don’t get too crusty. Brushes can be sprayed as well for the majority of the paint. Then you can bring them into the sink and rub the bristles in your hands pinching them, flexing the bristles on your hand, rubbing them between your hands like you were trying to warm your hands, etc. It takes a while, but you don’t want to rough up nice brushes. Check for paint by loading the brush up with water and flexing the bristles back towards the ferrule. If the water looks clear then you can stop. (here’s Chris’ tutorial on that too)
While everyone who paints has their methods for what works best, these are the tools, sequencing and tricks that I have found work the best for me. Hopefully you find them helpful as well and please leave comments if you have tricks that work for you too.