How to Master Painting Your Home Part 2

This is the second of a three-part series that takes a 360° look at all things paint. Here we focus on priming, painting, and cleaning up.

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To Prime or Not to Prime?


Photo by Johnny Miller. Paint courtesy of Sherwin-Williams

Photo by Johnny Miller. Paint courtesy of Sherwin-Williams

Missed Part 1? Get caught up here.

That is the question—because priming before painting means an extra step and a longer time frame. Manufacturers wanting to help DIYers cut down on labor and hours began rolling out combo formulas, usually called self-priming paint, paint-and-primer-in-one or something similar. Sometimes using a combo product is perfectly fine, but not always. To make the right call (and not end up wishing you’d just taken the time to prime!), ask yourself four key questions from Home Depot senior paint merchant Chris Richter.

Q: Is the surface new wood, new drywall or any other type of unpainted material? 
If so, priming is totally key. All these materials are super porous and will suck up paint big-time, so you’ll end up needing more coats. Bottom line: Primer is cheaper.

Q: Are there any patched areas or stains on the walls?
If so and you don’t prime, any repairs or blotches may show through and visibly mar the paint’s finish.

Q: Do I know what type of paint was previously used on this surface?
If you’re at all unsure, you really should prime to create optimal adhesion. It will help keep paint from flaking.

Q: Color-wise, is what I’m planning fairly subtle? As in, not a huge change?
Paint-and-primer-in-one works well for a pretty straightforward color refresh, such as beige or greige over white, as long as the walls are smooth, clean and already painted, explains Richter.

Note: Buy the best-quality roller you can afford. “Don’t vacuum it or go over it with tape to try to remove any extra loose fibers,” says pro painter Nigel Costolloe. “It’s ready to go right out of the bag.”

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The Painting Process


Photo by Johnny Miller

Photo by Johnny Miller

Tempting as it is to just start rolling, that’s not the way to go. Veteran painter Nigel Costolloe, owner of Boston-based Catchlight Painting, is a man with a plan.

Begin with the ceiling. 
Start at the top with a high-quality ceiling paint. Beware—ceilings can be tricky because any warm air that rises can cause paint to flash-dry, resulting in streaks. Best practices: Paint the shortest distance across the ceiling, then finish your roller strokes in the same direction. “We use a 14-inch roller because it gives better results on larger surfaces,” says Costolloe.

Then do the walls.
Costolloe recommends investing in the highest-caliber paint you can swing. “You get what you pay for,” he says pointedly. The more light, the better when you’re painting, so consider bringing in extra lamps. Don’t clean up until paint has dried and you’ve inspected the room from all angles. For best coverage, you’ll likely need two coats. To progress reasonably quickly, roll either vertically or by making large Ws across the wall. (Rolling horizontally is never advised.) Finish your roller strokes in the same direction, going back over your work, overlapping the previous stripe. 

Finish with trim.
With trim work, practice makes perfect. Start at the top and work downward with a brush (never a roller). Hit the edge first because it leaves excess paint, then paint the flat face. Repeat for side casings. Finish your strokes going from dry into wet, making sure to feather the paint so you’re not leaving any brush stab marks, says Costolloe. Watch for drips and runs, and keep a damp rag handy to re-wet any trouble spot, then brush out the area. Worst-case scenario, if you do make a mistake, sand out the space from one joint to the next and repaint the entire section instead of just a small piece.

RELATED: How to Organize Your Garage

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Color Matching


Photo by Johnny Miller

Photo by Johnny Miller

Gone are the days when picking paint colors meant being limited to the chips in the display at any given retailer. Paint companies have really nailed the process of color matching, thanks toa machine called a spectrophotometer that uses light  beams to break down a color into its various pigments so it can be replicated. The science is complicated but solid. Keep in mind that color matching works best when the hue being matched is paint on a physical object, such as a paint chip, a piece of wood, a cabinet door or even something like a piece of siding.

A fabric swatch or a tear sheet from a magazine is very challenging to match accurately because of how light interacts with material or paper versus how it hits a solid surface. Colors in digital images are hard to replicate as well because of screen variations.

If you’re color matching paint because you need to repair a wall or you’ve ripped out a built-in fixture, your best bet for a seamless look is to paint the entire wall with the color-matched paint. If you do that, in most cases no one will notice a difference.

Price point 
In most cases, there’s no upcharge for color matching—you just pay for the paint. Source: Lowe’s

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Cleaning Up


Photo by Johnny Miller

Photo by Johnny Miller

When the paint job is perfect (or it’s just quitting time), cleanup is the last piece of the puzzle. The good news is latex paint washes off easily with soap and water. A few tried-and-true pointers:

If you’re calling it a day but not yet finished painting, carefully cover your brush in Glad Press ’n Seal plastic wrap. It will keep the paint wet until you’re ready to go at it again in the morning. 

To get all the paint out of a brush, hold it under running water and work the bristles with a brush comb.

After washing brushes, wrap in newspaper and position upright, handle side down, in a coffee canto prevent bent bristles.

Is that a spot of latex paint on your finished hardwood floor? NBD—you can scrape it off with your nail.

Pro Tips:

To clean oil-based paint, mineral spirits are a must. Read all the directions on the bottle regarding safe disposal practices and follow them to the letter. Source: Mina Starsiak Hawk and Karen E Laine from HGTV’s Good Bones

For tiny touch-ups down the road, keep a small, manageable quantity of paint handy—pour some into a clear glass Ball jar and close the lid. Write the room on top with a marker. If you need just a dab or two, you won’t have to re-open the can, which shortens the paint’s shelf life. Source: Nathaniel Garber Schoen, owner of Garber Hardware in New York City

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Paint Storage Simplified


Photo by Johnny Miller

Photo by Johnny Miller

Putting it away properly now means you’ll be able to use it again later.

Consolidate same-color paint to minimize air in can. Clean off any paint in the can’s rim. Gently hammer around edges of lid with a rubber mallet. (Extra credit: For an even better seal, lay plastic wrap or a plastic bag between can and lid before hammering.) Label can with date, finish type and room. Keep in a dry spot away from sunlight where the temperature stays above freezing. 

Coming in October!
Part 3 of our 3-part series: Inspo with a capital I—design experts dish on picking colors you’ll love. Don’t miss it!