How to Paint a Room Like a Pro
By: Danny Lipford
Painting a room is one of the most common do-it-yourself projects around the home. While it’s not that difficult to do, it helps to know the tricks of the trade on how to go about it before breaking out a roller or brush.
When painting a room, the work should be done in the following order:
- Prep: Clean surfaces and repair any defects.
- Prime: Where needed, prime the walls and trim.
- Caulk: Fill any gaps or cracks with caulk.
- Ceiling: Paint ceiling first to prevent drips on walls.
- Walls: Apply paint to walls using a roller.
- Trim: Paint trim last to avoid roller splatter.
- Cleanup: Clean brushes and rollers, remove drop cloths, and replace furnishings.
Interior walls are usually painted with latex paint and can usually be repainted without priming unless the existing walls are:
- Painted a dark or vibrant color.
- Have stains, grease, or other hard to cover marks.
- Defects in the drywall have been patched.
- Previously painted with oil-based paint.
In these cases, prime first with a stain blocking primer. To cover repairs, you may be able to spot prime without having to prime the entire room.
Before painting, shine a bright light along the surface of the wall to check for dents or defects, and fill them using a putty knife and spackling compound. Once the spackling has dried, sand the surface smooth. On rough surfaces dab the patched area with paint on a sponge or rag to mimic the texture of the wall.
In older homes, interior trim was painted with oil-based enamel, but improvements in the durability of latex enamel now make it the popular choice. Before painting over oil-based paint with latex, it’s important to prime the surface so the new paint will adhere properly.
To determine if the old paint is oil-based or latex, rub it with a rag dampened with denatured alcohol. If the paint comes off on the rag, it’s latex. If not, it’s oil-based.
When caulking gaps or cracks:
- Remove loose old caulking with a utility knife, scraper, or putty knife.
- Use a good caulking gun that can stop and start the flow of caulking easily.
- A quality acrylic latex caulk works best for caulking trim in most rooms.
- For high moisture areas, such as kitchens and baths, use a caulking that is mold and mildew resistant.
- 100% silicone caulk should only be used on surfaces that will not be painted, such as between the tub and tile in a bathroom.
- Apply caulk only to dry surfaces and when the temperature is over 50° F.
To apply caulking to a gap or crack:
- Cut the tip of the caulking tube to a 45° angle so the hole is the width of the crack.
- Puncture the seal in the tube several times using a nail or the seal punch on a caulking gun.
- Hold the caulking gun at a 45° angle so the opening in the tube is parallel to the surface.
- Lay down a smooth, even bead of caulk with little or no excess.
- Smooth the bead with your finger before it sets up. Dampening your finger with water (latex caulk) or mineral spirits (silicone caulk) can make smoothing easier.
- Allow caulking to dry thoroughly before painting or getting wet.
Painting a Room
Once the room has been prepped and you’re ready to paint:
- Remove furniture, wall hangings, light switch and receptacle covers.
- Apply safe release painter’s tape along baseboards and around window and door trim.
- Cover floor with tarp or plastic sheeting.
- Cut in ceiling edges and around light fixtures with brush.
- Paint ceiling with roller. Unpainted textured ceilings may be hard to paint.
- Mix the gallons of wall paint together in a 5-gallon bucket.
- Cut in the walls with a brush around the ceiling, switches and plugs, windows and doors, baseboards, and along inside corners.
- Use a quality roller and cover with a 1/2” to 3/4” nap.
- Hook roller screen over the side of 5-gallon bucket.
- Dip roller in bucket and use screen to remove excess.
- Start at one corner of room and apply paint vertically to the wall over a 2’ wide area.
- Use light pressure on the roller at first, then press harder as the roller becomes less saturated with paint. Move the roller at a moderate pace to prevent splattering.
- Go back over the area to spread and even out the paint.
- Dip the roller in the bucket again and move to the adjoining 2’ area. Keep a wet edge between each section and smooth out any lines or drips.
- Clean up the brush, roller, bucket, and screen with water and dishwashing detergent in a sink or outside with a garden hose.
- If you’ll be using the same paint again the next day, wrap the wet roller in a plastic shopping bag and seal it with a tie to keep it from drying out.
- After the walls have dried, remove tape and paint the trim with a brush, going with the grain of the wood.
- Make sure the paint has dried thoroughly before hanging pictures and installing switch and outlet covers to keep them from sticking to the wall.
- Homeowner’s Guide to Paint Primer (article)
- Homeowner’s Guide to Caulk (article)
- Interior and Exterior House Painting Tips (video/article)
- Interior Painting Preparation (video)
- How to Paint Walls (video)
- How to Paint Trim (video)