Interior and Exterior House Painting Tips

By: Danny Lipford

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Painting is one of the most popular DIY projects for homeowners, and while it seems simple enough, there’s more to it than meets the eye. So before you pick up a brush or roller to tackle the next painting project around your house, check out these tips and pointers.

Paint Selection

Paint can be classified as either oil-based or latex, depending on the solvent used for thinning and clean up. Oil-based paint dries slower than latex, which reduces brush strokes and gives a smoother finish. It also dries harder, allowing it to stand up better to nicks and scraps. On the downside, oil paint has a stronger odor and requires the use of mineral spirits for thinning and clean up.

Latex paint resists yellowing and mildew better than oil-based, has less odor, and can be thinned and cleaned up with water. Latex paint is the paint of choice for interior walls and ceilings as well as most exterior applications, and a latex enamel is now available that produce a harder more durable finish. While gaining in popularity for interior trim, many painters still prefer to use oil-based paint on trim work.

Paints come in various sheens. Since gloss and semigloss paints are easier to clean, they are often used for trim work. Flat paints are better at hiding flaws in wall surfaces, though they aren’t as durable. Satin, low luster, and eggshell paints represent a good compromise that can be used for walls or trim.

Surface Preparation

Clean interior surfaces with a damp cloth, and use a mild detergent to remove any grease or stains. To kill mildew, use a solution of one part bleach to four parts water. A pressure washer works great for cleaning the outside of your house. Allow all surfaces to dry thoroughly before painting.

Next, make any repairs that are needed. This includes patching dents and nail holes in inside walls with spackling compound, and replacing any rotten wood outside. Remove any loose or peeling paint with a scraper and wire brush. Sand rough spots either by hand or with a rotary of finishing sander. On homes built before 1979, the paint should be tested for lead before sanding. Be careful when using power washers and rotary sanders, as they can damage wood when used too aggressively.

Painting Tip

To retain a wall’s textured look when filling nail holes, wipe with a damp sponge to remove any excess spackling before it dries.

Recaulk joints with a paintable, acrylic latex caulk, and repair the glazing on window frames using glazing putty. Remove any rust before painting metal using a wire brush or wire attachment on a grinder, then spray with a rust stabilizer before priming.


Priming surfaces allows the paint to cover better and provides proper adhesion between the surface and paint. Primer should be used:

  • On unfinished surfaces and bare metal.
  • To prevent knots and woods like redwood and cedar from bleeding through.
  • Over very dark or bright colors.
  • To cover hard to remove stains and other marks.
  • Before painting over oil-based paint with latex.

Painting Tip

To determine if the existing paint is oil or latex, rub it with a rag containing denatured alcohol. If the paint softens or comes off on the rag, it’s latex. If not, it’s oil-based.

Since primer isn’t designed to resist the elements, it should be top coated once it has dried. For more information, read our article, A Homeowner’s Guide to Paint Primer.

Applying Paint

The best results come from high quality brushes and rollers that are designed for the type of paint you’re using. When painting interior rooms, coat the walls first followed by the trim. Start by covering the edge of the trim with painter’s tape, then use a brush to “cut in” a 1”- 2” wide area in corners, along the ceiling, and around baseboards, windows, and doors. Next roll the walls, remove tape, and paint trim.

Clean Up

The best way to keep from making a mess when painting is to cover the floor with canvas drop cloths. Though they cost more, canvas cloths won’t develop holes like plastic sheeting. They also absorb any drips and spills to prevent them from being tracked all over the house. An old vinyl tablecloth with felt backing also works well. Use with the felt side up, to allow it to absorb any spills.

Clean brushes well after use, running a wire brush through the bristles to loosen any dried paint. Use the curved edge of a 5-in-1 painter’s tool on rollers to remove any excess paint before cleaning.

Other Tips from This Episode

Painting Round or Turned Objects

Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
Painting Round or Turned Objects

To apply an even coat of finish on round or turned items such as a vase or pot, position a lazy susan near the edge of your workbench with the object in the center. With the lazy susan spinning, coat the item using a can of spray paint. Once it has dried, spin it again, and apply a second coat.

Handy Ladder Pail

Best New Products with Jodi Marks:
Handy Ladder Pail

The Handy Ladder Pail from Bercom holds over a gallon of paint or other liquids. A foldout metal bracket attaches securely to both step and extension ladders while the built-in magnet holds a paintbrush or putty knife when not in use. The Handy Pail is available at The Home Depot stores.

Reducing VOCs in Your Home

Thinking Green with Danny Lipford:
Reducing VOCs in Your Home

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are harmful gases that can be emitted by some paints, solvents, cleaners, adhesives, furniture, and shelving. When using products that contain high levels of VOCs, open windows and turn on fans to provide plenty of fresh air. Better yet, purchase products labeled low or no VOCs to reduce the level of volatile organic compounds in your home.

Power tools used on Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford® are provided by Ryobi.



Please Leave a Comment

4 Comments on “Interior and Exterior House Painting Tips”

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  • Brett Weston Says:
    July 23rd, 2009 at 2:34 am

    You can now paint bathroom tiles very easily. White Knight now make a tile paint system. Which involves first using a cleaner on the tiles, then applying the undercoat, and finally the top coat, which you can get colored in many different colors. This is available in Australia, but should also be available in most other countries, though maybe no the same brand. Much quicker, easier and cheaper than new tiles.

  • Carolyn Deseck Says:
    January 6th, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    I have a 40 year old house. The bath room tile is powder pink. What can I do to change it, that is cost saving as well? PAINT?
    Thanks, Carolyn

  • Gene Sullivan Says:
    November 14th, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Would like to find out what material you use to fill large holes before using the spackling? The holes were made when molly screws were pulled out of the wall.

    Should you use some fiberglass insulation to stuff in the hole before using the spackling? Or what would you recommend? These are plasterboard walls.

  • eddie Says:
    October 31st, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    thank you for tne helpful information you provide eddie

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