6 Steps for a Successful DIY Paint Job

Before prepping a room for painting, protect the furniture and flooring against splattering paint or accidents. A good idea is to remove furniture from the room altogether, if possible. Remember to wear a pair of safety goggles and older clothes.

Step 1: Dust and clean walls.

For most surfaces, you can use a towel or a vacuum cleaner. Remove dust, dirt, and grease spots with water, a little mild dishwashing detergent, and a cellulose sponge. When painting a bathroom or kitchen wash the walls with a solution of approximately three teaspoons of laundry detergent to one gallon of water. Rinse the walls with clean water to remove soap residue.

Scrape any cracked or flaking paint with a paint scraper. For other small imperfections on the wall such as plaster bumps, smooth them away with sandpaper. Use muscle power with a piece of sandpaper stapled to a sanding block, or use an electric sander.

Step 2: Tape the trim, window, and doorframes

Make sure you clean moldings before applying masking tape. Even the stickiest masking tape won’t stay put if you apply it to a dusty, dirty surface.

Be sure to use painter’s blue tape, which can be applied up to a week ahead. It’s available at home centers and paint stores, and it’s designed to help you mask precisely using the adjacent surface as a guide.

After you apply painter’s tape, make sure to press down the edge to seal it. Otherwise, paint is sure to seep under the edge of the tape. A flexible putty knife works great. Start at one end of your tape run and pull the blade along the tape while applying downward pressure. Tilt the putty knife blade slightly so you’re applying pressure right along the edge of the tape.

Remove tape immediately after painting, before the wall dries, so you don’t peel off any paint with it.

Step 3: Prime the walls.

All new plaster board should be sealed with a suitable primer. Using a primer will help bind back the existing coat and make a sound surface for your final coats.

It’s a common myth that walls that have been painted many times don’t need to be primed. In fact, primer helps maximize the sheen and coverage of paint and gives the finish coat a more uniform appearance.

Step 4: Brush where you can’t roll.

Brush on paint around trim and in the corners of walls, where your roller can’t reach, with a two-inch angled brush. Extend out two to three inches from windows, doors, and moldings.

Cutting-in is a technique whereby you paint with a brush or application pad, the areas that can’t be reached with a roller.

Load your brush by dipping it into the paint roughly half the length of the bristles. Tap the brush on the side of the paint pot to remove the excess.

Start brushing a few centimeters from the corner or edge. As you move the brush, you will establish the line of the edge of the paint. Drag the brush into the edge so that the line on the paint follows the edging.

One of the most important tips when cutting-in is to not paint too far ahead. You’ll need to maintain a wet edge so your roller can blend into the brushed paint. If your cut-in paint dries you’ll end up with two coats and what’s called ‘picture framing’ where you can see a distinction between the cut-in and rolled sections.

Step 5: Use the W technique to roll paint.

For efficiency, start in the corner of a wall and roll on a three-by-three-foot W pattern, then fill it in without lifting the roller. Continue in sections until you’re finished. Paint one wall at a time.

Make sure that the roller is always covered with paint. If you can see the lines on the roller you need to reload with more paint.

Step 6: Paint the trim.

When the walls are completely dry, tape where the trim meets the wall. Paint the moldings and the door and window frames with a two-inch angled brush. Apply the paint in one stroke in one direction on the widest part of the trim. Press slightly — just enough to flex the bristles — and work slowly to ensure an even application of paint.

Start subsequent strokes of the brush in a dry area, working toward the wet area. This technique avoids creating lap marks. Raise the brush slightly and feather the edge. Feathering paint into a previously painted patch keeps the paint even and smooth from one stroke to another.

Reverse the direction of the brush, and lightly stroke back over the coat you just applied. This technique will set the paint. Apply the paint to the edges of the trim. In tight spaces, switch to using a stubby handled brush.

Touch up the paint after the first coat has dried. If you find that an area needs more paint, until the area is dry, then sand lightly, and touch it up.

Written by: Scott Davidson