Painting Dos and Don’ts

Author: Alecia Pirulis

Preparing to Paint

How Not to Paint:

Step One: Prime surface with water-based primer.
Step Two: Purchase paint by guessing at the color to match the surrounding area. Aim for “close enough.” Choose oil-based.
Step Three: Paint with your oil-based “close enough” color over the water-based primer.
Step Four: Wait several months while oil-based paint peels and flakes off the water-based primer.
Step Five: Sand and scrape remaining “close enough” paint off surface.
Step Six: Go back to store. This time, get water-based paint. Choose any color at random.
Step Seven: Begin painting. When you realize the baby-blue paint you selected doesn’t match the green walls, stop.
Step Eight: Go back to store. Choose more paint.
Step Nine: Repaint. Again.

Thanks to my husband and his attempt to repaint our front porch staircase, I now know more painting dos and don’ts than I care to. For example, I know it is a good idea, if what you plan to paint is located outdoors, to check the weather forecast. As soon as he finished step nine, we heard the first rumble of thunder – right before the sky opened up for what had to be hurricane-force wind and rain. Before he begins painting for the fourth time, I think I’ll send him to a Painting 101 class.

It’s not that I expect my husband to be Bob Vila – I just want to only buy one gallon of paint instead of five or six gallons – all in different colors. Also, it is important to get paint chips and a bottle of sample paint before committing to an entire gallon (or two). The first time my husband purchased paint, it was bright, primary green – to paint on the front stairs of my sage-green and white house. Since it was oil-based and he used a water-based primer, thankfully the paint didn’t last long. After it bubbled up, flaked, and peeled off in chunks, I got to say goodbye to my loud, obnoxious stairs. They were, unfortunately, replaced with sky blue. They are now the correct shade of green, but thanks to the unfortunate thunderstorm before the paint had a chance to fully dry, it is a spotty green.

Before you paint your apartment, check your lease. Some apartment complexes won’t allow you to paint at all; others may want you to repaint the original color before moving to get your security deposit back. If you are allowed to paint, go to the paint store and get a wide selection of paint chips. Even if you know what color you are aiming for, there are many different shades to choose from. After selecting two or three, get small bottles of paint samples. Most stores will charge a small fee for the sample bottles – that’s okay. Spend a little now to save money later if the color isn’t right. Paint small sections of the wall and live with the color for awhile. Check the colors during different times of day and evening because the color will change with the light. Once you are happy with a color, it’s time to choose: water or oil based?

Water-based paints have fewer fumes and are safer. Oil-based paints are better at preventing stains. If you are painting a surface that could potentially bleed through or have adhesion issues, go with an oil-based primer. Even if you choose an oil-based primer, you can still go with a latex paint. Water-based over oil-based is fine; oil-based over water-based is not. (See steps 1-3 on what not to do.)

On Paint Day, move or cover all of your furniture and your floors. You may think you can paint a wall without getting paint on the couch, the hardwood floors, the television … but the paint will magically appear there. Take it from someone who has seen all of the “what not to dos” covered. The paint will fling itself onto every uncovered surface in the room. In fact, the paint will find a way to get into your hair, between your toes, and onto your clothing, as well. Wear coveralls or choose clothing that you don’t mind throwing away when it gets ruined. Cover your hair with a hat or scarf and wear old shoes. (Don’t paint barefoot … if you accidentally step in the paint tray, you’ll want shoes covering your feet.)

Take a few minutes to remove outlet covers and tape off or cover doorknobs and hinges, and then tape off the baseboards. If you decide to skip this step, you will have outlet covers and doorknobs smudged with paint and the baseboards will gladly accept all of your drips. Yes, it takes time. But it makes a huge difference between a sloppy result and a neat, professional end result.

A wall can come alive with the right paint color, setting the theme for the entire room. Even if you’ve never tackled painting a room before, it can be a rewarding experience – as long as you know what not to do.