Painting The Do's and Don'ts of Doing It Yourself

There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of stepping back and admiring your freshly painted wall. However, the spoils of your labor will be dependent on your prepwork and choice of materials.

Have you ever heard the old saying “clothes make the man?” Well, in the same way paint makes the wall, spending a little extra will save a lot of frustration and yield more polished results. Good paint will cover anything in three coats, sometimes just two, but thin paint is guaranteed to drive you crazy as old wallpaper shows through coat after coat. You’ll probably end up having to trash the cheap stuff and buy something halfway decent instead, wasted paint is bad but wasted time is worse.

Let’s take a look at the brushes and rollers we’ll be using. Remember that bargain brushes create low-rent paint jobs—buy quality brushes. You will need a mohair roller with a half-inch nap for textured surfaces, a foam sleeve (always fresh!) for painting directly on plaster and a 2″ brush to cut in edges and corners.

Before you start your prepwork, examine the surfaces you’ll be painting. If the old paint or paper is peeling you’ll need to strip it off entirely, because any rips or patches will show through no matter how many coats you apply.

Stripping paper and paint is messy and tedious, and you need to take good care you don’t damage the underlying plaster. If the paper’s in good shape, and doesn’t have a texture or shiny finish, it may be possible to paint straight on to it, but test a small area beforehand to ensure it will accept the paint you want to use.

For stripping wallpaper, you’ll need a wallpaper scorer, a stripping knife, a decorator’s sponge, plenty of dust sheets and a bucket of warm, soapy water. Be advised, this is a really messy job.

Score the paper all over to break the surface, then drench it with spongefuls of soapy water. Leave it to soak for around 10 minutes, then test an area with the scraper to see if it’s easy to peel. If not, repeat the soaking process until it is, bearing in mind you’re always going to get stubborn patches. Ease the stripping knife between the loosened paper and the plaster, then carefully peel it away in strips. Clear away the scraps as soon as you can, as they’ll be covered in sticky old glue. Did I mention this is a messy job?

If the plaster is old, or the paper especially stubborn, you might end up with knife marks, or even holes where the old plaster has fallen away. You can fill smaller crevices with proprietary filler, carefully using the knife to smooth over blemishes, and sanding flat with fine grit sandpaper when dry. Remember to use a good quality particle mask with a fresh element if you’re sanding. But sometimes the surface is in such bad shape that professional replastering is the only option.

For stripping old latex paint, the best option is to buy proprietary stripper. The alternative is to peel off what you can, then painstakingly sand off the remaining patches.

Finally, your walls are ready for paint, but your ceiling isn’t!

The secret to getting a perfect edge is simple – low-tack masking tape. The steadiest hand can’t compete with the crisp edge you get from taking the time to mask round features like doors and windows. It speeds the job up too, as it’s much quicker to mash paint into those tricky edges than painstakingly inch past them. Using 3” tape makes a better screen, and aids removal. Position the tape, then rub the edge with your thumbnail so paint can’t bleed underneath.

Modern latex formulas resist separation well, but even so your paint needs stirring before use. Stir smaller pots with a clean, dust-free stick, but for multi-gallon tubs buy a professional whisk to mount on your powerdrill. The paint is fully blended when it is a smooth, lump-free liquid that can be rollered on for a smooth finish.

If you’re painting on fresh plaster, you’ll need to dilute the first primer coat with about 25% water. This helps the paint bind to the wall, which will make this paint job stay fresher, longer.

Use sweeping strokes from side to side and up and down, making sure you roller out any drips or rollermarks. The first coat may appear patchy, but subsequent coats will produce the dense finish you’re looking for. Cut in masked areas with the brush, then roller over the brush marks as close to the edges as you can. Apply the next coat only when the previous one is touch-dry. Carefully remove the masking tape after the last coat while the paint is still slightly tacky.

That’s it – you’re done.

If all this seems like a lot to fit into your precious downtime, not to mention the potential for ruining your plasterwork and coughing up dust for a month afterwards, it’s time to seriously consider calling in the experts. You’ll get a clean, professional job done in half the time, and with trade quality materials.

And remember – it’s a whole lot easier to dicker about price with a contractor than it is at the hardware store checkout.