Monday, February 20, 2012

How to Paint a Room

We decided to spend our President's Day Weekend re-painting our master bedroom.  The project really did take three days including all the prep work, painting, watching paint dry, etc.

Here's what our bedroom looked like soon after we moved in:
 The previous color was something like a yellow-mustard-orange-brown mixture.  It wasn't terrible, but wasn't our first choice.

We first took a trip to Home Depot and bought some paint samples.  HD will sell you Behr 8 oz sample bottles for $4 in any color you want.  If you live close enough to a HD, as we do, it's worth it to pick up a color or two but come back for more.

We painted a small square with our first set of colors, but realized the employee had mixed one of the samples incorrectly.  It took another trip to HD to pickup more samples before we were even ready to begin really painting.  We did buy a bunch of the other supplies we needed on this trip so that we could begin prepping the room.
Decisions, decisions
We ended up choosing Behr Tropical Splash (540D-5) for the accent wall behind the bed and Frost Wind (540A) for the rest of the walls.

Preparing the Room
Now that we've painted an entire room, I'll let you know what you should do, not necessarily what we've done.  First, go to Youtube for some basic videos on how to paint - did you know that rolling paint sideways is more likely to leave streaks than painting up and down or at an angle?

Another good suggestion is to clean the trim around windows and along the baseboards.  At the end of the project, you'll have a nicely painted room and dirty baseboards will really stand out.

Applying painter's tape around the room is a painstaking task, but you'll really be doing yourself a favor if you do this very carefully.  I suggest ripping smaller strips of tape, maybe 18" long, and applying to the wall rather than trying to apply one solid piece that goes all 8 feet up the wall.  The slightest gaps can lead to paint on your trim or leave old paint showing.

If you are painting the ceiling, which we did not, you'll want to move everything out of the room and cover the floor with dropcloths.  We moved most things out and used old plastic furniture covers from our move to protect the carpet section by section.

You should take this time to spackle any old nail holes and gouges in the wall.  After the spackle has dried, you'll want to sand it down, then wipe with a damp rag to pick up the dust.  Sanding any significant scuffs is also a good idea.

Remove all the wall plates from your switches and power outlets.  Many websites will say to cut the power to these receptacles, but I didn't think that was necessary.

Lastly, if you have a floor fan you may want to move it into the room.  Air flow will keep you from succumbing to the fumes and will help aid in paint drying.

As you can see, before you are even ready to paint, you've already spent hours on trips to the store, cleaning, and preparing the room.  I'm glad we chose a 3-day weekend.
Hours of prep
Paint! or Prime, then Paint!I conferred with the internet and then asked the Home Depot employee whether we should prime first.  Most of the internet will tell you "Yes, you must prime first!" while select sites, with people who seem a bit more knowledgeable will tell you that it isn't always necessary.  New walls must be primed first.  If you are painting a wall that is currently dark and want it to become a light shade, you'll probably need to prime first.  If the change in shade isn't that significant, you could either use a paint + primer or skip priming all together.  Cheaper paint is thinner, so keep that in mind if you are undecided.

Painting shouldn't be too difficult, but it is tiring and there's a lot to cover.  If you went to Youtube, you probably saw that you should cover your rollers in paint, apply it to the wall in a "W" or "M" shape, then use the roller to fill in the paint in the shape of a box.

For the trim, I would suggest using a small roller and a device that is specifically for trim.  We started the project using a paintbrush for the tight areas, but we found the results were less than ideal. 

As you are painting, remember that you will be applying a second coat.  In a few areas, I think we kept rolling on more paint to get 100% coverage the first pass, but this can lead to streaking. 

In between coats, you need to let the paint completely dry.  Keep windows open, fans blowing, and it shouldn't take all that long.

For the second coat, take a quick walk around and identify if there are any areas that need fixing.  We found that the cheap paintbrush we used left some bristles.  We were able to pick these out with our fingernails and they didn't require sanding, thankfully.  If there are any big streaks or globs of paint that have dried, you may want to sand over these areas.

Apply your second coat, let dry, then... more work.
Getting there!
Unless you are a real pro, you'll find that some paint may have soaked under your painter's tape or that you touched the white ceiling with your blue paint.  It's hard to avoid little mistakes like these - I imagine that you could avoid them, but it will probably add significant time to the job.

So, after we thought we were "done", we removed the painters tape and found there were a bunch of areas in need of touch ups.  We poured a little bit of paint into plastic bowls and went around with artist's brushes. 

Some of the light switches and power outlets took on some paint, but this was easy to scrape off with a fingernail.  The same was mostly true for the trim around the windows, doors, and baseboards. 
Boom!  Looking good!
Those are ruffles on the bed, not a wet spot!

Shopping List:
I would guess we spent between $150 and $200 on all of the supplies.  About $100 of that was on the three gallons of paint we bought.
  • paint
  • primer
  • paint rollers - buy a few semi-smooth rollers for the first coat (and don't try and use one roller for the entire room even if it is the same color) then use a smooth roller for the second coat
  • edging device (something like this)
  • drop cloths
  • extender bar to reach high places
  • step stool (you'll need to be able to reach the ceiling with a short paintbrush for final touch ups)
  • disposable paint trays
  • metal / hard plastic paint tray to hold the disposables
  • painter's tape
  • artist's brushes


  1. Nice informative blog, thanks for sharing.

  2. Look at how nice that looks! You're so handy. Vin and I painted our apartment last year and it came out nice enough, but this looks professional. Well done.