12 Tips for a Great DIY Interior Paint Job

Doing home improvement projects yourself can help you save money

Have you been thinking that your living room needs a fresh coat of paint? Or maybe you’re redecorating and want the walls to match the décor. For home improvement projects, you can save quite a bit of money if you can do it yourself.

Here are 12 recommendations for DIY painting projects:

1. Weigh the pros and cons

Quite often, a household project comes down to investing your time or spending your money. Decide which one makes the most sense for you:

  • Time – You’ll want to finish the job as quickly as possible to avoid disrupting your regular routine. Carefully consider if you have the time to commit to the project.
  • Money – According to HomeAdvisor*, hiring a professional painter can cost on average about $300 to $900 per room. If you do it yourself you could save up to 50 to 60 percent off that amount.

2. Assess the space

If you decide you want to do the job yourself, start by taking a good look at the area you’ll be painting:

  • Decide whether the area needs to be cleaned 
  • Make note of any necessary repairs 
  • Measure the space so you'll know how much paint and primer to buy

3. Pick a color, any color

Have a vision of the completed project in mind when choosing a color:

  • Select a color that is complementary to the hue, tone and style of your furniture
  • Decide what color best fits the purpose of the room
  • Find a color that won't fade from sunlight exposure

4. Choose your paint

Paint comes in a variety of brands, uses and finishes. Be prepared before you make a purchase:

  • Ask friends and family for recommendations
  • Make sure you get interior paint
  • Know which finish you like best: flat, eggshell or satin for walls; and semi-gloss or high-gloss for the trim

5. To prime or not to prime

Primer seals the surface you’ll be painting so the paint adheres without soaking into it. There are several reasons you should prime before painting:

  • The wall has never been painted
  • There are areas of the wall you’ve repaired with putty
  • Your new paint has a different finish than the old paint
  • You’re changing the color of your wall from very dark to very light

6. Get the right tools

The right tools are key to home improvement projects. Make sure you have what you need before you get started:

  • Paint – Buy enough for two coats and any touch-ups needed down the road
  • Drop cloths – Use these to protect your furniture and floors. Of course, canvas cloths are more ecofriendly than plastic, they’re washable and they last longer.
  • Masking tape – Protect the trim and ceiling by taping along the edges before you start painting
  • Hand cloths – Always keep a cloth handy to clean up any drips or spills
  • Patch and repair tools – Make sure you have putty, a putty knife and sandpaper to fill holes
  • Ladder – Use a ladder that fits easily into your work area
  • Paint tray – Metal is more ecofriendly than plastic and easy to clean and reuse
  • Brushes – You need brushes for the edges of the walls and the trim. High-quality brushes don’t shed while you’re using them and clean up well.
  • Paint roller and refills – Make sure the roller and its cover material—called the nap—are the right length for the surface you're painting
  • Mineral spirits – You can use mineral spirits or paint thinner for cleaning brushes and the paint tray

7. Prepare the space

Preparing the walls, trim and work area before you get started will make the actual painting go much faster:

  • Tape the edges of the trim and/or ceiling
  • Remove plates from light switches and electrical outlets
  • Fill any holes in the walls
  • Repair damage
  • Sand and wipe down the walls
  • Cover the floor and any furniture with drop cloths
  • Add extra lighting if necessary

8. Be safe

Better to be safe than sorry. Take these precautions:

  • Ventilation – Make sure the space you’re painting is well ventilated. Open windows and doors and use a small fan if necessary
  • Children and pets – It’s wise to have someone available to entertain kids and puppies so they’re not tempted to try their hand (or paw) at painting the carpet
  • Ladders – Make sure your ladder is the right size for the area and is in good repair
  • Anything that’s in your way – While it may take more time to move things out of the area, it’s better to have room to move around easily

9. Paint with style

Using a few simple techniques will help you achieve the look you want:

  • Mix all the paint in one large bucket so you have consistent color throughout the room
  • To avoid lines, roll the full height of the wall
  • Paint one wall at a time, starting with the trim

10. Clean up

If you've followed the tips so far, cleaning up should be easy:

  • Remove all masking tape from edges
  • Make sure any spills on drop cloths are dry before you move them
  • For latex- and water-based paints, clean brushes with soap and water. For oil-based paints, you’ll need mineral spirits or paint thinner.
  • If you want to reuse a roller, while the paint is still wet you can wrap the roller in a grocery bag. If you’re done with the roller, you can use a grocery bag to remove it.

11. Dispose of old paint

Some paint is considered hazardous waste so make sure you follow disposal requirements:

  • You should take oil-based paints to a hazardous waste facility
  • Latex paint can be put in the trash if it's dry. Pour the paint into a cardboard box with some shredded paper, let it sit until you're sure it's completely dry and then you can put the box in the trash.

12. Making it last

Once you're finished, you'll want to make all your hard work last a long time:

  • Keep the walls clean
  • Install window shades, blinds or curtains to help keep the sun from fading the paint
  • Repair damage as soon as it happens

*HomeAdvisor is an online service that connects homeowners with service professionals.

Keep it up. You're getting smarter about home buying.

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