How Do I Paint Walls in My Home? – How Do I Fix That? Part 4

While we might enjoy watching the various home improvement shows filling up cable programming, many of us can’t complete the most basic of home improvement projects. The How Do I Fix That? series will show you how to tackle a range of problems that have plagued homeowners for time immemorial. Each installment will provide a walkthrough for the problem at hand so you’ll know what to expect before you get started. Now, get into your old work jeans and roll up your sleeves – we’re going to get messy.

How to Paint and/or Stain Walls

In this installment, we’re going to help you tackle the task that looms large and terrifying in the minds of many homeowners – painting and staining walls. But with a little help and preparation, this chore can actually be easy and possibly very fun. To help you learn how to paint walls in your home (or stain them, if you’re into that), we’re going to look at planning, basic prep work, some neat little techniques and tools, and cleaning up.

How Do I Paint Walls in My Home? - How Do I Fix That? Part 4
Learning how to paint walls in your home is an important homeowner skill.

If you browse through Houzz and other interior design websites, it’s pretty obvious that simplicity has returned to wall finishes. Complex faux finishes are out in deference to single color (mostly neutral) wall coverings. The point is – you choose what works best for your home. You’re the person who will be staring at it for years to come, so the choice truly is yours to make when it comes to your interior design preferences.

Even still, whatever color your choose to use, everything starts with planning ahead.

And when purchasing your paint, we recommend speaking to an expert on which type of paint is best for your wall type.

Get With the Plan

1) Estimate the square footage of the wall so you’ll know how much paint to buy.

Coverage is printed on the paint to help you figure out the amount. While most modern paints don’t need primer, plan to lay on more than one coat of paint if you’re going to be painting over a dark-colored wall with white or cream. Thin layers of paint over dark colors will just make that part of the wall look dirty. If you’re unsure, paint a 12” test square to find out how many coats it takes to eliminate that dark color.

2) Figure out where you can move furniture out of the room.

And if you can’t move your furniture, cover it (and anything else!) under drop cloths and sheets. Protect your electronics by storing them out of the room — especially if you’ll be doing any sanding as the dust can create problems over time.

3) Fill any holes, gouges, or dents in the wall with joint compound or spackle.

If there’s a large dented area, you’ll want to sand the paint off before filling it with joint compound. Sand this flat when the spackle is completely dry.

4) Allow extra time to repair broken sections of drywall.

Patching plaster walls or cracks used to be a difficult mess, but new products and techniques make it much easier.

5) Sand down the wall.

If your wall already has a gloss or semi-gloss finish on it, give it a light sanding to roughen the old paint so the new paint can better adhere to the wall. Wrap a piece of 80 grit sand paper around a hand-sized block of wood and wear a filter mask to protect yourself from breathing in dust. Scrape off any flaking or loose paint with a paint scraper.

Use a stain-killing undercoat such as Kilz or Zinsser to block water, mold, or mildew stains from leeching through your paint.

Whether you’ve sanded your wall or not, wipe it down well to remove any dust or pet hair. If you don’t, these can get caught in your paint roller and leave ugly smears or unsightly lumps in the paint when it dries.

6) Tape off trim work and hardware.

How Do I Paint Walls in My Home? - How Do I Fix That? Part 4
Don’t want to get paint on something? Cover it in painters tape!

This includes removing all outlet and light covers. Take the necessary time to cover and hardware or wood trim you don’t want to get paint on with painter’s tape.

Sure, this is a time-consuming process, but masking can eliminate mistakes and paint drips that would otherwise take even more time to clean up later. When you use painter’s tape, remember to use the tape as a straight-edge guide. If you press paint hard along the edge of the tape, the paint has a very good chance of bleeding under the tape edge.

Gear Up

How Do I Paint Walls in My Home? - How Do I Fix That? Part 4
Make sure you have the right equipment on hand before you start painting.

Make sure you have all the right tools before you begin. A good list of supplies to help you paint walls in your home include:

  • ladder
  • rollers
  • roller extension handle
  • paint roller tray
  • small paint tray
  • putty knife
  • painter’s masking tape
  • drop clothes
  • gloves
  • rags and paper towels
  • spray bottles with cleaner for paint drips.
  • paint-can opener
  • stir sticks

Brush Up on Brush Technique

1) Different kinds of brushes and rollers do different jobs.

How Do I Paint Walls in My Home? - How Do I Fix That? Part 4
You have options when it comes to what brushes are best for painting your walls. Get educated.

This is because they are shaped differently. The trick is to pick the right brush for the job. For example:

  • Flagged brushes have rough bristles to hold more paint;
  • Chisel tip brushes are finer edged to give you more control and a smoother finish; and
  • Brushes that have their bristles cut to an angle also give you more control, which takes a little practice.

2) Rollers have different thicknesses for different surfaces.

Thin rollers ( 1/8-1/4 inch) are used for smooth surfaces, while slightly thicker ones are for textured walls. Buy a really thick roller if you are applying sealant or stain to wood paneling or masonry. If you’re unsure of what to purchase for your home, simply follow the paint manufacturer’s recommendation for their formulation.

Let’s Get Painting

It’s finally time to get started applying paint to a wall.

1) Roll-on paint making an “N” or “W” pattern instead of just straight up and down.

This helps you spread the paint evenly and also eliminates the lines or ribbons of paint that come off roller edges.

2) Don’t overload brushes and rollers with paint.

How Do I Paint Walls in My Home? - How Do I Fix That? Part 4
Don’t overload your roller with paint. You don’t want to cause unnecessary messes.

Fill up one-third to one-half of a brush and then lightly tap the brush against the side of the paint tray. This provides plenty of paint. Gently rolling the roller into the paint and then rolling it a couple of times along the pan will evenly distribute paint on its surface. This way, you’ll avoid drips and spatters and produce a smoother, even coat.

3) Paint edger tools are excellent for keeping a clean edge against other walls or along the ceiling.

Using them well requires a little practice because if you get them too soggy with paint, the surface tension makes the stick to the wall or ceiling. A useful technique is to start painting the room with these edging tool first, especially along the ceiling or other trim and then apply paint with the roller while that paint is still wet (called “cut in and roll”). This way, you’ll already have a nice straight edge laid down before you overlap coverage with the roller and not leave lines.

4) Be thorough and double-check your work.

For example, if you’re painting white-white with a more subtle antique white, make sure you’ve actually painted all the way to the ceiling. Move lights around and check corners. You’ll be surprised what you can miss.

And whatever you do – turn off your air conditioner before you open the windows so the paint can dry!

Applying a Tea Stain to Walls

Staining a light colored wall with a tea stain glaze creates a mellow and warmer look. To start, paint your wall with light color neutral color that has an egg shell or flat finish. Let it dry thoroughly for 24 hours. The stain coat is made by mixing a pigment with a clear glaze.  The process goes like this:

  1. Mist the wall even with water. This will help keep the stain coating thin.
  2. Apply glaze-stain mixture randomly onto the wall with a lightly loaded brush.
  3. Use a dry 4-inch brush to feather and blend strokes evenly over the wall. Some areas will come out darker, others lighter, creating a nice patina effect.
  4. If it’s still not quite dark enough for your taste, wait a day and then apply a second coat. You can also add third coat with a third color to incorporate contrast and accent.

Cleaning Up

1) Most latex and acrylic paints require clean up with soap and warm water in a bucket.

Scrub off the paint by hand first, and then rinse the brushes out with clean water. Set them out to dry. It’s really not difficult – just don’t forget to do it, because cleaning dried paint is a MUCH bigger mess.

2) Rollers can be cleaned in the much the same way, too.

Be sure to use a 5-in-1 tool to scrape wet paint off the roller before you put the roller in the bucket. Wash the roller thoroughly, rub the soap into the fibers, and then stand the roller on its end to dry.

3) For oil-based paints, let brushes soak in a mineral spirit mixture.

Some home improvement experts recommend equal parts of paint thinner, mineral spirits, and linseed oil – and perhaps even a little toluene for really stubborn paint. After soaking, put on protective rubber gloves and work the solvent into the bristles. Clean the solvent from the brush using dish detergent and water. Bear in mind these chemicals are flammable and should be used outside with plenty of ventilation.

Happy Painting!

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Vernon Trollinger is a writer with a background in home improvement, electronics, fiction writing, and archaeology. He now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.