As America becomes more and more an importer of goods and an exporter of services, and especially as the average person's lifestyle trends ever more towards consumerism, knowledge of how to do basic maintenance becomes ever more valuable. Such simple skills doing your own painting, for instance, can save a smart person quite a bit, and even make an industrious entrepreneur some good money.

The main ideal behind consumerism is to buy cheap, use up, and toss away. We see this attitude towards cars, dishes, clothes, and even houses. Dealerships make a good deal of money this way with cars, leasing for a year, fixing the car up again, and leasing it out once more or selling it used. And believe it or not, realtors employ the same trick with houses. Houses, amazing as that seems.

For the past few years I have been helping my family in such a project. Our goal has been on the look out for used property, with a house that has been used up and tossed away, or buildings so old others think they have no value, despite the fact that they are still sound. We clean up the mess others have made, fix it up so it looks nice, and make use of it or sell it. And one of the first steps in such a fix-up, following right after tearing up the carpets if they're not serviceable, is to paint. While a seemingly simple thing, painting is not only one of the cheapest things to do to fix up a house, but also by far one of the most noticeable.

So, because painting is such a vital part of restoring a structure, I will tell you how I have learned to do it. My voice is by no means the final word on the subject, and professionals have a much better method, but for those who are daunted by the thought of renting or buying a paint gun and compressor and learning to use it, I can offer advice you may just find invaluable.

First off let me give a word on paint guns. I have little experience with them, truth be told, but my little experience of trying to use one has not been with the best of luck. Painting with a gun requires watering down of the paint, preparing the gun and compressor, and then you are able to paint, perhaps quickly, perhaps more slowly, based on the success you have with your paint gun. As I have said, this did not serve me well, and after a few tries I unplugged the compressor, washed out the paint gun, and turned to my tools of choice: rollers and brushes.

Rollers offer a fairly quick, fairly easy method of painting that has a very low learning curve, and produces a quite satisfactory result. With a roller it is possible to paint a room of say, twelve feet by twelve feet, in roughly three hours with two people working. With the minimum two coats (one base and one finish), and the work required to prep the room and deal with doorways, window frames, baseboard, and cutting in, and of course waiting for the first coat to dry, you can have a room of this size finished in as little as seven hours. Less than one day's work, to complete one of the major steps of refurbishing a room.

Now, let's get to prepping the room. The first step is to purchase the necessary supplies for painting. Of course, the first thing to think of is paint. What color do you want the room to be? Light colors tend to make the room seem larger, while darker colors give the room a more cozy feel. Generally an extreme of color is gaudy and will seem out of place, but subdued colors of any hue can greatly add to a room's charm. With many modern houses there is a trend towards whites or off-whites, with natural wood or metal to augment the design. If you mean the room to be used for public purpose, or plan to rent it out, I suggest you keep it a nice white or off-white. You'll want to buy enough base paint (which serves to hide the previous color of the wall as well as insulating the room against water) for all your painting needs, and then select the color paint you want for the finish. Generally to get an equal portion of both will work just fine.

Now that you have your paint, you'll want to get the tools to apply your paint. I recommend you purchase two brushes, a narrow head for delicate work and a wide head for cutting in. Also you will need at least three rollers, one for each the base coat and finish coat, and one spare just in case. If you think the job may take more than a day, you can either use a plastic grocery store bag to store a roller in, or you can discard it and use a new one when you begin again. They are fairly inexpensive. With the rollers you will need a paint tray and a rod for painting the ceiling and high places. Also it's a good idea to have a roll of paper towels around, as well as paint solvent if you're doing a particularly delicate job. With the houses I've worked on delicate wasn't our goal, so I can't recommend a good solvent brand or advise you on application. You'll also want to purchase tape and plastic for protecting fixtures and windows.

All right, now that you're done shopping you can head home and start prepping the room. The first step in prepping is to tape fixtures and around the windows to protect them against drips and spills. Along with tape and plastic, you can purchase floor coverings if you have hardwood floors or carpet to protect. Application is fairly simple, and can be completed in just a few minutes. But don't be fooled by the simplicity of this step; to forget it can mean irritating work scraping paint off fixtures or window glass, and a major spill could mean having to replace the floor.

Once you've seen to protecting everything you don't want painted, it's time to open the paint. Depending on the container your paint is stored in, this can be fairly simple or frustratingly complex, but stick with it, because without that paint you're not continuing.

Now, since you're starting with the base coat, perfection is not such an important thing. You'll want to apply the paint evenly, and get every spot, but if you finish and it seems like in some places the paint is thin enough to see through, don't worry. The final coat will cover it.

Generally you would want to do the cutting-in first. To cut-in you take the wide paint brush and paint all the edges and corners, as well as any spot a roller won't be able to reach. With the base coat you can roll first and cut-in second, but with the final coat you MUST cut-in first. If you cut in after you roll on the final coat, there's a good chance it'll show. Cutting in is fairly simple; I like to paint the entire width of the brush on both sides of the edge, so that there's plenty of room to spare for the rolling. This prevents leaving any gaps.

Now that you have the cutting-in finished, you can begin on the rolling. You don't want to fill the paint tray completely, just enough that you can still roll inside the tray to even out the paint on the roller. I like to begin in a corner and roll roughly the top or bottom half of the wall first, and then come back for the other half. This means I am painting roughly four or five feet of wall, then going back to paint the rest. Now you'll want to paint no more than five or six lines at a time, to make sure you're not spreading the paint too thin; don't be afraid to liberally coat the walls with paint. I've heard painters advise that you paint a W across the area you plan to paint in one dip of the roller, then roll from one end to the other, but I usually just slop four or five lines across the area, without care for detail, then come back and carefully roll out the area.

When it comes to keeping yourself entertained while you paint, I would recommend a portable CD player. I didn't have anything like that myself as I painted, so I had to content myself with singing aloud. This was fairly embarrassing, so just get a CD player.

Now that you have the base coat, you can wait for it to dry then apply the final coat. Remember to cut-in first for the final coat, and make sure you have plenty of paint on your roller and are spreading it evenly.

Now, as pertains to painting doorways and windows. These tasks are very similar to cutting-in, and I would in fact recommend that you do them at the same time you are cutting in. Often Doorways and window frames will have cracks or other unsightly blemishes, so it is a good idea to have caulk handy to fill in the gaps. Applying caulk is just like spreading mud, if you ever did that as a kid; the main trick is to not mind getting your hands dirty.

All right, your room is painted and looking like new! Stand back and appreciate it, because in my experience I've found that to be the most enjoyable part.

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