If a man's to live in true happiness, he needs above all a home in which he can have pride. ~ Simonides of Ceos
To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. ~ Sir Winston Churchill
Painting a room can be daunting even in perfect conditions. The process can be doubly arduous without a clear plan. Here are some supplemental basics should you be undertaking a first serious painting job and you’re not entirely sure where to begin.
Colour, Shade and Light
Now clearly picking the right paint is pivotal. Having concluded things want sprucing, you’re about to commit considerable time, treasure and toil. You’ll need to get to your paint store and give all those colour wheels a once over. Swipe as many colour strips as you feel compelled to. Try to stick to the high-end flavours – only because throwing in a few extra bills on this end will save you heartache. Paint quality – how it smells, sticks, looks and lasts – degrades seriously if you cheap out here. You can arguably skimp on all the other gear: use newspapers rather canvas drop cloth, bust out those old mangy brushes, go with vinegar and hot water for washing. Quality paint is non-negotiable.
Next, you’ll need to bring home those colour strips and see what they look like in your house with your stuff. Gradation of shade and tint can be pretty subtle. Not something you want to guess at or hedge about with a tired hardware clerk under fluorescent lighting. In the room you intend to paint, check the colours against the existing walls, flooring, trim, curtains, etc. and preferably in the lighting conditions that room tends to see most. Baseboards, fixtures or windowsills will need a complimentary shade, typically one lighter than what you’ve selected for the walls (unless you’re just going white).
Now let us say all this is decided – shades, tints and finishes have been worked out, you’ve actually bought your paint and brought it home. The last hurdle is to test it on the wall. What you do not want is to spend an entire day laying on a mellow tone that looks perfect on paper, only to find for some reason it dries to a headache-inducing glare. Put a nice sized square on one wall and let it dry a few hours. If you return and it’s looking fine, we can get underway.
Some Thoughts On The Job
1. If you can, clear the room completely. Ideally, there should be nothing in there but you and your gear with a tarp on the floor. Unless you’ve been graced with tentacles, painting around things like bookcases, televisions and chesterfields will only damage them, strain you and throw off the end result.
2. Sand your baseboards and trim with some coarse-grain sandpaper. Stay cool and no need for power tools. The goal is not to remove all the paint or expose wood, but simply a degree of roughness for the new coat to glom onto.
3. Use masking tape sparingly, where it makes sense to get an even line but don’t go overboard. Tape will pull up your nice new coat of paint as often as keeping it straight. Trust your eye, keep steady and you shouldn’t need too much taping.
4. Painting over dirt or dust will look sloppy, mess up your brush and is just icky on principle. Wash all surfaces well and give some time to drying.
5. Painting at night or in low light can be tricky as you might miss spots where you roll uneven or the surface isn’t uniform. With a nice high wattage lamp you can pick this out.
6. Remove all switch and socket plates.
7. Keep a cloth and bucket handy for drips and streaks.
8. Paint in clothing you’d burn without thinking twice.
9. Coffee and chocolate, not beer and chips, are ideal fuel.
10. Keep the music momentous and so too shall you have. *
If you’re painting over a darker colour, particularly on trim or baseboards, you’ll likely need a primer coat to get a streak-free, solid look. This is where you’ll want to start.
Then you’ll want to do the “cutting in” while that dries – that is painting with a brush all the corners, edges and joins that cannot be reached with a roller. Start high, where wall meets ceiling and go all the way around the room. Then work your way down, brighten the corners so to speak, and then end along the trim. Three to four inches bands should give you the clearance you need to use roller with ease. Go smooth but generous with the paint at this stage, with nice even strokes. This way it will blend right in once you roller over most of it. Don’t fuss too much at this stage, as it may need another coat anyway.
You can then revisit the trim with a second coat if a few drying hours have passed. If conditions are warm and dry when you’re painting, this should be adequate. If it’s cold or humid though, you should allow extra time for drying, other wise you’ll literally peel away your first run when you put on the second.
If you’re going to be doing the ceiling, the next step in the operation will be to screw the handle of your brook stick and onto a roller and get it done. With a roller you want to be applying 3ft. squares, even and one at a time, to achieve an even look. Don’t press overly hard with the roller or it will leave bubble spots and leave the handle on for the walls as the added leverage and reach will save your arms. If the ceiling looks patchy, give it a few hours then apply another coat.
A second coat over what you cut in before may also be necessary. This time you should be finicky.
Once this has all dried well, you’re ready to apply the bulk of your paint with roller and handle. With a good job made of cutting in, this will be quick and painless. Two coats light coats will look better as a rule than one heavy one, as no eye is ever perfect or wall perfectly even. Watch the nostalgic daydreaming* and keep the place well ventilated as we’d sooner not have you or the pets go buggy.
Now it should just be a matter of your trims, sills and baseboards – though they may not need a second coat if the sanding and priming worked out. Then it’s just a matter of cleaning your brushes while oxygen and gravity finish the job.
* On Painting Music: I did this for a summer job and people I worked with could never agree upon an ideal tempo when it came to painting. Some favoured a little punk to bop along to, though these were the ones who liked playing with nail guns. Others went in for the glam rock, but then typically ended up goofing off or getting in a forklift accident. Personally, my top five painting a room recommends (in chronological order) are Revolver, Here Come the Warm Jets, Ocean Rain, Now I’m A Cowboy and Building Something Out of Nothing.
* On Maudlin Painting: This invariably creeps up mid-way through the job as painting evokes thoughts associated with other cities, other apartments and other times – particularly if you’re working alone. It may well be a mnemonic side effect of all those fumes. Just keep it together or you’ll glob on the trim. Use the music to counterbalance.