Tips for painting a house like a pro

Those white walls are so dull – you need a splash of color in your life – or you notice cracks and chips appearing. Either way, the interior of the house definitely needs a paint job.

It’s expensive, though: the average cost to paint an interior ranges from $1,200 to $3,900. Since the bulk of these costs are painter’s fees, it’s easy to see why many people are tempted to go the DIY route. When you eliminate the labor costs of painting the house, it becomes much more affordable.

A gallon of paint will cost between $25 and $55, depending on brand and quality; glossier paint tends to be more expensive than matte options. Each gallon of paint will cover approximately 350-400 square feet and will likely require two coats. For a 1,200 square foot home, that means you’ll need about $400 worth of paint to cover two coats on all surfaces. Budget for a few rolls, painters tape, and tarps — and you can usually do the whole job for around $500.

But how can you finish the job like a pro? Aside from the obvious tips like covering your furniture and not painting yourself in the proverbial corner, there are a few secrets to improving your results. Here are five tips, tricks, and techniques to ensure you get a professional-looking paint job.

1. Wait for the good times

If it’s raining or the forecast calls for rain, it’s not a good day to paint. The ideal humidity for painting is between 40 and 50%. When the humidity is too high, you may end up with streaks in your paint or unwanted stains. If it is cold and damp, your paintwork may develop condensation on the surface.

If it’s dry but a hot day, that’s not good either. The paint could dry too quickly and develop cracks, dents or blisters. Latex and acrylic paints won’t perform well if the ambient temperature in the house is above 85 degrees, while oil paints will suffer if you paint when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees. If it’s hot outside, be sure to run the air conditioner in the room for a while before painting, even if you have the windows open for ventilation.

2. Choose the right roller nap

The length of the fibers on your paint roller is called the nap. Different surfaces require different naps. If your walls are very smooth (no texture), a very short nap is appropriate; you’ll want to stick to ¼ inch for ideal results. Most interior walls have a light texture and will benefit from a ⅜ inch nap. For more textured surfaces like brick, consider a ½ or ¾ inch nap.

Avoid the 1-inch nap for interior painting, as these rollers are usually reserved for things like exterior stucco.

3. Mix your paint before you start

Did you know that even if you buy three gallons of the same paint at the same time, they may not be identical? A paint machine may produce slight variations when mixing the same shade. To ensure even coverage throughout the room, you can mix the cans before you start.

Get a five gallon bucket of paint and combine all of your individual gallon cans. Mix with a paint stick to create a single color that will stay consistent throughout the space. If you have extra paint, you can always pour the excess into a 1 gallon can.

4. Consider self-priming paint

Contractors often like to use a primer before applying paint. Primer serves two main purposes: it seals the surface of the wall and provides better adhesion for paint color (similar to how foundation smooths and “preps” your face for makeup).

However, most do-it-yourself painters don’t need to invest in a primer if they buy a self-priming paint. Self-priming paint seals the wall as it applies color. Removing primer can save you time and money. A separate primer is especially optional if you are painting over existing paint and not drywall.

5. Work with a wet edge

Once you start rolling, you need to pay attention to your technique to provide consistent coverage – and the key to that is keeping a wet edge. This means that each stroke of your roll must overlap the previous one. Start in a corner, working up and down, and move your roller so that you move in slow increments. You should also refill your roller often, re-rolling it in paint before it dries completely. Go back as needed to reapply paint to a noticeably thin area, bubble, or streak.

One last tip: just let your roller do the work and don’t press it too hard against the wall.

Last Word on Painting Like a Pro

Whether you want to paint your entire house or just add an accent wall, you can save a lot of money by learning how to paint your house yourself. If you choose a high quality paint, prepare your space properly (use fabric drop cloths liberally and blue masking tape to protect the edges) and avoid putting too much pressure (literally) on the job, there is there’s no reason why you can’t end up with a stellar result.

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