Show me paint the &$^# kitchen!
June 14, 2009 6:36 AM   Subscribe

What your tips, "cheats" and hacks for painting the interior of a house?

The standard procedure is to sand & scrape, then prime & paint, which is tediously boring. Any way to make this go faster/better/smoother? I'm not talking about making a playlist of your favorite music to make it less boring, but rather "if you use this type of paint it'll go on with a single coat" or "get this type of paint sprayer, it goes much faster," that sort of advice.

Rooms being painted are the kitchen, living room, dining room, hallway, bedroom and study. Room specific or general tips welcomed.
posted by Brandon Blatcher to Home & Garden (36 answers total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
Trim or walls? Sounds like you are doing trim?
posted by jeanmari at 6:40 AM on June 14, 2009

Response by poster: Trim AND walls.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:57 AM on June 14, 2009

Best answer: If you are not too picky about clean edges, a paint shield can save you a serious amount of taping time. Also, when painting windows, don't bother taping the glass, just do your best to avoid getting too much on the pane, and then when all is dry, use a razor blade to slice along the glass/frame intersection and then scrape the paint off the glass.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:05 AM on June 14, 2009

Use painter's tape, not masking tape, and the best trim brush and best brush for cutting in that you can buy.

Watching them paint walls on home improvement shows drives me nuts. Carefully cut in with your outstanding trim brush, use the roller to put on the "V"s or "W"s, fill in, and you're done. Cutting in is a very satisfying task with the right brush.
posted by jgirl at 7:09 AM on June 14, 2009

I painted practically every surface of the interior of our house. I did very little sanding or scraping (just covering up one or two layers of paint that were already there) which saved a lot of time. I didn't use a sprayer because, in my experience, they can be pretty messy and clog up (that was with outdoor spraying, though, almost 15 years ago). There are paints now that have primer in them, but I can't say how well they work.

One painting tip that I have is for edges where trim meets wall, wall meets ceiling, etc. Tape off the side of the edge you won't be painting. Dip your paint brush in the paint but get most of the excess off. Lightly paint the surface, enough to get the color on there good (you can paint on the tape, it won't matter). The key is to not put on too much paint, otherwise it will seep below the tape and make a mess. Remove the tape once the paint has dried a bit and it will look great. You can do this with any old brush -- I found that the crappiest $1 sponge brush works fine with this method.

I will say that getting 2-3 people help will cut down on the amount of time it takes to paint TREMENDOUSLY. Think about it -- whatever takes 4 hours for one person to do will take 1 hour with 4 people. That right there is probably the best thing you can do to make it go by quicker.
posted by puritycontrol at 7:12 AM on June 14, 2009

Response by poster: Also, when painting windows, don't bother taping the glass, just do your best to avoid getting too much on the pane, and then when all is dry, use a razor blade to slice along the glass/frame intersection and then scrape the paint off the glass.

This is gold right here (where were you 5 years ago, huh?) and really what I'm trying to do here, just rethink how I go about interior painting so it's not so tedious and more efficient. So please, assume I know nothing and share anything you've learned over the years.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:19 AM on June 14, 2009

Best answer: This may not be what you're looking for, but I have to tell you: If you plan on painting late into the evening for the sake of getting as much of it over with as possible, be careful! Even when you're finished rolling paint on the walls, you still have to wash the paint rollers and brushes before you can get some well-earned rest. At about 1am, my friends and I cheaped out and did a quick rinse and then filled the bathtub with water and left the brushes to soak. AWFUL idea. The water slowly drained over the course of the night and stained the bottom and the sides of the bathtub permanently, even left a ring around the top of the (sinking) water level.

So, yes. Definitely save some energy for the swim back, if you will. If we had all wound down at midnight instead of 1am, we would have been able to do a thorough job of washing our utensils and spared my poor tub.
posted by lizzicide at 7:26 AM on June 14, 2009

Best answer: I've used both saran wrap and aluminum foil to line the paint roller tray with reasonable success in making it easier to clean.
posted by furtive at 7:39 AM on June 14, 2009

Teach yourself to paint a straight edge freehand. It will save you a bunch of time (on the NEXT job, anyway -- it'll may be a wash on this one), plus, you'll get a better result than you ever would by taping.
Part of the trick is to hold the brush at an angle and gradually rolli it in the same direction you're drawing it so that you bring fresh bristles into contact with the edge, while the recently used ones lift off and away from the work. But try it - This is a whole lot easier to do than to describe!

Each time you get down to the last 1/4 of the can or so, open the next can and blend the remainder and the new paint, so you don't get an abrupt color change in case the two aren't quite the same.

Paint the trim first, down to the trim/wall edge.
Then paint the wall with a brush, out to 5"-6" from the trim, corners, and ceiling, using the freehand technique above at the edges (unless both faces are going to be painted with the same paint, obviously). You've just saved all the work of taping, untaping, and fixing anything the tape might have messed up, and you're at least 3/4 done!
Paint the middle of the with a roller. Close the door. Open the windows.
Open a beer.

You can save a lot of brush and roller washing by wrapping them in waxed paper and a plastic bag and putting them in the fridge overnight. They'll still be ready to go in the morning.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 7:41 AM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Save time and money: don't tape unless you're deliberately creating a striped design or something like that. I learned how to paint as part of a summer crew as a student. I was the designated cutter and my partner was the designated roller. We got fast, awesome results without fiddling around with tape.

Get a standard 2 1/2 inch angle sash brush and learn how to use it. Yes, you can even use it for finicky trim in paned windows, but you might get a 1 inch angle sash as backup. Practice a little using the techniques described here. The time you spend now learning the technique will give you good, fast results not just this time, but in all future painting jobs. And it's like riding a bicycle: no matter how long it's been, you don't forget how to do it.

If you get a little paint on the glass, then yes, let it dry and scrape it off, but with the right brush and technique, you won't need that much post-paint correction.
posted by maudlin at 7:42 AM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding the "buy the best brush you can afford." I painted houses for a summer and have done a bunch of painting of friends' and my own places since, and NOTHING is more important than a premium brush.

Using your brush effectively is really the key. Dip the brush in the can, shake it a few times IN the can to lose the drippables, and paint away. DON'T wipe your brush on the side of the can; this kills brushes, because the paint dries high up in the brush, making them that much harder to clean.

When I paint, I don't tape anything -- taping is a complete waste of time, in my opinion. If you're painting with a good brush, and once you get the hang of cutting edges properly, you don't need to tape. Keep a rag in your pocket; if you hit the other side of your cut, use the rag to wipe it away quickly, and you should be good to keep going. I just keep one drop cloth underneath where I'm working, and move it as I go.

As to the cleanup, if you're going to keep painting the next day, load your roller with lots of paint, and stick a grocery bag over it. It'll be fine to use the next day. You *can* do the same with a brush, but it's not really good for it; I usually paint the excess paint out of my tray into the can, and then (assuming you're using latex) clean the brush out in the laundry sink. Get all the paint out of it, which takes a while, and dry the bristles after with a rag.

And finally -- don't skip the second coat. Yes, there are probably paints that will do a pretty good job with one coat, but you'll see the difference with the second coat, even with those.

Oh, and buy good paint, too. :)

Good luck!
posted by liquado at 7:43 AM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oops, should have said: "Paint the middle of the wall with a roller."
posted by TruncatedTiller at 7:43 AM on June 14, 2009

Two coats are faster than one.
posted by ook at 7:46 AM on June 14, 2009

You could always try the Mr. Bean technique.
posted by schrodycat at 7:46 AM on June 14, 2009

Oh, and don't futz around trying to paint neatly around electrical plates and light switches. This is how you eventually end up with a ridge of paint around them.

Go around the room with a screwdriver and plastic bag. Unscrew everything and dump them into the bag. Tie up the bag handles and hang it on the door of that room. When the walls are dry, replace the plates.

(You are going to paint all the doors at once after all the rooms are done, right? Because of your schedule of clearing rooms for painting, you may have to paint walls and trim at the same time, but try to separate out the doors as a separate job, moving a small dropcloth from door to door throughout the house. That saves on setup and cleanup time versus doing each door with its room).
posted by maudlin at 7:53 AM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

(Well, hang the bag on the doorknob of each door. You know what I meant.)

One more thing about doors, since you've told us to assume beginner's mind: unless your doors are being painted more than one colour, you'll find that the combo of a roller and brush -- and no tape! -- will be best.

Assuming the door frame was already painted with the room:

1) Brush in the inner door edge next to the door frame. Your rag will take care of any fresh hardware strikes.

2) Use your angle sash to cut in around the door handle and the top inner door corner near the hardware. Again, rag if necessary.

3) Roll the entire rest of the door. Use your brush immediately to lightly stroke the paint from top to bottom.

4) Cut in around the handle and top inside corner on the other side of the door.

5) Roll and stroke the other side.

6) Use your brush to finish the outer edge.
posted by maudlin at 8:01 AM on June 14, 2009

Agree with all the techniques here. Taping is a pain in the ass and doesn't (at least for me) result in a better finished product.

If you are doing a slap and dash- the walls are either in good shape already, or are irreparably lumpy, what I do is cut in the ceiling first. Stick the brush in the corner and paint away, walls and all. When you cut in, always do two coats! This is a failure I had the first time I painted- I only did the edges once and the coverage differences were obvious. Then do the ceiling. Then cut in the wall color. Doing it by hand is best, if you can master the technique. What I do is drag the brush along, painting with my arm, not my hand. I modulate my pressure on the brush to meet the corner in a nice even line. I'm not sure if this is the correct technique, but it works for me- the width of the brush is parallel to the corner. So I'm dragging the brush "on edge". After getting a nice even line, I go back and fill in a nice even coat along the wall, leaving a couple two three inches of coverage. I also "feather" the edge of the strip of paint so there are no brush marks when it dries.

For rolling paint, this is a technique that I saw somewhere, and find that it works quite well. Dip the roller in the thing, and get a fairly heavy coat of paint on it- as much as you can but that it doesn't drip. Apply that to the wall, and then spread it out with the roller. Use a roller handle that gives you the reach to go from the floor to ceiling. As you continue along the wall, when you are spreading the paint out, work back into the stuff you've already done to blend it in- your final "roll" of an area should go floor to ceiling. By going back over the work with the roller when it's sort of dry, you eliminate the roller edge marks. Also, when rolling the paint out in the intermediate steps, put some fairly firm pressure on the roller so that it pushes the paint into the nooks and valleys of the texture of the wall. The final roll over of the wall should be fairly light, just enough pressure to get a nice even texture.

For prep, again, if the walls are in good shape, all I do is take a wide scraper (like a drywall compound knife) and run it all over the walls to knock down any bumps. I try to avoid using spackle, because the difference in texture shows through on the finish coat. I just smush some into mail holes with my finger. If I do have to make repairs to the wall, to get a good finish product, I have to sand the entire wall so that the texture is uniform across the whole wall.

If the walls are dirty, wash them with TSP (or the equivalent).

I don't bother with primer. Two coats is two coats whether it's primer or finish paint. The only time I'd use it is if the walls were bare, or had a lot of repairs done to it.
posted by gjc at 8:29 AM on June 14, 2009

I would also suggest buying a wool roller nap. The long hair holds more paint than the polyester ones. It also creates a little texture to the wall which hides imperfections in the drywall.

Sherwin Williams has a really good paint product called Duration which is really a one coat paint. I was shocked at how good it takes to walls. It costs a little more than the regular laytex paint but to me it was worth not having to paint the same walls twice. The only down side of it is if you get it on your hands you'll be scrubbing it off or days.

Also, if you go with a regular laytex paint and are changing colors from light to dark (white to red) you should definitely prime the walls with a grey primer.
posted by sharkhunt at 8:30 AM on June 14, 2009

If the existing finish is good enough that one coat will bring it back, but a few places have been spackled, or have chipped and been sanded, or otherwise will need two coats, you can put the second coat on first. If necessary, prime, then paint over the few problem areas. Then put a first coat on the whole room. Patches are hidden, and you didn't have to two-coat the whole room for the 10% that needed more help.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 8:39 AM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I painted my house, I painted the ceilings white and the walls in various colours. Instead of ordinary tape, I found this stuff at Home Depot called Easy Mask. It is like a giant post-it note in roll form, available in various widths.

They make it wide enough that when I accidentally bump the paint roller into the ceiling (while painting the walls) the roller-print of coloured paint ends up on the mask instead of permanently on the ceiling. It was useful for other masking requirements as well, like masking off the walls to paint the trim.

I found that for a non-expert painter such as myself, the time spent applying this was more than recovered by not having to be at all careful with the actual painting afterwards.
posted by FishBike at 8:51 AM on June 14, 2009

Seconding the no-tape method. Learn to cut, it's very rewarding to do well. They make/sell tray and hand bucket liners that make cleanup quick and easy.

Get a good brush, a good roller frame, good roller covers. Cheap stuff is aggravating! I set up paint buckets etc on a big contractor bag on a table, no stooping, keeps the drips contained, and at the end of the project just shovel all the trash into the same bag.

Brushes clean very quickly if you use fabric softener instead of paint or detergent! I was skeptical until I tried it, now I won't use anything else. Get an extra 2 gallon bucket and keep it full of warm water/fabric softener. The rag you keep in the same hand as the hand bucket holds the rag if needed for slop-overs. Use a 5-in-one to clean right next to trim.

Why do people hate painting? I find it relaxing.
posted by KenManiac at 8:58 AM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

nthing skipping the tape, unless you're doing several coats--like if you've got a dark-colored wall you want to paint white.

If your walls have a lot of holes to patch, an orbital sander will save you a lot of time over sanding by hand. You can probably rent one from Home Depot. Wear a dust mask. Wipe down all the surfaces with a damp cloth or sponge when you're done.

The arced scraper on a painter's tool helps when cleaning roller covers. A roller cover cleaner like this one is even faster, but you need a space you don't mind getting messy. A broom handle screwed into the roller handle is a lot faster than moving a ladder around.

If you're painting over a glossy surface, be sure to lightly sand the gloss off first.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:25 AM on June 14, 2009

Best answer: Wash everything first as paint won't adhere well to dirt. Trisodium will give the walls & trim some tooth.
Fill all holes, cracks around door and window frames. Makes the finished job look better.
Remove all hardware. Nthing the ziploc bag to keep from losing it & the impossible to replace screws.)
Nthing the sash/angle brush! Best thing I ever bought. And the shield which you should wipe off after every stroke so you don't transfer paint from it to the wall.
After you clean your brushes, lie them flat to dry as it keeps the bristles together better than hanging.
Buy good brushes, and smack them against your palm a few times before you use them the first time to make sure any loose hairs come out then, not in the paint.
For painting around tricky hardware that you can't remove (like the shaped lock surround on my front door) use a thin layer of vaseline. If you get paint on it, it will wipe right off once the paint is dry.
Get a shop light if you're painting at night.
Get a roller with the right nap for the paint you're using.
Try to find a paint store that caters to the trade as the staff should know their stuff and you should be able to buy better quality brushes at a lower price than the local hardware.
Cover the floor - not with those thin plastic sheets which are more trouble than anything.
posted by x46 at 9:34 AM on June 14, 2009

Two thoughts:

1. Buy one of those bright bright halogen lights on a stand for $25 at Home Despot. Bright light makes it way easier to see what you are doing, if the paint is thick enough or too thick, etc.

2. Is hiring it out a possibility? You really don't seem to want to do this. Be careful with painting contractors though--everybody thinks they can be a good painting contractor, and many of them are wrong.
posted by LarryC at 9:37 AM on June 14, 2009

Need to preserve a paint roller/brush overnight?
Drop in a grocery bag and refrigerate. You can pick up where you left off the next day.

Also, consider temperatures. Keep the paint in the room it will be going in for a day or two prior to painting. If you pull your paint from your cold basement and put it on hot walls, funky stuff could happen like bubbling.
posted by ijoyner at 9:53 AM on June 14, 2009

I've painted almost all the walls in our house and people are always asking me for the name of my painter.

I do most of the stuff people listed already (in terms of technique), but mostly I've just become really good because of practice.

Also, I don't wash out brushes and rollers if I haven't finished the room at night. I wrap them really carefully in aluminum foil. They're still wet the next day and I'm ready to go. I don't dump the whole gallon of paint in the tray, either. I figure I lose a bit of time by refilling so much, but I don't throw away any paint, either. By the end of the night, I can judge how much longer I have to go before the tray is empty. Then I just wash it out and it dries overnight.

Better brushes and rollers cost more money. Buy them. You won't regret it.
posted by cooker girl at 9:55 AM on June 14, 2009

Also, the Easy Mask mentioned a few posts up is helpful if you need to cover a thick baseboard trim that is (for example) stained wood. You lay that down on the top and it hangs over the rest of the baseboard, keeping paint off the floor & baseboard.
posted by ijoyner at 9:59 AM on June 14, 2009

Response by poster: Ok, can ya'll recommend top quality brushes and rollers?

Is hiring it out a possibility? You really don't seem to want to do this.

Hell no, our house, we're painting it (at least the interior). We're just looking for tips how to do it really well.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:02 AM on June 14, 2009

You don't have to wash/clean your roller cover out every time if you're planning on using that color again soon. Just wrap it in a plastic bag/painter's plastic really well so air doesn't get to it. It's all about saving time. And label it if you have more than one color. Same applies to brushes if you have more than one brush. Just make sure you wrap it well and you'll be golden.
A good rule to follow about brushes, have a small bucket with about 2 to 2.5 inches of paint in it with your brush in it. Always leave your brush in it when you're not painting, so it doesn't get too crusty or dry.
When cleaning your brush use a a stiff comb to get the dried bits of paint in the brush out. Make sure all paint is out of brush by cleaning it in the small bucket and rinsing it 6 to 7 times, vigorously pressing the water out of the brush, or as much as you can until the water becomes clear. It's worth the time to clean it because these brushes aren't cheap. And it will work better the next time you use it. Cold to lukewarm water works best to clean and preserve brushes integrity.
posted by alteredcarbon at 10:02 AM on June 14, 2009

The best painters tape we've used is called FrogTape. Paint seems able to creep under the edge of regular blue painters tape, but this stuff doesn't let anything leak under. (Home Depot stopped carrying it recently so I thought maybe they went out of business, but it looks like lots of other places still sell it.)

If you have two people, what seemed to make things go quickly was for one person to do all the edging with a brush (top and bottom of the walls, corners, around all the trim), and the other to fill in all the large areas with a roller. Then you can work simultaneously and knock out a whole room pretty fast.

Also, if you're painting anything a dark color, tinted primer will make the job much easier.
posted by LolaGeek at 10:48 AM on June 14, 2009

No painters tape needed if you use this handy tool. We didn't discover it until we were halfway through painting the interior of this freaking house and I was so thankful to find it. Made life and edging SO much easier. I cry tears of joy whenever I use the darn thing.
posted by jeanmari at 4:56 PM on June 14, 2009

Oh yeah! I love this cool paintbrush, too, because I hate, hate, hate washing out paintbrushes. But this only works if you have access to a garden hose or a utility sink faucet that has a threaded spout. Only works with paint that you can clean up with water (latex paint). Doesn't leave bristles on your paint job (I despise picking bristles out of the paint job.)
posted by jeanmari at 5:04 PM on June 14, 2009

I know wrapping the brush in plastic or aluminium foil at night is oook if you're painting again the next day, but there is still a loss of water and the paint on the brush will be a bit thicker in my experience (and air will get in). I still prefer drilling a hole through the brush handle and putting some clothes hangar wire through the hole and suspending the brush/bristles in water overnight so it doesn't touch the bottom (using an old paint can/whatever), after giving it a quick semi-wash. You then just have to do a few paint strokes on a rag next day and you're good to go.
posted by peacay at 9:30 PM on June 14, 2009

You're foolish if you paint without this handy paint pail.

For next day painting, you can rinse the brush in water, slap it back onto the pail magnet and put aluminum foil over the top of the bucket. This is just one of the advantages of this pail. It's very well made and under $10 too.
posted by qsysopr at 9:01 AM on June 15, 2009

I really like the PaintStick for the walls.

Cleanup is time-consuming, but it covers well and eliminates the drippy-roller hassle.

In our old [1926] house, the border between ceiling and wall was so lumpy and uneven that the edge never looked good. Very frustrating for years. The solution we found was to wrap the ceiling color over down onto the wall about an inch to a nice clean taped line. You didn't notice the little bit of wrap, but it made the room look so much snappier.
posted by chazlarson at 8:51 PM on June 15, 2009

If you are doing any clean taped lines, run a "dryish" brush over the edge and let it dry. This will seal it so that the next layer of paint won't get sucked under.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:34 PM on June 18, 2009

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