Which should we pay for and which should we do ourselves?
April 22, 2011 1:55 AM   Subscribe

DIY: is it easier to go a good DIY job painting walls (interior) or installing laminate floors?

We are moving into a new house and are going to put in laminate floors in three rooms, and paint the whole interior. We have no experience with either task, but have watched other people do them. We can probably afford to pay professionals to do one or the other, but not both. Which is easier for us to do a better DIY job on? In either case, we can start with a small, seldom-used bedroom for practice.

(Perhaps relevant: the previous paint job seems to be a bad DIY. It is cracking and a bit lumpy, so the walls will probably need stripping and sanding before painting. That is making the floors seem like a smaller/quicker job.)

Basically, where will we get the most bang for our buck?
posted by lollusc to Home & Garden (32 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'd say painting is probably easier in a sense, not because it's less work but because it's lower-risk work. If you screw up the paint, you re-paint. If you screw up the floor, you throw out a lot of expensive flooring. Notice that there are a lot of painting companies that use high school and college kids for summer labor. Flooring companies generally do not.

The painting will probably happen first anyhow, so why not start by figuring out what really needs to be done with the paint. Take some pictures of problem areas and post them here or show them to some knowledgeable old guy at a good paint store, and get some advice; "cracking and a bit lumpy" could mean many things. Sanding and stripping of interior walls is uncommon and would be a big job.
posted by jon1270 at 2:43 AM on April 22, 2011

Both can be DIY projects, but the painting will require a lot less skill (and as jon says, it's easier to fix mistakes). Really avoid stripping the old paint if you can (it's a mess and hard to do right). Spackle does wonders for small holes and cracks; a scraper will get rid of small lumps.

If you haven't done it before, remove electric faceplates (new ones are cheap and spruce up a room) and carefully tape up areas you don't want to paint. Tape plastic sheeting or old sheets on the floor if it's not one you're going to have redone.
posted by zompist at 3:27 AM on April 22, 2011

Response by poster: Flooring will actually be the first job, I think. It seems it requires removal and reattachment of the skirting boards, and so we can't paint them at least until after the flooring is in. Also, it's kind of hard to figure out paint colours until we see the place with the new flooring in.

I would be very relieved if we don't have to strip the old paint. By "lumpy", I mean, it seems like things - dust/animal hair/??? - got caught in the paint when they did it first. If you run your hand over it, there are quite a few little bumps. Also big drips in some places. And there are big cracks in the paint on a couple of walls, but not everywhere.
posted by lollusc at 3:44 AM on April 22, 2011

Big cracks are probably in the plaster, not just the paint. Dust, drips and hair can be easily sanded out; no stripping necessary. If there's a lot of such sanding to do, get yourself a random orbit sander and a bunch of stick-on sandpaper discs of a fairly coarse grit -- 100 grit or so.
posted by jon1270 at 4:05 AM on April 22, 2011

Laminate flooring is quite easy. Read up about it in books or online and you'll have a pretty good idea how it works. Tool requirements are very basic, and you'll be surprised how quickly it goes. Probably the easiest installation method is a floating floor, where you just lay down some underlay and clip the laminate together on top - usually this means no glue, no nailing, so the most difficult part is measuring and cutting to fit around pipes and door trim.

The biggest hurdle can be the floor. If the floor isn't flat to within a few mm, you may have to tackle that first. If it's level and sound, it ought to be an easy job.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 4:23 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

And by floor, I mean the subfloor, obviously.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 4:24 AM on April 22, 2011

Finally (I promise), it makes sense to paint first. Remove the skirtings if you're going to - you may not need to, since laminate flooring usually needs an expansion gap around the edges anyway). Then paint - it won't matter if you spill it or drop tools on the floor. Then lay the flooring and reattach the skirtings.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 4:33 AM on April 22, 2011

Can you post some pics of the walls? If they're bad, there's a 3rd option - pay for a plasterer, then decorate and floor yourself.

I'm currently doing DIY on both painting and laminate myself and I agree with le morte de bea arthur above - paint before floor. However careful you are you'll get drips. At the very least, paint the walls and the ceiling. Depending on the condition of the walls, you can get sealant paint that will hide a lot of sins - I would wash the walls thoroughly with sugar soap and a scourer and see what comes off.

You can choose to do laminate by lifting the skirting, or you can fit beading around the edge. Either way you will need to leave an expansion gap for the floor to "breathe" - so a lot of people recommend beading. Basically, it's laminate to within 5-10mm of the edge, then cork (which will squish as the floor expands), and something neater on top of the cork. That "something neater" can mean taking off your skirting then putting it back on, or it can mean a trim that matches the floor.
posted by handee at 4:57 AM on April 22, 2011

Response by poster: Can't post pics of the walls - camera isn't working. But it sounds like sanding alone might be enough. The cracks I mentioned are only in two places, I think, and I'm pretty sure they don't actually go into the plaster.

It's good to hear we might not need to lift the skirting.

We aren't going to paint the ceiling - it looks in pretty good condition, and at least is white (the walls are bright yellow!) But you are probably still right about likelihood of drips.

Handee - since you say you are doing painting and laminate yourself right now, which are you finding more troublesome? Which do you think would look noticeably better if you employed someone to do it (if either)? If the answer is that both are super easy and we'd be stupid not to do them both ourselves, then that's good news, I guess, too!
posted by lollusc at 5:46 AM on April 22, 2011

Response by poster: Oh, and yes we are planning on a floating floor, and we have read plenty about it online and watched videos etc. It does look (deceptively?) easy. I assume if we screw it up we can pull the boards out and try again without the boards being ruined? (Although obviously if we cut some to the wrong length those particular boards might not be reusable).
posted by lollusc at 5:49 AM on April 22, 2011

I agree with those above handee and le morte de be a arthur that you can easily DIY both. There is self-leveling compound that can correct for issues in the sub floor. It's not hard to do. And we used quarter-round trim that matched the laminate to cover the expansion gap between the floor and our white baseboards.

Every time that I paint a room in my house (brush to trim out, roller to fill in), the roller creates micro drips. I always have to go back around the room & clean the tiny drips, which is not difficult with our floor. But if I had a choice I'd paint first.

We bought our first house in august 2009, and I've painted every room at least once. The added benefit of diy'ing these things is the sense of satisfaction! Home depot has laminate classes every weekend, and the people then have been of great help to me.
posted by Kronur at 5:51 AM on April 22, 2011

I've done both, and neither is super-difficult. The hardest part is getting the space ready, getting the surfaces prepped, being sure you have the right tools, and the first half-hour of learning how to use the tools. I don't think it matters which, just pick one and go with it.

In terms of tool cost, you'd have to buy a saw for the flooring if you don't have one, while the paint you'd just need hand-tools, but there are a lot: a 2" wedge-tip brush, maybe an edging tool, maybe a 1" brush, a roller and handle-extension, a few roller covers, a paint tray and a couple of liners, a paint can opener, some drop cloths, a step-stool, a bag of rags, a wire brush for cleaning your paintbrushes. Honestly the tool cost probably comes out the same. Either set (paint tools or wood-cutting) will continue to be handy in your home ownership.

About pull-out and redo on the flooring - I think it's possible, but it depends a bit on the particular brand and how sturdy the tongue-and-groove pieces are, whether it's likely to break off or pull free cleanly.
posted by aimedwander at 5:57 AM on April 22, 2011

DIY: is it easier to go a good DIY job painting walls (interior) or installing laminate floors?

It is easier to do a good DIY job if you paint first and do the floor second -- spilling paint on your brand new floor will make you cuss in ways you didn't know you could.

Both are easy jobs. The flooring takes a few tools, but nothing outrageous; painting takes care and prep work. (Don't sand or strip the paint without first finding out if the old paint has lead in it, by the way, and follow the basic precautions that any DIY book or website can tell you about.)

But if you are bound and determined to pay someone for one of the jobs, I'd pay for the painting. A good, experienced painter (which is not all of them, obviously) knows how to work fast and clean, and will get better results than your average hobbyist.
posted by Forktine at 6:08 AM on April 22, 2011

I have never paid anyone to paint a house for me, the very idea fills me with horror. It's really a zero skill task. Laminate flooring is also pretty easy (though I would say harder than painting). The only reason to pay someone for either of these jobs is time pressures.

Paint first.
posted by wilful at 6:21 AM on April 22, 2011

Both are reasonable DIY projects but I think the painting is probably a bit easier to manage for a homeowner if you're willing to take your time. As others have stated, I would avoid the thought of stripping paint off the walls unless it's absolutely necessary.

Regardless of which task(s) you take on yourself, I would suggest the following order based on my personal experience:

1. Remove baseboards
2. Paint walls
3. Install floor
4. Paint baseboards (before being re-installed)
5. Re-install baseboards and touch up nail holes

This will provide you with the neatest job with the least prep/masking/cleanup.
posted by Diginati at 6:22 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have done both myself. Personally, I love painting walls, hated laying laminate flooring. I had absolutely no experience with the floors until I started them (I taught myself), and it wasn't horrible, but it's not something I really want to repeat. A lot of people don't seem to mind it, though. I did it all myself over a few weekends (my husband has a bad back, so he got out of all the fun!). It may really depend on the type of flooring you get as to the ease of the job. I have IKEA flooring, which is decent quality, but it did tend to chip if you got overzealous pounding the pieces together. When the boards fit together the way they're supposed to, it's awesome-when they fight you, not so much! I did feel a huge sense of accomplishment when it was done, though.

That being said, if I had the money to pay someone to do it, I would! Painting is super easy, and I wouldn't pay someone for that, though.
posted by fresh-rn at 6:43 AM on April 22, 2011

Forktine is correct: walls, then floor & trim. We're going to replace all our skanky carpet with hardwoods, but the floor guy said to paint before he starts. By extension, work downward: paint the ceiling, then the walls, then do the floors.

I have painted and I have done two rooms of laminate. Neither is hard. Just be sure, sure, SURE that the early boards go in straight, and put something heavy on them to KEEP THEM STRAIGHT, or your floor will be screwed up.

There's more expense in labor than in materials, and a painting job is ALL labor -- so that's where your sweat equity will be most effective.

Good luck, have fun, and don't fight with your helper/partner.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:19 AM on April 22, 2011

Also, you can do a floor in a day, but painting will be a longer affair spread over several days: scrape/sand one day, then wash & rinse, then prime, then paint.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:20 AM on April 22, 2011

The only time to hire a pro to paint is if you are looking for a level of quality that you cannot make yourself do. If you are painting with a flat paint or worse, a textured one, it is REALLY hard to get good results. Then it might be worth it, if that's what you absolutely HAVE to have.

Protip: get a good, angled brush and learn to make straight lines with it, and forgo masking the edges. Yes, you will have to go slower on the cutting. But you will get better results and save time by not having to put up and tear down the tape. If you screw up a line, wipe it off with a moist cloth and try again.

When rolling, get the roller as damp as possible without dripping, apply the paint to an unpainted area of the wall, and then use the roller to "work it in" and spread it out and blend in with what you have already painted.

If the walls are dirty, wash them first. (Or hit them with a primer meant to cover up dirt.)

Flooring: this is actually easier than painting, but it seems not. You can't spill flooring on the walls and ruin them. If you can do a jigsaw puzzle, you can lay a floating floor.

Make sure you choose the underlayment (felt paper or that sound proofing rubber stuff or pink insulation sheets or whatever) carefully. It makes the difference between a floor that feels "right" and one that feels floaty and gross.

Make sure the floor is absolutely clean underneath. One little pebble or a penny that you forgot to pick up will make the floor look lumpy.

Rent a small chop or radial arm saw if you can. Makes cutting a breeze. If not, get a standard hand saw (like the ones people paint and make decorations out of) with a medium tooth pattern. If you have the choice, I believe you'd want a "crosscut" saw as opposed to a "rip" saw. You'd think you'd want a smaller tooth pattern, but that will make cutting take longer and the cut less straight. Cut by pushing down, then by lifting up without any cutting force, and then pushing down again.

Lay out all the pieces first and make sure there aren't any textural differences from one end of the room to the other. If a pattern develops, randomize it. Or embrace it and make it perfect. If the pieces need some assistance to snap together, get a "dead blow" hammer. It is a mallet that is filled with sand or lead shot that works great for pounding things together or apart. It has no bounce like a normal hammer. I guarantee, this hammer will become your favorite hammer for a variety of projects.

This is a pet peeve of mine, so your mileage may vary. Figure out what direction the floor should go in. If there is wood somewhere else in the house, match that. If you know what direction the joists run in the house, the finish floor should run parallel to them. (In classic construction, the subfloor would run perpendicular to the joists, and then the finish floor would run perpendicular to those.) This is something that makes a floor really look good in a completely undefinable way. It is what makes you walk into a house or a room and say "that floor looks great" or "wow, that's a laminate floor that looks out of place".
posted by gjc at 7:21 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

How about this? Paint the rooms by yourself and pay to have two of the rooms done professionally. That way you can do the one bedroom floor and if it is too much of a pain you can give up and let the professional installer finish it.

Personally, I would leave the flooring to the professional. Especially if you have irregular room layouts.
posted by NatProp at 7:36 AM on April 22, 2011

A small note about paint, if you're doing it yourself: gloss paint will show small bumps and irregularities much more than flat or matte paint. You don't say if you've got drywall or plaster walls, but I live in an old house with uneven plaster walls, and it all looks fine as long as it's painted matte.

Generally, trim is the only place you'd use glossy paint, although some people like it in kitchens and bathrooms because it's easier to clean.
posted by echo target at 7:41 AM on April 22, 2011

I'm surprised at all these folks saying that laminate flooring is super easy.

Putting in our laminate was a NIGHTMARE and it looks awful and nothing worked right and it was terrible and hard and did I mention it looks terrible and fucked up?!? There were two of us, one very very handy, working on it.

On the other hand, I've never not personally painted a room that I've lived in, and I can barely use a screwdriver, so YMMV.
posted by tristeza at 8:11 AM on April 22, 2011

lollusc: "I assume if we screw it up we can pull the boards out and try again without the boards being ruined?"

Only if you are very very careful. The boards fit together so tightly that to get them apart again is extremely difficult without ruining a board. And sometimes you don't realize you've screwed up until a large number of boards have been laid, and what are you going to do, pull up the whole floor and start over? It's also not recommended to buy flooring piecemeal. In other words, you should try to get everything from the same lot, to avoid significant variations in color between lots. That requires some planning ahead of time, and limits your options as far as replacing mistakes.

Installing flooring is a two-person job. Have you and the other person ever done a major project together? It requires a lot of cooperation and willingness to compromise. (No, THIS board goes next. No, I believe it should be THIS board. No, really it's THIS one. Oh. Wait, you were right, it WAS this other board, and now we totally wrecked the pattern. It's all YOUR fault. No, it's YOUR fault. Hmph! Argh!) --- This may or may not be an actual conversation between my husband and me...

On the other hand, painting can be a one-person job, or you can trade off jobs. (I'll sand, if you'll do the parts around the windows. I'll do this room, and you do that room. I'll do the edging, you do the skirting.) Much less chance for big fights, IMO.

If you've never done a big project together, I suggest starting with painting because it is much more forgiving of mistakes. You can always paint over. The unintended pattern in my dining room floor still drives me nuts every time I see it, and it's been three years...
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:49 AM on April 22, 2011

I'll just add this...

My clients often ask which parts of a project they can do themselves. I always suggest painting because it can be quite expensive, but the bigger reason is this:

People always paint to the level of their own satisfaction. Fussy people take the time and effort to paint very well, and save a lot of money on high-quality professionals. People less fussy paint more quickly. It's very rare that one would paint fastidiously if that wasn't a value of theirs, and conversely, that one would just throw paint at the wall if you are after a high-quality result.

You meet your own standard.
posted by nickjadlowe at 8:59 AM on April 22, 2011

As someone who isn't the slightest bit handy and tries to avoid DIY herself but somehow always ends up always helping people with these two specific tasks, I'd know that if I were picking between the two, I'd choose to paint. Laminate's not hard, but it's fussy, especially in corners, closets, etc. And it's easy to end up not happy with your job, spaces between the boards, etc. Mistakes can be expensive. Also, professionals who do it for a living can do it much, much faster than you, and already have all the little tools of the trade that make the job easier.

Painting, on the other hand is relatively easy work, and easy to fix if you screw up. You can take your time or do it quickly, and it can even be theraputic. I almost enjoy it (except painting ceilings. ugh.)

But paint first. It'll be much less stress if you're not worried about getting paint on your floors. You can always paint/reattach the skirting last, after the floors are put in.
posted by cgg at 9:40 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

We've just finished completely stripping out our bedroom, repainting, and laying a floating laminate floor. Took us a week in total, but most of that was prep work. It's the 2nd room in the house we've done this to, and we're going to relaying laminate floor in the rest of the rooms over time.

In our case, the biggest time-sink was getting the walls into a decent state - we had fitted cupboards over bare drywall, and wallpaper over a crappy paint job on the rest. Getting the cupboards out, priming the drywall, stripping and cleaning the walls, and puttying all the gaps took us about 5 days. We laid the floating laminate floor, including cutting new skirting, in under a day.

Both jobs are well within the skill level of basic DIY, if you have the right tools.

Our stages were:
1) strip room of furniture and skirting (we had to do new skirting, as it was cut to fit the cupboards). Levering off the skirting also caused some damage to the bottom of the drywall, as they've been nailed on with long soft iron nails
2) clean (wallpaper glue is a bugger), polyfiller cracks, sand down. Repeat sanding on polyfiller untill smooth and level with surrounding surface. Sand down any blemishes, bumps or bubbly bits
3) paint ceiling and coving
4) paint walls; first primer to cover the bare drywall, and then several coats of dulux trade matt white to cover up the horrible pink.
5) final coat of colour
6) lay laminate floor
7) cut, paint, fit skirting

The key to a good paint job is
a) preparation. Make sure the walls are smooth, clean, and all cracks, bumps, etc are polyfillered and sanded. Any shortcuts here WILL show up through the final finish
b) avoiding 'dry' rolling if using a paint roller, which is much quicker than a brush. Basically, use enough paint on the roller, then spread it around such there are no small speckles of missing colour or ridges from the edge of the roller.

Also, don't let your paint dry out (use a smaller amount in your tray, and refresh with a little water if needed). Better to do multiple good thin layers if the colour underneath is showing, rather than try to do too thick a layer.

If you need to take a break, wrap the tray and roller with clingfilm. Don't take a break half-way through a wall though - ideally, paint all walls in one session, then let dry properly.

Laminate is straightfoward, as long as you go steady and have a process. We've used the floating click-together stuff - no glue or nails needed. Our method is this, after laying new underlay:

Use small plastic spacers against the first wall, and a short length along the side walls, so you have an expansion gap. On the first wall, cut a board in half. Lay that half board, and as many complete boards in a row as you can. Cut the last board to fit in the corner, again being short enough to leave a small gap. Lay some more spacers for your new row. Take the remainder of the board cut for the last row, and use it to start the next row. That way, your layout is 'random' and the gaps don't get in a pattern. If when starting a new row, you've got a very short piece, or the gap lies too close to the previous row's one, just start either with a half board or a full board, and carry on. Use a hammer and a bit of junk wood to protect the board, or a soft mallet to tap the boards together against the previous row, as you finish each row - makes sure there's no micro-gaps between boards. The spacers should stop the already laid floor moving against the wall.

The only tricky bits are round radiator pipes, and doorways. For pipes, you basically cut a hole bigger than the pipe, than two straight cuts from board edge at an angle into the hole, so you end up with a old-fashion keyhole shape. Keep the pieces, and glue on once you've fitted round the radiator. For the doorway, it's easiest to use a flat-bladed saw to just cut under the door frame itself high enough to slide the board directly under it.

You can either lay your laminate to existing skirting board, and put beading round the edges to cover the expansion gap, or fit the old (or new) skirting over the top, to cover the gap. I personally prefer the look of the latter, but both are acceptable.

One tool we found very handy was a powered compound mitre saw. We used it to cut both the 45% cuts for the new skirting, and the laminate flooring itself. If you can get a sliding compound mitre saw, you can cut the flooring in a single cut. You don't have to be *that* neat for the cuts, as they'll always be under the beading/skirting, as long as you don't go so far that the gap is too big. In that case, you can just discard that piece of board, and cut a fresh one. I do recommend borrowing/renting/buying some proper power tools though - your hands will thank you. We cut our first floor and skirting by hand, and the second with a jigsaw and compound mitre powersaw was WAY easier on the body.

With our click flooring, we did have a slight problem with one warped board, so we had to go back a row and re-lay - but we certainly didn't have to start from scratch.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:05 AM on April 22, 2011

I'm fixing up an old house, doing it myself, and learning as I go, so I appreciate the poster's questions about this. Definitely for order, I think the paint then the floor.

There were a couple unseen issues for me in the laminate flooring learning curve. The biggest was leveling the subfloor. In my very old house, the house had settled quite a bit, and the high traffic areas had significant depressions. It was a LOT of work to level them up, including several coats of leveling compound and in some cases a new layer of subflooring. I ended up leveling to what I thought I could tolerate in terms of time and effort expended. The new floor wants to click in level, so, if it's not perfectly level, it will be springy. I had some spots like that. I weighed the springy spots down with some boxes with books, and eventually the floor pretty much adjusted. It's clear that it didn't do good things for the strength and longevity of the seams, but I can live with the floor. If I have time and money someday, I might make the effort to get the leveling much better. Bottom line: if it's not level, it's necessary to invest that time making it level. FWIW, someone I know hired flooring professionals to install her old house floor, and it was similarly springy when it was finished.

One thing about the flooring material itself I'd mention. For seams matching, higher quality is better. This may be an issue in terms of pricing for quality of flooring and pro installation. It depends on the type, but for wood-grained flooring, the higher quality floors seem to be engineered so that if you have a seam, the break in the grain pattern isn't too noticeable. One thing the pro's did in that floor I mentioned was they laid down the planks in a regular staggered pattern so that when the light shines on it and you can clearly see the seams, the planks seem like they're arranged in a regular professional order. It's not something I would have thought to measure exactly when I put my floor down, but it does look like that's how it should look.
posted by Ozarkian at 1:46 PM on April 22, 2011

I would be very relieved if we don't have to strip the old paint. By "lumpy", I mean, it seems like things - dust/animal hair/??? - got caught in the paint when they did it first. If you run your hand over it, there are quite a few little bumps. Also big drips in some places. And there are big cracks in the paint on a couple of walls, but not everywhere.

I don't know anything about installing floors. Painting however, that I know.

The people who did the previous paint job didn't do the necessary prep - that's where all of the lumps and bumps are from. You ever see those signs on utility poles, the ones that say "rooms painted - $75.00 per room"? There's always fine print that says that prep is not included - that's because the prepping is the hardest part of the job, but absolutely necessary if you want your walls to look good.

Prepping should involve dusting the walls down and/or washing the walls with TSP. Always wash kitchen walls with TSP to remove residual grease; other walls if they're especially dirty. If necessary, do a little light sanding to smooth out bumps and spackling to fill in cracks & holes. Then tape off around the edges off the doors, windows, floors, ceiling - anywhere you don't want the paint to go. Next put on a coat of primer - it will hide the old paint and help the new paint go on more smoothly. Finally, you put on the paint. You may have to do two coats to get it to look good - this is less of a problem if you use a good quality paint.
posted by echolalia67 at 4:15 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: You guys are rockstars. There is so much useful information in this thread. After reading all the answers, my gut instinct is saying we will paint ourselves, and then MAYBE install one bedroom floor and see how it goes. If it turns out to be really hard or look not so great, we'll pay someone to do the rest.

I don't know where to begin with marking "best answers" because there are so many wonderful ones. Thank you so much.
posted by lollusc at 5:58 PM on April 22, 2011

Paint first!

Seriously. You don't want to mess up your lovely new floor--and either you or a contractor will drip, drop, and/or scratch. Go with a good washable flat finish paint. Echolalia67 has it: the biggest mistake people make in painting is not doing the prep work first--that's why you have lumps, bumps and hair. Wash the kitchen, because of the cooking grease. Even if you feel the other walls don't need washing, at least dust with a good 'magnetic' duster. You'll be astounded at the crud that will come off that you didn't notice. I would wash if the place has been occupied by smokers. As far as the ceilings, you may or may not get away with not painting. Sometimes the new paint makes the old ceiling look dingy, or the base has a cool tone and you want more warmth. Or you may get lucky and feel it's all good and you're happy with it. (I've never been that lucky.) I've never paid for a painter, and I know I'm more scrupulous about my trim work than some contract work I've seen.

I wouldn't do the floors if you haven't had much experience in doing any remodeling. The commenters that have said to go ahead have obviously done home improvements before or are handy with tools. I've seen some pretty crappy stuff done by the 'professionals' in terms of trying to get edges and corners trimmed out neatly. Not to mention if YOU screw up, you'll wind up eating the cost of the new flooring, because that stuff just doesn't come out right. (Son installs it for a living--he's seen real heartache after some do-it-yourself jobs.)

So, do your own painting, get a good contractor for your floors, enjoy your lovely new digs, then post some pictures so we can see the result.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:58 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

FYI, if you do decide to go with painting, paint pads will save your sanity. They're sold alongside the paintbrushes and look like little plastic notecards with a fuzzy side and two little wheels on one edge. They will allow you to edge and cut in MUCH more easily than a brush. I cannot recommend these enough. I'd say that between the lower-stakes nature of painting and these, you'd be best off going for the painting. I'd also second gjc on getting a high quality small angled brush in addition to the paint pad. This is because (perhaps obviously), with painting, it's not the middle of the wall you hit with the roller that gets you, it's the edges. They take for-ever if you're a meticulous person like me. And paint pads will make it so. easy. to make look awesome.
posted by annie o at 8:20 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: So we've now done the painting and the floors. We did it all ourselves.

If the new me were to go back in time and advise the old me, I don't actually know what I'd say. The flooring was a MUCH more difficult job than the painting, and took about the same amount of time to do. On the other hand, I think our final result with the flooring looks every bit as good as we could expect from a professional, while the paint job is fine, but not perfect. So over the longer term, maybe it would have been better to have had professionals do the painting, at least in the lounge and dining rooms.

I hope to never have to install flooring again ever, though, and would gladly pay $1500 (the quote we got from a professional) to go back in time and erase the last four weekends.

Basically the flooring was back-breaking, knee-breaking, lots of traipsing back and forth to the garage, lots of swearing moments where you realise you cut a board the wrong length, lots and lots of remeasuring and calculating, difficulties undercutting door frames, difficulties getting beading to match skirting boards and/or floors, and frustrating moments where you have to undo and redo sections of the room because you suddenly realise your measurements or alignment was wrong to start with.
posted by lollusc at 12:22 AM on August 17, 2011

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