Red walls to white in one coat of paint?
October 10, 2006 9:12 AM   Subscribe

Does one-coat paint really work? Or: What's the fastest and cheapest way to paint a red room white?

We're moving from our apartment at the end of the month and per our contract must return all walls to white. The living room and hallway area is currently painted a deep reddish color, with some lighter reddish-orange wash effect on top of that.

My landlord said there is no specific paint or variety we must use as long as it is white. So I'm trying to find the absolute fastest, and preferably cheapest, way to cover these red walls with white.

I've read that some one-coat paints are quite effective at covering most anything in one coat if the instructions are followed exactly (proper saturation and coverage, etc). Can anyone tell me what brand / variety to look at, and what the odds are of me getting it done in 1 coat?

I've also heard that you have to primer the walls first for it to work - is that true for one-coat paints? The walls were painted red just over a year ago, if that makes a difference to their porousness or ability to retain paint. Since we're not required to anything but get it white, I'm not concerned about using a paint that is super-durable or anything, just as long as I don't have to do several coats.

Thanks all!
posted by sprocket87 to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'd think that you'd have to put a coat of Kilz or something equivalent over the red first, just because it's so not neutral. The easiest way to find out is to buy the smallest container of one-coat paint and give it a try.
posted by Roger Dodger at 9:20 AM on October 10, 2006

Im my experience, the odds of turning a red (or any dark color) wall white in one coat are pretty slim, even with the best paint. You'll very likely still need to prime first.

My brand of choice is Sherwin-Williams, which will probably not fall under your definition of "cheap." Look at the less expensive brands at Home Depot, watch for sales, and ask for recommendations. Although, the cheapness of paint is usually inversely proportionate to its ability to cover well, so going too cheapo on either the primer or paint could backfire on you.

If you shop around, and the room is small enough, I would say you could get the whole job done for around $50, including supplies.
posted by boomchicka at 9:22 AM on October 10, 2006

Kilz of a product called Gripper (scroll to bottom). You still may have to put 2 coats of white on, to make it look good, depending on quality of paint and the intensity of the red there now.
posted by Danf at 9:24 AM on October 10, 2006

Best answer: The fastest way is to buy mid-grade white paint and Killz. It's going to be a toss-up with even a really good white one-coat, but Killz (actually Killz II) will absolutely prime the walls so that one coat of any decent white paint is going to get you done.

Without a good primer, you run the risk of the walls being faintly pink, and it may not show up for couple of days.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:29 AM on October 10, 2006

Response by poster: Okay, that's confirming my suspicions.

When I said cheap, I suspected that cheaper usually means less effective at covering. I'm guessing between $20-30/gallon - does that sound appropriate for a decent one-coat paint? If I use that in conjunction with some Killz II I should be set?

What paint do you recommend using after priming it?
posted by sprocket87 at 9:36 AM on October 10, 2006

My wife had to do the same with her apartment before she moved in with me. It took us 2 coats of Killz and three coats of latex paint (good stuff) to make it respectably white-white.

The process wasn't terribly expensive, but it took us two days IIRC, allowing minimal time for each coat to dry.

If you value time over money, get two sets of rollers, poles, and brushes (and a painter's 4-way tool, and a roller-spinner, and a steel-bristled brush), so you and your companion can both be maximally productive. If you can con a friend into helping (average price: six-pack + pizza), you can even have one person cutting in corners while two of you roll. Makes a big difference.
posted by adamrice at 9:36 AM on October 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Kilz, by the way, is best at killing and covering mildew and mold (thus the name).
posted by Doohickie at 9:45 AM on October 10, 2006

My now-wife, then-fiance painted one of her college apartment bedrooms a blue-lavender color. It took 3 coats of Kilz, if I remember correctly, to get the walls to look indistinguishable from the adjoining hallway, which had not been painted. I ended up having to do most of it myself, since my woman had to be out of town for one reason or another, and it took quite a while. I highly suggest both of you doing it and getting a friend to do the detail stuff, just like adamrice suggested.

And it might be worth talking to your landlord to find out how much it would cost you to let him mess with it. A friend of mine worked for an apartment-painting company in college. He told me that after an apartment had been prepped, the crew could paint a 3-bedroom in like 45 minutes with the crazy spray guns they have. Since many apartment complexes have all units repainted before new move-ins, it might not be TOO unreasonable to have the pros do it.
posted by cebailey at 10:23 AM on October 10, 2006

You can safe a lot of time using a paint edger instead of taping.
posted by malp at 10:26 AM on October 10, 2006

You will need to prime, but then you will only need one coat if you use a high quality (and more expensive) paint after that.
All the painters I know, and who have painted rooms in my house, swear by Benjamin Moore. That is all my brother in law, a professional faux finisher, will use.
posted by genefinder at 10:34 AM on October 10, 2006

Also, you may want to see if you can get a tinted primer - something with more white pigment in it might help.
This works in reverse, when you want to paint something red, use a red-tinted primer, and your topcoat will cover much better.
We've had great luck with Behr paints (available at Lowe's), which has also been top-rated in Consumer Reports recently. Really, any quality paint should work for you.
posted by dbmcd at 10:59 AM on October 10, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the tips. It seems like there is some conflicting reports (1 coat Killz + 1 coat great quality paint = perfect; 3 coats Killz + paint = perfect), so I guess it's sort of an unknown still...

Since I'm such a painting newb, I have another question: Do I have to alternate Killz / Paint? I mean, if I do a coat of Killz, how do I know if it's enough to paint over once and be done? How will I know if I need to do more Killz coats without painting over it first?
posted by sprocket87 at 11:06 AM on October 10, 2006

Best answer: Sprocket87—if, after one coat (or two, or three) of Killz, you are still seeing a lot of red coming through, you are not ready for the paint. Dealing with such a strong color, you want the wall to be near-enough to white that the paint isn't really covering the red, it's applying the final shade and finish of white (btw, you'll be doing a favor to the next guy if you get an eggshell or satin finish rather than flat, as it's easier to keep clean).

You may find after one coat of Killz that the wall looks pretty white (especially if it is night and you are looking under artificial light only). Hold up a sheet of bright-white paper over it. If the wall looks pink by contrast, you aren't there yet.
posted by adamrice at 11:19 AM on October 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ahhh, sound advice, thanks adamrice.

Our little apartment is a hole in a cave in the center of the Earth, where no natural light has ever entered, so it shouldn't be difficult to get an artificial light-only impression ;)

Thanks for the clarification all. Any other painting tips to throw in for good measure? There were a whole slew of edgers on that Lowe's link, any personal favorites?
posted by sprocket87 at 11:24 AM on October 10, 2006

Best answer: sprocket87 - former house painter here who loves painting intense colors. HATE painting over intense colors for the very reason that it's HARD to get things back to white. Primer is cheaper than the paint usually. Do at least two coats of primer (adamrice is right about the coverage and the finish of your paint) and then a good coat of white. I'd be willing to bet it will be "good enough", but if I were getting paid for the job I'd do 2+2.

Good luck.
posted by FlamingBore at 11:31 AM on October 10, 2006

Some painting tips:

* Use the blue masking tape, it's worth the time. However, don't count on it to completely keep paint out. Keep it there as an "oops" barrier, but don't assume you can slop paint onto it and none will get into the covered surface.

* When you're getting read to remove the tape, it's sometimes worth running a razor along the whole length so that any dried paint gets cut instead of ripping and/or coming off when you remove the tape.

* Blue tape is meant to be non-permanently adhesive, that is, it is removable without leaving marks or sticking. However, the tape WILL eventually become fully adhesive. Don't leave it on longer than a few days.

* You don't need to alternate primer/paint/primer/paint. Primer is basically a kind of paint which adheres very well to touchy surfaces and provides a good secondary surface to paint over. A freshly painted wall is good enough to paint on, though, there is no reason to prime a newly painted wall. So apply one or two coats of primer and then your finish coat. Once this is done you may decide you need another coat of regular paint, if so, no primer required.

* When you are done with a paint roller, put the whole thing (roller plus whatever attachment you've got it on) into a gargabe bag and tie it closed. This way you don't have to wash out the roller for future use or throw it away. The paint will stay moist for a long time (days) and you can reuse it when you're ready. This saves a LOT of time and money.

* Do your "cutting in" first (this is using a regular paint brush or edger to do the edges of the walls and the area near the floor and ceiling). Cutting in is usually done about 6-8" from the edges, where the rollers can't go. Don't let it dry before you start rolling on paint. If painting alone I usually will do a 4 foot wide area of edging, then roll, then 4 feet edging, then roll, etc. This way you blend the brush work into the roller work and you don't get banding along the top and bottom of the wall (brushed paint is a different texture and thickness than rolled paint)

* Use dropcloths. I actually like to tape mine to the baseboards, which I am taping up anyway to mask them off. Taping them to the baseboards means it's pretty much impossible to get paint on the floor. I like big canvas dropcloths because I know I'll use them again. If this is a one time thing get some cheap plastic ones. One nice thing about canvas ones is that they absorb paint a little. Plastic ones obviously don't so any time you step or sit on a place with paint on it, you get it all over you and track it around.

* Latex paint cleans up easily with water. If you get some paint where it don't belong a wet washcloth or sponge will get it off, don't panic. I've gotten paint on cabinets, other walls, etc. Get it before it dries though.

* Clean your tools well when your done with them. Latex paint is easy to clean off stuff while it's still wet, hard to clean off when it's dry.

It's not that hard really, just takes a little practice.
posted by RustyBrooks at 11:51 AM on October 10, 2006 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow RustyBrooks, thanks for the amazing tips, very appreciated!
posted by sprocket87 at 12:00 PM on October 10, 2006

No problem. If you feel overwhelmed or like you don't know what you're doing, most home improvement stores have some basic painting books. I think I picked up something like this at a half price books several years ago before I painted anything. They do have some interesting and useful information in them, like how to fix drywall cracks and gouges, the ideal order to paint surfaces in a room (although I disagree with the book I have I think), how to paint non-standard surfaces like doors and whatnot.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:05 PM on October 10, 2006

If you're using latex paint (which I would assume being inside a house) then a good trick is to freeze your brushes instead of cleaning them. The water in the paint will freeze and not dry out and when you're ready to go again just let them thaw and you should be all set.

posted by koolkat at 12:22 PM on October 10, 2006

Response by poster: Okay one more question: Killz II or Glidden Ultra-Hide Gripper Primer?

Thanks :)
posted by sprocket87 at 1:04 PM on October 10, 2006

I've only used Kilz. I suspect it doesn't really matter all that much.
posted by RustyBrooks at 1:18 PM on October 10, 2006

If you're in a hole in a cave in the center of the Earth, you may want to go with a good latex primer. Kilz makes one(see kilz primer FAQ) and so do many other companies. Many of the kilz brand primers are formulated to block mildew and cover stains but since you likely have poor ventilation in your hole they should be avoided unless you can provide better ventilation. You don't want to breath that shit. You're just covering old red paint. Try something like this(pdf).
posted by shoesfullofdust at 4:33 PM on October 10, 2006

RustyBrooks is absolutely right. I would add that if you run your fingernail/thumbnail along the edge of the tape, you'll keep seepage to a minimum.

Compared to cheap paint, expensive paint has more pigment -- that is, more solids. Kilz is an excellent primer-sealer in that it adheres even to difficult surfaces and prevents most stains (from knots in wood, smoke, etc.) from bleeding through. But it's thin. I wouldn't use it if I were trying to save time, painting over a sound surface. The red paint in your place isn't going to bleed.

In painter lingo, you need a primer and/or paint that has excellent 'hiding,' meaning it can hide what's under it. ('In the trade, 'coverage' refers to square footage.) In recent years I have used Benjamin Moore all-purpose latex primer, and it hides pretty well. I suggest you go to an actual paint store and ask them for recommendations of high-hiding primer and paint.

If the red paint has any sheen, do a quick, light sanding at 200 grit and the wipe up the dust with a damp cloth. This will prevent the unlikely but possible disaster of brand-new paint peeling off the wall.

Even if the walls are smooth, don't use a roller cover labeled for smooth surfaces. Use a cover that is at least 3/8" thick, and 1/2 inch is better. The thicker the cover, the more orange-peel texture you'll see, but that probably isn't a major consideration for you. A thicker cover holds more paint, so you go back to the bucket/tray less often, and you don't need to force the paint onto the surface.

Just roll a fairly small section at a time. If the wall is 8 feet from top to bottom, do 4-foot squares, for example. Again, this prevents you from spreading the paint too thin or having to squeeze the roller against the wall.

Use a liner in your tray, and a screen is a good idea because it lets you scrape off the would-be drips at the ends of the roller cover.

For some reason, the second coat is always easier and faster than the first.
posted by wryly at 5:51 PM on October 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow, wryly, thank you so much for the incredibly detailed and helpful info! I know this will save me time and headaches.

ask.mefi rocks! :)
posted by sprocket87 at 8:35 PM on October 10, 2006

Tell the White Stripes they can film a video in there. Inevitably the props team will paint some or all of that room white for you. At the very least it will get you a headstart.
posted by kookoobirdz at 10:05 PM on October 10, 2006

Response by poster: Good thinkin! :-)
posted by sprocket87 at 5:44 AM on October 11, 2006

Gray... that's what the guys at the paint shop recommended (and sold) to me when I faced a similar challenge (pepto bismol pink). Sort of a battleship gray. Covered like mad.
posted by jdfan at 10:18 AM on October 11, 2006

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