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How to Paint Like a Pro

Have you ever heard the saying, "Painting is all in the prep work?"

If you haven't, the saying is true. Along with the prep, there are other things that you need to know if you want a professional looking paint job, but can't afford to hire a pro.

My first recommendation would be to use good products. You will be saving money by doing the work yourself, so you can spend money on quality products. I wouldn't go to a box store and spend $10 to $20 on a gallon of paint. I always use Benjamin Moore Paints and Primers but Sherwin Williams has quality paints and primers also. Spending $30 a gallon at either one of these stores will get you a decent paint. If you are unsure which products you need, just ask the associate at your local store and they will help you.

Now to the set up of the room. Take all of the pictures off of the wall, window coverings down, and move the big furniture to the middle of the room. Anything that you can move to a different area to give you more room to work will be helpful.

Next, remove all face plates from the outlets and light switches, putting the screws back in so you don't lose them, and put the face plates under a piece of furniture in the middle of the room. Same thing goes if there are heat registers in the ceiling or walls. Remove them, replacing the screws, and putting them under a piece of furniture. If the registers are already painted, you may want to replace them or repaint them.

Now you can use painter's plastic and cover all of the furniture. You can use blue tape to tape the plastic to the furniture. When that is complete, you can lay out drop cloths, making sure all of the floors are covered.

Now that the set up is complete, I am going to give you a step by step list of the prepping process. Some painters may do things in a different order but this is the way I do it:

1. With a flood light, walk around the room and look for nail pops. If you see any, hammer them back in and patch with joint compound. Depending on how deep the hole is, you may need to patch them a second time because joint compound shrinks as it dries. While you have the joint compound out, look for any imperfections on the ceiling, walls, and trim that need to be patched. When I finish patching the ceiling, I will turn a fan on to speed up the dry time.

2. After patching, you can go around with a piece of 120 grit sandpaper and sand all of the woodwork that is getting painted. As you finish each door, window, etc., make sure you dust it off with a duster (I just use an old paint brush as my duster), and caulk areas as needed. Make sure to use a caulk that is paintable.

3. While the patches and caulk are drying, you can go around and remove the hardware off of the trim (door knobs, brackets on windows, door stops, etc.).

4. If there are any stains, make sure you prime these areas. I carry a spray can of oil primer with me for these stains.

5. By now the patches should be ready to sand. Make sure you sand the patches flush with the surface and dust after sanding.

6. You are now ready to start priming the patches. Using a 9 inch roller, roll primer over all of your patches to avoid flashing.

7. When the primer is dry, start cutting in the ceiling with your ceiling paint. You can bring the ceiling paint down onto the wall a little bit so you should be able to cut in the ceiling rather quickly. Now you can roll the ceiling using a 9 inch roller (1/2 inch nap roller). If there is a window in the room, make sure the direction you roll is parallel to the window. Start in one corner and always keep a wet edge. When you finish the ceiling you can put a fan on again to speed up the drying time.

8. After the ceiling, I always paint the standing woodwork (windows, doors, etc.). As you paint the returns on the windows and doors, you can bring the trim paint onto the wall a little bit. I will paint all the trim except for the baseboards.

9. When you are finished the standing trim, you are ready to start painting the walls. Since most of the time, it will take 2 coats, I cut in and roll one wall at a time. This way by the time you are finished the first coat on the walls, the first wall is dry and ready to be painted again. I always cut in left to right and roll the wall right to left. When you are rolling, always keep a wet edge. Take your time and make sure that your cut in line where the ceiling meets the wall is straight and where the wall meets the returns of any door frames or window frames. When cutting in near the baseboards you can get a little wall paint on the baseboards.

10. After the 2nd coat is complete, you are almost finished. At this time I clean up the room. I will roll up my drop cloths and take all of my tools out of the room. Roll up the plastic and throw away. You have to be careful as there will be dust from sanding. Next I will either vacuum the rugs or Swiffer the hardwood floors. Shake out one drop and bring back in the room for the baseboards.

11. Make sure the baseboards are sanded with 120 grit sandpaper and dusted. If there are rugs in the room, you should use masking(tan) or blue painter's tape to tape the rugs and make sure no paint gets on the rugs. Now you are ready to paint the baseboards.

12. You can put back all of the faceplates, the hardware, registers, etc. When tightening the screws, make sure to leave them all facing vertical. This is a minor detail that many homeowners have complimented me on. It leaves a uniformed look. Remember if the registers were painted, you may want to paint them with the new color. Just be sure to sand the registers and dust prior to painting.

13. You can now clean all of your brushes, roller pans, rollers, etc.

14. By the time you finish cleaning your tools, the baseboards should be dry, and you can hang the pictures back on the wall and move all of the furniture back.

When you aren't sure if a color will work you can always buy samples at any local paint store. When painting a sample on the wall, I try to paint it right next to a door frame so you can see the wall color next to the trim. If you are still undecided, I recommend calling a designer to help you pick your colors.

Also, when you buy the paint, let the employee of the paint store know which room you are painting so you can get the right sheen of paint. Bathrooms and Kitchens need to painted with a product rated for water.

There is no right or wrong order of painting a room but this is the way that works for me. To finish a job, take a step back and admire the work you did is always a good feeling.

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