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Do-It-Yourself Painting Tips

Updated: Mar 10

As a homeowner, sometimes you have to make difficult decisions about how to allocate those precious dollars. If you're like most Americans, there is so much work to be done around the house, yet only so much budget to work with. So, what can you do?

You could consider delaying some projects while you save more money. This is a very practical and responsible option, but means you'd have to wait a while and run the risk of an apocalyptic event occurring before you actually complete your project. Bummer!

You could make financial sacrifices elsewhere in your household budget, such as scaling back on enrichment activities for your lowest achieving child. Seems a little cold-hearted at first, but if you have other promising children in the household it could be a viable option.

Or how about cancelling some of the 8 different streaming services your husband has subscribed to in the name of various sporting events, or maybe you can send back some of the "charmy-boxes" full of makeup that keep showing up with your wife's name on it!

Or maybe...just maybe, the answer is for you to tackle the project yourself?

If you choose the final option, please be careful. I've done some research and there are some concerning trends you need to be aware of.

According to the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts (Google it- I swear it exists), one of the leading causes for divorce in The United States is failed do-it-yourself home improvement projects.

Now, I do realize that "Failed Do-It-Yourself Project" doesn't actually appear in the pie chart above, but if you read between the lines a little bit, the truth is there. You'll have to trust me on this one, as I've witnessed many times a wife's love for her husband slowly drain from her eyes as she points out his many failings along a wall. Few things are more likely to drive a woman to the comfort of another man's arms, than watching her husband drag a paint brush across the wall like a kindergarten student.

I'm not trying to scare you, I'm just careful. Painting is not for everybody.

I would love for you to hire Braun's Painting for your next project, but if you can't, I understand and I forgive you. To prove it to you, I have prepared this list of do-it-yourself tips, which is chock-full of potential issues to watch out for. I'm practically saving your marriage with this list.

Proper Surface Preparation

Any professional painter will tell you, surface preparation is the most important step to a high quality paint job. In case you are wondering, It is NOT OK to paint over that spaghetti sauce stain rolling down the wall. Come on now!

The first step in a painting project should always be to dust and/or clean the walls. This is important to promote proper adhesion of the paint, and to also avoid unsightly bleed-through and texture issues. All dirt, fingerprints, and food stains need to be washed with a damp rag and warm water. Some times a little mild detergent can be helpful. If you are painting over flat paint, you can just knock down the cobwebs and dust the walls with a broom or feather duster.

Most do-it-yourself painters are aware that some sheetrock repairs will be needed prior to painting. This can include any combination of nail holes, nail pops, dents, cracks, or even large holes. These imperfections are commonly repaired with either joint compound or painter's putty. What I have noticed from many inexperienced painters, is they often fail to properly sand smooth the repairs, leaving a result that looks as bad or worse than the original damage. A poor sanding job can leave "raised edges" and "pock marks". Here are a couple examples of what I mean:

In the first image, you can clearly see the raised edges and imperfections in the repair. In this case, the painter needed to have a little more patience and spend more time leveling the edges smooth. Often times, additional skim coats of the compound will be necessary for a smooth, professional finish. It requires more patience and some dry time, which is often easier said than done for the typical homeowner trying to get a project done on a Saturday afternoon.

In the second picture, you can see "pock marks" or "pin holes" that were left in the finish. This occurred because all those little holes were filled with sanding dust and went undetected. The painter wasn't aware of this until after the paint was applied and the roller pulled back all the dust from those holes. This is an instance where the repair needed a little more sanding. It's important to make sure repairs are dusted after sanding so any holes like this are exposed before the paint is applied. If this happens on your project after the paint is applied, it is recommended to skim back over the pin holes with another coat of joint compound, sand the area smooth, and repaint.

Another piece of advice to make your "sanding life" a little easier, is to use a sanding sponge/block like this:

These blocks are much easier to hold and don't beat up the fingers nearly as bad as traditional sand paper. One reason why many DIY'ers don't do a very good job of sanding, is because...let's be sucks! Sanding can be a tedious and physically demanding process, and the typical homeowner is quick to throw in the towel before the work has been completed properly. These sanding sponges make for a more comfortable process.

In addition to sanding the repairs, it is also important to pole-sand the entire wall surface prior to painting. Not only will the freshly sanded walls promote outstanding adhesion for the topcoat, but it will also leave a beautiful, smooth finish. It could be the difference between a professional looking result versus something that looks like your cousin Carl knocked out for a 12-pack of Miller Lite.

Here's an example of a wall that would have benefited from a nice pole sanding prior to application of paint:

While some texture should always be expected, it doesn't take long to notice that big "pebble", or "paint booger" as some call it, right in the middle of the wall. That could be a piece of dried latex from the paint, or some balled-up dust, or even an actual pebble. The bottom line is it takes away from the beauty of the wall, and can be easily sanded away with a quality sanding head such as this one:

You can attach your paint pole right to the sanding disk, and glide it along the wall surface to really improve your results. It is recommend to pole sand the walls prior to your first coat and in between each subsequent coat of paint.

My final suggestion for proper paint preparation, is to utilize fiberglass mesh tape (or alternatively Fibafuse tape) over all cracks prior to skimming them with joint compound.

Cracks can be stubborn, and are especially likely to resurface in short order if you just skim over them with joint compound. This self-adhesive tape will help secure the crack, and the mesh squares will allow for a much tighter bond of the joint compound and allow for a longer-lasting repair. Be advised, if you do use the mesh tape, you need to use setting-type compound (that you mix up yourself from a powder) over the top of the tape for the initial skim coat. If you use Fibafuse or paper repair type, you can use the all purpose joint compound that is already mixed up for you.

Jobsite Protection Tips

One of the quickest ways to turn your do-it-yourself painting project into an unmitigated disaster, is to not properly protect the surrounding work area during the project.

Just to be clear, I am not accusing you specifically of being clumsy, or having toddler-like motor skills, or otherwise lacking artistic talent. Even if this was true of you, it's probably not your fault. Maybe you had an ineffective Art teacher in middle school or perhaps your Phys-Ed teacher didn't hold you accountable. It's not important. The important thing is protecting all those beautiful floors and furniture and fixtures and valuables.

Even the most experienced and skilled painters need to take precautions to maintain a pristine work site, but proper protection is paramount for the average homeowner. So what can you do to assure a smooth project?

Dust Containment- Often times homeowner's don't realize just how far dust can carry throughout the home. You may not even notice it until it settles all over your counters and end tables and appliances and you realize you have a mess on your hands. This is especially true if you are sanding repairs that are high on the walls or on ceilings. The dust slowly fans out and settles from up above rather than quickly falling to the floor. To prevent this, it is best to seal off all doorways and open spaces with plastic protection. We prefer to use a ZIP Wall for larger open areas (pictured below), but you can also simply use painter's tape to hold up the plastic in most cases. It is also helpful to shut vents that are nearby to prevent blowing air from pushing the dust around even more.

Sprinkle and Drip Protection- Most DIY'ers are prepared with a few canvas drop clothes to put on the floor or to cover large furniture. Most understand how easy it can be for a large paint drip to splatter on something unintended below. However, if you don't paint often you may not realize how many tiny "speckles" of paint that can fall from rollers and brushes, without you even noticing until you have a big mess on your hands. There will always be tiny specks of paint being discharged from rollers and falling from the air, especially when painting ceilings. Some paints and applicators will do this more than others, but it's best to anticipate it and protect anything below that could be hit. Here is a picture that shows the extent that we go at Braun's Painting, LLC to protect furniture, cabinetry, counter tops, and light fixtures.

If you are concerned about using the plastic from an environmental standpoint, keep in mind that most of this plastic can be re-used for multiple projects. You could also elect to use recycled paper, newspapers, or even old t-shirts to help protect surfaces.

It takes some time to protect all these items, but it's a lot easier than having to clean a million paint speckles off of your belongings at the end of the project.

Tips for Painter's Tape- Sometimes you'll hear a professional painter brag while puffing out his chest, "I don't even use tape. Tape is for wimps!"

That's not what we're all about. Painter's tape can be very helpful for even a skilled professional, but can sometimes give DIY'ers a false sense of security and create some problems if you're not careful. Take a look at this picture:

This is an example of some wood cabinetry that was taped off prior to the adjoining wall being painted. Clearly the painter in this case felt confident that the cabinetry was being protected, but got a pretty big surprise when they pulled the tape back to find that the paint seeped underneath anyway! They would have been better off trying to use a freehand approach, and if they made a mistake, at least they could see it and correct it.

How does this happen? Inexperienced painters often don't press the tape down firmly enough, and the paint is able to wick under. In some cases, the painter will feel inclined to just heavily crash the paint onto the tape to speed up the cut-in process, but this heavy application just makes it more likely the paint will seep under the tape.

Tag It, Wipe It- One of my biggest pet peeves of all time, is when an inexperienced painter just ignores their mistake and leaves it to dry for the next decade. It's OK to have some misfires and make some mistakes. You might hit a piece of hardware sometimes, or tag a piece of trim with your brush. Those mistakes are very easy to cleanup with a damp rag or even a swipe of the finger, but if left to dry over time, can be very difficult to clean up. If you tag it, wipe it! Don't wait until the end when the paint is dry.

Paint Application

I will wrap up my suggestions with some advice on paint application. The biggest thing I would suggest is to buy quality applicators, especially roller naps. Cheap naps have a tendency to leave lint in the paint finish. Here's a few more application tips!

Watch Out For Roller Spill on Corners- This is a common mistake with inexperienced painters. When rolling paint up to a wall corner, the painter doesn't realize how heavy the paint has been applied to the edge and the excess paint spills over onto the other side. At best, this will leave an ugly ridge on the corner, but at worst it will be a glaring mistake if the other wall is a different color like this picture shows.

To avoid this, it is wise to "dry roll" these edge after most of the paint was applied to the inner wall. The less paint on the nap, the easier it is to control. Another method is to simply brush these edges out so you don't need to roll all the way to the edge.

Expect Two Coat Coverage For Color Changes- Often times, the typical DIY painter is looking to complete a project in as little time as possible. It can be very tempting to just apply one coat of paint to walls, but that is almost always a mistake when a color change is involved. Even the most high quality paints recommend two coat coverage for a high quality, uniform appearance. Here is an example of a streaky appearance from just one coat. The areas that were cut-in with a brush will be especially streaky.

Better To Be Too Light, Than Too Heavy- Of course, the goal should be to apply a proper, uniform layer of paint. However, if you are new to painting, it may take you some practice to perfect your application technique. As you learn, I would suggest to lean toward putting the paint on too thin versus too thick. It is much easier to apply another coat of paint than it is to reverse texture issues from paint that was applied too heavy. Heavy paint takes longer to dry, and is much more prone to sagging, running, brush marks, rope marks, and heavy orange peel texture. Here is a slideshow with some images of paint applied too heavy by inexperienced painters.

As you can probably guess, once the paint dries with these texture issues, it is very challenging to correct them. If in doubt, apply less paint until you get the hang of laying on a smooth and uniform finish.

Well, there you have it! That concludes my list of DIY tips for now. I hope you enjoyed it and found some of these tips useful if you are planning on tackling your own interior painting project in the near future. If you decide you do need help, we would love to hear from you at Braun's Painting, LLC!


Steve Braun

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