How To Paint A Room

What is the best way to paint a room?

If you ask a roomful of professional painters that question, it will be like asking, a room full of chefs, “what is the best way to prepare food?”

You will get a variety of answers, which makes it confusing, and that is probably why you asked the question.

So what is the best way to paint a room?

The purpose of this article is to get you to think about the room or rooms that you are planning on painting and what are some of the things to think about – so you can pick a process that works best for you.

One thing that everybody agrees on though, thoroughly do your prepwork first!

This will make the job look better and it is faster to do the prepwork right in the beginning, then try to fix problems after you have painted something.

STEP 1: Prep Work

  • Thoroughly cover floors with dropsheets and anything else you don’t want paint to get on with painter’s plastic.
  • If you think you are going to be kicking up dust – you almost surely are – use plastic to coral off areas you don’t want the dust to travel, and set up an air purifier if you have one.
  • Obviously, if there is wallpaper – remove that first!
  • In almost all situations, work from the top down (ceilings first, then walls, etc). Why? If you accidentally drop something while working on the ceiling that hits the wall (like putty) and sticks to it – you’ll get it later when you’re prepping the walls.
  • If wallboard joints are cracking – dig out the old tape and replace with fiberglass mesh tape and then remud the joint.
  • Repair holes in the wall and more minor cracks with spackle or joint compound.
  • When your prep work has dried – use fine grit sandpaper (100 to 200 grit) to get a smooth finish.
  • If needed, apply a second coat of your patching formula and repeat the finish/sand process.
  • Check the trim for nail pops, then use a nail setter and re-putty the holes. You can also use putty for deep gouges in the trim.
  • ADVANCED TECHNIQUE: Smaller gauges that bother you might require automotive putty (like Bondo) to be applied and sanded. This takes a long time to work with, dry, and sand – so this can be time consuming(or expensive!)
  • DO NOT caulk until after you have sanded because the debris can easily get into the drying caulk and make it look rough.
  • Use a caulk gun and a nice quality elastomeric caulk to fill gaps (like between the walls and the trim, or where two pieces of trim meet).
  • Elastomeric caulk is a great choice because it has better flex and expands and contracts more without breaking. Cheap caulks will often look good for a matter of days and then start separating again. This can happen with elastomerics too – but not as often – it is worth the extra $1.50 a tube!

STEP 2: Inspect!

  • Are walls, ceilings, and trim smooth and free of debris, dust, dirt?
  • Has everything dried?
  • Good. You are ready to paint.

STEP 3: Choose an Order to Paint the Room

  • So now what? Paint the walls, ceilings, or trim first?
  • Most people agree – paint your ceilings first. This way, if you get any paint splatter from rolling overhead on the walls or trim, you can address it when you get to that area.
  • If the ceilings are the same color as the walls, just cut in the corners where walls and ceilings meet just far enough out that the roller will cover, start from top down and get ‘r done.
  • If the ceilings are NOT the same colors as the walls, you generally want to overlap just a little bit. This means paint the ceiling, but it is okay to get just a little bit of ceiling paint on the walls – in fact, in some cases when you cut the walls up to the ceiling you will be able to get a straighter line. (This assumes the room has no crown molding).
  • After painting the ceiling, many people do not agree whether the trim or the walls should be painted first.  Let’s talk about that:
    • The traditional thinking is to paint the walls next, then the trim last.
    • Other many people argue that it is faster and easier to paint the trim first – the hard detail work, and if you accidentally get a little bit of the trim paint on the walls, its not the end of the world. Also, that tedious cut on the SIDES of the trim are much easier if you’re not that worried about the walls.
    • The next argument is that it is actually easier to cut a straight line painting the wall up to the trim.
    • Visualize painting a straight line on the wall, up to a piece of trim, as opposed to trying to paint the side of a door frame in a straight line up to the wall.
    • There is some validity to this argument.
    • Often times, trim is the hardest and most tedious part of the job, so applying two coats to the trim will take the longest time and consequently where you began will be most likely dry by the time that you get back to working on it.
  • Dry times is another argument about how to paint a room. What order you do things may very well depend on whether or not you are painting other rooms and how much other work can be done before paint dries.
  • You never want to sit around waiting for paint to dry and have nothing left to do! This is inefficient and the type of behavior you get if you pay somebody by the hour and not by the job!  Paying a painter by the hour does not incentivize them to think!

Lets look at a a real example:

  • Imagine that cutting and rolling the walls of a room only takes 1 hour, and it is best to recoat the walls after 2 hours of dry time.
  • Painting the trim in the room(a couple of doors, windows, baseboard, frames, etc) takes 2 hours.
  • Go ahead and paint the walls one coat. While that first coat of wall paint is drying, paint the first coat on the trim. Because it takes longer to paint the trim, by the time you get finished with the first coat of trim paint, wherever you started painting the trim will be ready to have a second coat added.
  • Paint the second coat of paint on the trim by going back to your original starting place and following in the same order.
  • Lastly, paint the second coat on the walls.
  • Inspect the baseboard and check that no roller splatter hit it, and repaint just the tops of the baseboards if needed.

Different scenarios call for different ways of doing things, but hopefully this article gave you something to think about so that you can think of the best way to accomplish your own projects!

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