10 ways to paint interior walls like a pro
Here are 10 telltale signs that an amateur is on the job, along with tips for painting like a pro:
Outlets are painted over: A sure sign that an amateur painted a room is that the electrical outlets or switches are painted over, or worse, the outlet covers. Slacker, you have to take the outlet covers off and paint around switches and plugs.
Nail holes have too much spackle: Non-pros tend to overfill nail holes, so patches look obvious, like too much cover-up on a zit. Just use a tiny amount of spackle, enough to fill the hole, and don't let it extend beyond the edges. The hole should disappear when painted over.
They use masking tape: Using masking tape instead of blue painter tape is another non-pro move. Masking tape leaves a sticky residue that paint won't cover easily. Pros also know to stick the tape along the baseboards with precision, and to let it stick out 90 degrees from the wall to catch drips. "Your line is only as good as your tape job," Reed said.
They have a color blind spot: Because professionals have seen a lot of paint go up, they can often foresee how a swatch will translate, and can see a paint mistake before it hits the wall. The rest of us need to sample paints before committing and gnash our teeth for a while, which I recommend. But here's help: After sharing last week that I painted a dozen, 12-inch squares of drywall a variety of colors to test them, a reader told me (too late) about Small Wall. Available at Sherwin-Williams stores, these 1-foot square, lightweight, adhesive-backed paint boards let you paint your test color on the board and stick it to the wall. The non-aggressive adhesive lets you reposition the board, so you can see the color on different walls in different lights and against other colors. This eliminates the mess and bulk of drywall, and the annoying "will you hold this" part of the process.
Their lines aren't straight: A crisp, straight line where color meets ceiling or trim is the hallmark of a pro paint job. White said it's all in the brush, though practice helps. "Don't buy a cheap brush," White said, "or you will end up with a mess." A good brush will cost you $20 to $30, but will help you get those crisp lines.
They skimp on roller covers: Likewise, though it's tempting to buy cheaper roller covers, which often have thin pile, spending a bit more for a roller with a 3/4-inch pile will let you apply more paint, more easily and uniformly, White said.
They use cheap paint: "The price difference between the lowest-cost paint in a line and premium quality is not that much," White said, "but well worth it." You get better coverage, a better look and more durability. Although he's not a fan of gimmick paints (lines with fancy names and that are unnecessarily overpriced), he recommends buying paint that's a little better than mid grade.
They don't know what products work together: A pro knows what can and can't go over what. For instance, if you put latex paint over oil-based paint, it will peel off. DIY'ers should consult with the experts at the paint store and get advice on the best product for their jobs.
They go too easy on the paint: Pros know to lay paint on thick. A wall needs to have a certain paint thickness for the coverage to last. Using good quality paint, a good roller and a couple of coats will yield professional results.
They leave a mess: Non-pros often leave roller marks of wall color on the ceiling, drops on the floor, and the lower half of walls not completely covered. To avoid ceiling marks, first cut in with a brush, painting several inches from the top and bottom of walls; then roll paint in the middle. Use cloth tarps, not plastic. "And keep looking back and back roll as you paint forward," Reed said. "Don't just focus on what you see from the waist up. Give the lower wall equal attention."
Do all this, and you just might avoid lying awake at night staring at your bad paint job.
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