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How to paint a room

Recommended Tools:
—Dropcloth or old bed sheets
—Brushes, 4" brush for wall surfaces, 2-21/2" for cutting in
—Sandpaper for smoothing
—Roller and tray
—Extension handle for the roller
—Masking tape
—Rags for clean-up
—Putty knife and spackle

Changing the paint in a room is one of the easiest ways to redecorate. With the many choices of paint colors and the many paint techniques available, you'll be surprised at how easy it is to create a whole new look.

Before you start to paint, you need to determine what kind of paint to use based on where you'll be painting.

Here are some suggestions for the types of paints available: —A flat paint will help hide minor surface imperfections and can easily be washed. It is best used in the living room, dining room, family room, bedroom and hallways. —Eggshell allows for easy stain removal and has a velvety finish. It can be used in almost any room, but is not the best choice for doors and trims or cabinetry. —Satin has more of a pearl-like finish and can be used in most rooms except the kitchen and bath. It can also be used on doors, trim and cabinetry. —Semi-gloss enamel is good for kitchens and bathrooms as well as most rooms in the house and has excellent washability. —A hi-gloss enamel is best for surfaces that require frequent washing and should primarily be used in the kitchen, bath and bedroom. It is also good for doors, trim and cabinetry.


The most important part of painting a room is the preparation.

To begin, remove from the walls all pictures, electrical plates, window treatments and hardware. If hardware can't be removed, cover it with tape. Loosen the plates of any hanging fixtures and cover the fixture with a plastic bag big enough to cover the fixture. Secure this with a piece of tape.

Remove as much furniture as possible from the room. What is left, move to the center of the room and cover with a dropcloth. Also make sure the floor is completely covered. You may want to provide additional protection to the floor by using masking tape to hold down the drop cloth (Fig. 2).

To clean the wall surfaces, use a light detergent solution and wipe down with water. Make sure the surface is completely dry before beginning to paint. Any glossy spots will need to be sanded for proper paint adhesion. Again, wipe down this surface so it is free from dust.

Make sure to fill any holes or cracks with a spackling compound (Fig. 2). Allow this to dry and then sand lightly making sure to wipe down the surface.

Any loose paint should be removed with a putty knife and the surface should be sanded and wiped clean.

Protect all woodwork and trim from paint by applying 1" tape to the spot where it meets the wall. Remove the tape as soon as the paint has dried.


Priming helps to create a good surface on which the paint will adhere. It helps to blend different textures leading to better paint application. Without a primer, a new wood, plaster or drywall surface will unevenly soak up paint leaving a an unprofessional-looking result.

To cover ink or marker pen stains, use a special stain blocker. You can buy a primer and blocker in one.

Start painting

To start painting, try to paint in this order: ceiling, walls, trim, doors, then windows.

The ceiling

Start painting where the ceiling meets the wall using the process known as "cutting in". This process allows you to brush on paint around the perimeter of the room. Work in small, manageable sections so you'll keep a wet edge (Fig. 3). To fill in the space where you've cut in, use a roller attached to a long handle using a "W" pattern. If the ceiling is the same color as the room, you don't have to worry as much about getting paint on the surface of the walls. If not, you may want to mask off the ceiling.

The walls

To paint the walls, start cutting in at the corners of the room, again working in approximately 3'-5' areas, filling in with a "M" pattern (Fig. 4). Work on one wall at a time until all walls are complete. You may want to mask off any doors or hardware (Fig. 5).

Double-hung sash windows

To paint double-hung sash windows, first remove the sash lock. Make sure to mask off all glass. Lower the top sash and raise the bottom sash. Coat the window sash then the rails making sure not to paint the sash tracks. Return the upper sash until it is almost closed, lower the bottom section and paint in a similar way. To finish the window, coat the rails, frame and sill. Use a 2"-2.5 angular sash brush (Figs. 6,7).

When dry, remove any paint from the glass with a razor blade.

Doors and trim

After you've finished painting the ceiling and walls, it's time to paint the doors and trim. First, remove any protective masking tape.

To paint a door, use either a brush or a roller, depending on the type of door. When the door connects two rooms of different colors, paint the latch edge the same color as the room the door opens into. Paint the hinged edge the opposite color (Fig. 8).

Use a small bristle brush for trim, being careful not to overload the paintbrush. Use masking tape to protect walls, windows and ceilings.


Clean oil-based paints with solvent. Work into bristles, squeezing out paint and solvent until the paint disappears. Finish with a rinse in clear solvent, then wash in soapy water. Wrap the brush in heavy paper.

To clean rollers, take apart and soak in solvent, trying to work the paint out. Finish with a rinse in soapy water, then clear water.

To clean latex paints, clean brushes and rollers in soapy water, working out paint until the water runs clean. Brushes should be wrapped in heavy paper, and rollers should be hung to dry.

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Fig. 3

Fig. 4

Fig. 5

Fig. 6

Fig. 7

Fig. 8



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