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Painting 101: Bring Your Own Beer

I woke up this morning to more of this.

And some of this.

And a bit of this.

It’s less than inspiring, I can assure you.

Though it is kind of fun watching the confused looks on my dogs’ faces as they slip and slide across the yard.

When I assess the gray skies, icy roads, and pine tree boughs drooping under the weight of ice and snow, I come to 2 conclusions:

1)  Global climate change is not a myth, and

2)  I’m not leaving the house.  Ever.  Again.  (Unless someone wants to buy me a pair of snow pants, long johns, mittens, a scarf, and a hat.  I’ve somehow managed to purge these items from my wardrobe since my days of living in Minnesota, which is a bummer because I think the only fun thing to do in this weather is find a proper hill and go sledding, but that’s only if you own snow pants and have access to a warm mug of hot chocolate when you get home.  And I just so happen to have a little something called Snickerdoodle hot chocolate.  And if you ever visit me, I might just share some with you.)

It’s days like these when I wish I’d thought ahead about other home projects that we’ll need to finish before we can ever hope to sell this place.  Like painting.

It was just before I left for Miami when I promised you a post about painting.  That was sometime back in 2010.  (Does that sound weird to anyone else?  2010 still sounds like The Future, doesn’t it?)

Anyway.  Do any of you even care about painting?

Is it one of those mundane DIY home projects that seems pretty self-explanatory and this is a complete waste of my time?

Well, it might be because I have this insane habit of complicating things and a fear of making concrete decisions, but in my experience, painting a room always turns more laborious and time-consuming than I originally presume.  But I have improved significantly over the past few years, and now I can knock out an average size room by myself during a long afternoon.

First, the tools.  To paint a room in your home, you will need:

  • Paint – Have an idea of the room dimensions when you go to the paint store.  The clerk will be able to tell you how many gallons you need to cover around 2 coats of paint.  I honestly don’t really have a preference when it comes to brand, but keep in mind that almost any paint color can be matched to almost any paint brand.  You will also need to pick a color and sheen.  The shinier the sheen (i.e. gloss, semi-gloss, satin, eggshell, etc.), the more imperfections in your wall tend to show through.  That’s why I’ve learned to pick “flat” as my sheen for the walls.  I think I picked eggshell for the kitchen, simply because glossier sheens do tend to wipe down easier.
  • Primer – If you’re painting over a bold existing wall color, you’ll want to start with a coat (or 2) of primer.  Paint experts will probably recommend that you use it regardless.  We always use it on our ceilings after we remove popcorn, because the bare drywall soaks it up like a sponge.  And we’d rather the drywall soak up inexpensive primer than paint.  Nowadays you can actually get paint that’s mixed with primer, but I have yet to try one of those products.
  • Paint Key & Stir Sticks – Seems obvious, but you’ll be surprised at how often people forget these two items.  The paint key is a little metal tool used to open the paint can (also works well as a bottle opener), and the stir sticks are those wooden sticks used to stir the paint if, like me, you buy the paint with the intention of using it right away but instead let it sit in your laundry room for weeks before you build up the energy to actually clear out and paint a room.  Most paint supply stores will provide these items at no charge.
  • Roller & Tray – Pick a decent roller handle and a package of nice-quality rolls.  I don’t use the foam rolls, and I pick something that says it’s made for smooth surfaces.  Because… you know… my walls are smooth.  And I hate cleaning paint trays.  So.  Even though it is arguably the less eco-friendly option, I buy the thin, disposable tray liners that sit inside a regular paint tray.  Just think of how much water I’m saving by not spending an hour trying to wash out a tray!
  • Paint Brush/Edger – This is for painting around your trim.  I’ve used one of those flat edgers before, which tends to work pretty well.  However, it’s annoying if you get too much paint on it (which happens to me a lot), so nowadays I prefer this perfect little short-handled brush to paint around the trim.

Paint edger

Short-handled paint brush.  This is the Wooster “Shortcut” brush, and I picked it up on a whim at the Home Depot paint counter.  This baby handled like a PRO.  I could easily cut-in around the trim without getting any paint ON the trim itself.  The best part?  I saved a ton of time and money from not having to use painter’s tape.

  • Painter’s Tape (optional) – With the use of a brush like the one above, I strongly urge you to try painting around the room without using tape.  However, if you still feel the need, splurge on something called Frog Tape over the typical blue tape.  I found that frog tape peels off much more cleanly with a lot less paint seepage.

Tip:  Remove the tape before the paint completely dries – it’s less likely you’ll peel your paint off with the tape.

  • Drop Cloth (optional) – You can easily avoid drippage by not overloading your paint roller, but if you want to be on the safe side, invest in a drop cloth to protect  your floors.
  • Helpers (optional) – These can make or break a project.  You decide whether it’s worth the risk.

So here’s what you need to do to have a perfectly painted room:

1.  Clear out the room.  If some furniture is large, you can just push it towards the middle.  But the emptier the room, the easier it is to paint.  Also be sure to remove your light switch and outlet cover plates.  It’s very simple to do with a screwdriver, and your finished room will look much cleaner by painting under the switch plates rather than over them.

2.  Fill-in any holes in the wall with mud and a putty knife.  No, not mud from your backyard.  I love, love love this DAP Fast ‘N Final Lightweight Spackling putty.  It’s the consistency of cool whip or a light frosting, and is SO easy to apply.  It goes on incredibly smooth and you can paint right over without even sanding!  It’s perfect for me, since I’m terrible at planning ahead.  (Although the reviewers on Amazon beg to differ.  Maybe I’m just a spackling pro?)

3.  Open up your paint, give it a good stir, and use your short-handle brush or edger to start painting around the trim.  I fill a small container with paint so I can easily carry it around the room with me rather than continuously running back over to the gallon bucket to fill my brush.  You’ll want to paint smoothly around every window and doorway, and also along the ceiling (or crown molding) and baseboards, and even down the inside corners of the room and around all of the light switches and outlets.  Also get any narrow spaces (like between a doorway and a wall) that are too narrow for the roller.  Basically, you’re outlining the entire room where it will be difficult for the roller to reach.

Yes, it’s tedious.  No, it’s not fun.  But get some good music crankin’, put on your big boy/girl panties, and muscle up.

THEN, do it again.  That’s right – you’re going to want to do 2 coats of this trim paint to ensure even coverage.  Don’t worry, though – the second coat goes much more quickly than the first.  You probably won’t need to worry about drying time.  By the time you finish the first coat, the place where you started will likely be dry enough to start round 2.

You can see in the above photo that I opted out of using primer this time.  The color I chose was darker than the other sample colors on the wall, and the walls were already fairly smooth.  Plus, I was just plain lazy. But the Glidden interior paint (my first time using this brand) seems to be holding up pretty well!  You can also see our ceilings were not-yet painted.  Normally I would recommend painting the ceilings before the walls, but I am not the ceiling painter of the house and was tired of waiting, so I went ahead with the walls first.

4.  Now that you’ve completed all of your tedious tracing, it’s time to color it in!  Fill the deep part of your paint tray with the paint, load up your roller (but not too much – you don’t want massive paint drippage), and start applying it to the walls.  I think it’s debatable about whether you should paint in a “W” pattern or straight up and down – in the end, you just want to make sure you get a nice, even look without any streaks or drips.  I use the “W” method.

And again, you’re going to do 2 coats.  If you took your time painting around the trim, this part should be a breeze.  And the paint might look uneven as you roll it on, but pay attention as it dries – it should even out and you shouldn’t see any streaks when it’s completely dry.

Now is not the time to quit.  You will get a decent shoulder workout.  This may be the time you decide to crack open a motivational beer.  When I feel like I want to quit because I’m covered in sweat and paint and my hands feel like they might snap off at the wrist, I know in my heart that it’s time for a beer.

In the end, it’s completely worth it.  There’s a huge sense of satisfaction that comes from transforming sterile, hospital-like white walls into something warm that can highlight trim work, photography, art, or just makes you feel more at home.

But I will stand by my original assessment that HGTV is full of CRAP, and this is not something you would want to do over and over again if you don’t like the color.  Choose wisely, my friends.

5.  Clean, clean, clean!  When you’re finished painting, you will be so tempted to just drop everything in the middle of the floor and call it a day.  But cleanup isn’t so bad if you used a drop cloth and a disposable paint tray.  The most important step is cleaning your paint brush.  Run it under warm water while gently pressing and flattening the bristles on the bottom of the sink.  Keep going until the water runs clear.  THEN, give the brush some good whacks on the edge of the counter or on a paper towel.  This will fluff the bristles back up and get your brush ready to use for the next go ’round.

Sooo… remember to fluff your brush by whacking it to get it ready for use.  (Man, why can’t I seem to avoid porn references in this blog??  It’s like I don’t even have to try.)


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Yeah, let me tell you about paint with primer…if the can says one coat and your done, its a damn lie! We used the valspar stuff in the new house. It was useful in the kitchen because we painted after taking off the wallpaper (no paint underneath), but it was more frustrating than anything else. I won’t be doing that again. I also gave up on the edger and started doing it with a brush. SO MUCH EASIER! Now if only I could get motivated to finish stripping wallpaper and painting! Oh yeah, and do you want to come down and install my backsplash? I’ll pay you in wine ;) Come on, I know you want to see the Boll Weevil!


Okay, so sounds like I will not be using that anytime soon. And don’t you love the brush?! Though I’ve noticed that the short-handled brush is even better than a typical paint brush. I have a lot more control, and it seemed to go on quite a bit smoother than the last brush I used.

Hmmm… very tempting on the backsplash offer. But I totally think you can do it! Just remember to go with the inexpensive tiles. ;)


Okay I changed my mind. I just remembered you have a POOL. When can I come? (Preferably sometime this summer :)


I think it’s important to mention here Katie, that I enjoy reading your blogs even though I don’t even live in a place where I can do ANY of the things you recommend. But it’s still a good, fun, informative read.

And yeah….Snickerdoodle Cocoa sounds really good right now.


Aww, thank you! Maybe one day you’ll be able to put some of these home improvement skills to good use. Or you’ll be smart and buy a house that’s already finished!


What’s the fun in that?

[…] The thing is, it really would’ve made more sense to paint the trim first (oh yeah… I still have to paint the baseboards, too) because I can do that without taping off the walls, and then I can use my awesome little short-handled brush to cut-in along the trim with the wall paint without having to tape anything off, just like I did in the office. […]

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