HomeownerEducational: N-Z


Planning Your Project

A new paint job can brighten up a dingy room or revitalize an entire house. In fact, some real estate agents consider a fresh coat of paint to be one of the most cost-effective home improvement options.

Knowledge and preparation are key to a paint job that is beautiful and long lasting. A high-quality interior paint job can last up to ten years, but it may suffer in high-traffic areas and rooms where a fireplace operates during winter months. Exterior paint should last from five to ten years on average, with the level of wear being affected primarily by the amount of sun exposure and the width of any overhangs. Regular cleaning is key to maintaining your exterior paint job.

As long as you select high-quality paint, weather shouldn’t play a large role in the timing of the work. Cold temperatures do not pose a problem for interior painting; in fact, the lower humidity levels mean that the paint will dry faster and with a lower probability that dust and other particulates will stick to the surface. Exterior painting in the winter can be trickier. Most exterior paints should be applied in temperatures between 40 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the type of paint, but some are designed to be applied in colder weather. Heat and humidity can also affect exterior paint work. It is important to heed paint manufacturers’ temperature guidelines.

Selecting a Paint

Color. Selecting a color palette for an interior room is different from choosing colors for the exterior of your house. If you are having interior painting done, first consider the room’s purpose. If the space serves as a gathering spot, consider colors that are soothing and inviting. If you’re revamping a utilitarian space, try a bolder, glossier color choice.

Consider purchasing small samples of your favorite colors and painting swatches in the room to be painted. Home lighting is different from the lighting in a paint store, and the paint chip you loved may look different once you get it home.

For exterior paint colors, you should consider your own preferences as well as the color of your neighbors’ houses and any bylaws enforced by your homeowners’ association, if applicable. Also take the architectural style of your home into account. Color schemes that are en vogue for new homes, for example, may look out of place on a 1920s bungalow or a late-1800s Victorian. Some paint manufacturers offer preselected palettes to help eliminate guesswork, or your painting contractor may have a color consultant on staff who can provide some professional guidance.

Water-based versus oil-based. Starting in 2004, the EPA passed legislation banning the use of oil-based, or solvent-based, paint in six states. Previously considered less durable than oil-based paint, water-based (acrylic) paint has developed in quality and performance since the bans and is now the widely accepted standard. In addition to being the environmentally friendly option, acrylic paint is more pliable, less odorous, and can be easily cleaned from brushes with soap and water. By contrast, oil-based paints are sometimes brittle, have a strong smell, and require mineral spirits to clean.

Finishes. Paint finishes range from flat to glossy. Glossy paints are more durable than flat paints, but they show surface imperfections and technical flaws more readily. Still, the high sheen of glossy paint may be ideal for areas that will be cleaned often, such as bathrooms, trim, and kitchen cabinets. The duller finish of a flat paint makes it more appropriate for ceilings and for walls in other living areas of the house.

Quality. Avoid skimping on paint quality. Often, cheaper paints require an additional coat to get the same result as more expensive, higher-quality paints. Since the cost of paint is usually much lower than the cost of labor, cheaper paints often lead to a job costing more in the end.

Preparing the Area to Paint

Good preparation is crucial to a job well done. Most painters will take care of any prep work, but the extent of the preparation should be discussed before signing the contract.

Relocating furniture. Remove all furniture from the room to be painted, or move the pieces to the center of the room and cover them with a drop cloth. If your home’s exterior is being painted, move outdoor furniture, decorations, and other fixtures away from the house.

Readying surfaces. Paint should only be applied to a clean, smooth surface. Peeling or cracked paint must be scraped or sanded away, and any mold and mildew on the surface should be removed. Existing glossy paint should be deglossed through sanding or with a chemical deglosser, like trisodium phosphate solution (TSP), so that a good bond between the old paint and the new paint can form. Finally, any existing holes and cracks should be repaired.

Priming and sealing. Primer helps new paint adhere and increases its durability. Before painting, prime any uncoated surfaces, bare wood, repaired areas, paneled walls, and areas that will be repainted with a significantly different color. Your painter may use tinted primer to prepare for a drastic color change.

Removing fixtures. Before painting, cover and tape all fixtures and remove outlet covers from the walls. This will save time during the edging process. Store the screws or fasteners in small plastic bags and tape the bags to the fixtures or covers.

Taping trim and other features. Painter’s tape or masking tape keeps paint off features that cannot be removed, such as trim, molding, glass, and door handles. Painter’s tape is typically more expensive than masking tape, but painter’s tape is often chosen because it has lower tack than masking tape, making it easier to remove cleanly. All tape should be removed promptly once a wall is finished. Some painters prefer to paint around features that cannot be removed using a brush technique called “cutting in.” The use of painter’s tape versus a brush is usually a matter of preference.

Painting Contractors

Hiring a reputable, experienced contractor is important. Be cautious of companies that stress their low price more than how their work achieves a high-quality result. Understand exactly what you are buying to avoid overpaying by taking the lowest bid and receiving shoddy work. Always get the details in writing when comparing companies.

Other Services

Reputable painters will remove nails and patch holes to prepare the work surfaces. Some painters may even have carpenters on staff to handle more extensive work, such as replacing rotted wood, repairing damaged siding or molding, or replacing damaged drywall. Ask your contractor about the additional services its staff may offer.