For excellent interior painting results, follow the 80-20 rule

Most professional painters will tell you that when painting rooms inside your home, your work will involve 80% preparation and 20% painting.  And they’ll also tell you that the worst paint jobs are the result of insufficient prep.

Prepping a room to be painted

Look at a room you’re thinking of painting.  Is your first thought, “I don’t know how we’re ever going to paint this – there’s so much . . . stuff!”  Here comes the first part of prep.  To the greatest extent possible, corral all the furnishings within the room toward the room’s center.  The goal is to give you access to the perimeter of the room and to make it easier to cover and safeguard the furnishings.

Remove everything from the walls such as framed pictures or prints, posters, lighting, shelving, vent grates and the like.  Place these carefully on top of the furniture.

Now comes the critical rule of painting preparation: If paint isn’t supposed to be on it, cover it.  That means the floor, the furniture and any baseboards, trim around doorways, molding or closets that aren’t being painted the same color as the walls.

Use heavy plastic sheeting to cover every inch of the floor and the furniture area in the middle of it.  Use painters tape that’s at least two inches wide to secure the plastic everywhere it might gape open and allow paint in.  Pay special attention to the base around the perimeter of all walls.

Painting order

If the ceiling is going to be painted, do that first.  (Remember to remove or protect lighting fixtures and anything else up there.)  Next, paint the walls.  Finally, paint all trim, doors, closets and whatever else requires a unique color/style of paint.

Ceilings are usually different colors than walls, but even if yours are going to be the same color, paint the ceiling first to avoid getting roller over-spray on the walls.

When painting walls and ceilings, use a brush to “cut in” all around the perimeter.  A couple inches is fine – just enough to cover what the roller isn’t able to.

If any molding or trim is to be painted in a different color than the walls, wait at least 24 hours to give the wall paint sufficient time to dry.  The reason for this is, you’ll be taping the walls all around the trim to protect them from the new paint, and wall paint will come off with the tape if it’s not thoroughly dry.

After the last of the trim is painted, remove the tape carefully.  Before removing any other protective coverings, examine every inch of the newly painted areas to determine if touch-ups are needed.

When everything looks like you want it to look, gently begin removing the plastic sheeting.  It’s likely much of it will be covered with a thin layer of paint dust that you don’t want falling off on the floor or furniture.  Then your final job is to move all the furniture back to where it was and re-install lighting and other fixtures, which can be considered part of the 80% preparation time.

In addition to the 80-20 rule, the trick to a great paint job is don’t rush.  Take your time, use steady, even strokes, don’t let the brush or roller get too full of paint that can accidentally be slung around the room, clean up messes as soon as they happen.  Follow these tips and you’ll have beautifully painted areas you can be proud of.

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