Painting a Room

DEAR MIKE: We just purchased our first home, and need to paint our bedroom. We don't have much experience at home improvement, but would like to do this ourselves. Please pass on some advice. Thank you. -- Linda E.

DEAR LINDA: Congratulations. You can save a lot of money doing the work yourself, and you will feel proud when you are done.

Depending on the quality of paint that you use, you can paint an average-sized bedroom for about $100. Plan on spending a day or so on the project. As is usually the case, painting the room is fast and easy; it's the preparation that is the most important and time consuming. Also, don't watch any Three Stooges movies before you paint. Painting isn't nearly as much fun as the Stooges make it out to be.

If you can, remove everything from the room. If something is too large, put it in the middle of the room and cover it with a plastic tarp. Next, protect the carpet by running 3-inch masking tape (about $3 for 60 yards) along the baseboard. Push the tape under the base with either a wallpaper smoothing tool or a dull putty knife (not too sharp or it will cut the tape).

Cover the carpet with either fabric or plastic dropcloths (fabric is better because it won't move or become slippery). A 9 5/8 x 12 5/8 fabric dropcloth costs less than $20, while a plastic one sells for about $5. If you choose plastic dropcloths, tape them down with the 3-inch masking tape. Remove all switch plate covers, air register grates and window coverings. Also, tape over outlets and switches as well as doorknobs, doorstops, hinges and strike plates. Remove light fixture covers, and cover the light bases with plastic bags and tape.

If you find old water stains on the ceiling, seal them with a stain killer such as "Kilz" (a spray can costs about $6).

Sand the woodwork with a medium-grit sanding sponge (about $5). This will roughen the hard surface, as well as remove any high gloss finish.

Next, consider cleaning hand oil deposits from areas around light switches and door moldings with a deglosser/cleaner (about $12). This will help the new paint properly adhere.

Prime the woodwork with a solvent-based primer. Use a small brush for the doorjambs, casings and baseboards, and a half-inch nap roller for the door (you can buy a painting kit for about $20, which includes a roller, frame, tray and liner, and brush).

Fill in nail holes and gouges in walls with a non-shrinking spackle (about $3) and lightly sand the walls with medium grit sandpaper to knock off any bumps or imperfections from the previous paint job.

When you buy paint, stick with a higher grade (more expensive) from a recognized manufacturer. A gallon of quality paint will cost $15 to $20 and, using a roller, will typically cover about 400 square feet. Estimate the amount of square feet that you are covering by measuring the total footage around the perimeter of the room and multiplying that by the height of the ceiling (don't deduct for window or door openings). The ceiling square footage is found by multiplying length by width. So, for a room that measures 15 feet x 20 feet with an 8-foot ceiling (walls = 560 square feet and the ceiling = 300 square feet), you would need three gallons of paint. Always round up when estimating the amount of paint you will need.

Next, roll on the ceiling paint. If you have "popcorn" ceiling texture, use a three-quarter-inch nap roller, if it is a typical "knock-down" texture, use a one-half inch nap roller. Roll on the first coat very lightly in one direction. Roll the second coat perpendicular to the first coat. By applying the first coat lightly, you will avoid pulling down pieces of ceiling texture.

Caulk all wall and woodwork joints with a paintable white silicone caulk (about $3), and smooth the caulk beads with a wet finger or a synthetic sponge.

Cut in with a 3-inch brush and roll one wall at a time ("cutting in" refers to transitioning from one wall to another, particularly if the walls are different colors). This way, the wet cut-in will blend with the rolled area and will not leave a noticeable mark where the hand-painted area meets the rolled area. Use a one-half inch nap roller for the walls, first from top to bottom, then from left to right.

If you need to take a break, leave the roller in the tray and wrap the tray with plastic wrap. If you want to quit for the day, put the brush in a plastic bag and place it in the freezer -- just thaw it out 30 minutes before use. I would replace the roller and the tray liner with new ones for the next day.

When you are all done, change out of those paint-stained clothes, grab a cold drink, and then yuk it up with the Stooges.

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