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posted: 9/20/2020 7:00 AM

Six steps for a foolproof paint job

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  • On a quality paint job, you will spend about 75% of your time on taping and wall preparation.

    On a quality paint job, you will spend about 75% of your time on taping and wall preparation.
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By Erik J. Martin
CTW Features

They're easy to take for granted, but the walls and ceilings in your home are asked to do a lot -- from setting your interior color palette and displaying decor to weathering the pounding and pressure they take from kids, pets and adults alike. It's no wonder why the experts recommend repainting your walls every few years.

But cut corners or prep improperly and you'll likely need to recoat a lot more often. That's why it pays to plan a painting project right.

"Over time, walls and ceilings will fade with the sun and tastes will change. So every few years, it's good to repaint the common spaces of a home to hide wear and tear and accommodate any new furniture purchases," says Meghan Stewart, senior director of residential sales and color consultant for Paintzen in New York City.

Victor Tirondola, CEO of Purcellville, Virginia-based Manor Works Painting, says the most used spaces in your home that see the most foot traffic -- like your entryway, living room and bathrooms -- are often the ones that need the most painting TLC.

"The good news is that, if you use the best quality paint, you will only need to repaint every five to seven years," he says.

Do-it-yourselfers can tackle any interior painting project, provided they have the know-how and proper materials. Still, it's easy to make mistakes and suffer painter's remorse if you're not adequately prepared. To ensure a more perfect paint job, follow these best practices:

1. Ready the room carefully

"A paint job is only as good as the prep work you put in. "Before you begin painting, clear the room of as much furniture as you can and cover your floors with a rosin paper," recommends Tirondola. "If furniture must stay in the room, move it to the center and cover with two layers of plastic. Be sure to tape down the plastic on the rosin paper so that furniture is not accidentally exposed to paint splatter."

2. Prep your ceilings and walls thoroughly

"Fill nail holes, repair drywall, sand down rough spots, and mask ceiling edges, wall edges, trim and doors with painters tape," suggests Paige NeJame, owner of Rockland, Massachusetts-headquartered CertaPro Painters. "Take your time and do the job right. Spend 75% of your time on the project on this preparation step."

3. Use a high-quality primer

"A great primer will hide the wall's imperfections and help the paint adhere properly, preventing it from peeling in the future," says Peri Schechter, interior designer and part owner of Slope Design Group in Huntington, New York. Note that you can skip this step if the paint you choose has primer built in.

4. Determine your paint sheen and color

"Evaluate the current condition of your walls. If they are made of older plaster with a lot of imperfections or waviness, use a flat finish instead of eggshell finish," Stewart says. Remember that the higher the gloss or sheen, the more you will see the wall's flaws; that's why Schechter likes to use a matte finish on most walls and ceilings, an eggshell sheen on bathroom walls and a semi-gloss finish on trims, moldings and doors. Additionally, before settling on a color, "apply a paint sample to a piece of poster board and move it around your room to make sure you like the color choice in different areas of your space. Study how the lighting in the morning and evening affect the color's appearance," Tirondola adds.

5. Purchase quality paint, brushes, rollers and supplies

"Choose a durable paint, which will produce a longer-lasting result," advises NeJame. Tirondola recommends selecting an eco-friendly paint with a no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) base mixed with a no-VOC pigment. Also, buy enough paint for the project: One gallon typically covers about 400 square feet.

6. Apply paint correctly

"The process I recommend is to start at the top and work your way down the wall," says Tirondola. "First, paint the ceiling, then one coat on the wall, followed by two coats on trim, a final coat on the wall and lastly, two coats on the baseboard." It's often best to first paint the edges with a brush; then, apply paint with a roller in a zigzag pattern, going in several directions. To prevent splatter, move slowly. For more detailed tips on painting with a brush or roller, visit