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February Focus: Interior Painting Tips

Christina Hood

Christina Hood is a results-driven broker with over a decade of experience being a master marketer and skillful negotiator...

Christina Hood is a results-driven broker with over a decade of experience being a master marketer and skillful negotiator...

Feb 1 11 minutes read

Everyone loves a room with a fresh coat of paint that was applied with care.

It is easy to see a rushed paint job. What most people don’t know is that applying the paint in most cases is the easiest part of the job. Yes, there are some special techniques that require extensive training followed by years of practice such as egg tempera and trompe l’oeil. On the other hand, doing a good job takes more than smearing paint on the walls. Here we will give you a quick outline and some of our favorite references to get you started plus a list of materials you will find on any quality paint project.

It all starts with great prep work.

It all starts with great prep work. And, great prep work starts with thoroughly cleaning surfaces, including those not getting painted. There might be a reason that painters wear white. Aside from a good dusting and vacuuming, we recommend washing walls with TSP (trisodium phosphate). If there’s wallpaper that is a separate project in itself. For tough spots, a general-purpose cleaner like 409 is very helpful. You will need to wash 409 off the surface with clean water and a clean rag. Use sandpaper or a sanding block to dull any uneven surfaces. It is often helpful to wipe all trim with a sanding pad too and to have an orbital sander, and scraper. Then wipe away dust with a damp cloth and let dry thoroughly.

Smoothing walls before painting is necessary

Smoothing walls before painting is necessary for surfaces previously painted surfaces. For gloss or high-gloss paint washing them with TSP will help remove any sheen. For smoothing walls there is always sand- ing, but this can be tough going if the walls are covered with either wallpaper or latex paint. The latex will gum up the sandpaper almost instantly. Wallpaper should be removed and then the walls should be smoothed. The best solution is to skim float the wall with joint compound or diamond coat plaster. In short, the smoother the surface the better the final paint will look. And, be on the lookout for our upcoming video on taping.

The next step is to have all of the right tools and here’s a list (see below)

The next step is to have all of the right tools and here’s a list (see below). This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives a good idea of what you will need. Also, use your local paint store as a resource. Some that you will find locally in California include, Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, Dunn Edwards, just to name a few. The professionals that work in paint stores can answer nearly any question you have.

Next, you will need to pick your paint 

Next, you will need to pick your paint. The color is completely subjective, and even if you have old paint to match this is easily done at the local paint store. Then there’s the sheen or finish. This is also subjective, but there’s a little more to know. First, there are 5 basic types of sheen, although some manufacturers have as many as 8 different sheens. These are:

Flat / Matt - These are great all-purpose paints that have great coverage. They also hide surface defects and blemishes, which is why many older homes are painted with either flat or matt paint. They are not recommended in high traffic areas, and if you have pets you may find a band at the bottom of your walls where Fluffy has been leaning. To put this in perspective, art galleries are often painted with flat paint.         

Eggshell - These are very popular and highly functional. Eggshell finishes are probably the most popular and are used in areas with mild traffic such as living rooms, dining rooms, etc. Eggshell finishes are somewhat washable.
Satin - As Home Depot says “the most versatile and best paint for walls inside the home”. This is a good finish in most applications and is highly recommended for rentals due to its good maintenance characteristics. It is often used in bathrooms, kitchens, laundries, and high-traffic areas. It is also good for exterior trim applications.           

Semi-Gloss - This sheen is a step up in durability and again can be found in bathrooms, kitchens, laundries, etc. It is the general go-to for interior trim, being slightly more forgiving than Gloss. It is a good choice as it is easy to clean and highlights decorative elements. Gloss - While this sheen is spectacular when applied to properly prepared surfaces, it is also the most difficult to work. It often requires multiple coats and flawless surface prep. The result can be stunning and really adds a designer touch to any project. It is most often used on trim including doors and various furnishings including cabinets.

Now, where to start

Now, where to start? You have cleaned, have all the tools you can think of, and you have the perfect paint or so you think. We recommend that you get a quart of paint and try it. Try it in both a light corner and a dark corner of your room or on a white piece of plywood you can move around. Between the color and the finish, paint can look dramatically different in different locations. Once you’ve confirmed the paint is right, protect the site with drop clothes, painter’s tape such as Frog tape or Scotch Blue tape. If you are good with a cutting brush you can avoid a lot of the taping. You will want to tape the edges of carpet either way and use a large putty knife to push the carpet pile away from the wall.

Now, after you have removed all the door and window hardware, and removed all electric covers putting tape over the switches, receptacles, and fixtures, you will want to prime the walls. If you have purchased a premium one-coat paint and it is light color over a light color you may be able to skip the primer. And we say premium, we mean good and expensive. If you are priming, there are a number of different primers, but only three are generally used, plus one which is a special condition. These are:

Shellac - This primer is most often alcohol-based. While this product is very good at hiding stains it is generally hard to work with and the work area needs to have excellent ventilation. It is also essential for painting oil over latex. Two readily available brands are Zinzer B-I-N and KILZ, but each of the major paint manufacturers has their versions as well. This product should not be sprayed and should be applied wearing proper PPE including a charcoal type organic respirator designed for alcohol.      

Oil - Oil primer is often thick, but can be thinned with paint thinner. The reason for using oil paint is when one wants a superior finish on trim, doors and cabinets. It is much more durable than latex starting with the primer. Using it on walls today is the exception. Add to this that oil primer is often tinted because it can be applied, sprayed, or brushed on in extremely thin layers.

Latex - This is the go-to paint for nearly all applications. It cannot be used directly over oil paint, and if it is accidentally used over oil it should be removed, so don’t make this mistake. The big question: how can you tell that it is latex? The easiest way is to take a small rag or a cotton ball and with either denatured or rubbing alcohol find a small area and see if you can remove the paint. If you can, it is latex. The beauty of latex is that it is very forgiving and often can cover in a single coat. For large areas, it is the only way to go. Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA) - This paint is used exclusively to cover new drywall as a first coat sealer. If you have new drywall, this will add a step.

At this point, you are almost there. It is time to apply the final coats of paint, but the question often asked is in what order? If you are spraying, and we recommend a good quality airless sprayer, start with the trim. Allow the trim to dry before adding a second coat. If there are windows these will require masking with paper and tape. Once the trim has its first coats, tape the trim as required and paint the field, most likely brush painting the corners and edges, and rolling the large areas. This may require more than one coat, most often two, allowing dry time between each coat. Then once the large areas are done, then go back and touch up the trim.


Congratulations! You are done.

If this seems like a lot of work, it does take time, more than most people would expect. If that is the case Bright Homes Real Estate has a number of painters we can recommend. And, if you have any other questions, please reach out to us.  We can help!

The List of Paint Supplies

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Paint Pan & Liner Drop Clothes        
  • Step Ladders - 4-foot, 6-foot Sponge sanding block           
  • Sandpaper - 80, 120, 180 grit Spackle
  • Tack Cloth
  • Roller sleeve (Nap depends on finish)            
  • Pin Roller - 4” to 6” and Sleeve 8” Roller Frame        
  • Brush Cleaner / Paint Thinner / Goof Off             
  • Roller pans and liners                                            
  • Painters Tape           
  • Brushes - Trim “Cutting”, Square Trim, Wall TSP Wall Cleaner             
  • Extra Buckets - 1 quart pots 3 mil Plastic Sheeting            
  • Wood Filler Hammer & Nail Set Hand Scraper Putty Knife               
  • Caulk gun (for 10oz tubes)
  • Rags / Heavy Duty Paper Towel               
  • Brush Cleaner / Paint Thinner / Goof Off 
  • Optional - Airless Spray Gun and Kit

Need Some Advice?

Well, then it's time to reach out to our experienced real estate agents today. 

Our team of expert real estate agents will be there to help you every step of the way on your home buying or selling journey. 

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