Painless Painting – DIY Painting Best Practices

I’ve come a long way since owning my first house. I’ve learned many lessons the hard way, and truthfully, I continue to do so. One of my first DIY painting experiences was painting the interior of my first house. I was so excited – the house was mine and I could do whatever I wanted with it! Now I’m embarrassed to say that “whatever I wanted with it” included painting my walls dark, unflattering colors. Brown, tan, and I think there was a dark yellow thrown in there somewhere…kitchen maybe. Anyway, I’d rather not remember that, but I learned some important lessons back that I still think about today! Take a look below for some DIY painting best practices.

To many, painting is like the first step of becoming a DIY homeowner. It involves minimum tools, you can work at whatever pace you’d like, and the results are immediate. You’re likely to experience a great confidence boost as the phycological return of updating your house with new paint is immense. Now that you’ve mastered the skill of painting, you can do anything!

But what if you’ve never painted before? There are plenty of mistakes to be made – I found that out the hard way years ago. Because of that, I think it is worth talking about how to make sure that this journey you’re about to embark on ends up successful.

Have a Plan

Everyone plans differently – you may have an intricate plan of how you are going to paint every room in your house over the course of two months that includes what furniture gets moved where with strict deadlines for completion. Or, you may live in the now and have a quick mental plan that really only entails which wall to start with. That’s ok – everyone operates differently, but be sure you have thought the project out.

Even if it’s just painting one wall in the spare bedroom – before you throw paint at it, at least have a plan if you get some on the floor. For me, having a plan means not biting off more than I can chew. Over the years, I have learned that I do not work as fast as I think I do. You don’t want to be stuck cleaning up 30 minutes before you’re supposed to be at your parents’ house for dinner.

Move Everything Out of the Room

Your plan was the first part of preparing to paint your house (or wall). Now you need to move EVERYTHING out of the room that you don’t want to get paint on. If this is not possible, due to whatever reason, you need to at a minimum move EVERYTHING to one half of the room. I have tried working around furniture, throwing a drop cloth over a couch or table, and moving it away from the wall enough to get behind it. This never works for me – I always end up getting paint on something I don’t want paint on. I’m telling you this to save some heartache.

Protect the Floor

There may be some situations that allow you to skip this step. For instance, you’ve ripped up all of the floors to replace them. You have the genius idea of painting the rooms while the floor is up so you can skip THIS STEP! Or maybe you plan on ripping the floors up – but don’t make this mistake of trashing the floors to soon, life happens and you may be stuck with them for another year.

In the event that the above situations do not apply to you, please protect your flooring at all costs. There are multiple ways to do this – for me the easiest is a mix of drop cloths and painter’s plastic. What I like to do is put drop cloths down along the wall. Drop cloths (old sheets or blankets) work great because they are comfortable to stand/kneel/sit on and provide an ample layer of protection to stop paint from ruining your floors.


If you’re working in a large room, this is where the plastic comes in to play. You may not have enough drop cloths to cover all of the flooring – so tape plastic down in portions of the room not covered by cloth. Just be sure that 100% of the flooring is covered – don’t make the mistake of leaving a bit uncovered because I promise you, that is where you will spill ALL of the paint!

Ram Board

Another product that is really handy is Ram Board. It’s essentially a roll of heavy-duty cardboard that you can use in place of drop cloths. It’s re-useable to an extent, it will wear out over time. I like it because it protects the floor from impact (like if you drop a screw driver or another tool), and it creates a clean seam at the bottom of the baseboard, allowing you to paint those while you’re at it.

Remove ALL Wall Accessories

Be sure to remove all electrical socket covers, switch covers, window covering, and anything else that you see on the walls. If your home has old switches and sockets, now is a good time to replace those as well – going from a dingy yellow switch and cover to a bright white one really makes a room look modern.

Don’t Be Afraid of Blue Tape

If you’re not super confident in your ability to cut in to corners or along baseboard free-hand, use painters’ tape (usually blue). This tape is specifically designed to not peel paint off of finished surfaces allowing you to mask off the top portion of your baseboards or window sills so you don’t get the wall paint on them. Just make sure the edge of the tape is straight – this will directly affect your finished product – a wavy tape line will produce a wavy paint line.

Special Tools

There are a few special tools that make cutting into corners or along baseboards much easier. A quick Google search will give you some ideas. Just know that they are not a substitution for taking your time and paying attention to your work. I’ve used a few of these tools and I have found that a little practice and taking my time with a good paint brush is more effective.

With that being said, a few brands make a short “angle sash” paint brush. This brush was a game changer for me – they are made for the job. The short handle lets you get into corners and angle the brush ways you cannot with a standard brush and the angled sash helps you to keep a straight line.                                                                                                                   

Paint the Edges

Paint around the edges of the room – corners, along baseboards and window sills, light sockets, switches and along the ceiling line. This can be one of the biggest challenges for the DIY painting project. Be sure to take your time and put plenty of paint on the wall. I like to paint two coats along the edges before I begin to roll the walls – you can do a second coat later, but I find it convenient that by the time I’m done edging the room, my beginning point is usually dry enough for second coat – just keep it going!

Painting the Walls

I prefer to paint my walls with a roller. Some people like to spray – and if that’s you, I’m not sure why you’ve read this far! You could have stopped after the preparation portion. I know there are some great paint sprayers out there, and I’m I know they are efficient and easy to use, but I really like the texture of a rolled wall. The most important point that I want to convey here is to use enough paint. Do not try to make one gallon of paint stretch further than it should. Your can of paint should have the manufacturer’s suggestions as to how many square feet 1 gallon should cover. I like to apply paint liberally – maybe covering 75% of the suggested square footage.

You need to be careful with this though – you do not want to apply too much paint at once. If your roller has too much paint on it, there will be paint splatter. As the roller turns, the excess paint will fly off all over you – this is why we covered the floor! Another problem with applying too much paint is you will see runs on the wall. The excess paint will streak and run down the wall. Sometimes paint will run slowly and you won’t notice until you have a dried-up blob of it in the middle of your wall – not cool. Again, take your time and pay attention to how the paint covers the wall. Depending on the condition and color of the walls you’re painting over, if you take your time and put enough paint down, you may not need to follow up with a second coat.

Clean Up

You know how much money you spent on brushes, rollers, and other supplies. If you do a good job of cleaning everything after your job, it’ll all be in great condition when you go to use is again. Latex paint can be cleaned from brushes and rollers with water. Be sure to check local regulations regarding painting supplies and waste water.  If you’re using oil-based paints, you should use a cleaning solution such as paint thinner or mineral spirits. Again, chemicals like paint thinner and mineral spirits should be disposed of properly – please check local regulations regarding waste of this nature.

You’re Done!

So, you’ve completed your first paint job – awesome! Keep it up – the more you do it, the easier it will get. Being able to paint your own house enables you to be more flexible with your home design. You can make pretty large changes at a fraction of the cost than if you had to hire someone to paint for you. I hope my experience has helped even just a little bit – and if not, thanks for reading this far!

In the beginning of this journey, I thought it was ridiculous to tell people what I know about subjects like this. I figured why would they want to hear it from me? But I take for granted the fact that not everyone has the same life experience – just as I spend a good bit of my time learning from others. If there was anything about this article that you particularly liked, or maybe disliked, let me know in the comments. I love to hear from readers!

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