Before & After: Lots of painting

Over the last year, I’ve developed a secret skill… I am an excellent amateur house painter!!! Mostly because I’m wicked fast and very focused (as long as there’s a good podcast).

Below I’m sharing what I’ve learned, to hopefully make your life easier before you start your own painting project. And below that are some before & after shots of what we accomplished over the holiday break.

My Painting Checklist

  1. Make sure you have a full day. It’s much easier to finish painting everything in one day, so that you don’t need clean your brushes and rollers twice.
  2. Change into your painting clothes. I wear flip flops so I can wash them when I get paint on them. Corey judges me for wearing inappropriate footwear but I’ve washed my flip flops now 3 times and he has paint drips on his sneakers. So you can decide for yourself who has inappropriate footwear.
  3. Empty the room as much as you can. Get all the furniture out and everything off the floor. If you have cats, move them into another room, otherwise you may get paint paw-prints on your floor.
  4. Round up your painting supplies.
  5. Pick a really good, long podcast. This break I listened to: It’s Been A Minute with Sam Sanders, Freakonomics’ interview with Andrew Yang, and The Big Picture from The Ringer (my new favorite, along with The Rewatchables).
  6. Wipe down the walls, trim, and baseboard with a damp cloth. Remove all outlet and switch plates.
  7. Spackle any holes or imperfections.
  8. Tape all the things. With the tape applicator, I’m lightning fast (more on this later).
  9. Sand down the spackle, then vacuum and wipe the dust.
  10. Put down your drop cloths.
  11. Prep for painting. Set up your lighting. Get your brushes, pails, trays and rollers ready. Shake your paint! Then open it up and give it a good stir.
  12. Cut-in with your paintbrush. Go around the doors, windows, awkward spots like the radiator, walls too skinny for the roller, light switches, and outlets.
  13. Roll the walls, using a M pattern. With each roll, you’ll want to overlap the previous roll a bit to even out the strokes. Don’t overload your roller, otherwise you’ll get paint flying everywhere!
  14. Spot check with your light. Apply your second coat as necessary.
  15. I think there’s some sort of cleanup but mostly Corey does that. :)
  16. … and remember to remove the painter’s tape before you leave for the day. Don’t leave it overnight, otherwise it will lift off paint when you remove it.

The Tools

Here are all the tools you’ll need for a successful painting day:

Your Painting Toolkit

#1. Paint tray with liners, for rollers.

#2 and #3. Paint pail for brushwork with plastic liners. Pro-tip, there’s a magnet in the pail that your brush will snap to, which keeps it from sinking into the paint.

#4. Paint! We’ve been buying from Sherwin-Williams. Before I started painting I didn’t understand the various “gloss” types for paint, but generally speaking most interior walls will use eggshell/satin, while trim will use semi-gloss.

#5. You’ll want some form of work light to help you see well, especially if you’re painting after work or in the winters when it gets dark at like 4pm. They make LED work lights now that aren’t as heavy, hot, or likely to blow a fuse.

#6. Drop cloths. We’ve found that long and narrow drop cloths work great because you can quickly move them around a room. Avoid getting the giant drop cloths — you won’t need it, and they’re annoying to transport.

#7. Rags. You’ll want lots of them to clean walls, wipe up paint drips, and wipe your hands. These things are lifesavers. You’ll want fairly good quality so it doesn’t shed fibers in your paint — and definitely don’t get any color but white (Corey once picked up red rags and we were finding red fibers everywhere for weeks).

#8. Spackle. I’ve been super happy with DryDex, which starts out pink and turns white as it dries. Definitely seal the container well once you’re done so it doesn’t dry out.

#9. Painter’s tape. Scotch’s Blue Paint Applicator has been an absolute time saver for me. It lets me work super quickly around doors and windows, and is a good size to handle. But… they stopped making them, which means the applicator and tape refills are now crazy expensive. They’ve made a new version which isn’t as good and way too big and heavy to handle. If you’re in the market for painter’s tape, avoid FrogTape (it leaks) and Scotch’s Platinum Tape (doesn’t stick). I’ve found the Scotch original painter’s tape to be the most consistently reliable.

#10. Sandpaper. 220 generally does the job. Make sure to vacuum and wipe up after you sand, so that your walls are clean for paint.

#11. Fine-tipped paintbrush. For detailed touch-up.

#12. Small roller. We’ve used both a 4-inch and 6-inch roller, for skinny walls around windows and behind the radiator.

#13. Paint stirrer. You’ll get these for free from the paint store. Make your your paint is shaken up and evenly mixed, or you will really regret it!

#14. We use a standard rigid 2.5-inch paintbrush for our cutting in. You’ll want to take good care of your brushes — wash them and protect them so that you can get clean lines even on the 8th paint job.

#15. 10-in-1 Painter’s Tool from Purdy. Is there anything this thing can’t do? Open paint cans, clean rollers, scrape off old paint, close paint cans… it’s a must.

#16. Sharpie. For labeling your paint cans, so you remember what paint you used and where.

#17. Paint can pour spout. At first we judged this little tool and now it’s a game-changer. It lets you pour paint easily without drips, so you save yourself from extra cleanup and wasted paint. Just make sure you give it a good wash at the end of each use.

#18. 9-inch roller with 1/4-inch nap cover. A shorter nap gets you a smoother looking finish and it soaks up less paint. Pro-tip, the handle has a notch that prevents the roller from slipping in the paint tray.

#19. Paint roller extension pole. I’m not tall and I hate moving around ladders, so this does the trick. You’ll likely need to apply two coats where you used the extension pole, because you won’t be able to apply as much pressure.

Not pictured: A Werner twin-step ladder, to help you get to tall spaces (it’s light and easy to move around). A brush comb to help you get paint out of your brushes. And a spinny brush/roller cleaner (and a mud bucket!) to help dry your tools.

The Before and Afters

Over the long holiday break we made a dent in painting various rooms in our apartment. Starting with my office!

Then, we did the bathroom. Lots of tiny spaces to paint around.

Then, we finished Corey’s office! To get to the tall spots we used one of our wedding gifts! A Werner 6-foot twin step ladder… it’s surprisingly light considering how big it is.

And here are some silly photos of us (and the pets) while painting…

I hope this inspires you to get your painting project done!

More reading: If you enjoy reading about home improvement, check out my other posts on building a back deck, installing a new fence (and patio!), and attempting to garden. Of course, it all starts with our big moving in post.