Doing Your Own Painting
IN THESE days of rising costs, many people are looking for ways to economize. It is not genuine economy to neglect upkeep and let your property get run down. You might save money by doing some of the work yourself. For example, have you thought about doing some of your own painting? It is not hard. Furthermore, there is real satisfaction in doing things with your own hands, especially when the results are good.
Suppose you want to paint the rooms of your house. What would you need? Paint, of course; also a roller and a roller pan and a good paintbrush about two and a half inches in width (recommended for “do-it-yourself” painters). You will need drop cloths too, for covering the furniture and areas not to be painted. Old sheets will do.
Painting rooms is largely a matter of applying color to the walls. Of course, colors have an emotional effect as well as a practical value. Red and orange are lively colors, but they also tend to produce tension and so should be used rather sparingly. Yellow, which suggests sunlight, is cheerful. Light green reminds one of the outdoors; it is restful and quieting. Light blue is soothing and cool; it calls to mind clear blue skies and the waters of rivers and lakes. Light colors make a room look bigger, but darker shades make it look smaller. It is good to take these factors into account. Of course, when choosing the colors for an individual room, you may also want to consider the colors of your drapes, the upholstered furniture and the rug.
Having decided on your colors, what kind of paint should you use? While there are many different kinds, of interest to most “do-it-yourself” painters are just two: the oil-based or alkyd (a synthetic resin) and the water-based latex wall paint. Although it is called “latex,” it has no rubber in it but is simply a milky-white emulsion. Latex wall paint has much to recommend it for interior painting. It is easier to apply, easier to clean up afterward and usually is far more economical than the alkyd types of paint.
Latex flat wall paint is ideal for living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms. In recent years manufacturers have also developed a semigloss latex paint, which is replacing the semigloss oil or alkyd paints. Semigloss paint is to be preferred for kitchens, bathrooms, windowsills and frames; it can stand more scrubbing.
How much paint will you need? About a gallon for every 400 to 500 square feet that you want to cover with one coat.
Before starting to paint, protect with drop cloths or newspapers all surfaces that you will not paint. Also, it may be practical either to move out the furniture or to move it to the center of the room so as to make all the walls accessible.
Now check the surface to be painted. If it is dry, smooth but not glossy, has no cracks or holes in it, has no loose paint, dust, dirt, oil or grease on it, then you can proceed at once. But what should you do if there are defects? Is there loose paint? Scrape it off. Then all such places, as well as holes and cracks, will need to be smoothed out with a puttylike preparation called “Spackle.” (Buy it ready mixed.) Since Spackle often shrinks when it dries, you may need to apply a second coat in some spots. When that dries, sand it smooth and then apply a primer on these areas so that they will not show through when you paint over them. Is the surface glossy? Then you will need to sand it before painting. Remember, make sure the wall is free from dust, dirt, oil, grease and soap before you start to paint.
To apply the paint you will need a seven-inch, or, preferably, a nine-inch, roller with a cage-type roller frame and a roller pan. The roller should have a core made of firm materials, such as fiber phenolic, not merely cardboard. The roller sleeve or cover should be made of good-quality material, such as lonel or dynel nylon or lamb’s wool. The length of its nap is governed by the effect you want. A three-eighths-inch nap may be good for the average wall, a one-fourth-inch nap for a very smooth surface, and a one-half-inch nap for a very rough one. (Of course, the longer the nap the more paint the roller can hold.) Either before or after applying the paint with the roller, use the brush to paint the corners and other areas of the room that need special attention.
Begin by rolling the roller in the paint pan until it is uniformly covered with paint and then get rid of the excess paint by rolling the roller on the pan’s grid. Paint the room from the top down, starting with the ceiling. But, to minimize dripping when painting the walls, make the first stroke an upward one. Start away from a finished area and then work toward it; then it will not be too apparent where you overlap. For best results, avoid applying the roller with too much paint, and avoid rolling it too long, as if to get every bit of paint out of it.
You can make things a lot easier for yourself by using a four- to six-foot handle on the roller for much of your painting. With such a handle you can work a roller with both hands, you will not need a stepladder when painting the ceiling or upper parts of the walls and you will not need to stoop if you want to paint the floor.
After completing the large areas, paint doorframes, windowsills and frames with a brush. Make sure the brush is made of synthetic material if you are using latex paint. A natural bristle brush is ideal for oil or alkyd paints, but when used with latex paint it loses its shape, as its bristles absorb water.
It may be that you will want to apply two coats. For example, if you are putting a light color on top of a dark color, you will need two coats of paint so that the dark color does not show through. Likewise, where the surface is new, whether wood, plasterboard or plaster, you may need a first coat of an appropriate primer and a finishing coat. In some cases two coats of paint will serve.
When you have finished painting for the day, what will you do? It is wise to remove all paint spots before they dry too hard. Also, clean the roller and brush. If you painted with latex, then thoroughly wash both the roller and the brush with soap and water. But if you painted with an oil or alkyd paint, you will need to clean the roller and the brush with a paint thinner such as turpentine.
As you do your work, exercise care. If you are not in too much of a hurry, you should be able to do a presentable job. And not only will you save on expenses but, more importantly, you will have the satisfaction of accomplishment, having something beautiful and enduring to show for your efforts. For, as has well been said, painting involves “the hand, the mind and the heart.”