Having spent decades as a painter, I've learned that everybody can paint -- but not everybody knows what's behind a quality paint job. Whether you plan to do the painting yourself or hire help, it's important to know the essential steps for good work.
Prepare the surface, if you're painting an older home. Paints tend to chip and crack over time due to expansion and contraction of the house and its construction materials. Painting should be done often enough to help delay this. Once paint cracks or begins to look like alligator hide you need to remove the loose particles before repainting. I use a scraper and wire brush. Be thorough, but also don't expect all minor blemishes to be extensively sanded and 100-percent smooth; paint will mask these small imperfections. If you're painting a new home, you likely won't have to do any prep work on the surface.
Primer is always first. If you're going to paint a dark wall a lighter color you'll want to prime, which will save you some additional finish coats later on. Primer is also a must in older homes that have an odor on the walls; for example, if the previous homeowner stored spices in the pantry and the smell is still lingering, using a heavy-duty primer before painting will help to override those scents. Don't skip primer if you're in a new space. Most paints do not adhere well to bare substrates. Primer sticks to substrates and provides "tooth" for paint. Primer can be tinted to help finish coats maximize coverage. I will not get into the oil-based versus water-based primer argument other than to say that water-based primer is adequate.
Filling and sealing of cracks and holes should be done after priming. Appropriate caulking can fill cracks up to one-eighth inch -- and in very rare and limited instances up to one-quarter inch; any more than that and you're looking at a bigger project that likely warrants a consultation from a professional.
Sanding is usually needed. If the primer or caulking is uneven in places or at all noticeable, such as on interior trim or woodwork, do some light sanding to smooth the surface.
Finish paint can be applied by brush, roller, or spray gun. Each method requires a certain order of application. With a brush and roller I'd coat the walls first and come back to paint the trim. I'd do the wood trim first with a spay gun and come back to cut in the walls after -- unless both surfaces require the same kind of paint, such as in a bathroom or kitchen. You can do a fair paint job with a $2 brush -- but a better one with a $20 brush. The key to the paint job is that you get full coverage over all surfaces with no holidays (i.e., skips).
A quality paint job should be rich with color and have full coverage with no visible laps. Brush strokes should be minimal -- the paint should lay smooth. I think that all major and many minor paint brands are fine to use, so buy whichever brand speaks to you and your vision.
Gerald has worked in the construction industry for over 25 years, as a licensed general and electrical contractor, carpenter, and painter. He has worked on building and painting hundreds of residential, commercial, and industrial projects.
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