Paint Your Home Like a Pro With These 12 Tips

Women painting a home
Photo by Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Few do-it-yourself home improvements deliver more satisfaction than a fresh coat of paint.

Newer types of paint are easier than ever to use, and a good quality product delivers great-looking results for a relatively modest investment.

If you are new to painting, start with smaller projects so you can learn as you go. These tips will help you produce sharp results with a minimum of expense and fuss.

1. Use latex paint

Not long ago, the benefits of oil paint — particularly durability and a smoother finish — were indisputable, according to DIY Network. But oil paints emit strong fumes, are more difficult to use and require toxic solvents like turpentine and mineral spirits for cleanup.

Advances in latex paints have made them the choice of professionals and amateurs, even for jobs outside, where oil-based paint used to be standard.

2. Get the right finish for the job

Paint comes in an array of finishes, from flat (no shine) to eggshell, satin, semi-gloss and gloss (high shine). Each has advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice depends on your taste, as well as where you are using the paint.

Rule of thumb: Flat paint looks great and tends to mask imperfections better. However, it stains more easily and doesn’t hold up to intensive cleaning like gloss will. Higher-gloss finishes are best on trim or walls requiring frequent hard cleaning, such as those in a nursery, bathroom, kitchen, mudroom or child’s room.

3. Don’t buy cheap paint

A gallon of high-end paint can cost $50 to $100. Is it worth it? Often, yes, Consumer Report’s paint-buying guide says. Avoid cheap paint because it might force you to repaint sooner or use several coats to achieve the same coverage as a single coat of a better paint.

Tips:

  • Find a paint store or hardware store whose clerks you trust and ask for their product recommendations and advice.
  • Consumer Reports tests several lines of paints and rates products. You need a subscription to access the report, but you could use your public library’s subscription instead.

4. Preparation counts

Time and elbow grease spent on preparation — sanding, spackling, patching and cleaning — create a much better result.

Case in point: Spend a few moments on your paint roller. Use a lint roller on it to remove the accumulated dust, hair and fuzz that otherwise will end up in the paint you apply.

Are you employing a previously used roller? Trim the crusty edges with scissors.

5. Try this neatness trick with a rubber band

Another ingenious tip: Fit a tough rubber band around a can of paint, top to bottom, so that it stretches across the can opening. This creates a taut lip on which you can carefully wipe your paint-loaded brush instead of using the edge of the can.

This tip minimizes dripping and keeps the edges of the can opening clean, which keeps excess paint from squirting on you and the can when you close the lid.

6. Line the roller pan

Use heavy-duty aluminum foil to line your roller pan, pressing the foil to fit the pan’s contours. Alternatively, slip a plastic produce bag or grocery bag over the tray.

Such liners make cleanup a snap. Instead of rinsing and cleaning the pan, you’ll need only to remove your liner and replace it with a new one. Changing liners makes changing colors easy.

7. Record your paint colors

If you own a garage shelf or two filled with cans of mystery paint, you’ll appreciate the importance of recording the name, ID number, date, place of purchase and location where you’ve used a paint color. Include notes on such things as the paint’s finish and how many coats were required, and make a small color swatch.

You would be surprised how often a paint color (or entire line) is discontinued, leaving you glad to have a paint chip for color matching.

8. Color your primer

Primer gives paint a good clean surface to adhere to. If you are covering an unpainted surface or a darker color of paint, definitely use primer. Likewise, use primer if you are covering joint compound, spackle, putty or other materials or repaired areas that absorb paint differently from your main surface.

If you’re covering stains, mildew, a moist area or something smelly, ask your paint store for a special primer or sealer for the job. Here’s a pro tip: Tint your primer by mixing in a bit of the paint you’ll be using. “This trick greatly enhances the ability of the topcoat to completely hide the primed surface,” Popular Mechanics says.

9. Simplify cleanup

When you’re done painting for the day but have more to do, don’t bother cleaning your brushes, rollers and tray. Instead, squeeze much of the paint out, and cover them with several airtight layers of plastic wrap or plastic bags.

Popular Mechanics advises then putting them in a refrigerator. Remove them from the fridge 30 minutes before you start painting again.

10. Rejuvenate old brushes

Are you the owner of old, paint-encrusted brushes? Before you spring for new ones, see if you can revive the old ones. Soak them in vinegar for an hour or two to see if the bristles become flexible.

Next, cover the bristles with vinegar in an old saucepan, bring it to a boil and let the bristles simmer for a few minutes. After the vinegar and brushes cool, work the paint out of the brushes with your fingers, rinsing under running water until clean.

11. Neutralize paint fumes

Oil-based paint fumes are really bad, but latex paint can be plenty smelly, too. To neutralize the odor, try adding a tablespoon of vanilla extract to a gallon of paint. It’s a natural deodorizer and won’t affect the paint color.

Alternatively, you could seek out paints that contain less volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Low-VOC and no-VOC paint might cost more, but there’s a case to be made that they are healthier for your family and the environment. And they will have little or no smell.

12. Nuke old masking tape

Old masking tape is useless when the adhesive dries up. Before you toss it, though, see if you can bring it back to life by warming the glue in the microwave.

Here’s how: Put the roll of tape on a paper towel in a microwave oven and zap it for about 10 seconds. If the tape isn’t too dry, you may be able to reuse it.

“It works about half the time,” says home projects expert Joe Truini, at Today’s Homeowner.

Do you have painting tricks? Share them in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
21 Thrift Store Gems You Can Cash In On
21 Thrift Store Gems You Can Cash In On

Here’s what to look for at that overstuffed thrift store — and how you can make money from it.

11 Small Money Moves That Will Make a Big Difference
11 Small Money Moves That Will Make a Big Difference

These small money moves will pay off big in the long run.

17 Surprising Things You Can Clean in a Dishwasher
17 Surprising Things You Can Clean in a Dishwasher

It’s often easier and faster to put these household items in the dishwasher than to clean them by hand.

7 Surprising Benefits of Staying Fit in Retirement
7 Surprising Benefits of Staying Fit in Retirement

Improving your overall physical health is just one reason to stay active after 50.

13 Small Gadgets Under $20 That Make Life Better
13 Small Gadgets Under $20 That Make Life Better

These inexpensive electronics will make your day-to-day life a little easier — and happier.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making
10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now
7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco
9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco

Are you missing out on serious savings at your favorite warehouse club?

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

The 16 Cars Most Likely to Last 200,000 Miles
The 16 Cars Most Likely to Last 200,000 Miles

One automaker takes half the spots on a list of the longest-lasting vehicles.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?
Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers
6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.
This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.

This brand’s vehicles are least likely to give drivers repair headaches, according to J.D. Power.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know
7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best
Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best

One brand takes five of the top honors, while another ranks highest in three categories.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.