7 things I learned when I painted my house

Just over a year ago, my husband and I bought a home just a few miles from our favorite beach in which to raise our little family. But before we could spend our days in carefree, salty abandon in our little seaside abode, we had some painting to do. And by some, I mean tons.

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The house we bought was a bit of a fixer-upper, and there wasn’t one room that didn’t need painting. We’ve probably painted around 2,000 square feet so far and still have a few rooms to go (which I’m putting off indefinitely because I cannot take down any more wallpaper borders!).

So, suffice it to say, this experience has been educational, to say the least. We’ve made mistakes — many, in fact — but I like to think we’ve learned from them. So to help you avoid repeating our errors and hopefully save you some time, money and energy along the way, here are a few of those pearls of wisdom I learned when I painted my house.

1. It’s cheaper to do it yourself — but it takes time

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When we first moved in, we had several contractors and professional painters come to the house to give us estimates. Every single one of them was simply more than we had in the budget to spend. With the other repairs the house would need, we couldn’t justify shelling out $3,000 or more just on interior painting. These were good, honest, hardworking people whose work we admired — no one was giving us an unreasonable price. The going rate of professional painters is just costly, which makes sense when you factor in the quality of their work, the labor itself and supplies to get the job done.

Ultimately we cut the cost practically in half by doing the work ourselves (and tricking friends into helping us by luring them with pizza and beer). However, I will say that undertaking a large-scale home-painting project like this is not for the faint of heart. Between prep work, painting and cleanup, you’re looking at a lot of time you’ll need to set aside to get the job done. I can’t tell you how many nights I burned the midnight oil, painting after everyone else had gone to sleep.

2. Your arsenal of supplies will be your unlikely BFFs for a while

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Save yourself some future headache, and make sure you have everything you need before you tackle a room. Should you run out of painter’s tape — or, you know, paint — during the process, it will be a royal pain to pack everything up so you can run out and get what you need. If the paint store is already closed for the night, you risk losing momentum by waiting until the following day.

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Your exact supply list will be dictated by the type and scope of job you are doing, but generally speaking, you’re going to need primer, a lead-testing kit, respirators and masks, a wallpaper stripper, drop cloths, drywall, Spackle/caulk/mud, painter’s tape, a grinder/cutting wheel, wall patches, brushes, rollers, trays/tray liners and, obviously, paint. If you’ve got the money in your budget, a paint sprayer is a wise investment.

3. You can’t skip the prep work… seriously

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Believe me, I tried. I started off strong, committed to doing every single room right. I meticulously laid out my drop cloths. I taped off all trim, windows and knobs. I spackled holes and wiped down walls. Then life happened, and I got tired. By the fourth room, I was convinced I didn’t need all that stuff to get the job done. Only, I did. You can absolutely tell the areas of the house where I skimped on the prep work. It looks sloppy. There are still drip marks we need to sand down. There is still trim with paint on it. And don’t even get me started on how many white ceilings are marred by wayward paint blobs.

4. Wallpaper will be the bane of your existence

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I am a person who, prior to buying our home, balked at the notion that wallpaper was the Devil. Modern wallpaper can make a space feel so chic, I said. It’s such an easy way to update a space, I said. Then we bought our home, and every single room had some sort of wallpaper. If we’re being honest, I think it probably took me a solid three or four rooms before I really got the hang of taking it down without damaging the walls (or myself). First of all, your arms will get tired. Stepladders are super helpful in this endeavor, but their height means you’ll have to keep your arms extended upward and scraping for long periods of time.

The trick I learned after much trial and error is to go buy a wallpaper scorer and to find a dampening solution that works for your walls. On some of my walls, this meant the store-bought adhesive-loosening spray sold alongside the wallpaper scorer. In other rooms, that had no effect whatsoever, and a solution of fabric softener and water worked best. A quick Pinterest search will yield many alternative ideas if you’re dealing with stubborn wallpaper like I was.

5. A paint sprayer can be a godsend — if you know how to use it

Leah Michelle
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Let me preface this by saying, I did not. I absolutely did not know how to use a paint sprayer my first few passes. What this meant was that I wound up over-coating pretty much everything — walls, husband, pets, windows, everything — with paint. My husband proved to be much better at making the kind of quick passes required to minimize dripping. My technique meant we actually had to re-sand certain spots and paint them again. I essentially shelved the paint sprayer that day and stuck to good ol’-fashioned rollers. However, if you know how to use a paint sprayer, it certainly has the capability to save you a lot of hard work and time in the long run.

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6. Edging in will make your life so much easier

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In the beginning, I would start every room by using a roller to paint the biggest span of each wall. After I did this on all four walls, I would go back around and paint just below or above the trim for the full parameter of the room. The problem with this was that there would inevitably be some little gaps between where I left off with the roller and where I was picking up with the edging brush. Once I realized that edging in first eliminated those gaps, I couldn’t believe no one had told me to do it this way before that point.

7. You’ll look like a living, breathing Jackson Pollock painting

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For an entire year, I awoke nearly every morning with paint caked on my fingers in colorful layers. No matter how much I tried to keep paint off me, I was a paint magnet. And such is the reality of undertaking this kind of painting project — you will become part of the canvas. There’s nothing you can do about it either. One dot will turn into two smudges, and then two smudges will turn into a smear, and before you know it, you will look like you should be hanging in an art gallery somewhere.

This post was sponsored by The Home Depot.


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