Last year my husband and I bought a charming fixer-upper a few miles shy of our favorite beach because, well, we wanted to be close to said beach, and a fixer-upper was what we could afford. Fortunately most of the fixing wound up being cosmetic — with the bulk of it being painting.
Lots and lots of painting.
We’ve been here a little over a year, and we have thus far painted 10 rooms plus a long hallway on our own. Accordingly, we’ve picked up a few things along the way. Or, in other words, we’ve committed some cardinal painting sins and learned from our mistakes the hard way.
So in the spirit of saving you some of the time (and frustration) that were a byproduct of our home-painting journey, here are some of the things you should never do when painting your home.
1. Skip the tape or leave it on too long
I realize that lining all your trim, windows, knobs and the like with painter’s tape will feel like it is literally eating years off your life. But while it may take a decent chunk of time to do, it’s worth it. No matter how steady you think your hand is, you will never get the kind of clean lines and edges that come from using painter’s tape. I also didn’t realize that many brands recommend you leave the tape on for only around 15 minutes, and I definitely stretched those limits. The result of leaving it on too long? When I peeled it off, it took some of my freshly layered paint with it.
2. Abuse your floors
It’s no biggie if I get a few drops on the floor, you’ll say. I’ll just spot clean later, you’ll say. I’m here to tell you that you’re going to want to ignore that voice in your head telling you to throw caution to the wind when it comes to protecting your floor during the painting process. I have old hardwoods, was not vigilant with the drop cloth, and I actually damaged certain areas of the floor trying to remove dried paint from its surface. Drop cloths are cheap — buy a bunch, and use them.
3. Jump the gun
If you’re anything like me, you have very little patience when it comes to waiting the recommended drying time and would much rather skip ahead. But while shaving 15 minutes off the drying time of a first coat of paint or a layer of patching compound may not seem like much, it can make all the difference in the quality of the end result. If you rush it too much, you may even have to go back and start over again. And really, who has time for that?
4. Forget to prime
Here’s the bad news (well, not necessarily bad, but potentially more expensive and time-consuming news): You’re going to need to prime pretty much any surface you paint. Can you paint without primer? Sure. You can do whatever you want. However, you’re much more likely to get a nice, even coat and a more saturated color if you prime first. So here’s the good news: There are many, many paints on the market now that have primer actually within the formula.
5. Underestimate the importance of the right — or wrong — tools
I got very caught up in newfangled painting tools for a while, only to find a lot of them didn’t live up to the hype and weren’t worth the extra money I shelled out. Later down the road, I realized my money would have been much better spent on the right tools. This means paying a little more for better-quality tools, like brushes that won’t leave visible stroke marks when the paint dries or rollers that soak up so much paint they lead to a million drip marks.
6. Neglect proper prepping
Obviously this includes using the aforementioned painter’s tape. There’s more to it than that, though — if you want the paint job you do to last and look decent, you’re going to want to put in some legwork. That means cleaning the walls (paint adheres better to a clean surface), filling in any nail holes and sanding down any particularly rough spots. And always, always remember to buy a simple lead paint testing kit before you get started on any major paint project.
7. Pick the wrong finish and/or amount of paint
Once you’ve finally nailed down the color of paint you want, it’s easy to think your paint-picking job is done. That’s not entirely the case, though, since you still need to pick the right finish or sheen. This is important because certain finishes are much harder to clean and highlight imperfections. As a general rule of thumb, high-gloss paint is easier to clean and holds up well, but it will show flaws in your walls. Flat or matte finishes hide flaws but are much harder to clean. Eggshell and satin finishes fall in the middle of that spectrum. After you determine which is best for the space you’re painting, make sure you get enough paint for the job — sometimes differences in batches are perceptible.
More: Which handy tool are you?
8. Let anyone scare you away from a color you really love
As long as you understand you may one day have to put in some more blood, sweat and tears to cover up that paint color you love so much, don’t be bullied out of picking a paint color you had your heart set on. We had several people question whether the dark greige we used on our bedroom wall would be too stark in contrast to our coastal-hued home, but we forged ahead and haven’t regretted the decision since. The best part about paint is that it isn’t permanent if you don’t want it to be.
This post was sponsored by The Home Depot.