Remodeling on a shoestring: Interior painting

By Paint Quality Institute

With jobs scarce and household expenses rising, there’s a natural tendency to put your remodeling plans on the back burner. But even if your budget is tight, there’s one home remodeling project that is still affordable: interior painting.

According to experts at the Paint Quality Institute, the do-it-yourself cost of repainting a room is typically less than $100, not much more than taking a family of four to the movies and sharing a box of popcorn. Unlike a night at the movies, however, the enjoyment of a freshly-painted room will last for years.

Afraid to tackle the job yourself? You shouldn’t be. According to Debbie Zimmer, spokesman for the Institute, interior painting is one home remodeling project nearly everyone can do.

Zimmer advises that do-it-yourselfers start by visiting the local paint store to check out the color display for the highest quality, 100-percent acrylic latex interior paint.

“These paints are easier to work with, hide the old color better, and are especially tough and durable,” Zimmer says. “The fun begins by looking through the color cards and envisioning what your room will look like with an entirely new color scheme.”

If you’re the decisive type and have good color sense, you might quickly spot the perfect color for the room you’re repainting. For everyone else, it’s usually best to take a few color cards home to view them in the space you want to paint. Once there, you should follow a few time-tested rules to ensure you make the right choice.

First, conceal all the colors on the card, except for the one you are considering. By isolating the color, you’ll get a better idea of how the room will look in a particular tint or shade.

Second, evaluate the color both in the daytime and at night when all the light comes from fixtures and lamps. You may be surprised how different a color can look when lighting conditions change. (Paint colors usually look darker at night, in shadow, and on cloudy days.)

Third, take into account the time of day you typically use the room. For example, if you are painting a breakfast nook, be sure you like the way the color looks in morning light; but if you’re painting a bedroom, it’s more important that you find the color pleasing at night.

Fourth, be aware that colors tend to be much more intense on a large area than a small one. A hue that looks just right on a color card may be too dark or bold when applied to your walls. For that reason, it is often safer to move down one degree of intensity on the color card and choose a slightly lighter color.

Finally, if you’re still undecided, buy a paint sampler in the color you are leaning toward, and apply some large swatches to the walls. Live with the color for a day or two. You’ll soon know if you nailed it, or missed the mark.

Once you’ve chosen the color, interior painting is easy.

Begin by removing dust and grime from the surfaces you’ll be painting by scrubbing with a detergent-water solution, then rinsing; this will help the paint adhere better. If there are cracks, seams or nail-holes, repair them with paintable water-based all-acrylic or siliconized acrylic caulk, drywall compound or spackling paste.

When you go to paint, use good-quality brushes and rollers. They’ll apply the paint more evenly, and make the job easier. If you are applying a water-based latex paint, use brushes and rollers with synthetic bristles and covers.

Start to apply the paint by using a brush to “cut in” the edges of a section—near the ceiling or baseboards, for example—wherever there is a natural break in the wall surface. Then, begin to fill in the area by applying the paint with a roller. Apply the paint liberally in a zigzag or “M” pattern, then fill in the pattern with even, parallel strokes. For the best final appearance, work quickly to keep a wet edge on the paint.

When you’re done, take a moment to admire your workmanship. Assuming you used a top-quality 100-percent acrylic latex interior paint, the fresh appearance of your new paint job should last for years…long after the memory of even the best movie has faded away.

For more painting advice, visit the Paint Quality Institute website at or its blog at

From the June 8-14, 2011 issue

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