Brighten up your wallsAfter buying a fixer-upper house or two, I’ve done my share of painting. I hope that some of what I’ve learned might help you the next time you decide to take a paintbrush in hand.
By: Valerie Clark, Blueprint
Colors: They can affect our mood and completely change the look of a room. The slightest variation in shade or tone can make all the difference. If you’re bored with your house and itching for a change, a simple can of paint might be all you need to get the job done.
After buying a fixer-upper house or two, I’ve done my share of painting. I hope that some of what I’ve learned might help you the next time you decide to take a paintbrush in hand.
First of all, it might be obvious, but the walls need to be clean and ready before you do anything. In the case of the last house we bought, that meant we had to do something about the nicotine stains that seeped through the paint. We learned this the hard way; I didn’t realize that there is more than one type of primer. To really seal in the nicotine, you’ll want to be sure to invest in an oil-based primer.
Alternatively, you can scrub the stains off the walls. I had good luck with a mixture I found online at ehow.com containing 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of laundry detergent and 2 quarts of hot water. Nicotine stains, begone!
Once the priming was complete it made a huge difference to the house, which had needed a bit of TLC. There’s nothing better than the bright white, clean slate that freshly primed walls provide. I’m always almost tempted to leave them as is! Instead, my husband and I chose Navajo White, a neutral, light, yellow-cream color to use throughout the house. For the kitchen and bathroom, we chose celadon, a very soothing, light blueish-green color.
We only arrived at that color after much discussion, and it’s the opposite of what I’d originally envisioned. Since we were doing the rest of the house in a neutral shade, I had my heart set on a bold, fire-engine red kitchen. The red would look great against the light brown cabinets and sand-colored floor tile!
I tried to talk my husband into this bold choice, and he agreed to let me try a few samples on for size. I cannot emphasize enough how helpful this was! Even as a veteran of several house painting projects, I’d never picked up a paint sample before. But they only cost a few dollars, and those color swatch cards you get at the paint store never really give an accurate idea of what the color will look like once it’s dried on your wall.
Anyway, I painted four swatches on the wall, one of which turned out to be alarmingly fluorescent orange, and picked out my favorite shade of vibrant red. It was only after I went to cover the samples up with primer that I began to have second thoughts. The reds were very difficult to cover up; if I painted the entire kitchen red and then I didn’t like it, I would have a lot of work ahead of me in changing it. Maybe bold and bright isn’t in my nature after all! In the end I chickened out and went with the celadon, and haven’t looked back. My biggest piece of advice? Try samples!
Also, when choosing colors, consider their psychology. Studies have shown that red walls heighten energy, while green is said to be more calming. Do some research on your favorite paint shades before committing to them.
Once you’ve chosen your colors and are ready to paint, you’ll need some basic supplies, starting with a paint roller and cover. You’ll notice the covers have different size “naps,” which indicates the depth of the spongelike material. According to Steve Marshall, owner of Marshall Hardware, the thickness of the nap you’ll want to use depends on what type of surface you’re painting. The deeper the surface, the thicker they nap you should use. With smoother surfaces, you can use a smaller nap, like a 1/4-inch deep one. Not knowing this when I bought my supplies, I learned that using a deeper nap on a smooth surface, like regular sheetrock, leads to lots of splatter. Not good.
You’ll also want to pick up a paint tray, and again, learn from my mistake. If you buy oversized rollers, make sure your paint tray is wide enough, or you could be in for a very annoying painting experience! Also pick up a small paintbrush, 3” wide or so, to do trim work and edging. Don’t be afraid to spend a little extra for a quality brush. And remember to get some drop cloths to cover up your floor and furniture.
As far as the actual painting project goes, I must say that painter’s tape is my friend. I realize that professional painters, or even amateurs with steady hands and much more experience than me, don’t use the stuff and save countless hours of taping off ceilings and baseboards. But for my skill level, that blue tape is essential. If you use it, I have one key piece of advice: DO remove the tape while the paint is still wet! Otherwise, the tape will pull off large chunks of paint from your newly finished wall, creating ragged white areas instead of crisp lines separating the ceiling from the wall.
This is especially true, I learned, with the higher-gloss paint. The eggshell finish I used in the rest of the house didn’t pull off the wall i most places, but it was really bad in the kitchen, where I used the semi-gloss type that’s meant for easy cleaning and is recommended for kitchens and bathrooms. So now, I’m left with sloppy edges in my kitchen until I take the time to fix them. For me, it will probably mean re-taping the whole kitchen and doing the edges over again!
I have also learned that there is a right way and a wrong way to clean up after painting. Marshall says much depends on whether you’re using oil-based or water-based (latex or acrylic) paint. Cleanup is much easier with water-based paint, which is biodegradable and can be safely cleaned from your brushes with soap and water, then rinsed in your utility sink. Paintbrushes covered in oil-based paint, Marshall said, can be soaked in paint thinner or mineral spirits, but definitely shouldn’t be rinsed out in the sink because this can be hazardous to the environment or your plumbing.
If you are stuck with lots of leftover paint at the end of your project, you can bring it to the WLSSD’s Household Hazardous Waste Facility at 2626 Courtland Street for free, where it will be recycled or properly disposed of. The HHW also accepts insect killers, sealants, fluorescent bulbs and more.
Valerie Clark is the public relations specialist at Goodwill Duluth. She has worked as a writer, copy editor and graphic designer at newspapers and specialty publications across the Southeast and in the Pacific Northwest, and relocated to Duluth in February 2011.