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  • Writer's pictureKevin Peterson

Ultimate Guide for How to Paint Your House (On A Budget)

Painting your home can be a rewarding Do It Yourself (DIY) project and can transform your space with a fresh look. However, it’s important to recognize that painting, while not brain surgery, can be tedious and time-consuming. Compiled here are expert tips to help you achieve a professional finish with ease.

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How to paint your house on a budget


1.  Key Considerations Before Starting

Here are seven questions you should answer for yourself (and for your significant other!) before you start. 

  1. How much free time AND energy do you have? How’s your back? 

  2. How perfect does your paint job have to be in order to consider it successful?

  3. How high are your ceilings? I.e. will you need ladders or scaffolding?

  4. How much trim is there? 

  5. Do you have anything that should ideally be sprayed, like louvered doors? 

  6. How long will it take you to do? Add 20% however long you think in your head. 

  7. Can you afford to hire someone? (tips to hiring a good contractor below)

2. Prep Like a Pro

Proper preparation is key to a flawless finish. Before you start painting, ensure your walls are clean, dry, and free of dust or grease. Use a broom to clear out hard-to-reach dust and cobwebs in the corners of the ceiling. Vacuum baseboards and window sills with a hand-held vacuum or bristle attachment, then run a wet cloth over these areas. Using a large cellulose sponge and a solution of water mixed with a few drops of mild dishwashing liquid, clean the walls to remove any dust, dirt, and grease. Wipe down the walls with a damp cloth to remove soap residue.

3. Invest in (or Borrow) Quality Tools

Your paint job is only as good as your brush. High-quality brushes and rollers make a significant difference in the outcome of your project. Good tools provide better coverage and a smoother finish. Don’t forget a sturdy ladder and a paint tray with liners for easy cleanup. Consider using an extension pole to make it easier to refill your paint roller and cover your wall more quickly. Also, buy an edging/ceiling floater for precise work and consider caulk for the trim to achieve a polished look.

However, if you are on a budget, find the supplies from the last time you painted, or borrow from a neighbor or friend who recently painted. (They probably won't need the supplies any time soon, and you can promise to return them good as new.)

Best Brush to Paint Trim?

The brush you choose depends on the size of the trim and also on the type of paint. Generally, painters prefer a 2-2.5 inch angled brush for trims.

Should You Buy / Borrow a Spray Gun?

The quality and finish you get out of painting with a spray gun are much better than any paint job. However, its limitation is the skill and the prep, which eats up into the time. You may have to mask or tape the painted walls and floor to prevent overspray. A spray gun can be ideal for painting a room where the electrical fixtures and floor are yet to be installed.

A roller can leave behind drips and swipe marks, however careful you are. Use a roller on larger surfaces like the walls.

The brush is the better and also the classic option when it comes to trims. It is easier to paint without leaving brush marks; however, brush strokes may be a sign of better workmanship, especially in higher-end designer homes.

4. Choosing the Right Paint

Did you know that both Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams have more than 100 shades of white among them? 

Paint has a firm expiration date so reusing it can be challenging. Selecting the right paint is crucial. For walls, use an interior latex paint with a finish that suits the room’s purpose—matte for living spaces, satin for kitchens and bathrooms, and semi-gloss for trim and doors since it helps to stand out from the flatter wall surfaces. Choosing a paint color can be fun, but make sure to take home a sample can and paint a small area on your wall. 

PRO TIP: Observe the color at different times of the day and in various lighting conditions. Some companies, offer peel-and-stick vinyl swatches, so you can test without painting your walls. 

Once you've chosen your color, make sure you buy enough. The general rule of thumb is one gallon per 350-400 square feet.

Calculate Wall Space

  1. Measure the wall space that needs to be painted and use a paint calculator (Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, Behr) to determine precisely how many gallons of paint need to be purchased.

  2. If applicable—for a large, open-concept space, for example—consider buying paint in bulk to save even more money.

  3. A little extra leftover paint isn't a bad thing—it can help cover holes or dings later on—but a lot can be challenging to store in the right conditions, and it expire. Plus it can be difficult to dispose of responsibly. Do you have extra paint? Dispose of using the following links if you live in San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Alameda County, San Francisco County, or Contra Costa County).

PRO TIP: Painting over a dark color, new drywall, or a stained surface? Priming is essential. Primer provides a uniform base, helps the paint adhere better, and enhances the final color’s vibrancy. Pour primer into a lined paint tray, brush the corners and edges with a 2-inch angled brush, and roll the primer onto the wall in sections until fully covered. Follow the manufacturer’s drying instructions.

PRO TIP: Applying two coats usually provides the best finish.

5. Master the Technique

How to Paint Perfect Corners?

Saturate the Corner and Stroke Outward

Press the tip of the brush to the wall, shimmying it into the corner for full coverage. (It's fine if paint gets on the adjacent wall—you're going to paint that spot next.) Then brush outward a few inches. Create a stack of about five overlapping strokes. Redip the brush as you go, if needed.

How to Eliminate Brushstrokes?

Dip the brush, then run it over the short strokes in a long, perpendicular stroke to even out the coverage. Later on, the roller will smooth any remaining jagged edges. When you've finished one section, repeat the process on the adjacent surface, gradually working your way around the corners of the room.

How to Paint Perfect Walls?

Use the “W” technique for rolling paint: create a large “W” on the wall and then fill it in without lifting the roller. This method helps distribute the paint evenly. For brushing, use long, smooth strokes and don’t overload the brush with paint. Start with the corners and areas the roller won't reach, extending out 2 to 3 inches from windows, doors, and moldings.

How to Paint Smooth Walls?

Unintentional textured pattern left in the paint by the roller can ruin your smooth wall look, especially if you have no texture on the wall.

Ways to avoid this are to ensure that your paint is brand new and at room temperature before trying to use it. If it has been sitting out in a vehicle or in a shed in the cold for an excessive period, it will not adhere correctly.

Also, use a roller brush with a lower nap, i.e. 1/4" nap. Using 3/8" or larger nap equals more texture.

How to Paint Perfect Trim?

Dip no more than an inch of the angled paint brush into the paint and wipe away excess. Use short stokes to cover a few feet of the trim. Then, smooth the section of freshly painted trim with one long stroke. Repeat this trim-painting technique with another section until all trim is painted.

How to Paint Perfect Doors?

Paneled door? Begin by applying paint to the inside of the top panels. Smooth out the paint, working with the grain. Coat the recessed areas first and then the faces of the panels. If the door has a vertical center stile, paint this next and then blend in the brush marks from the center stile when you paint the horizontal rails.

Flat door? If you are going to paint a plain, flat door, use a foam roller to roll on the paint and use an angled brush to paint the sides. You want to make sure you leave no roller lap marks. To remove any lap marks, roll a lightly-loaded roller over the wet coat of paint to smooth.

PRO TIP:  The best way to paint your interior doors is by using a paint sprayer. This will lead to a smoother finish with no brush strokes, drips, or runs. Most doors are not completely flat. Painting any kind of inset design by hand without making a mess can be very difficult, even with a foam roller.

Which to Paint First - Wall or Trim?

Paint the trim first when:

Paint the walls first when:

  1. You are planning on taping. Paint the trim first, and then you can tape them when painting the wall.

  2. You are cutting in and do not want to bother with a tape.

  3. The room is still under construction. You can save time by painting the trims first.

  1. You are in a hurry to paint the room.

  2. You aren’t sure about the wall color. Buy yourself time by painting the walls first. If you change the wall color, later on, you may have to change the trim too.

  3. You have help with painting. While it’s easy to paint the walls first with extra help, the trims need attention and skill.

How to Paint Perfect Ceilings?

When painting smooth ceilings, the best strategy is to roll parallel with the main source of natural light, such as a big window, as it helps prevent roller lines. If you roll perpendicular to the dominant light source, the roller lines can form a slight shadow. The same applies when spraying.

PRO TIP: To avoid lap marks, maintain a wet edge while painting. Work in small sections and blend each new stroke into the previous one before the paint dries. This technique ensures a seamless finish. Peel off the painter’s tape while the paint is still wet (ideally about an hour after you’ve finished painting) to avoid accidentally removing any dried paint along with it.

6. Apply Multiple Coats

One coat is rarely enough for a professional look. Plan for at least two coats of paint, allowing ample drying time between each. A latex-based paint will feel dry to the touch in about an hour and be ready for a second coat in four hours. An oil-based paint takes six hours to feel dry, and you should wait a day to apply a second coat. This ensures even coverage and a rich, consistent color.

7. Clean Like a Pro

Proper cleanup is essential for maintaining your painting tools and achieving a professional finish. Here's how to clean your paint brushes and buckets effectively:

  • Rinse thoroughly: Immediately after use, rinse brushes and rollers under warm water until the water runs clear.

  • Use soap: For latex paints, use mild soap and water. For oil-based paints, you'll need a solvent like mineral spirits.

  • Store properly: Store brushes with bristles upright and rollers flat or hanging to maintain their shape.

BONUS: Tips for Beginners Learning How to Paint

  • Start Small: Try painting one room, ideally a small bedroom, as a trial run. This will help you gain experience and make future projects easier and faster.

  • Paint Order: For a quick and efficient session, follow this order:

  • Ceiling: Paint the ceiling first to avoid overspray on walls. Make sure you have a roller frame to avoid arm fatigue.

  • Walls: Once the ceiling is dry, move on to the walls with at least two coats. Do not forget to prime the problem areas.

  • Baseboards: Use painter’s tape over painted areas before doing the trim.

  • Window and door frames: These are part of the trim and should be done next. Make sure to caulk and fill the dents and holes before painting.

  • Doors: Tackle the doors last, using a sash and roller for panel doors.

Budget-Friendly Tricks:

  1. Share Painting Supplies: Borrow or find painting supplies from friends or neighbors to save costs.

  2. Calculate Wall Space: Use a paint calculator to avoid buying too much or too little paint.

  3. Invest in Quality Paint: Higher quality paint might cost more but will require fewer coats.

  4. Use a Primer Only if Necessary: Sometimes self-priming paints work well enough without a separate primer.

  5. Pick Popular Colors: Using the same color in different rooms or for trim can save money by allowing you to buy in bulk.

  6. Prep Right: Proper preparation can prevent mistakes that could cost you more time and money.

  7. Paint Carefully: Take your time to ensure a smooth, even finish and avoid the need for costly touch-ups.

How to Hire a Painting Contractor?

If you decide that painting isn’t for you or you’d rather leave it to the professionals, here are the top 10 questions to ask a potential painting contractor:

  1. Are you licensed and insured?

  2. Can you provide references?

  3. What’s included in your estimate (e.g. labor, materials, number of coats)?

  4. How many coats of paint are included?

  5. What type of paint do you use (and why)?

  6. How long will the project take?

  7. Do you offer a warranty?

  8. Will you handle prep work?

  9. How will you protect my furniture and floors?

  10. Can you provide a written contract?

Painting doesn’t have to be daunting. With the right preparation, tools, and techniques, even a novice can paint like a pro. Remember, patience and attention to detail are key to a beautiful finish. Enjoy the process and the fresh new look of your space! Happy painting!

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