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How to Paint Your House (Part Three) Putting on the Paint

Updated on December 2, 2014

The Painter Prepares

A painter must prepare themselves as thoroughly as he/she prepares the substrates to be painted. They should gather the appropriate tools for the job:


-Hat and/or gloves

-Scraping knife

-Trim brushes

-Roller frames and covers

-Mixing paddles

-Drip rags

-Spray Equipment

-Drop cloths

-Putty knife


-Dusting brushes

-Paint and paint bucket

-Masking tape

-Roller tray

-Solvents and cleaning materials

Also, here are some not-so-obvious items:

.,. An extension handle for the paint roller can be worthwhile, saving time from climbing ladders, stooping, craning and reaching .

.,. A bright work light. Dim lighting is sure to cause missed spots and mistakes .

Simple clamp on lights can do the trick.

The items used for common paint applications remain fairly standard, while there are some cases in special applications where other items will be recommended . It is a good idea to ask the paint manufacturer or dealer if there are special conditions.

Staying Healthy

Painting is pretty safe if you pay attention to three things: Don't fall off the ladder; wear goggles to protect your eyes when painting a ceiling or over head surfaces; and, be aware of toxic fumes. With all the conflicting reports these days, who knows what fumes are toxic, so to be safe, have plenty of cross ventilation in any interior rooms being painted. It is particularly important to have good ventilation when using alkyd and oil-based products, stain-killers , de-glossers, paint strippers, etc. There are disposable respirators available that cut down on the paint smell, however, they are not adequate protection from toxic fumes or paint spray.

Applying the Paint

Before giving specific instructions for each type of applicator, there are three simple steps that will assure the finest, smoothest paint films regardless of the applicator:

1. Paint Distribution - The more paint on the applicator the more will be applied, so it is best to start out in the middle of the area to be covered.

2. Fill in the Area - Once an area has been established, fill it in by spreading out uniformly in all directions to achieve equal thickness.

3. Finish the Film - Also called "laying-off" it is the smoothing process, where the applicator is used in one direction assuring uniformity and maximum smoothness.

Spreading Rate:

A gallon by volume of a 100% solids paint contains 231 cubic inches and when spread 1600 square feet results in a dry film 1mil (.001 inch) thick. Spread over 800 square feet the film would be 2 mil thick; 400 square feet - 4 mil thick. This may be interesting, but all you have to do is look at the label on any paint can and it will have the recommended spreading rate, usually in the range of 400 to 450 sq ft. per gallon.

Proper Application:

Roller: Load the roller and apply the paint in a V pattern to about two square feet of surface. This will distribute the paint, then fill in the area with upward and downward strokes. Finish by rolling in a single direction, then reload your roller for the next section and repeat the process, overlapping the previous section to make sure there is adequate coverage. Always apply even and consistent pressure when rolling or brushing, avoid excessive pressure or over-brushing. Always start in a dry area and work towards a freshly painted one.

Brushes: The following are a few practical tips on the use of a paint brush: 1. Whenever possible, hold the brush handle perpendicular to the painting surface. 2. Press the brush hard enough against the surface so that it is flexed at a point 1/3 to 1/2 of the filament length away from the tip. 3. Whenever possible, paint back and forth (side to side) rather than up and down. This will allow better flow-out of brush marks and a smoother final film.

Dip the brush about 1/3 to 1/2 the filament length into the paint and lightly wipe or tap to assure maximum loading with minimum dripping. Start in the middle of the area you are going to cover and paint to one side. Paint in the opposite direction, across and above; then across and below to both sides. The filled in area can be cross brushed if desired and laid off.

Many painters use a brush for trim work only. In this case the fully loaded brush should paint near the trimming edge but about 1/4 to 1/2" away. This procedure removes excess paint from the brush so that accurate trimming is possible. The brush is carefully used to cut, or trim into the corner, picking up the paint that was placed near the trimming area.

Pads: A pad can be loaded from a standard roller tray or specially designed pad tray. Float the face of the pad in the paint and then, very lightly, wipe off excess paint. Make an X to distribute the paint. Then fill in the area by spreading horizontally, always pulling the pad. Finish by smoothing the area with a downward motion. Reload and repeat in an adjacent area, lapping back into the previously painted section

Spray: Sprayers are tricky and take practice. It is best that the equipment be rented ahead of time so that you can become familiar with its operation. Spraying should be done in even sideways sweeps. It is preferable to complete one sweep, covering an entire area, then overlap the next sweep working from top to bottom. Make sure that the paint spray is not held in one spot, or the paint will build up, drip and cause the coating to be uneven.

Interior Painting

Getting Ready

Paint is messy stuff and there are few things as frustrating as having it drip all over surfaces that have just been coated or that are not supposed to be painted at all. Before starting to paint either remove or protect everything in the room. Take down drapes, pictures , mirrors , switch and receptacle plates and all hardware . Cover all furniture and floors with drop cloths. Loosen light fixtures or cover with masking tape. Also, mask all glass in windows , french doors, etc.

All dust and dirt should be removed before and during the paint job, using a vacuum cleaner. A damp rag can be used to dust woodwork, window sills and sashes .

Since we have already discussed proper surface preparation it is assumed that such procedures have been performed and that the surfaces are ready to paint.

Applying the Paint

Where to Start: If the ceiling and walls are to be painted, do the ceiling first. Start in a corner and "cut in" (apply a 2" strip of paint) where the walls and ceiling meet.

Ceiling: Use a ladder or long handled roller and work out from the first strip of paint preferably on the narrower side. Avoid spinning the roller or going too fast and remember the three part process; roll the paint onto a section, roll in the opposite direction to spread out and even the paint, then lightly roll in long strokes to minimize roller marks .

Woodwork - Trim: Woodwork should be painted before the walls and then "cut in" around the edges where the wall and woodwork meet. Use the same three step technique; apply plenty of paint, brush in the opposite direction to spread the paint evenly, and then smooth out brush marks. After about 10 minutes, check for drips and sags then brush them out. Paint woodwork from the top down, i.e. ceiling moldings first, then windows and doors, and finally baseboards.

Windows: Make sure that the glass is masked, this is time consuming but unless you are an expert and have a steady hand, it will give you straight paint lines without

the roller, apply in the three step process with upward strokes, always working from unpainted to painted areas and finish off with light cross strokes. It may be easier to tape off areas around doors and window frames before painting. If tape is used, care should be taken in removing it so as to not mar the already painted surface.

Cleaning Up

Paint is toxic waste and it should be treated as such. Don't pour it down the drain or throw it into a landfill. Paint can leach into the ground water, so let paint cans and used rollers dry hard before throwing them away.

Keeping Tools in Good Condition: Painting tools and accessories can be used again and again by taking a little extra time to clean up at the end of the day. First, wipe all excess paint from the brush or roller onto a newspaper and let the newspaper dry before discarding. Then clean brushes, rollers and other tools with soap and water if a latex paint has been used. For oil-based paints clean with paint thinner or mineral spirits which can be saved for reuse.

Left Over Paint: Any left over paint should be kept for touch-up work later on. Air trapped inside the can when covered can cause a skin to form, but this can easily be removed and the paint underneath utilized. To provide the best seal and minimize skinning, place a sheet of thin plastic wrap or other light plastic under the lid before replacing. Make sure that as much paint as possible is removed from the grooves around the rim, so when the lid is pounded down tightly, paint does not spatter.

Care & Washing

Wait at least two weeks after applying the paint, before washing. Then, wash surface dirt and marks with a mild liquid detergent and water. Apply with a soft cloth or sponge, then rinse with clear water. Penetrating stains and marks can be removed either by using a solution of household bleach in water, or carefully using an abrasive cleaner and water. Excessive use of abrasive cleaners, however, will result in premature paint failure.

Exterior Painting

Exterior painting has always been a chore that most people dread. The problem has little to do with the painting itself, but more with the preparation. It takes a lot of time and energy, often involving pitched battles with wasps, bees and other annoying creatures. But, it is a chore that has to be done to both protect and enhance the appearance of the building. Whether wood, brick, cinder block or siding, the best way to start is with an inspection tour. Check where painting problems are most likely to occur such as; window and door frames, bases of columns, steps, siding, down spout and under eave areas. In short check anywhere that moisture is likely to collect. If there is excessive peeling, cracking has spread over a large area, removing all the paint is recommended for a lasting job. Spot removal is appropriate if the paint is only partially degraded; scraping plus feathering would be sufficient in such a case. A power sprayer or sanding machine can be used on larger areas to make short work of what would appear to be a daunting task.

Again, the details of substrate preparation have been discussed, so let us assume the building is prepped and ready for that coat of paint. However, it is a good idea to remember and cover all bushes cars and other objects that are in proximity to the working area.

The Fun Part: As with interior painting, make sure that all appropriate tools and equipment are ready. Be sure the right paint has been selected and to stir the paint thoroughly. If the surface is flat or stucco, apply the paint around doors, window frames, under eaves only in the area in which you are working. Then, starting at the top, work down to ground level. Use the three step method with a roller or brush, using upward strokes and always from unpainted to painted areas. Finish off with smooth, even strokes. The best time to paint an exterior is during a relatively dry time of day, when the temperature is above 40°. Do not apply paint in high humidity, excessive temperatures or in direct sunlight. Some latex paints can be applied in varying conditions but generally the rules apply.

Lap Siding: Siding is the most visible part of a paint job, so it is crucial to avoid uneven paint application and lap marks. First, if at all possible, paint in the shade so the paint won't dry before getting back to the wet edge. Second, do not paint in arbitrary 4 or 5 ft. wide vertical sections. Instead, wherever possible, paint all the way across, from one natural break to the next. If there are no natural breaks proceed across the entire width of the house. Paint only as many courses of siding as can keep a wet edge at all times. Work from the top of the house down. For those who are right handed it will be more comfortable working from left to right. Moving across, paint the narrow bottom edge of the siding first, then face it. This same rule applies when painting soffits, fascia or vertical siding. Painting from natural break to natural break will avoid lap marks and changes in color density.

Wood Shingles: Lap marks are less of a problem with shingles, since the edges, more or less, create their own breaks. Still an even consistent paint covering needs to be applied to avoid a blotchy look . Painting from break to break is still a good idea. Make sure there is plenty of paint on the bottom edges of the shingles since these are very porous. Edges left un-painted can lead to warped or cracked shingles.

Porches, Floors and Steps: These structures are generally made from either wood or concrete, factors which should be kept in mind when choosing paint. Also, they are in high foot traffic areas so the paint must be durable. They should be prepped according to the surface material. It's best to apply the paint to the sides of the steps or porches first, especially if there is continued foot traffic. Once ready to paint the top surface, make sure it is free of dirt, grease and wax, then start at the top of the steps and work down. For a floor or porch, work from the interior doorway to the exterior, unless there is another exit available. This will prevent being "painted into a corner" as the saying goes.

Fences: The easiest way of painting a fence is using the Tom Sawyer method, convince friends that it is a fun and exciting job and have them do it. If however, they cannot be persuaded, here are some tips to make the job as easy as possible.

Wooden Fences

Once again the fence has already been prepared and it is ready to paint. The best bet, especially if it is a large fence, is to use a sprayer. Paint one side of the fence at a time. If it is open and the spray flying through the fence will be a problem, staple a clear polyethylene film on one side while the other is being sprayed. Let the first side dry, then switch sides. Avoid windy days, try to work in the shade and when the temperature is mild to moderate.

Chain- Link Fences

For this type of fence it is best to use a long-napped roller. A roller with a nap of about an inch is ideal because it can reach in and around the wires, making quick work of an otherwise tedious job. Naturally the fence must be clean and free of oil and grease. The paint should be any good coating formulated for use on metals . While aluminum paint is widely used, if the fence is to be less conspicuous, a darker color would be better. Green is good against foliage. Black is another good choice. Whatever paint is chosen , it should be applied according to label instructions. Things go quicker when one person paints one side while the other does the opposite. Working with an extension or broom handle eliminates the use of ladders. Use the paint roller to paint the fence frame as well as the fence. If the long nap leaves more texture than desired, go back with a brush and smooth the paint out before it dries

How to Stain

Mixing The Stain

Open the can and pour off some of the stain into an empty container. Stir the remaining stain with a paint paddle, mixing in a circular motion from the bottom up. Then gradually pour back the stain from the second container and continue to stir. For proper color uniformity, intermix (BOX) all containers of the same color. Open additional cans as needed, mixing them with previously opened cans. Pour contents back and forth several times . Mix stains well before using and during application.

Applying The Stain

Outside temperatures should be 55°F and above for at least 12 hours after coating with a latex stain. If the surface is wet, let dry two or three days before staining. Do not apply oil stains before dew has evaporated or immediately after a rain. Since different woods "take" stains differently, always test the stain first on the same kind of wood to which it will be applied.

Start on one side of the house away from sunlight, and follow the shaded side around the house. Apply liberally, covering one small area at a time. IMPORTANT: keep a wet edge to avoid lap marks. Work in the direction of the siding and generally follow the same formula used to paint the house with a regular coating. Do not stop in the middle of an area; try to work edges or corners. Apply from unpainted to wet.

Cleaning Up

As with an interior painting job, proper clean-up and disposal of waste is part of the process and needs to be given particular attention here because it is much more likely that toxic materials will be used on the exterior of a structure rather than on the interior. Make sure that paint brushes and rollers are scraped clean first before washing or cleaning with solvents and save the solvents for future use.


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    • handymanbill profile image


      3 years ago from western pennsylvania

      Great job explaining how to paint. I learned a few things from reading your article.


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