10 Steps To A Perfectly Painted Room (How To Paint A Room)

paint roll wall

Painting is a great way to breath new life into a room. This article teaches you everything you need to know to paint a room in your house. The most important part of painting is the preparation. The finished job will only be as good as the preparation you put into smoothing out the walls and trim and caulking the joints. So spend a little extra time patching, sanding, caulking and wiping the dust off and you will be rewarded with a beautiful paint job that you will be proud to walk into.

brief how to

  1. Clean the Room
  2. Protect the floors, electrical and door hardware
  3. Patch Any Holes
  4. Seal The Stain
  5. Sand and Scrape
  6. Caulk
  7. Clean the room
  8. Painting The Ceiling
  9. Painting The Walls
  10. Painting the Baseboards, Doors and Windows

Tools and Materials

  • 2" angled brush for cutting in
  • Acrylic laytex caulk
  • Caulk gun
  • 1/4" nap roller cover
  • Roller handle
  • Roller pan and pan liner
  • Putty knife
  • Spackling or other wood filler
  • Masking tape
  • Step stool or ladder
  • Plastic drop cloths
  • 36" roll paper
  • 4" drywall knife
  • Paint
  • Stain blocker primer
  • 120 grit and 220 grit sand paper
  • Sanding block or pole with paper holder

step 1 Clean the Room

Clear the room of as much stuff as possible. If the furniture is too large to move you can move it to the center of the room and cover it with a drop cloth. But the more you have cleared out of the room the easier it will be to paint.

step 2 Protect the floors, electrical and door hardware

Use the 36" roll paper overlapped or drop cloths. The pros will use masking tape to tape the paper or plastic to the floor around the edges under the baseboard. This gives a nice clean protection of the floorings and keeps any dust under the paper from coming up on wet paint on the walls.

Remove electrical outlets and door hardware, use masking tape to protect the things you leave, like a light fixture or door hinges.

step 3 Patch Any Holes

Patch any holes in wall board with spackling if small and drywall mud if large. See our article on Drywall Hole Repair for more information on fixing major holes. Do any major wall repairs and then work on the minor ones while the drywall mud is drying. Also scrape the walls with the 4" drywall knife to remove any loose paint or other bumps. Painters spackling works great to patch small dings and holes, you may need two coats with sanding in between coats to get it smooth. Sometimes if the hole is deep the spackling will shrink and cause a divit that will need a second coat. Sand with 120 grit sandpaper to take down the high spots and then finish with the 220 to get it smooth.

Patch any holes or scratches fill holes in wood trim with spackling using the same technique of taking down high spots with 120 grit sandpaper and then finishing with 220 grit sandpaper. Don't use spackle on joints between trim and the wall or trim to trim, we will deal with those with caulking later.

step 4 Seal The Stain

Seal any stains and patches with a stain blocker primer. This keeps stains from things like permanant markers from coming thru the finished paint job and also seals patches of drywall mud and spackling so the finished paint has an even texture.

step 5 Sand and Scrape

Scrape any large bumps or other debris from walls. Use sandpaper to scuff up paint with glossy finishes. The coarseness of the paper used will be determined by the existing finish.

step 6 Caulk

Caulk trim joints around doors, windows and base that have gaps in them. Caulking on the joints between the trim and wall or trim to trim allows these joints to flex and not crack; spackling will crack in these areas. Caulking is a art but you can learn how to do it with a little instruction and practice. The main tricks to caulking are first, using a little amount of it and second, to keep your finger wet and clean in between passes over the caulk.

Start by cutting the very tip of the caulking tube off so that it puts down a bead that is about 1/8" round. Once you start down a joint try to keep the caulking gun moving so that the bead does not build up. Apply caulk to one joint at a time. After the caulk is in the joint you will dip your finger in the bucket of water and then press the pad of your finger into the crack and pull it down the crack. Try to not let the caulk build up in front of your finger, if it does you probably put too much caulk in the joint or are taking too much caulk out of the joint. Note: joints that have been caulked before will require alot less caulk than newly trimmed joints. Use the damp rag wipe off your finger before sticking it back into the joint to finish. Try to pull your finger thru a full joint before lifting it, like one side of a door casing from the top of the door to the floor. In areas where this is not possible, like baseboard, you can wet your finger and continue on.

step 7 Clean the room

Clean the room by wiping the walls with damp rag from the ceiling down. Then vacuum the room using the brush attachment for the vacuum so you don't suck up the paper or plastic. The more dust you get out of the room the less chance you have of getting it in your paint job.

step 8 Painting The Ceiling

Now you are ready to paint. Start by painting the ceiling and then working your way down the walls and then the trim.

Cut in the perimeter of the ceiling with the 2" brush. Paint a 2 to 3 inch band from the wall into the ceiling. Don't be too concerned about getting paint on the walls, if the walls are a darker color, because you will be painting the wall next. Start at a wall with the shorter dimension and use the roller to overlap the cut in line by at least an inch. Then paint strips one to two roller widths wide painting from wall to wall. Then paint another couple of strips making sure to overlap the previous strips by several inches.

tip: Try to keep moving so the paint does not dry, so when you overlap you are always putting wet paint on wet paint. Thats the trick to not having a pattern showing when the paint dries.

step 9 Painting The Walls

Working on one wall at a time, cut in the wall with the 2" brush by painting a 2 to 3 inch wide band where the wall meets the ceiling. Then paint the same 2 to 3" band around the door and window trims and then the base board. Using the same technique of overlapping and keeping moving.

paint cut in ceiling

paint cut in base

Start at one end of the wall and paint in full strips from floor to ceiling one to two roller widths wide. Overlap the previous strip with each successive pass to keep the paint blending well.

paint roll wall

step 10 Painting the Baseboards, Doors and Windows

Paint the baseboards and door and window trim using the 2" brush to cut into the wall line and then a larger brush if necessary to paint the main body of the trim. Door slabs can be painted with a roller and then touch up the details with the small brush. When painting trim you want to use long even strokes that are in the direction of the wood grain. Be careful if you use masking tape over fresh paint as it may lift the paint when it is removed.

tip: Do not use too much paint when painting up to masking tape because it will often travel under the tape and cause blotches on the other side of the cut line. The technique of using a brush with very little paint on it is called "Dry Brushing".

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