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9 Mistakes to Avoid When Painting Your Home

9 Mistakes to Avoid When Painting Your Home

Painting any room of your home is one of the easiest ways to change things up. It can make a BIG difference in the look and feel of a space, and it’s also fairly inexpensive.

You can save even more money if you do the painting yourself. If you have the time and patience, it can be a great project…

If you commit any of these common mistakes, however, you might be doing more harm than good!

After more than 26 years in remodeling, I’ve seen hundreds of projects and thousands of homes. Most of the projects I’ve been a part of have been done entirely by our team, or by us and the sub-contractors we know and work with.

However, there are the occasions where we come in for a facelift instead of a remodel, or a pull-and-replace appliance swap…and THAT’S where I’ve seen the lasting impact of these common DIY paint mistakes.

To help you avoid these common mistakes on your next color transformation, I’ve put together a list of the gaffes I see the most. Use this as your “primer” education before you get started!!


1: Walls aren’t repaired properly before painting

Getting those finicky repairs done across the whole surface of a room can seem daunting, but you need to be sure you’re working with a surface without any cracks, holes or nail pops if you want a perfect coat of paint.

Here’s how to repair a simple hole:

  • Where you do have holes in a wall (because there will always be some), sand away the flaking paint around and inside of it, then use a finger to apply a drop of spackle paint. Press firmly into the hole.
  • Then, let the spackle paint dry, and sand it again.
  • Then, continue on to prime and paint!

Water damage is something to take care of in this stage, too, or your paint color will never come out even. This means being sure of the source of the water damage, too, so you can fix it if it’s still an active problem.

Otherwise, you’ll waste all your hard work with the new paint and just have to fix it later and paint again!


Clean walls first to avoid this kind of bubling2: Not cleaning surfaces before painting

Cleaning your walls before painting is just part of the process you have to accept. All the dirt and grease build-up can cause your new coat of paint to bubble.

Here’s how you clean thoroughly:

  • First, vacuum the room and dust the walls.
  • Then use a damp cloth to rub off any marks. (Hello, crayon!)
  • For any greasy surfaces, especially when painting your kitchen, use trisodium phosphate to clean it off.


Woman selecting color for wall3: Choosing a color that’s just…not right

Once you paint a space…you’re stuck with that color, at least for a while! This makes the color of your paint selection that much more important.

Making the right color selection is more complicated than you might think, though.

Picture it…you have a collection of little papers from the hardware store. You feel pretty confident you’ve found the right color among them.

Take that swatch now and TAPE IT TO YOUR WALL. You will need to see how that color looks at dawn, noon, and dusk.

You also need to tape another swatch to a different wall at the same time. Each wall will look different based on how the light gets to that wall. A wall facing a window will show your color differently than a wall running perpendicular to the window…

Paint selections are about more than just color, too.

If you’re struggling to select a color in the first place, check out these three paint colors that will NEVER go out of style


Too much brushing4: Over-brushing when applying paint

Brushing is the “good thing” when we talk say “too much of a good thing.”

Yes, you want nice, even brushstrokes!

You also want more than one coat.

…At the end of the day, that means a lot of brushing. There IS, however, such a thing as “too much brushing.” Level your paint application off with just a stroke or two (or three, if you must), especially when painting:

  • Woodwork
  • Doors
  • Cabinets

Take note of this now! Too much brushing will cause nasty brush marks and ridges.


5: Painting over popcorn ceilings without testing first

Aah, the familiar popcorn ceiling. This is one of the hardest surfaces to paint, not just because of its texture but because it’s a ceiling!!

Before you paint over popcorn-texture ceilings, be sure to test paint a small section, because the color on the swatch will change dramatically as light bounces off this uneven surface.

You’ll lose a little ceiling texture as you brush, by the way, so be sure to wear protective eyewear.


Stressed out male painting his home with space for copy.6: Skipping the primer

Primer will make your paint project go smoother and make the final job last LOTS longer. Primer helps paint adhere to the wall and also covers up darker colors of paint underneath…

If you’re painting over cranberry, hunter green, or even neon, you ABSOLUTELY need to use a primer.

You also need a primer if you have any holes repaired with spackle paint, or if you’re covering a glossy finish. (More on glossy surfaces in a minute.)

Also be wary of any “self-priming” paints! It sounds appealing to save time…but the combined nature of these products means the primer isn’t as effective as pure primer, and it WON’T replace primer in any of the cases listed above.


7: Painting over glossy finishes

If you’re painting over any surface that had a coat of glossy paint or even varnish, the paint will NOT stick.

You’ll be left with terrible-looking texture, too.

To paint over glossy surfaces, you need to:

  • Rough the surface up by sanding
  • OR wipe the surface down with a liquid deglosser


8: Painting wood without using stain blockers

There are a few specific woods that have tannins that actually bleed through most latex paint. This means you’ll lose the color you’re trying to apply!

Before painting these wood surfaces, apply a stain-blocking primer. Be sure it says “tannin blocking” on the label, too.

These tannin-rich wood types include:

  • Red cedar
  • Redwood
  • Cypress


9: Only doing ONE coat of paint

Remember, it’s all about two coats, unless you’re just repainting the same color you used before. (Snore.)

With two coats:

  • Your paint job will last longer
  • Your color will look richer
  • And the surface will be easier to clean!


…Is this whole “DIY” painting starting to feel like a lot of work?!

It is.

If you DO decide to contract a professional painter, use this article as a checklist to vet bidders. Ask each potential painter about these practices to ensure THEY don’t make these mistakes. If they do, you do NOT want to work with them, because the professionals should know better.

Keep reading to see what else you need to know when picking out ANY contractor

Painting, by the way, is one of the top 10 ways to update your home without remodeling! Keep reading here to see the rest

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