An expert’s approach to interior painting for a professional-grade finish
BY LINDA BARNARD
Ask the pros what gives a DIY paint project a professional look and they agree: success is in the preparation.
No matter how excited you are to transform your space with a bold accent wall or the newest neutral, surface prep is 95 per cent of the job, says Nita Stanyer, who works in the paint department at Bay Street Castle. That prep includes a light sanding between coats.
“It’s a way nicer finish,” she says. “The difference is night and day.”
Stayner knows what she’s talking about. She not only helps people navigate every step of a DIY painting job, but she has also renovated her own home.
Professional painter Nicholas Callow, who runs Nicholas Alexander Painting with partner Ilze Callow, has worked on décor projects for notables, including Prince Charles and Princess Anne. He says proper prep means ensuring wall surfaces are clean and any damage or defects have been filled and sanded flat.
“In fact, give the whole wall a light sand because quite often it will pick up imperfections,” says Callow. “It’s quite daunting for a lot of people but the truth of the matter is they can get a 50 per cent better job just by investing that extra hour in sanding.”
Callow recommends using a pole sander. You can pick one up at any hardware store. Round sanding heads do a better job than rectangles.
After each sanding, Stayner advises wiping the walls with a dry cloth to remove dust and debris.
Picking your paint
Stayner says a lot of people come into the store and don’t know where to start.
“Start with the colour,” she tells them.
She also encourages people to ask questions and can teach them how to compare colour brightness to pick the right shade. She then sends them home with paint chips and tells them to take away the ones they don’t like to narrow down the options.
Callow uses drapes, cushions and furnishings in a room for clues to the right palette. Matching isn’t always the best plan, he says. Sometimes contrast works best.
“The most important thing is sample, sample, sample,” says Callow, recommending people paint half-metre-square swatches around a room before making a final decision.
Stayner agrees. Don’t do testers, she says. Instead, buy a litre of paint and see how it looks at different times of day on each wall.
Another decision is sheen, which determines durability and how the paint reflects light. The same hue of paint can even look different depending on the sheen.
Freelance interior designer Stephanie Balda works in sales for both the trade and DIY customers at Benjamin Moore retailer Pacific Paint. She says for kitchens, bathrooms and trim, go with washable and durable pearl, satin or semi-gloss sheens. For a bedroom or living room, choose flat or matte paints for their depth of colour and rich-looking texture.
She’s not surprised to learn Callow says his go-to matte is Benjamin Moore’s Aura. It’s hers, too. And both the matte and eggshell sheens are washable.
“I have it in my living room. I love Aura — it’s fantastic,” she says, adding that because it is a thicker, fade-resistant, self-priming latex paint, one-and-a-half coats will get the job done. She explains that after the first thicker coat, the “half” is just to fill in any gaps.
For kitchen and bath, Callow favours Modern Emulsion by deluxe British manufacturer Farrow & Ball, which he calls the best paint on the planet, adding that it requires some experience to apply.
“You must be fairly brisk with it,” he says.
Almost time to paint
Once the prep work is done and the paint and good-quality brushes and rollers are purchased, the painting can begin. Choose a day and time you can focus on it.
“There are no coffee breaks until you get to the corner,” says Stayner, who advises “maintaining a wet edge.”
In other words, don’t paint the edges all around the room and then go back with the roller.
“Cut in with a brush and roller after that,” says Callow. “Cut one wall, then roller it.”
And remember, you’ll be looking at these walls for a long time.
“It’s an important decision and it’s an important investment if you’re going to be living with it for 10 or 20 years.” Callow says.
Plan ahead and take the time to do it right, and a well-painted room is a DIY project that will make you proud.
Quick tips from the pros
Know your surface
To paint a light colour over dark, Stayner says you’ll likely need a primer. If you live in a heritage home, check your walls for oil paint. Test by using a cloth or cotton pad soaked in good-quality acetone. If the paint comes off, it’s latex. If the paint sticks, it’s oil and you’ll have to wash the wall and de-gloss with sandpaper before priming.
Measure the walls to buy the right amount of paint. Read the instructions on the paint can, which tells you how much drying time is needed for sanding between coats.
Get crisp lines
Painter’s tape is the secret to straight crisp lines on a DIY paint job. Balda recommends the Frog Tape brand for the edges. “It’s a little more expensive, but the product speaks for its expense.”
• Use brushes with natural bristles for oil paints.
• Use synthetic bristles for latex paints.
• Best brush width for cutting and trim: 50 to 65 mm
Use the right roller
The more texture on the surface, the deeper the pile should be:
• Smooth drywall: 6 to 10 mm pile
• Ceilings: 13 to 15 mm pile
• Brick and stucco: 15 to 30 mm pile