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Interior Painting Tips for the Do-It-Yourselfer

There is no simpler or more inexpensive way to dramatically change the look of a home than with a fresh coat of paint. Following a few basic rules can help the do-it-yourselfer steer away from amateur pitfalls and achieve a clean, professional look.

Choosing the paint: It can be hard to envision how an entire room will look painted using only the tiny colour swatches issued by painting supply stores. Hold the swatch against different spots of the wall you will be painting and observe how the colour looks in varied lighting conditions. When dealing with dark or bold colours it may be best to choose one shade lighter than the colour you like best on the swatch. Once you have settled on a colour, buy a small can and try painting several small patches around the room before you paint the entire wall. This will give you one last chance to back out before you commit to this colour.

Latex or oil-based (alkyd): For most interior walls use latex paint for its ease of use. Latex paint washes off brushes and hands with soap and water. A primer coat is necessary when painting on a bare surface. Areas exposed to a lot of moisture (such as kitchens and bathrooms) and areas subject to a lot of bumping and scratching (baseboards and cupboard doors, for example) should use a more rugged oil-based paint. A solvent is required to clean oil-based paints from brushes and skin.

Preparation: Before painting interior walls, the surface has to be prepared. Fill any dents or gouges in the drywall with spackle and sand away bumps and glossy areas. A layer of paint should be applied to newly filled areas. After sanding, the wall should be thoroughly washed to remove residue and any dirt or grease that might inhibit the paint from adhering. A priming paint is also recommended for better adherence and uniform coverage.

Electrical covers, light-switch plates, door knobs and door stops should all be removed. If furniture cannot be removed, it should be moved to the middle of the room and covered with a drop cloth to avoid damage from errant paint splatters. The floor should also be protected with a drop cloth. Areas that you wish to keep free from paint (such as windows) should be masked off.

Ventilation is important. Open windows and run a fan to help dissipate noxious paint and solvent fumes.

The tools: A roller works best for quickly applying an even coat to flat surfaces. Use a brush or an edging brush to fill in areas the roller cannot reach. Wait for one coat to dry before applying another (drying time can be found on the paint can). Some other tools and items you may find useful: an extension handle for the roller brush, a lot of rags, a paint scraper, an edging tool, a stable stepladder, masking tape, a painter's cap and a disposable paint tray liner.

The process: There is a proper order to painting a room. For best results:

* Ceiling,
* Walls,
* Windows,
* Doors,
* Trim, and
* Baseboards

Using a brush, paint a two-inch wide strip in areas where the roller will not reach (such as corners and near trim). Using the roller paint an "M" or "W" pattern with your first stroke and then proceed to fill in the gaps in between. Before applying a second or third coat be sure to read the drying instructions carefully as drying times vary between paint brands.

Be sure to clean your painting tools immediately after use. Wait at least two weeks before attempting to wash the freshly painted area.

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