Why don’t we paint the town (and all that jazz)…

Since purchasing our house last November, we have primed and painted every ceiling and wall except the two bathrooms (which are just waiting their turn).  When we bought the house, both the inside and the outside of the house were painted an off white color that can be seen on the walls here:

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The first round of painting was the whole house sans kitchen and bathrooms.  It took the week in between closing and ripping out carpet to refinish the hardwood.  Thanks to a Saturday painting party, we finished!  Round two was this weekend when we repainted our main living room/kitchen area as part of the renovation.

It’s not news to say that a coat of paint can is one of the cheapest ways to dramatically alter the appearance of a room and two coats of paint can even make that room look good, as opposed to just painted by an amateur 😉 .  I’m also convinced that it is really hard to screw up painting, although I’ve proven (among others) that it’s not trivial to pick the color or the finish or the brand of paint.  This post is not about how to paint necessarily or what to buy (I liked Makely Home, Young House Love, Pretty Handy Girl for getting started), but rather what we tried and what worked and what didn’t.  There is no right answer to ‘how to paint’, perhaps my favorite part of projects around the home.

Zeroith lesson: Painting is a unique DIY task in that there is a significant upfront cost the first time you do it, but the tools you purchase the first time continue to pay for themselves as you may likely repaint again.  It’s also something that you can become increasingly more skilled at.  Neither of these two facts apply to tasks such as replacing your kitchen faucet which I hope is a one time event!  Around us, the upfront cost was on the order of $500-700 for the whole house with Home Depot Behr paint and enough supplies for several rooms being painted simultaneously in different colors (including our inability to even buy the right paint on the first try…).  The cost of a pro would’ve been over $2000 for one single color.  This weekend we spent only $140 on paint and disposables to repaint the largest area of our house buying Benjamin Moore paint at Orchard Supply Hardware, which would’ve been at least 10x that with a painter.

First lesson: Pick the color of some THING to be the paint color, like a pillow or object.  Or pick the paint color based on its compliment to some THING.  Or gather some THINGS in a pile and decide what color would go nicely with them.  Then think about how the other THINGS/furniture in the room would feel with that color.  This is even more important if you already own the things.  I learned that it is really much easier to find a paint color that you like than to find a bunch of new things to match the paint color you have isolated amongst all other equally weighted paint color.  You already need to buy the paint anyway, while chances are, you don’t want to replace all of your stuff.

I did not follow this advice the first time.  In the screw up of picking the paint for our main room, we knew we were keeping our couches, but that was about it.  The Ikea coffee table fell apart, the TV stand was in danger of being broken down by our enthusiastic puppy and we needed a chair and lamps since it was a big, dark room.  Sooo, I picked a color scheme for the living room and kitchen (brown and turquoise) based on nothing less than a dish for the turquoise.  I didn’t really want brown walls so I went with a color called hazelnut cream, expecting it to be a shade of greige although I certainly had never heard this word before.  I taped up paint chips, looked in different lights and eliminated them until we decided this one would look good.  It turns out that I had picked essentially the same color as the previous owners:

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If I had used a thing to choose, I would’ve realized that I have no THINGS in this creamy color because I hate this color!  The one exception is the couches of which I dislike the color but are so comfy and can be covered if I wasn’t too lazy.  This time around, for the blue wall, we picked Benjamin Moore’s Deep Ocean  to match some AlysEdwards tile that will accent our kitchen backsplash, neither of which shows up close to reality on the monitor.  We liked the tile, so we also like the paint.  We chose Stonington Grey by Ben Moore after comparing to Conventry Gray and Fieldstone Grey, but we wanted something neutral so we can accent with our rug and furniture and deep blue accent wall.  This color is dark enough to be obviously grey in any light, but light enough where it’s still bright and light.

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Second lesson: Buy a small sample of paint.  Paint it on your walls, checking a couple for light angles.  Wait a couple days.  This way you will realize if the paint you are buying is actually the same color as your wall!  The two trips to the paint store are well worth it.  Also, different brands of paint seem to have samples that are truer to color than other brands.  The Glidden paint chip was close to the real color in ripe apricot, but I didn’t test other shades.

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Overall, Behr (Home Depot) paint seems lighter than their samples.  But, Benjamin Moore paint chip in both grey and deep blue were very true to the paper paint sample and to the final paint color.

Third lesson: Picking a finish the first time is not a decision that should be saved until the end of an exhausting paint shopping experience.  Flat, eggshell, semi-gloss are all very different beasts and when we chose, we only had the little sample at the store to choose between and were already exhausted.  If you’ve never painted before, ask someone what is in their house to see the difference.  Here’s my handy guide:

  • Ceilings are always flat.
  • Flat paint (or Matte if the line you’re using has a Matte) is the only finish that does not have glare when light is shined on it.  It tends to hide defects or texture.  These were both proven true in our home.  Supposedly it does not clean well, but this is likely brand dependent and I cannot say I have explored them all.  There is always touch up paint stored in canning jars…
  • Eggshell is one step up.  There is definitely glare, especially in darker colors.  We bought some of this before we knew about the difference and decided to use it anyway.  It is also shiny enough to highlight texture.  Easy to clean or not, I will stay away from it for dark colors outside of bathrooms: there is annoying glare in the guest room purple (Behr in Interlude), even in daylight: 

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(we were tearing out this lovely dropcloth carpet immediately after painting)

  • Satin is one step up from eggshell.  After learning about the above effect, we abandoned all of our “easy-to-clean” satin paint intended for the living room and bought fresh.  This increased the cost of the first project somewhat.  I MIGHT be persuaded to use this on trim sometime.
  • Semigloss is what I used for that orange end table (I, II, III, IV).  It is shiny.  Definitely not going on any of our walls.
  • I used black gloss on a bathroom cabinet in our 1950s pink bathroom.  I would do it again for effect…and, frankly, I did such a bad job that it is likely that I will do it again.  Another post for another day.

Fourth lesson: Not all rollers and brushes are created equal.  The internet (see links above) pretty universally recommended Purdy-brand rollers, so we took that advice and didn’t look back.  If your walls have texture like ours, the 1/2″ nap on rollers is a good idea.  We did rinse out the rollers and reuse them to prime again after they were dry with success, but rinsing paint out is not a quick task.

Paint brushes are also quite varied.  My hand hurt less edging with Purdy brushes than Premium XL brushes, despite the supposed comfort grip.  I’m also convinced the Premium XL brush left more brush lines behind and it seems a little stiffer.  It did help me get cleaner lines cutting in, but I’m still terrible at doing this by hand.  Fortunately, my husband likes to play it safe and taped off most everything except the (not yet painted) baseboards anyway so there was room for error.  It is painless to wash out brushes and reuse them, but I find there is always a tiny bit of paint left on anyway.  In any case, I will stick with Purdy next time.

Fifth lesson: There are two classes of paint: the kind you buy at special stores and the kind you buy at Home Depot.  I already mentioned color choices above.  The Benjamin Moore paint was quite a bit thicker than Behr paint.  We used Behr Ultra Flat (plus 1 oz white/gallon) for our ceiling.  We really like how bright the white is to brighten up the room but… When we painted (and re-painted the same ceiling), we primed with Zinsser 1-2-3 primer, then had to do two coats of ceiling paint.  Even with this, we can still see some roller lines.  The paint also dripped all over us and the room, which we had tarped fortunately.

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(can you see the myriad of white ceiling paint spots??  By the way, painter’s tarp from Home Depot is NOT totally paint-proof)

The Ben Moore Regal Flat paint that we used in this recent excursion of wall painting did not drip off of the roller at all, suggesting that it is a better choice for ceilings.  Ben Moore also has Regal Matte line, but Orchard Supply didn’t carry that so we went with flat.  Behr paint sans primer is ~$22/gallon at HD, while we got the Ben Moor paint for $38/can at Orchard Supply Hardware because we had a pile of 15% off coupons for this weekend.  Neither brand seemed to have better coverage, but I’m pretty sure Ben Moore’s Aura paint does.

The strength of the smell was dependent on the paint pigment, but the worst smelling paint of all paints was actually an awesome light blue (not the dramatic colors!), Lively Tune by Behr, that we used in our bedroom:

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The Ben Moore paint didn’t smell any stronger.  All in all, we liked putting the Ben Moore paint on the walls better since it went on smoother with less dripping and like knowing the color ahead of time so we would buy again.   Hopefully it will also be more durable and washable, which is what we had in mind.  We also like that Orchard Supply is open on Sundays since we had to go back for another can!  For rooms where the color is likely to change sooner or low cost projects, I would still go for a cheaper brand.

Sixth lesson: You can use a plastic cup (flippy cup cup) to hold paint while edging.  They are easily disposed of once you are done and the leftover paint has dried.

Seventh lesson: It took us ~2 hours to put a coat of paint on the walls of these two rooms, which aren’t very big.  This was with one of us edging and one of us rolling.  It also took more time than that to tape the edges and then put paper down over our floors.  If you are good at edging you do not need to tape…but since we don’t have crown molding we will still tape the ceiling.  I haven’t been motivated enough to caulk that ceiling corner yet.

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Eighth lesson: If painting a whole house, have a paint party!  Invite people over, provide refreshments and dinner.

Ninth lesson: Even if crated during the actual painting, dogs can find wet paint.  Check the very tip of Tilley’s wiggly nose for some white paint:

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