Painting Rules

At 8 am on a Saturday morning, I found myself standing before the paint chip selection at Lowes, holding a floor tile from my bathroom and two very different colors of paint. The first, a sandy tan color, blandly matched the tile and the second was a deep bluish-plum color. I did what anyone else would do in my vague state of confusion—I called Hallgirl1. She answered the phone, her voice thick with sleep. “What color should I paint the bathroom?” I asked. “A muddy tan color or a deep plum?”

“The tan will look dirty. Paint it purple,” she murmured and our conversation was finished and my decision made. I bought a gallon of the purple for the lower half of the wall, as well as a light silvery lilac for the upper half and ceiling to compliment the darker shade.

Although my home has fairly colorful walls (golden yellow in the living room, foyer and hallway, beige in the dining room, red and white in the kitchen, etc.) I have actually painted only one of the 10 rooms and two hallways in my home. This is because I am a horribly sloppy painter. I drip paint, smear paint, splatter paint—I have committed all kinds of carnage with paint. Painting is definitely not a talent of mine, but is a skill both daughters have picked up over the years as of result of me saying, “Oh, let’s paint the ___.”

As a result of my skills (or lack thereof), it’s been a few years since I’ve painted a room. However, today after I lugged home my two gallons of semi-gloss, I quickly recalled a few rules of painting.

  1. “If it looks like it will spill, then it will. You should not balance the roller pan of paint on the edge of the sink and think, “Oh, what are the chances it will fall?”, because it will fall. These odds will not work with playing the lottery, but they will work when the pan of paint falls on the floor (and not into the sink).
  2. Ladders should not be placed in the tub. Even if you need to reach the furthest corner of the 10 foot ceiling, you should never put the step ladder into the tub, not even only two legs of the ladder. Not even if there are the anti-slip flower decals in the bottom of the tub. They will not prevent the feet of the ladder from shifting in a challenging manner as you are climbing onto the top most rung of the ladder with a wet paintbrush in one hand and a pan full of paint in the other.
  3. Regardless of how much newspaper is put down under the paint can, it will not be enough. You will only realize this, however, after the paint has oozed down the side of the paint can and under the edge of the newspaper. Also, chances are good that the newspaper you do put down will be the one you have yet to read. You will only notice this though as you are cleaning up and the newspaper is covered with paint.
  4. Do not walk and paint the ceiling at the same time. You will step in the paint tray, even if you think the full paint tray is on the other side of the room. Looking at the ceiling and the roller on the end of an extension pole while walking is never a good idea. It is an even worse idea when there is a paint tray involved.
  5. There can never be enough clean up rags. Even if you have every single rag in the house within immediate reach, you will need to use the good bath towel to wipe paint off your foot so you do not track purple paint across the bathroom floor (see rule number 4).
  6. Wet paint sticks to all pets, including black cats. It will also stick to your ass as you back into the still wet wall while trying to refill the roller brush with more paint. It will also somehow mysteriously stick to the front of your hair, although you will never be quite certain how it got there. You will only realize that you have paint stuck to your hair after you have run to the grocery store because you have absolutely nothing to drink in the house, and the grocery clerk looks at you “funny”. This leads us to rule number 7…
  7. It is impossible to stay as clean as the people on HGTV when they paint. You will have paint crusted under your fingernails, hidden between your toes and sneakily stuck to your elbows. If you wear glasses, they will have tiny freckles of paint adhered to them. The tee-shirt you are wearing will from now on be known as your “painting shirt”. Regardless of what you use, how much you scrub, or how quickly it is treated, paint will not come out of this shirt. You should save this shirt and wear it each time you paint, as it will chart the color history of your home in years to come.
  8. Ohmygod” is not a color. These are the words that will immediately pop out of your mouth when you describe the paint color as you stand back and look at the wall you just painted and realize it is much lighter/darker/brighter than what was on the tiny paint swatch you held in your hand when you choose the paint color. Most likely, you will use these word again when you exit the room, then come back in. For the next few days.

Advice given to me by a friend whose husband is a painting contractor - apply lotion generously to all exposed skin surfaces before even opening the can of paint. In my experience, it really does help the paint come off without applying sandpaper to your skin.

I feel your pain. I recently finished painting my living room and still have not figured out how I got paint between my toes and in my hair.

Drop sheets over everything.

Never latex over oil.

Don’t over-apply.

Cut and feather edges before rollling.

Ceiling before walls before trim.

Clean brushes with wire brush and spinner., and clean rollers with cuurved edge and spinner.

Any rules for painting the exterior? We need to do that this week and are in the process of pressure-washing.

is glad he just uses Photoshop…

I’ve learned that you get more even paint coverage if you do not drink beer while painting.

I don’t know, indecisive. You haven’t seen my bathroom, and I was completely sober…

The words for us were “Isn’t that a little bright?” as we painted all of a house except the three bathrooms over the course of a 3-day weekend. (The bathrooms were left unpainted on the grounds that doing anything to interfere with access to toilets when there are 11 people in the house counts as cruel and unusual punishment.)

The two rooms that first appeared to be a little too bright were the living room, where a faux finish had been planned to cover it, and the computer room which was supposed to be Post-it Note Yellow but actually turned out rancid Highlighter Yellow. We used some of the leftover cream/glaze stuff from the living room to mute the computer room’s walls.

Something we definitely learned painting that weekend–buy paints that you can tell apart. We weren’t sure there was much difference between the color of the primer, the color of the new ceiling paint, and the color of certain bedroom walls(Where Sis-in-law didn’t go a little bright, she barely budged off white. It would be interesting to see what colors she’d pick now, if she could start from scratch 4 years later.)

  • Don’t be afraid to use well-intentioned relatives, unless you know them to be sloppier than you are.

  • If one of your well-intentioned relatives is sloppier than you, he or she can make sandwiches to Feed The Painters.

SIL’s remark on the day that she finally allowed Li’lbro and me to help paint, and Mom to handle lunch: “Wow, that went so much faster!”

Ten years ago I painted my entire apartment. I never realized how absolutely huge that place was until I had to drag brushes and rollers over all 11,456,682 square yards of the place.

I picked out a nice color for the bedroom trim. It was this rich, deep, manly plum color. Mui Macho. But when I applied it, it turned out – I swear – purply pink. It was the color that gay farmers paint barns. But at $30+ per gallon, I was sticking with it.

Fortunately, my then-GF got me some curtains that made it work.

Paint (indoors) barefoot. That way you know when you’ve stepped in it and don’t track it all over the house. Got that one from somebody here and it’s stood me in very good stead.

Wait for it to dry before you decide you hate it. It may be a completely different color.

Oh, PS - when deciding on paint, get a little thing of the color you want and some posterboard. Paint the posterboard and hang it up in the room you’re painting for a few days. Look at it in all kinds of light. Then, cut a bit of the posterboard and take it in and have them match it - don’t trust the color as the chip claims it to be. You’ll avoid doing paint you don’t like, although the effect of having it be all over a huge wall will still be there. That’s how I did my house and I’m very happy with the (bright) colors.