Life hacks: House painting

If you’ve driven past a DIY store in the past few weeks, you’ll probably have seen dozens of people queuing round the edge of the car park, patiently waiting to get their hands on materials for a home makeover.

We’re spending so much time within our four walls, it’s no wonder we want them to look smart and stylish. But if you’re new to decorating, and don’t know a plumb bob from a mastic gun, those aisles can be pretty confusing places.

Never fear, we’ve tracked down a tame decorator, made him a strong cuppa (three sugars please, mate) and sat him down (on a dust sheet, obviously) to tell us his trade secrets. Here’s what he said.

Start from the top
Ignore people who tell you they do the woodwork first because that’s how their dad did it. The correct sequence is ceiling, cornice, walls, woodwork.

Pop the caulk
Fill all your joints first. We’re not talking knees and elbows here. Grab some decorator’s caulk and fill all the joints in your woodwork, or the joints between woodwork/cornice and walls, smoothing the way for a better finish. Give it at least half an hour to dry before painting.

Sugar, sugar
As long as your walls are relatively clean and stable, they probably only need a quick dust and sand down. You only need to use sugar soap if you’ve removed wallpaper – you’ll have to get rid of all the old paste thoroughly before you paint.

Fill any holes with powder filler – ready-mixed filler is OK but takes longer to dry. You’ll only need to use lining paper if your walls are particularly rough and ropey.

Tackle your knots
If your woodwork hasn’t been painted before, make sure you buy knotting solution to paint the knots in the wood. Tedious, but you’ll kick yourself if you don’t and the resin oozes out, making a big brown stain on your skirting.

Don’t be coarse
When sanding down existing paint on woodwork, don’t be tempted to just grab the first sandpaper that comes to hand. Use a coarse finish and you’ll tear the old paint and give yourself an even bigger job. You want to be looking at 120 grit – or finer. The higher the number, the finer the paper.

Get your brush match-ready
It’s always worth paying for a good quality paintbrush – and you’re probably going to need a 2” brush for your cutting in and a 1” brush for your woodwork. Buy cheap and you’ll find yourself picking bristles out of paint all day long, so invest in good brushes. To prep for action, slap a new brush against your hand several times, flexing the bristles backwards and forwards. Loose bristles will work themselves out and you can just pull away and discard. Also give it a rinse before you set to work.

Edge before beauty
Lots of people excitedly roller the emulsion on the walls and ceiling and then go round ‘cutting in’ (painting the edges carefully with a brush) afterwards. Wrong! Cut in first and you’re less likely to see brush marks when it’s finished.

The easiest way to get a straight line is to commit. Apply the bristles close to the edge, twist the brush slightly so the bristles are under control and paint! Be confident and quick – the more you dab and stab at it, the wobblier your edge will be.

Avoid the shine
Silk paint (with a bit of a sheen to it) will show up every lump and bump. If your walls or ceilings aren’t perfect (and whose are?), go for matt emulsion. Think of it as Spanx for your home, flattening and flattering the bits you want to hide.

To wash or not?
There’s no need to wash your roller or brush every night (talking of rollers, go for a medium pile one every time). If you’re carrying on the next day, with the same colour, just wrap your tools in clingfilm to stop them drying out.

The same is true for the paint tray. Simply scrape any excess emulsion back into the pot and pop the lid on. Leave the tray somewhere it will thoroughly dry overnight – preferably near a radiator. If it’s dry in the morning, you can just start using it again but if it’s still wet, it will flake and peel into the fresh paint.

When you do wash your brushes at the end of the job, use cold water only. Hot water reacts with the chemicals in emulsion and turns it gloopy.

If you’re using oil-based paint for your woodwork and you’re planning to do a lot, simply keep your brush in a jar of water, making sure the bristles are fully covered. It’ll be happy like that for months.

How are your decorating skills? Have you used lockdown for a spruce up? Whether the results are dreamy or disastrous, we’d love to see your pictures.

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Photo by David Pisnoy on Unsplash