Home Improvement: Everything you need to know about painting walls, Vertical Stripes, Paint tools, and a little Crown Molding

Okay, back to our Home Improvement series.

In the last post we talked about finding your own style and figuring out the vibe and colors you want for a room. The biggest point being: PAINT IS CHEAP. If you choose the wrong color, don’t gripe and continue living with it for the next two years! Just pick a new color and repaint! Yea, it’s a pain. But a few hours (and $30) later you’ll be very glad you did it.

I’m sure you’re sick of seeing the same before and after shots (sorry).
But here we go again. We’re starting with this boring white room. And actually, it’s not really white! But that’s something we’ll talk about in a bit.

Here’s Lucy’s bedroom BEFORE (you can see her complete make-over HERE):
And here’s the AFTER:
And here’s what we’ll talk about today:

* Paint Brands and Finishes
* Primer?
* Painting tools and prep
* Paint Brush vs. Paint Gun

* Creating vertical stripes on a wall
* Crown molding and window moldings

I love colors, I love white, and I love paint. And since I’ve lived in 7 different homes in the past 10 years, I’ve had plenty of walls to paint (and repaint if I got bored).
Using color on walls adds so much character to a room. You just need to look at your space and figure out what want you want. There rules are….up to you. It’s your house!

I’ve painted rooms light and airy:
rich with red:
in deep browns:
and all sorts of stuff in between. Too bad I can find more photos of our previous apartments. You’ll just have to imagine.

When deciding on a paint color, a few things to think about:

* Do you want the entire room painted? Or will you being doing one accent wall?
* What do you want on the ceiling? I’ve always left mine white. But I’ve seen people paint it with color and it looks beautiful. Or remember this striped ceiling?
There are no limits here.
* What size is your room? Painting a small room in a dark color will make it feel smaller. Try painting just one accent wall instead.
* What is the natural light like in that room? Painting a dark room with a light color will make it feel brighter.

Now head to the store, browse the shades, and pick out some paint.
I’ve used a variety of paints and only have a few preferences. Paints range from really cheap (about $12/gallon at Walmart) up to $50+ at a nice paint store. The prices also vary depending on what finish you get (flat, semi-gloss, egg shell, satin, etc). We’ll talk about that in a moment.

Avoid real cheap paint. It just isn’t worth the savings. It takes longer to dry and will often feel slightly sticky for months (or years) afterward. Also, the people at Walmart aren’t skilled in Paints and it’s a real pain to get anything mixed.

I usually buy paint at the nearest home improvement store: Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc. These stores often carry a “house brand” of paint (Glidden at Home Depot and Valspar at Lowe’s). Both brands have a variety of color choices and paint well on walls and furniture. Sometimes a can of Glidden can have a funky smell. But there’s no rhyme or reason to it, so I still use them.

I also like Behr brand, found at Home Depot. It costs slightly more than Glidden but there’s a wider range of colors and the paint dries beautifully.

And lastly, most paint stores have an “oops” section where they sell paints that were mixed incorrectly for very cheap, about $1-$5. The downside is that you’ll never be able to find that same shade again if you need more. But hey, for a buck you can paint a dresser or chair! I always check the Oops section first. If your paint store doesn’t have one, ask them at the counter. They may not know there’s a demand for it. I’ve done this before and the lady sold a me messed-up gallon for $1.

Paint comes in FIVE basic finishes:

* FLAT – Dull, matte look. NO shine. Flat paint is usually a few dollars cheaper than the others.
Use for: WALLS in bedrooms, living space, offices (my preference for WALLS)

* EGGSHELL – just like the shell of an egg! Slight sheen, but not shiny.
Use for: WALLS in bedrooms, living space, offices

* SATIN– smooth velvety look with a bit of gloss to it. Holds up well to some light cleaning, so it’s great in kitchens and bathrooms
Use for: WALLS in Kitchens, Bathrooms and TRIMS on windows, doors

* SEMI-GLOSS – More shine than Satin; a great choice for Trims and kitchens/bathrooms. Wipes up well.
Use for: WALLS in Kitchens, Bathrooms, TRIMS on windows, doors, and FURNITURE. (my preference for WALLS, TRIMS/DOORS and FURNITURE)

* GLOSSY – very high shine/gloss. Not widely used.

Paint also comes in: INTERIOR and EXTERIOR.
The names are just what you think: Interior is for indoor projects; Exterior is for outdoor projects. Exterior paint costs a bit more than Interior and has a few added ingredients to help it weather well. However, if you have a can of Exterior paint and need to do an interior project, go for it! No sense in wasting good paint or buying more. I’ve painted indoor furniture with the left-over Exterior paint from our front door and it worked fine.

Stains or Crayon Marks on your wall?
If your house has little kids, it’s likely that one of them has colored on the wall with a crayon. Solution: a quick spray with 409 and light scrubbing usually takes it off, especially on Satin or Semi-Gloss paints. But I’ve gotten it out of Flat paint before too! Of course, if you’re spending an hour trying to scrub something off then try something even easier….just paint right over it. I do this trick quite often. Just brush a little paint over your stains and they’re gone!

This is the one thing I’m picky about. We live in a fairly new home; a cookie cutter, suburban, blah kind of place. And two things that drive me crazy in these kind of houses are curved edges and DULL “white” paint. I’m not sure why the builders pick this off-white paint but it’s on everything….the doors, the walls, ceilings, windows. And it’s so drab to me. You might think I’m crazy, so here’s the proof.
Dull “white” walls with ULTRA WHITE paint going over the top. Quite a difference, right?
I really like a bright white pop against color, especially on moldings and doors. So little by little I’m repainting the white parts of our house. When we put new baseboards or moldings in a room, everything gets a new coat. It’s so refreshing:
My favorite white paint is BEHR brand, Ultra Pure White. I usually have two cans hanging around the house: FLAT (for the walls) and SEMI-GLOSS (for molding, doors, and furniture). Valspar sells a similar white called ULTRA WHITE and it’s great too. I used it for all the trim and walls in Lucy’s room.
Though I’m going on and on about Pure White here, I usually don’t paint ceilings and actually leave them as-is, in the dull white.
Here’s why…

Ceilings are often a bit more shadowed than walls with the angle they’re at. In our kitchen we replaced lighting fixtures and thus, had to repaint the ceiling. So I used Ultra Pure White and I honestly can’t tell much difference between the kitchen ceiling and the living room ceiling next to it. And since painting a ceiling is a pain, I just leave it alone unless it really needs some help.

What is it?
Primer is a pre-coat of paint that goes on before your normal paint. It helps paint adhere better to your surface and increases durability. It’s usually white or gray and feels a little different than wall paint. Some paint brands sell a slightly more expensive version of their paints with Primer already mixed in. Behr has a very nice color selection of these paints. If you’re ever in doubt about which Primer to buy, ask someone in the Paint department of your store.
Is it necessary?
As you know by now, I like projects with the most direct route possible. If I can skip steps and still get great results, I do.
So, here’s when I use primer:
Unfinished wood furniture? YES
Light-colored painted walls? NO
Dark-colored painted walls? Probably. I should but I don’t because I’m antsy; I just want to start painting! I can tell though that my red and brown walls are a bit uneven in spots. I’m probably the only one that notices it but even after a second coat of paint, it’s not as even as it should be.

So, I only use primer on furniture re-do projects (which I’ll talk about in another post). Decide what works best for you. If you’re meticulous with projects, Primer is probably your thing. If you’re antsy like me, just skip it.

Unused paint should NOT be thrown away in the trashcan. Contact your city or Hazardous Waste Department and find out what they recommend.

Here are a few sites that offer helpful info for different types of paints:

Okay, Phew! We’re half-way there. Still with me?

To summarize so far, here are my preferences:
* Flat Interior for most walls.
* Semi-Gloss for walls in the Kitchen and Bathroom, all moldings, doors, and trim, and furniture.
* One coat of paint for walls and then touch-up little spots with a paint brush later….unless there are too many uneven spots. Then I do a second coat.
* Use ULTRA PURE WHITE for all moldings, doors, trim, and to repaint dull-white walls.
* Primer for furniture projects.
* Don’t paint the ceiling unless it really needs it.

Okay, let’s talk about paint tools and then we’ll start painting!

You don’t need much to paint walls or furniture. In fact, you’d be fine with just a brush and a can of paint. But there are a few tools that make the process a little easier. And each time I tackle a new project I like to try a new item to see which tools I like best.
Tools you NEED for painting walls:
* Paint Tray
* Paint Tray LINER. These are the best invention ever. For 60 cents you line the paint tray and then toss the liner when you’re done. No cleaning. Brilliant.
* Paint rollers and roller brushes. Don’t reuse old roller brushes. You can but it’s a pain. They take forever to wash out, they never come clean enough, and they’re a bit crunchy after they dry. So just toss the old one and use a new one next time around.
* Edging piece – these are great for painting next to baseboards and ceilings. When using these, I often don’t tape off the trim or the ceiling. Of course it takes practice getting the right amount of paint on there without pressing it too hard against the wall, or the paint will ooze out the bottom and onto your baseboard. This is bit difficult with textured walls since you need to press hard enough to get everything in the wall grooves. So, sometimes I do end up taping off my baseboards and using my edger.
This simple flat brush slides on to the edger and the wheels on the bottom move up into the edger as you slide it along the ceiling or baseboard.. I often wash and reuse these brushes; they clean up just fine. But they’re cheap to buy as well.
Use them around moldings:
and next to baseboards:
* Drop cloths, plastic, or old bed sheets to drape over furniture and carpet. This is a must. Hardwood floors wipe up pretty easily when paint drips but carpet will never be the same. So protect your area!
* Painter’s tape – I’ve tried the blue stuff and the highly recommended green Frog Tape. I can’t tell much difference. But you’ll need some for taping off walls and trim.
* Paint brushes – I used to buy those cheap foam brushes. Bad idea. They’re poor quality and break easily. It’s best to invest in a nice paint brush, about $9. My favorite size is an angled, 1 1/2 inch brush. I also have a 3-inch brush for larger projects.

I go back and forth on this often. Do I use the gun or do I just pick up a brush? Which will give me better results? Which requires more cleaning?

When we started home improvement projects last year, we bought a paint gun. There are a variety on the market. We went with this cheap guy for $15 because we weren’t sure how much money we wanted to invest. Most guns require an attached compressor. We had one for our nail gun, so it worked out fine.
You can find much more detailed info online about Paint Guns. This is just a quick summary of my preferences. So far we like our gun. It’s not great but it’s fine for our needs. I’ve used it to paint base boards, moldings, doors, and furniture.

Paint Gun PROS:
* Even and beautiful coats of paint – no brush strokes. A gun is also great for furniture with lots of spindles and places that are hard to get to with a brush.
* Easy to do once you get the hang of it
. It takes a while to figure out how much pressure works best with your gun, how direct the paint should be, etc. The first time I used our gun I did a quick coat, since it looked like everything was painted. I thought everything looked great! Then we put it up to the light and it was super splotchy and uneven. Now, I spray each area for longer and I usually look at the glossy reflection of the paint to tell how even my spraying is.

Paint Gun CONS:
* Set-up. You’ll need to cover everything around you, or hang up drop cloths to create a painting area, or spray outside. I used the gun for our yellow crib and we’re still finding bits of yellow on everything in the garage. Whoops.
* Paint mask. I don’t like wearing these but it’s so much better when I do. When you’re in a confined painting space, a simple mouth/nose mask is a good idea.
* Washing the gun out when you’re done. THIS IS A MUST. You can let the gun sit for a bit if you’re waiting for a coat to dry so you can spray again. But if you wait too long, paint can get stuck and dried in your gun and it never works quite the same way. Of course, for $15 you can just buy another gun!

Have you ever watched an HGTV show and seen them painting effortlessly around a door trim with a simple brush (without taping it off?) This used to baffle me. Then one day I bought a 1 1/2 inch angled, quality brush and started practicing. And what do you know, it worked! It takes a while to get the hang of it, but you can do it! I can now free-hand paint around a door frame or touch-up things here and there. No more cheapy foam brushes. Invest in a good quality brush and take care of them for future projects.

Paint Brush PROs:
* Simple. A brush is always ready to go!
* Minimal clean-up. It’s important to clean out your brushes when finished. Make sure you get everything out or they will never bend and paint quite the same way. Use a hose or turn your faucet on high and push the water right up into the brush bristles to make sure all the old paint comes out. Cleaning a brush is easier than cleaning a paint gun.

Paint Brush CONs:
* Visible strokes. This isn’t always the case but if you’re worried about strokes, a Paint Gun is a good alternative.
* Takes some practice for detailed painting around moldings.

Okay, let’s start painting!

* Using painters tape, tape off any areas that you don’t want painted, or make lines where walls join together, etc. I hate curved edges and textured walls in my house because it makes this much more difficult. Do your best to make straight vertical lines where needed.
* First do the edging around baseboards and near the ceiling. Use the edging tool for this or tape off with Painter’s tape and use a brush.
* Use a roller brush to fill in the rest!
* If one coat looks great, you’re done! You can touch up little spots with a paint brush when the first coat is dry. If the paint looks uneven, do a second coat.
One wall down:
If you’re adding Crown Molding to the ceiling, you don’t need to be as careful with your painting. No need to worry about edging here:
If you have existing baseboards in a carpeted room, they’re easy to repaint. Just tape them off, pressing the tape as far as you can down into the board. Then paint the boards and pull up the tape when you’re done. I was surprised at how easy it was.
A few more small painting tips….

* If you think you’ll be doing a second coat of paint on the room, don’t clean up twice! Place your paint tray and roller brush in a plastic trash bag and tie if off. The paint and brush will stay wet for a few hours till you’re ready for the next coat:
* Don’t paint your nails right before a big project.
* Keep a pair of painting clothes. These used to be cute pants from Old Navy. They quickly became painting pants when I brushed up next to a freshly painted white cabinet.
* Home improvement with kids can be hard. Let them help where they can!
Or at least peek in on you from time to time.
Okay, ready to mix it up?
Let’s paint vertical stripes.

* First, Paint your wall the base color. In our case we did ULTRA WHITE, flat paint.
* When everything is dry, measure the wall, figure out a good width for your stripes, and divide it up. My stripes are about 5 inches wide.
* At the top of the wall, measure and mark between each stripe.
* Then, to make sure your stripes are straight, hold a string with a heavy washer or piece of metal at the end at the top of each marked spot (this is a two person job). Using a pencil, make periodic marks next to the string all the way down the wall to the baseboard. This will make it much easier to lay your painter’s tape.
* Following where your markings are, tape down your stripes.
Notice that some stripes look wider than others. This is because the tape goes on the edges of every OTHER stripe. Okay, this is next step may seem odd but it’s necessary to prevent bleeding if you have textured walls. There are various methods to do here. I’ll show what we did and what others recommend.
Okay, when we’re done with our wall, the accent stripes will be gray. But no matter how great you tape off the wall, gray paint will seep under the tape and into the wall texture. So before painting gray stripes, first paint the stripes with the SAME color that you just painted on the wall. In this case: paint WHITE stripes right on top of the white wall. This allows the white to seep through first and then you can paint Gray on top of it.

* Do a thin line of caulk next to each tape stripe to seal off the stripe. Use clear if the walls/stripes are colored or white if the stripe is white.
* Paint the edge of each tape strip with clear nailpolish to seal it off.

(Note: I used a paintbrush here because I’d forgotten I had a small roller brush – which I used in the next step. A brush or small roller work fine for stripes.)
When you’re done, your wall should look like this:
And funny enough….this week on the Design Star Finale, Emily shared a similar process for painting pin stripes on a wall. She also talked about painting the base color over the stripes first to avoid bleeding. For pin-striping she used 2 inch painter’s tape, leaving very small gaps in between. What a cool effect!
Okay, when the white-on-white stripes are dry, use a small roller brush to paint the next color on top. We used a semi-gloss gray paint (the white was flat) to create additional contrast. Another idea for doing stripes is to use the same color of paint for all the stripes but alternate with flat and semi-gloss. Very subtle, very cool.
When it’s dried, peel off the tape!
A little paint still seeps through, but you can easily touch it up with a small paint brush.
And, you’ve got stripes!
Okay, one final thing to talk about: Molding.

Molding is general term for using wood to build a frame around windows, doors, and walls. Crown Molding is a molding that’s angled from the top of the wall to the ceiling; kind of like a crown.
Molding can be as simple or ornate as you like. It’s a beautiful touch to a room and gives a nice accent to a colored wall. I’ve also seen molding painted in rich tones like black, gray, or brown and contrasted with a light-colored wall. There are many possibilities.

For real tips on molding, I recommend purchasing a simple how-to book. Home Depot has a great selection of DIY books for about $15. Every time we’re tackling a new project or technique, we buy one of these.

But in a nutshell, here’s what you do….
Measure your moldings pieces, cut them at angles with a miter saw, paint them, nail-gun them to the wall, putty off the visible nails, caulk the molding to the wall, and touch up with paint where the nails were!
Then follow a similar method for framing your windows:
The first time your try this, it will take longer than normal to get the angles just right. But the more you mold the house, the faster you’ll get and soon you’ll have it down to a science.

Working as a team with a spouse or friend is very helpful here. In our house, I’m always the painter and my husband is the carpenter. This way we each have a role and can provide input without one person overpowering the other. Of course I probably have more opinion on the matter than he does so he’s a good sport and usually smiles and nods. Thank you honey.
Little by little we’ve added Crown molding to each repainted room in the house and new trim around the windows. One day every room will be finished. And then we’ll have a real before and after tour for you!
Until then….
Congrats! You made it to end of my longest post ever!
Hopefully you learned a new tip or two. Or at least you have a place to direct your friends when they ask you about painting (and you don’t feel like spelling it out).

Next post: Painting and re-doing furniture, with before and after pics.
And then we’ll talk about artwork.

Okay, break.

  1. Hi Dana! We just recently moved back to the states and I can’t wait to start painting our new home! I love the color of your living room. What’s the name of that paint color?

    • 2) S. Lee

      Hello, did she ever reply with the name of the paint color? Can you please post it. Thanks

  2. 4) ashley

    Thank you! We recently purchased a home and will be painting soon. I also wanted to add molding around windows and crown molding. šŸ™‚
    I love all the work you’ve done!

  3. 5) Tristina

    My red paint is uneven, even after my second coat!
    What do I do? How can I fix this?

    • 6) Andre

      With different shades of red you must use a grey primer first for the undercoat primer. If you do not do this your red will never look right. Red paint is very translucent. Paint Bases for strong colors are often that way. Certain colors need specific primer colors. But only a few. Bright yellow and orange must have a white underbase. Red and dark purple must have grey. For everything else we like to tint our primer towards the finish color. This doesn’t cost more to have it tinted, but you can waste a bit of paint doing this if your doing small areas.

  4. 7) Brenda Skavroneck

    I am painting a 10×10 room that is used as an office. It is very well lit and has a french door opening and then a extra wide door opening entering into the main room and kitchen of the house. I have painted 3 of the walls sour apple green. And will also be adding crown molding and chair railling. I am at a stopping point of what to do. This is where my question lies. Do I paint my last wall an accent color of China Doll White? Or paint it the same green? The molding, chair railling, and baseboards will all be white. This room is used as an office, so has a loveseat, desk and two bookcases of darker wood. So, it is not crowded with furniture.

  5. 8) S. Lee

    Hello, your work is lovely.

    What are the paint brands and name of the grey, blue and green that you use. That blue is amazing!

  6. 10) Brett

    This site is a great help to me! I’m looking to start painting and to be quite honest I need all the help I can get. I really appreciate the neatness and in-depth guide of this blog.

  7. Hi, There’s no doubt that your website could be having browser compatibility problems. When I take a look at your web site in Safari, it looks fine however when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other than that, wonderful website!

  8. 12) Jill Britt

    What technique do you use to paint molding? Every time I try I end up with very noticeable brush strokes.

    • 13) Dana

      I’ve done it with a paint gun and with a brush. And I think a brush is easier and yea, I sometimes have strokes too but once they’re up on the ceiling, they’re not that visible.

  9. 14) tyrik

    good job i love your website.

  10. 16) elaine

    i love your creativity! seems like you are practical so i’m asking advice. to paint a piece of furniture can i use baseboard paint? what is “magic” about baseboard paint that it is made for baseboards?

    • 17) Dana

      I’m not sure what you mean by “baseboard paint”? Are you referring to the finish?
      Paint comes in different finishes….eggshell, semi-gloss, glossy, etc.
      Typically baseboards an trim are painted in an eggshell or semi-gloss….which are wonderful to use on furniture as well!

  11. 18) Alicia

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I was looking for some general information about painting and your post was just perfect. Keep up the good work. And thank you for sharing your hands on experience and knowledge.

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    Do NOT use exterior paint inside. Anywhere. No matter what anyone says, whether or not you “have a little left over that you don’t want to waste”, it is not safe. Exterior paint is designed for exterior use for a reason, and is much higher in VOCs and all sorts of chemicals specially designated for outside use. Not the type of stuff you want inside your house. If exterior and interior paint were interchangeable then they would just have one kind of paint, not two specific types. It is not safe, and I recommend removing that comment off your post/site before it causes any issues.

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