How to Paint a Wall

Painting a wall: the basics

Nothing beats the satisfaction of completing your own renovation product and admiring the finished product. Following these guidelines will help you avoid calling in a professional to paint your walls, saving you money in the long run.

How to Paint a Wall

Paint walls before you do the skirting and other wooden surfaces (but after you have done the ceiling).

  • You can apply latex paint directly to new plaster, but it's best to cover old plaster with lining paper first, or apply a base coat of primer. You can paint over old wallpaper, but the results won't be the best. Test an area first to see that the paper doesn't bubble or come away from the wall.
  • When using a roller to apply paint, work from top to bottom in horizontal bands about 50 centimetres (20 inches) wide. When painting with a brush or a paint pad, work in areas about 50 centimetres (20 inches) square, and use a combination of diagonal, vertical and horizontal strokes.

How much is enough?

Calculate how much paint you'll need

Most paint cans indicate the area that the contents can be expected to cover. Bear in mind that you'll have to double the amount for a second coat, and bare plaster soaks up paint like a sponge, so the first coat on a fresh wall will require more paint than the can suggests.

  1. Calculate wall area: height × width (using the same measurement, e.g. metres, for both).
  2. Add ceiling area: length × width (if using colour on the ceiling).
  3. Subtract area of doors.
  4. Subtract area of windows.
  5. The result is the total area to paint.

Always add a little to the total figure — better to have some paint left over than run out mid-job.

The right paintbrush

Select paintbrushes and rollers

Buy the best brushes you can afford. Cheaper ones cover less well, and the bristles tend to fall out and get stuck on the surface you're painting. You're likely to need a number of brushes in varying widths — you should have a set of four at least. Natural bristle brushes are not suitable for painting fences and synthetic brushes are better for applying latex paint to walls. Paint rollers take much of the effort out of painting latex on walls. The synthetic pile type is good for most jobs. Invest in an extension pole to paint ceilings or the high parts of walls, and a little roller for painting behind radiators without removing them. You can also hire "power rollers" that use a pump to feed paint to the head so you don't have to stop to reload. Edging tools are a real timesaver.

By following these basic guidelines for painting a wall, you can enjoy the satisfaction of doing the job yourself.

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