DIY painting: 5 time-saving tips

Consumer Reports News: September 21, 2010 04:50 PM

There's a glimmer of hope in the gloomy housing market. Practically anyone can "remodel" the home they're in with a new coat of interior paint, even if it's just one room at a time. That's helped make paint sales a bright spot for big-box stores, and they're running sales on top paints from Consumer Reports' latest tests.
Some time-saving tips from the Paint Quality Institute, an industry trade group, can help get you through the prepping, taping, paint-rolling, and cleaning much faster. Some of the biggest work-savers:

The right prep. Drop cloths made of canvas or—yes—actual cloth absorb paint better than plastic sheeting and minimize the risk of tracking spilled paint into other rooms. Scrub all the surfaces you'll be painting with a sponge and mild household detergent solution before going to the paint store; that gives them time to dry while you're out buying the paint.

The right tools. These include a well-balanced 3-inch angled paint brush with synthetic bristles, which are best for latex paint and "cutting in" corners and walls. U-shaped roller frames tend to be firmer and apply paint more evenly. Short-nap roller covers (1/16- to 1/4-inch deep) are best. Disposable roller tray liners also ease cleanup when you're done.

The right paint.  Turns out the best latex interior paints in Consumer Reports' latest tests—the ones that hide best with one coat, go on smoothest, and stand up to stains and scrubbing—are also among the "greenest." That means just 50 grams per liter of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) versus the 380 grams once common in the most-used, low-luster paints. One well-known brand topped all three categories of interior paint we tested. See Consumer Reports free paint buyers' guide  for more on choosing a good paint (Ratings available to subscribers).

Smart taping. Applying specialized, low-tack painter's tape around the edges of the areas you'll be painting makes for a speedier and neater job. Unlike masking tape, painter's tape won't tear away the finish when it's removed.
Savvy application. Paint the ceiling first—then the walls, windows, trim, and baseboards. That keeps just-painted surfaces free of paint spatter or drip marks. Start ceilings and walls by "cutting in" a corner section with a paintbrush, then applying a 3-inch band of paint around the edge to let you quickly fill in the area with a paint roller. Repeat that process in 3-foot increments. And apply paint liberally: Trying to stretch your paint by applying a thin coat often means you'll need a second coat for proper hiding.

Be sure to check out more tips from Consumer Reports' in-house painting experts. And if your home was built before 1978, be aware of the new federal rules on lead-paint abatement.

—Gian Trotta

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