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  • Alex Mizerski

How to paint a house interior

Updated: Jan 4, 2021

The first home my wife and I purchased was a starter home. It was a starter home that needed a TON of work. We purposefully bought it like that. We both love challenges and we both love to work hard toward a goal. This home gave us an opportunity to push ourselves and see what we could make together. The great part about buying a home that needs a ton of work is in the end you can reap pretty serious benefits.

One of the single largest contributors to our family’s net worth is the effort we put into that home and the rewards (think $$) we gained after the home was sold. In the rest of this article, you will learn how to paint a house interior.

Why paint a house interior

The painting was a big part of the remodeling efforts in that first home. We painted every inch of the house inside and out! It took us about 2 years to get it all done, but in the end, it was so well worth it. Painting the interior of a house is a cheap and fairly easy way to make large visual changes to a home that buyers will notice. This is the type of change that can really add value quickly.

In total, we spent approximately $300 to purchase supplies and paint for our first large painting project and about $50-$75 on each subsequent room we painted. In the end, this effort helped us sell our house for over $50,000 more than we originally bought it. Having spent about $750-$1,000 on paint and supplies in total means we really got a large bang for our buck. So, if you are looking for a small cost that equals a huge return, look no further than painting the interior of your house!

When you set out to paint a house you have two key areas to think about. First, what should you paint first and why. Second, what paint and products do I use to get the best look. You also will need to determine what color(s) you will be painting everything with, but that really isn’t my area of expertise so I’ll leave that choice up to my readers.

What to paint first and why

When creating your plan for what to paint and when I would suggest you start with the large living spaces first. Typically you will have a couch, TV, and some other large furniture that will be put in place and tough to move later on. It will also very quickly change one of the main areas any future buyers would see. This is a great way to make a really positive first impression should you plan on selling your house in the next few years. In our split level this meant the entryway up to the living room. Since the living and dining room didn’t have anything separating them and shared a large wall we decided to paint these spaces at the same time, before really settling in.

The challenge this created was where to put all our stuff. Thankfully we live in the midwest where many houses come with an attached garage. So we took all the furniture that would eventually live in the living room and dining room, unloaded it in the garage, covered it with blankets and sheets, then proceeded to paint approximately 500 sq ft of space on the upper level. One additional benefit of having this large space painted and ready for our furniture was that as we moved on to painting other rooms in the house we always had this completed space we could put all our furniture and a nice place to relax during all the hard work of painting.

Before we painted and during construction

After we finished painting the living/dining room we moved on to each of the bedrooms and office. The best part here, we had space to move our furniture and could take our time. For those with kids (we didn’t have any at the time) you can typically get a room cleared and painted within a weekend. For the kids it just means they get to camp out in the living room which could be a cool adventure for them.

The big blue wall on the right was the first wall we tackled

You will notice in the after picture that the flooring has changed, the counter tops are gone, and a few half walls are gone as well. I'll get in to those changes within future articles. Updated flooring, if you can do it yourself, is another great way to add value quickly!

What products to use

When we first set out painting our house I purchased the cheapest products I could find. Paintbrushes, trays, rollers, the paint itself, was all as cheap as I could find at the local hardware store. What I came to find out is a little extra investment in my materials makes the painting significantly easier. The rollers and brushes wouldn’t apply paint as evenly. The paint would cover as well. So in the end I was applying more paint and buying brushes after nearly every room we painted. The lesson to be learned here, if you are going to buy a house, take on the effort of painting much of it, with the intention of getting value out of it when you sell, then spring for the good paint brush, the good rollers, the nice tray, etc. Because in the end you will be saving money, the job will look closer to professionally done, the job will go faster, and help you maximize the value you get when you sell.

Here is a quick run down of the products I prefer to use and that have served me well.

Paint Brushes: Purdy XL 3 Pack

This three pack has your most common and useful brushes. A 1” angled brush for cutting the ceiling, a 1.5” angled brush for cutting the ceiling or baseboard/trim, and a 2” flat brush for larger areas like painting a door

Paint Rollers: Wooster ⅜” Nap

I prefer Wooster here for a few reasons. First, you can buy in bulk on Amazon and have them shipped to your door. Second, after using the rollers I could buy locally vs these I just found the quality to be better with Wooster.

Paint Trays: Wooster Brush Metal Tray

There will be a theme regarding my preferred brand for the remaining products here. Wooster Brush is a great brand, they carry all the products you could need, and the quality is really high. I prefer using a metal tray vs plastic just because they hold form better. I’ve also found they are easier to clean when the job is done. I actually just let the paint dry and peel it out, but only when I’m not using a liner.

Paint Tray Liners: Wooster Brush Paint Tray Liner

Tray liners make for quick and easy clean up. Just ensure you buy a liner that fits snugly within the tray you have as not all are made the same size. When it comes to finishing the job quickly I prefer a tray liner to help make clean-up a breeze.

Drop Cloth: An old sheet

I prefer to go really cheap here and just lay out an old sheet. Heck, lay out a new sheet if you have to, just try not to get paint on it. If you plan to paint professionally a good drop cloth is valuable, but the DIYer can save some money here and just use something they have laying around

Paint: Sherwin Williams

The quality and coverage with their paint isn’t matched by big box options. Pretty straight forward here.

Those are your basics when it comes to painting supplies. So to recap, make sure you have all the right supplies, don’t skimp because that will come back and reflect in the quality of craftsmanship and your ability to maximize profit if/when you are looking to sell your home. If you plan to paint every inch of the house inside and out, like my wife and I did, then start with the large living spaces first. Doing that will ease your pain as you move into other parts of the house.

How to paint the interior of a house

Prepping for paint
Prepping for paint

Prep your space

This means cleaning the walls with a damp cloth to ensure they are free of dust so your primer sticks better. This also means filling any minor holes, fixing any major drywall issues, and overall just making sure the surface is clean and smooth and ready to take on paint.

Painter's Tape
Painter's Tape

Tape your space (if you need to)

When we first started to paint I taped everything. After painting every wall of an entire house I no longer have to tape. Another reason I no longer have to tape is I'm using better tools (see above). You also may be painting in a place that doesn't require tape, so to me, this step is entirely optional.

Pro Tip: after you have taped everything run over the tape with a flat head screwdriver, painter's multi-tool, or flat blade to get a really good seal on your tape so you don't have paint bleed.

Drop Clothes
Drop Clothes

Drop Cloths (again this is optional)

If you are an experienced painter then you probably aren't using a drop cloth. Also, if you are using good quality paint then it is less likely to splatter so the need for a drop cloth again goes down.

Pro tip: If you don't have a drop cloth available or don't want to use one just roll your paint on slowly. The faster you roll your paint on, the more likely you are to have splatter.

Paint your ceiling first
Paint your ceiling first

Ceiling First

The reason you want to get the ceiling done first is that it's hard! Painting overhead is no fun. Also, you typically have a texture on the ceiling and a ceiling is white-ish so if you get any paint on the walls it will be easy to cover. Before you add any ceiling paint make sure to prime first. Primer is a key component to a good paint job. It is specially formulated to protect your walls and ceiling from the elements and creates a great base for the paint to stick to.

Pro tip: It's hard to see ceiling paint as you are applying it, so paint in small squares in a grid-like pattern so you can see the wet paint and see where you have been. Try not to roll directly overhead as paint in the eyes is really painful and hard to cleanout. And cut the ceiling in first. This means, use a paintbrush around the outside of the room, I like to use a 1"-1 and 1/2" angled brush. This will help you get a clean finish along the line between the ceiling and walls and give your roller space between the edge of the ceiling to apply paint.

Paint your walls
Paint your walls

Paint your walls

Painting the walls is where a room will truly be impacted. This is the good stuff. All those color swatches finally become realized on your walls. Before you add your color, you need to prime, just as you did on your ceiling. Primer is specially formulated to help protect walls and for the paint to stick. After your first coat of primer DO NOT forget to sand. This will give your walls the ultimate in smooth finishes.

Pro tip: Cut the floors, ceilings, and all other necessary places first. DO NOT forget to sand the primer. I learned this one from a painter friend of mine, when you are applying paint with a roller, get paint on your roller, and start about 6 inches from where your paint just finished and paint back toward your recent roll marks. This will help get an even amount of paint on your walls and ensure you get even coverage as well.

Clean up

Pull your tape, pick up your drop cloths and dispose of your paint trays. Good job.

Pro tip: If you are unable to complete the full job in a single day you can take your paintbrushes, rollers, and even your paint tray and put them in the refrigerator. Make sure to cover your paint tray with some plastic and wrap your rollers/brushes in plastic as well before you put them in the fridge. The paint will remain wet for about a week which gives you plenty of time to get the job done.

Good luck with your painting efforts. And please, if you have questions send me an email and/or join The Saving Dude Community on Facebook to get the discussion started.

I can’t wait to hear about everyone’s adventures painting and the value they added because of it.

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