Sometimes All You Need Is A Coat of Paint

By on 22 April, 2011 in DIY, Heather Coleman with 1 Comment

Photo by Heather Coleman

Spring always awakens the DIY bug in me. For the past few weeks I have definitely had the itch. Unfortunately, all of our projects are on hold right now — we are trying to save our pennies because we may need a new roof.

I decided it was time to grab a can of paint! About six months ago, we decided that having a guest room that was used 2-3 times a year was ridiculous. We moved my oldest out of the room that he shared with his brother and into the former guest room, making him a very happy boy. The problem? It was a drab off-white color — one of the few rooms in the house that we haven’t painted. When I asked Liam what color he would like, he replied quickly, “Orange.” I guess that is what I get for asking a nine-year-old! After attempting to talk him into something slightly less traffic cone/Home Depot orange, we finally arrived on a bright tangerine color.

Because we were painting a bedroom, we chose a paint that has NO VOCs in their paint or colorant — Olympic Premium. VOCs are volatile organic compounds. There is controversy over how much damage they do, but the EPA recommends limiting exposure as much as possible. In my experience, low- or no-VOC paint works at least as well as other premium traditional brands, and is priced similarly, so I see absolutely no reason not to choose it.

When we painted our plaster walls six years ago, we started with a semi-gloss/eggshell finish, and the walls looked awful. We have a lot of windows, and in the light, you could see every tiny imperfection in the wall. We ended up paying to repaint two rooms with a flat paint, and when we chose paint for the hall and my other son’s room, we picked a flat. I have been happy with the way that it held up, and I always recommend to anyone who is painting plaster to try a flat finish first, especially with darker colors. If you aren’t sure that you will like it, buy a tester and paint a small area.

Something else I cannot recommend enough: Buy enough paint on your first visit. On occasion, machines will be calibrated slightly differently and you may not end up with the exact same color on your trip back to the store. If you have paint with good coverage, you should be done in two coats. I have to admit that I never prime, so it occasionally will take me three coats for darker colors.

As I mentioned, about half of our house has been professionally painted, and I definitely didn’t want my paint job to stick out like a sore thumb! I started reading on various DIY sites in the hopes that I could end up with a paint job that looked at least semi-professional.  Like the rest of our house, Liam’s room is full of windows and doors, so taping was honestly out of the question. It would have taken me an entire day just to tape the room. I saw the same short-handled, angled brush on several sites, so I decided to give it a try. The Wooster shortcut was a lifesaver! As long as I cut in slowly, I was able to keep a perfect line. I kept a wet towel beside me for any stray drips, and in a couple of hours was completely done with the cut-in. I have tried pretty much every other cut in tool over the years- spent a ton of money on pads, brushes, etc. This little $6 brush is all that you need. It is even perfect for trim painting!

Rolling is the exciting part—you really start to see what the room is going to look like. Although I have to admit, when you are rolling on something that bright, it is a little scary! When you are looking at roller covers, be sure to choose one that has a core made out of something other than cardboard.  Over time the cardboard ones start to absorb paint and you will have problems with drips. Synthetic fibers are fine for latex paints, and you want a nap somewhere between 1/8” and 3/8”. The longer the nap, the rougher the surface, so sheetrock you could get away with 1/8” or ¼” whereas plaster you want to select something closer to 3/8” (heavily textured plaster needs an even longer nap—1/2 “to ¾”) As a warning, if you go too long, you will get drips!

Two coats took me most of a day. I was really unsure of the orange, but I love it! It is so warm and bright. Even on dreary rainy days it feels cheerful and sunny! Everyone who has seen it loves it—I think I may have even inspired a few more orange rooms. I forget how quickly a $30 can of paint can change a room. Glad budget constraints forced me to look for inexpensive ways to update!

Heather Coleman is a freelance writer and part-time DIY’er who mostly manages to fit her projects in around her family and her volunteer work. She lives with her husband, two boys and two pets in Midtown.

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  1. Heather C says:

    The kitty in the window is Fred, our newly adopted cat. If anyone in the reading area is missing a cat, take a good look at Fred– he came to us complete with a collar and bell. 🙂

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