My family room has remained half painted for a few months now. Part of the reason is just being busy with the day job and part of the reason is that I was dreading tackling the fireplace. It isn’t that much of a big chore, I just dreaded some of the prep work.
Last weekend I was watching a TV program and an actress in the background was playing a “painter.” I couldn’t even focus on the primary content of the scene because she picked up a brush and started randomly painting in the middle of the wall. No. Just. No.
So I thought that some common painting rules may not be as widely known as I thought they were.
The most work in painting is by far the prep. If painting your walls was a meal, the actual painting color part would only be dessert.
Painting my wall with the fireplace is actually a good project example because it has a lot of prep.
The first thing you need to do is take off all the electrical and light plates as well as take out all the nails or screws you have in the wall. Patch up all the holes. I find it is a lot easier, and more effective to put a little spackle on my finger and even patch up small nail holes. I’ve tried just painting over the hole and sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn’t. While you have the spackle out, might as well just give the hole a swipe and do it right.
The next step is important and I think a lot of people miss it. I’ve tried skipping it, because I’m lazy, but you are often sorry when you see what gets mixed up in the paint. You want to clean the area you are painting really well. Not just the wall but the floors all around it. You don’t want to get crumbs or dog hair up in the wet paint at the bottom of the wall. This means vacuum the floor well and vacuum the walls and whatever else you are painting. At least, that is what I needed to do because my fireplace is made up of bricks that are lumpy/bumpy and my walls are textured so there are a lot of surfaces to collect dust. Also, I make sure the top of the baseboard is well vacuumed too. Lots of vacuuming going on.
Then everything gets a good wiping down. I wipe down the walls with Simple Green. There are a lot of good products out there for this and you should ask your paint store what they recommend. The kind of paint already on the wall and the room itself can dictate what you use to clean the walls. When I’ve taken off wallpaper I wipe down the walls with TSP but for a fairly simple job like this, Simple Green does the job.
Do not underestimate this step. I vacuum my fireplace once a week with the brush attachment on my vacuum and when I wiped it down, the cloth came away filthy. If you are blessed with a 70s house like mine, they built them with as much texture as possible which really just means a lot of hidden dust. I’m not a neat freak but it even skeeves me out.
The room is given a nice finished look when you’ve done a good job with the caulking. It is the kind of thing that you may not always miss, but always looks a lot better when you’ve done it proper. It should be done along the baseboard for sure.
Compare it to a baseboard that is not caulked.
I often find other areas that need caulking. The corners of the baseboard, along the edge of the fireplace and when I put a coat of primer on the fireplace mantle, I thought it would look better if I went back and caulked along that also.
With cleaning and caulking done, you can start taping things off. I like to put a piece of tape down along the edge and then come back and tape down some paper on top of that first layer of tape. I like to start with just a strip of tape because it is easier to carefully follow the baseboard and corners with tape rather than wrestle with the paper too.
It was quite a challenge around the fireplace with all the texture. I go back with smaller pieces and just make sure the floor is all covered.
A trick I use when painting indoors is to paint barefoot. It is easier for me to tell when I’ve stepped in paint so I’m less inclined to track it all over my new floor.
If all the spackle and caulk has had adequate time to dry, you are finally ready to paint! In my case, it was only the primer which is still very boring but I’m saving it up for tomorrow.
The secret weapon to getting all the boring bits done is to entertain yourself. TV is a bit too distracting because you want to turn to watch it. I listen to podcasts but audio books would work just as well. I have the Nerdist to thank for most of the work done in my kitchen and all the painting in the living room.
This whole process can be done in as little as three hours. Some of that time is to allow the caulk and spackle to dry. It takes me longer because I still have to get regular chores done so I’ll get a little bit done, empty the dishwasher, do a bit more, clean the catbox, etc. Regular life doesn’t take care of itself. Darn it. Although Scarlet would like to help.