Interior painting makes for a noticeable home improvement

Published on Alaska Dispatch News (

Barbara Ramsey, Clair Ramsey

July 19, 2015

We all typically have to do this task sometime during homeownership; whether for a remodel, for maintenance, or in preparation to sell -- painting a home’s interior is all but inevitable. Painting is the most noticeable home improvement because it covers so much surface area. Paint can create a mood, denote a style, and give your home personality. However, the numerous decisions involved in painting can make this improvement feel intimidating.


The first decision is whether to do it yourself or hire a professional. If you are toying with the DIY approach but don’t know where to start, consider taking a couple of workshops through Lowe's or Home Depot. These provide a great opportunity to talk to professionals about tools and different types of paint.


If you have time, make interior home painting a family project. The kids can contribute in several ways. They can patch and repair holes in the walls, choose paint colors and learn basic skills such as how to back-roll.


If you are preparing to sell your home, use paint to tone down your home’s personality to appeal to a broader range of buyers. A fresh coat of paint translates to instant livability, especially for older homes. Properly and carefully done, you can recoup the total cost and increase your home’s value. What you don’t want is for prospective buyers to comment, “Why did the seller bother to paint when we’ll have to redo it.” To avoid this, pay attention to details.


Before painting, prep the space. Nothing ruins the positive effects of a freshly painted home like splatter on outlet covers, switches and hinges. Remove the outlet covers. Put them with their screws in a box or plastic bag. For specialty items, such as cable covers and towel bars, tape screws to the cover. Think ahead with some simply organization so putting the right items back in place is easy. A putty knife can work well to gently pry off a stubborn cover or bracket without damaging the wall. Remember to clean these items before reinstalling for that finished, new look.


Next, wipe down walls, doors, trim, baseboard and heating elements and fill any gaps with paintable caulk. If you don’t, the contrast between the dark gaps and new paint are more visible and give an unfinished, hastily done look. Then dust the walls and those less visible areas, such as the tops of window trim. Be sure to clean any greasy areas to ensure paint sticks properly.


Finally, don’t try to freehand the straight lines and tricky edges of baseboard, trim and curves. Spend the extra time and money for painter’s tape and apply the tape carefully to these tricky areas before painting for a professional look. Remove the tape gently as well.


Hiring a professional can be more expensive, but if you consider the cost of your time, and the limitations of your talent, paying a professional may well be worth the investment. The cost of a professional is divided between preparation and painting, so you maybe able to reduce the cost by doing some of the prep, similar to what you did as a DIYer.


If remodeling, painting will be cheaper to do before installing new flooring. You might have to touch up where the installers scuff the walls, but you won’t have to worry about an accident.


Early in the process, consider your choice of paint. Oil-based? Latex? Will you need to use primer as the first coat? Some surfaces benefit from priming, and using primer can help the more expensive top coats go farther.


Latex paint -- while not as durable as oil-based paint -- is much easier to use. Latex cleans up with water, dries quickly, is easier to touch up, more user-friendly and smells less. Oil-based is good for trim and doors when you want a smooth finish. Oil-based paint, or primer, may also be preferred in rooms with lots of moisture, such as a bathroom with a shower. Do some research about paint types and primers, and ask questions of the paint specialist where you buy.


Unless refreshing the paint with the same color, count on at least two coats. Plus, you get what you pay for, so a better quality of paint will pay off with less bleed-through, easier touch-up and washability.


Deciding on paint color can also be daunting. Paint chips are available everywhere paint is sold to give you the wide range of options of colors and shades. Bring chips home and tape on your walls to see what’s most pleasing in the space. Once you narrow your search to a couple of colors, purchase small sample sizes to test. If you don’t want to commit to actually test painting the walls, purchase some sheetrock, cut it into large squares, then prime it before you pretest. This way you

can easily move samples from room to room to check changes with light.


Look for paint sales. The discount could help you jump up a notch in paint quality. Check with the store to see if they will honor the discount throughout your project in case you need to buy more of the main color or accent colors.


Finally, choose the finish to fit the area. While specific names vary, each paint brand has a range of finishes for different uses, shine, and durability. Some of the options include pearl, eggshell, low-luster (semi-gloss) and medium-luster (glossy).

For instance, when painting older walls, consider using a flat matte enamel to conceal imperfections and reduce reflected shine. Look for a finish that is washable and easy to touch up, particularly for high traffic areas.


With all the decisions to make, this home improvement may seem stressful, but remember: It’s just paint, and paint is easy to change.


Barbara and Clair Ramsey are local associate brokers specializing in residential real estate. Their column appears every month in the Alaska Dispatch News. Their email address is


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