Paint your house (without painting yourself)

House painting how-toPainting may seem easy but make sure you prepare well.

My carpenter calls paint “the coat of slops”. Something you slap on to cover up a multitude of sins. I think paint is more like the coat of many covers. It can turn the dull, dirty and drab into the clean, colourful and cheerful. And painting is so easy, right

  • Choose colour. Be slightly mindboggled by the fact that there are 306 different shades of beige. Be further bamboozled by colour names such as Cuddlepot, Bashful and Sultry Glance.
  • Visit bank. Take out loan. Buy paint.
  • Lay down drop sheets and start painting. Try not to be disturbed by paint dripping into hair, eyes and clothes. Wonder why paint isn’t on walls, yet covers you completely.
  • Spend hours cleaning.
  • Take a quick course in tai chi. Breathe. Apply principles to self and discover that Grasping Tiger’s Tail on Waxing Moon is easier than grasping a paint brush for hours on end.
  • Apply second coat to cover up drips and streaky patches of first coat.
  • Chase cat out of the room.
  • Apply the now-needed third coat to cover up crap second coat.
  • Debate the best way to remove cat’s paw prints that decorate hallway floor.
  • Take another deep breath as cat sits on freshly painted window sill.
  • Hire a professional painter.

Dulux colour and communication manager Andrea Lucena-Orr says market research shows about half of all paint-buyers choose a professional to tackle the job.

All-knowing professional painter Lynton Smith says dodgy DIY paint jobs are a dime a dozen. “You can always tell when someone’s had a go at trying to paint a house themselves,” says Smith, who runs Allways Painting in Adelaide. “People choose the wrong paint for the wrong surface, use acrylics where they shouldn’t and apply it badly.

“When you paint a wall with fast-drying acrylics, you can’t go off for a fag or a drink halfway through. No matter how well you apply the paint, you can see the join. It looks awful.”

Oh. So here are some little lessons to avoid paint disasters.


Preparing the surface for painting is more important than applying the paint. All surfaces should be sanded, clean and dry before fresh paint goes on.

Yep, it’s lots and lots of work. Smith reckons he spends 60 per cent of his time on the job preparing – usually stripping off old paint, filling holes and gaps and sanding – before applying any paint.


Sheen is the shine level of paint, usually described as gloss, semi-gloss or matt (flat). The flatter the sheen, the further your paint will go. Glossier paints have greater strength and protective qualities. Learning your sheens will make your paint jobs shine.

Solvent-based paints such as enamels are still used, but they are considered less environmentally friendly. Brushes need washing with turps or thinners and they release more volatile organic compounds (known as VOCs). Acrylic paints have better coverage and flexibility, and wash out in water.

There are also so-called natural paints, such as limewash, that don’t contain human-made chemicals. David Baggs is the technical director of Ecospecifier , a building material advisory company, and author of The Healthy House.

He says natural paints often don’t have the durability that families need. “Most families with children need paint that is easy to maintain and wash,” he says. Smith reckons the low-VOC paints are worth using if someone in the house has asthma or respiratory problems.


Whether you are painting a lounge room or a picket fence, you should plan a sequence to make the job as easy as possible. Smith suggests a typical lounge room sequence could be:

1) clean and sand all surfaces;

2) paint the interior woodwork (skirtings, doors, picture rails);

3) then do the ceiling first by cutting in around the edges and then rollering the rest;

4) tackle one wall at a time, cutting in first and then rollering the walls, being careful to blend all wet edges before they begin to dry.

When painting windows or doors, it is easiest to choose certain panels or sections in sequence rather than starting at one side and moving to the other.


This is usually done on large surfaces such as exterior and interior walls.

The edges near the floor and ceiling are usually painted with a brush first to make sure the edges get straight and even paint coverage.

The rest of the wall is then filled in with a roller, which gives a thinner load of paint than a brush. Cutting in is vital for even edges.

Make sure you don’t overload the brush with paint and create a thick border around the edges – this is called “picture framing” and is the sure sign of an amateur.


There are all kinds of things to add to a can of paint. Low-fume additives can take away smells while anti-fungal additives can be used in wet areas such as bathrooms and laundries.

There are literally hundreds of colour tints that can be added, but most of these will be enamel-based. Check with paint manufacturers to find the paint that best suits your job. Most paint companies have websites with detailed specifications that are worth looking up before you tackle the job.

So bring out your inner artist and remember that painting is all about P-words. Planning, preparing and the power to undertake hard work.

Or it could just be about chucking a coat of slops on the walls and taking tai chi lessons. But, beware, Waving Hands Like Clouds while applying Sultry Glance could get messy.


To work out how many litres of paint you need for your job, measure the room or object you plan on painting. A wall that measures 4 metres by 3 metres needs 12 square metres of coverage. If that wall needs two coats of paint, it needs 24 square metres of paint coverage. A litre of most acrylic paints covers between 14 and 16 square metres, so two litres of paint will be needed for the job and there will be paint left over. Check manufacturers’ specifications for exact coverage.



This article was first published in Sydney Morning Herald’s Essential lift out.

Renovation & DIY