1. Not Allowing Enough Time – don’t do this.

This is #1 for a very good reason: WE ALL DO THIS! (including budding professionals). Also # 1 because it causes other mistakes, in fact it is the #1 cause for other mistakes! Not allowing enough time will directly result in any or all of items #2-10 happening to you. Avoiding this mistake means potentially avoiding all the others because you take the time to research your project and after doing so, you may rightly conclude that Saturday morning, before yoga (or golf, or whatever consumes your Saturday mornings), isn’t enough time to paint the powder bath. Now, if you start the Sunday before with surface prep, and do a little bit each – or every other – day, you may be able to apply a coat Saturday morning, before whatever. But don’t assume that getting ready to paint just means a stop at the Benjamin Moore store.

2. Practicing – do this.

#2 because we tend to prioritize household projects, which means when we want to paint the living room – because company is coming – there isn’t time to practice painting in the basement or the spare bedroom closet. Before tackling a high-visibility project, practice on a low visibility project, or two…make your mistakes there. The unique thing about painting (compared to other tradecraft) is that we’ve all done it; think about that – nearly every adult human in this country has painted something – in their life. This makes it uniquely different than any other trade: plumbing, electric, framing, concrete, roofing, cabinetry, flooring, HVAC, etc. What this means is that it is within our reach. Where this causes problems is that not all paint projects are within our grasp, so we bite off a big project and it goes sideways. Practice your technique.

3. Using Cheap Tools & Materials – don’t do this.

#3 because without experience, we are inclined to believe that the $10/gallon paint/primer combo is fine, and saves us $40-50/gallon. If this were true, then we’d see painting professionals, dressed in whites, lined up in big-box stores to get the coupon paint every morning. We don’t see this because there is a difference in performance with high quality paint – just like anything else in life, there are trade-offs to saving money. Remember your first car? How much does it resemble your current car? Steering wheel, door, heater, key…if your first car was anything like mine, that’s about it. Buy the best paint, it will take less time to achieve the result you want, and you can spend that time doing other things. Using Cheap tools – don’t do this. Good tools work better, they leave a better finish, and if you wash them correctly they will last you a lifetime. This includes tape, by the way – buy the best tape – it will save you time in clean-up, and touch-up.

4. Insufficient prep – don’t do this.

Not all jobs require the same surface prep: sometimes you need to prime, sometimes you don’t. Some surfaces require sanding before refinishing, some do not. You may need to clean first, maybe not. There are too many aspects of prep to properly call out each instance, the point is to do a little research. Stop by the paint store some day after work, when they’re not quite as busy. Or call them on the phone, but be sensitive to timing if you call – they’re sometimes very busy and may need to phone you back if they’re helping someone at the counter. One easy way to research is online – numerous resources are available if you just type in your question. But double check, don’t just take one source’ word for it. I remember listening to a DIY radio program a few years ago and a caller asked the host if she needed to prime her bedroom walls before painting, without even asking her any questions about conditions he replied “yes, a couple coats of Kilz should do it”. I wanted to cry, the poor lady probably took a week to paint the bedroom and lost a few square feet in the process because she put so much material on the wall!

5. Clean your cover (break it in) – do this.

Roller covers will shed the first time they’re used – cheap covers will shed every time they’re used. You will notice this when the paint is dry and you swipe your hand across the wall, you’ll feel things in the dried paint; look closely and you’ll see little fibers from the roller cover. So, wash it thoroughly, spin it dry with a cover spinner (these tools also cut in half the time required to clean). Or better yet, clean it, then paint something you don’t care too much about (I don’t want to make any suggestions here…except maybe the utility room?). The point is, clean it and/or use it first, then wash it well – until the water runs clean – let it dry and it is now a broken in. If you’re stuck in #1 and you end up with roller fuzz on your walls, let the paint dry overnight, then pole-sand the walls, this should remove the fuzz, then apply another coat with the roller that is now well broken-in.

6. Shortcut #1: applying 1 heavy coat instead of 2 regular coats – don’t do this.

Paint is designed to be applied within a range of mil thicknesses. Follow the guidelines on the can, or on the website. Buy a mil-thickness gauge and use it. If the paint is too thick it won’t dry properly, may alligator, may delaminate, sag, run or curtain. Plus, the time you think you’re saving will be spent hand-wringing about why the paint isn’t drying.

7. Shortcut #2: applying 2 coats back to back – don’t do this.

Read and follow the instructions on the can, if it says recoat in 4 hours then that’s the best thing to do. You can accelerate this by using a fan (make sure your area is dust free before turning the fan onto your wet paint). If using primer, allow it to dry fully, according to instruction, before applying top coats.

8. Shortcut #3: roll 2 coats, cut in 1 – don’t do this.

This saves time yes, but results in “hat-banding”, you’ll wish you spent the time to cut in twice.

9. “block” your gallons together – do this.

If your project requires more than 1 gallon, buy a 5 gallon bucket and combine/mix your gallons in it first, the pour out your working material, cover the remainder. This avoids minute differences in mixing that sometimes occur at the paint store, and can cause problems later with the 2nd coat, or with touch up in the future.

10. Managing materials – do’s & don’ts.

Don’t use old paint, get new paint; if your touching up from a year ago, no problem, but if you have a 5 gallon bucket from when your home was built ten years ago and there’s a gallon or two, just bring that bucket in to your Ben Moore store and let them remake it, and manage the bucket too. Don’t throw away an empty gallon can if it’s the last one, save it because you won’t remember the color. Label the cans; location & date. Close it properly; put a rag over the can and gently hammer the lid around the edge so it is closed, this will preserve the material for touch ups. Don’t throw paint cans in the garbage, bring them to any paint store (at least in Colorado) and they’ll be properly recycled.