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Home maintenance – 3 steps for successful interior painting:

Tyler Merson
Tyler Merson March 22nd, 2022


After a year of spending a lot of time in my home, I can see that just about every surface could use a new coat of paint. Some things I can paint myself, but others will require a professional. In either case, planning is the first step.

Which rooms are a priority?

In our house, the kitchen and the living room have seen the most use. Painting the kitchen, in our case, would also include painting the cabinets. This means we’ll be without the use of the kitchen for at least a week and will need to plan for that. Maybe there’s a week coming up when we could go away for a few days to make that less of an issue. The exterior trim needs repainting, which can be done as soon as frost danger has passed.

Are there any repairs that need to be done first?

We had some minor plaster damage on the kitchen ceiling from an ice dam that leaked into the house this winter. The repair for that should be done ahead of time for the best results. A few of the exterior window frames need to be patched or replaced before the painters start, too.

What colors and paints do I want to consider?

Choosing colors is highly subjective, and I am of the belief that there are no wrong choices. If you have no idea, then use Pinterest or a paint manufacturer’s website app to help you choose. If you want to be sure, get samples mixed at your local paint store and put them on the wall (2 coats). If you like the color you have but can’t remember the name, you can match it using an app on your phone or bring a sample to the paint store. Next, you need to pick the sheen for each color. Trim should be satin, semi-gloss, or gloss, but keep in mind the shinier the surface, the more texture you will see. Walls should be matte or eggshell (flat is for the ceiling or surfaces that are rarely touched). Paint manufacturers also make different paints for the interior, bathrooms, exterior, and high-wear. While I don’t want to promote one company, or others, I’ll simply say that you get what you pay for, and you’ll get much better quality and service from a local paint store than from a big-box retailer.

person holding a paint roller and inspecting yellow walls madison nj

Who is going to do the work?

If you’re going to do the work yourself, you can move on to the next step. If you’re going to hire a painting contractor (and don’t have someone you already know and like), ask friends and neighbors for recommendations, write a list of everything you would like to have done, get at least two bids based on that list, and remember that painting is mostly labor so the lowest bid may not be what you want.


Most painters I know will agree that surface preparation is a key component to a good paint job as it takes as much, if not more, time. You can get lots of information on prep techniques here, but the key points are:

  • Remove all outlet and switch covers (replace them if they’re cracked or dirty)
  • Clean any oily or sticky surfaces with mild soap or TSP (especially in the kitchen)
  • Sand all surfaces with a medium sanding sponge
  • Vacuum up all dust before you start painting


Now comes the fun part. If you’re new to painting, watch a few videos first. Otherwise, the idea is pretty simple and shouldn’t cause undue stress.

If you did a lot of filling or plastering or have raw wood trim, you should apply a coat of primer first. Sand the primer before painting for smoother results.

I start with the walls and then do the trim.

The walls need two coats of paint, especially darker colors.

Use a bright light to help you see the spots you missed.

Trim is mainly brushwork and shouldn’t be rushed. Don’t paint when you’re too tired.

If you’re painting the windows, do not paint the tracks that the windows go up and down in, or they won’t function properly.

Keep a window open for ventilation. Water-based paints dry to the touch quickly but need a few weeks to fully cure. Oil-based paints need a few days to dry, but you can put the room back together the next day.


I always love admiring my work when I’m done, though I have had doubts about the color choice once or twice. In the days that follow, you may notice a few spots that need touching up, so keep the paint handy. I also recommend Magic Erasers for removing scuffs and smudges – they really are magic!