Painting a room is one of the easiest, cheapest ways to get a home ready for selling.

As a professional painter, homeowner, and landlady, I’ve painted literally hundreds of rooms.

That’s why it baffles me to see people on TV, whether they are hosts of their own design show, DIY remodelers on a reality series, or models in painting commercials, paint the wrong way.

If you follow their lead, if you paint the way TV teaches you, you’re wasting time and money and getting sloppy results.

Here are my seven favorite tips for getting the best painting results with the least effort.

1. Prep is Everything

No one on TV mentions preparing a wall for paint. Even if the room has been painted recently and looks smooth, sanding all the walls with a pole sander knocks down any dust and lumps. Sanding gets the surface ready to accept new paint. Patch and sand and then spot prime as needed.

If you made lots of repairs or are changing color, a primer is a good intermediate step. Talk to the experts at your paint store about covering the old color with the new one you are buying. Careful prep is what makes the difference between a pro job and an amateurish attempt.

2. Get a handle on it

Once in a while, a television camera catches a glimpse of a professional painter working in the background. Chances are the pro is doing it right. He’ll be using an extension handle on the roller frame. Meanwhile, the show's host starts rolling paint in the middle of a wall, holding the short roller handle. Painting this way only overworks your wrist. 

You don't want to roll paint onto a wall holding just the paint roller handle. Give your wrist, arm, back, and shoulder a break, and use your whole body to support the work of rolling. Face the wall, stand with feet apart, one foot slightly in front of the other, and keep your back straight when rolling.

Even a broom handle screws into a paint roller handle. If you're painting a room so small there's no room for a simple extension stick, it’s okay to hold the roller. Otherwise, stick with a stick.

The pole you screw onto a paint roller is the same
pole you can use on a sander to prep the wall. 

3. Keep a clean can 

I frequently see blogging tutorials and television remodelers dipping a brush into a gallon paint can. I don't recommend this. 

Instead, first pour about a fourth of the gallon of paint into an empty, clean, 1-gallon work bucket. That way, when you’re done painting, you can return the unused paint portion and you'll have a clean can with a clean lip and a clean label to store the leftover paint in, clearly indicating the brand, color, finish, and any other specs that will come in handy when it’s touch-up time.

4. The truth about tape

You don't need to mask off an entire room before painting. Save time and money. It's generally unnecessary to tape around all the windows and doors. Instead, spend your money on good quality paint and brushes so you won’t be dripping and splattering. Baseboards might be the exception if your paint is likely to drip on them.

A good angled 2-inch paintbrush and a steady hand are faster. Practice painting a straight line in an inconspicuous area. Use long strokes and keep your arm partially extended instead of putting your face up close and dab-dab-dabbing. 

Cut in the room first, and then roll the walls. Make sure you cut in wide enough, especially around the top of the wall, where it meets the ceiling. If you get a good 4- or 5-inch band of paint up there, and you are careful, your roller won't bump the ceiling. No ceiling touch-up!  

Once you are used to using 
a 5-gallon bucket, a roller screen,and a 
handle on your roller, you'll never want to 
use a small paint tray again. 

5. Way to roll

Instead of pouring your paint into one of those flat trays, pour it into a 5-gallon bucket and add a painting grid that fits into it and latches onto the lip of the bucket. This is the professional method that saves bending over. And there's less chance of kicking over your paint.

Load your roller generously and remove excess using the grid. Start by rolling the wall in a "W" or "M" motion, then use long, up-and-down strokes. Do not lift the roller from the wall. Start your first stroke with an upward motion, because if you roll down on the first stroke, the paint can puddle under the roller and run down the wall.

If your roller drips or smears instead of rolling across the surface, you’ve put too much paint on it. If it leaves skips or you have to press to get the paint to apply evenly, you’ve put on too little. If you see a drip on the baseboard, wipe it off with a clean rag before it can dry
My favorite gloves are breathable,
 but palm-protected, like
these nitrile-coated ones.

6. Dress for success

TV stars paint in high heels and halter tops. You, on the other hand, need to dress right for the work.

Keep an outfit just for painting. I recommend pants with pockets so you can wear all your helpful tools. Consider buying a pair of painter's overalls if you do much painting. Keeping tools on your person saves steps and saves time. It’s frustrating to have to stop and hunt for a damp rag or your square of sandpaper. Keep a rag and an old brush for dusting in your back pocket, a 5-in-1 tool in another pocket, and sandpaper in another pocket.

Wear closed-toe, comfortable shoes that will protect your feet and keep them happy all day. Your old sneakers might be a good choice. You’re bound to get some paint on your shoes. You want reliable support and safety, so going barefoot is not an option. 

Wear cotton, latex, neoprene, or nitrile gloves that will keep paint off your hands and save cleanup time.

7. Best dropcloths 

Don’t use thin plastic for dropcloths. I know it’s fashionable for DIYers to recycle shower curtains or unroll yards of plastic sheeting, but almost anything is better than plastic for a dropcloth. Why? Because paint doesn't dry quickly on plastic, and you can easily track paint around when you get it on your feet. 

If you're careful, you don't have to cover things like furniture
with dropcloths. Unless you are painting a ceiling, you
You can just cluster furnishings in the center of the room.

Or, use a purchased canvas dropcloth. It doesn’t have to be large. A 4- x 15-foot  "hall runner" dropcloth is versatile, economical, washable, and will last for years. If your project is large and ongoing, purchasing a roll of contractors' paper to protect your floors might make sense.   

Saving money? Then old rugs or carpet scraps, cardboard, or bed sheets (two or three layers thick) will usually provide all the protection you need. Paint stores and paint departments carry disposable dropcloths that are inexpensive and work well, too. 

While painting, pay attention to what you are doing, and check your soles before stepping off the drop cloth onto carpeting or flooring.

Get the look, get the book

Now that I have sounded off on one of my pet peeves – common painting mistakes – I hope I’ve enlightened you about the best way to add new paint to your walls. 

If choosing a paint color is difficult for you, I have written posts about paint colors and how to choose them. 

Download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Fast and for Top Dollar, so I can give you more advice on staging your own home for sale. It comes with my money-back guarantee that it will make your staging easier and your home sale more profitable. You can start your smart staging today!

Top Photo: Kim Cornelison for BHG