DIY: 10 Common Painting Mistakes to Avoid

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/6/15 8:00 AM

Topics: Home Ownership

The foundation of many homeowner's DIY home improvement projects involves some form of paint. While it's definitely the fastest way to transform a room or even a whole home's appearance, painting is also a task filled with common pitfalls. Steer clear of these common painting mishaps for a polished, professional outcome the next time you pick up a paintbrush.


Image courtesy of hyena reality at

Skipping the Prepwork

Lack of proper prep is a large indicator of a DIY paint job versus a pro's. A clean, dry, debris-free wall is going to be your best canvas. To get a blank slate, dust and clean your walls with a towel or vacuum cleaner. If painting in a kitchen or bathroom, the DIY Network suggests washing the walls with a solution of three teaspoons of laundry detergent to one gallon of water.

Scrape cracked or flaking paint with a paint scraper. If you've used any fillers for nail holes or to fix imperfections in the wall, wait until those fillers have completely dried before moving to the next step.

Unprotected Painting

Paint has a habit of ending up in unintended places during the application process, regardless of how small the project area is and how careful you are. To avoid spending the end of your painting day scrubbing splattered paint stains off your wooden floor, rug, sofa, etc., move all furniture out of the room, if possible, remove all wall plates, and cover the entire floor with a drop cloth to catch spills.

Improper Taping

Painter's tape is a must. Not only will it diminish clean-up but will give your paint job a sharp, polished finish. Don't skimp on the professional stuff by using masking tape either. Make sure you seal the tape tightly around baseboards and windows to prevent any bleeding paint; use a putty knife or mini scrape to seal edges and remove air bubbles.

Skimping on the Supplies

We get it. Paint is pricey and costs add up, especially if your project is for a large space. Many homeowners try to cut costs by skimping on applicators. Simply put, you can be using the best paint in the world but it won't perform to its optimum if applied with cheap brushes and rollers. The plus is that quality applicators, like pure bristle brushes, will last for years to come if cleaned well and stored properly after each use.

Eliminating the Priming Process

Primer covers flaws on your paint surface, previously applied bright or dark colors, and provides a smooth, lasting finish. Paint-and-primer-in-one mixes have helped eliminate a step, but it's a good idea to use stand-alone primer if:

  •          The wall is in less-than-good shape
  •          The previous paint used has a glossy finish
  •          You're painting over a difficult surface such as plaster, wood, concrete or stained drywall

Using the Wrong Paint Type

Eggshell, satin, matte, semi-gloss, flat, hi-gloss - who knew there were so many paint finishes? As if you didn't have enough choices when selecting the color! The basic rule of thumb when choosing a paint sheen is that the higher the shine, the more durable the paint will be. Consider this when choosing the right sheen for a certain part of your home:

  • Flat (matte) is low sheen with a non-reflective appearance. It's ideal for low traffic rooms and ceilings.
  • Flat enamel is great for bedrooms or other low to moderate traffic areas because of its low luster appearance.
  • Eggshell has a soft, velvety look. It's a good choice for moderate traffic areas, such as living rooms.
  • Satin is your best bet for high traffic areas with exposure to moisture, like bathrooms and kitchens. Satin enamel has a pearl-like appearance.
  • Semi-gloss provides radiant sheen and can withstand lots of wear. Use it for cabinets, trim, high-traffic areas and high-moisture areas.

Tip: If your paint color is dark and rich, but you're not looking for a super shiny appearance, take a step down in sheen. Darker, richer colors have more colorant, which boosts sheen.

Dunking Your Brush

Don't get overzealous when dipping your brush into the paint can. Dip it in only a third of the way; you'll get enough paint on the brush and avoid wasting or pushing the paint into the bristles, which means a tougher clean-up.

Applying a Second Coat Too Quickly

If you're too hasty to apply that second coat of paint, you are bound and likely to ruin the entire paint job. Look for instructions on suggested drying time on the paint can, and if you're still unsure, give it 24 hours.

Not Buying Enough Paint

Make sure you've accurately calculated your paint area, so you're not making a trip back to the paint store mid-project. A gallon of paint usually covers approximately 400 square feet. Plan for a little extra for future touch-ups. It's a good idea to purchase all the paint at once, because color can differ slightly if mixed at separate times.

Ignoring the Weather

If your paint project is on the exterior, check humidity levels for the day. High humidity can cause a slowdown in dry time for water-based paints. If humidity is at a high, it is probably a good idea to wait a day or two until the air is dryer.


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