Paint by Numbers
Some painters swear by Benjamin Moore paints, while others says you can use more middle-of-the-road brands.
For some budget-weary renovators, the last stage of repairs is a tempting place to cut corners. Who wouldn’t want to save some serious dough by painting newly repaired walls themselves? It’s only a few gallons of paint, some rollers and brushes, and a couple of hours, right?
Step away from the paintbrush, my friend, unless you know what you’re doing, say paint retailers and contractors. Well-intentioned homeowners can find themselves getting more than they bargained for trying to paint an entire house—walls, ceilings and all—by themselves.
“People feel like they are going to save money in this particular avenue. Most of the time, they don’t—even if they buy the best paint,” says Joe Helm, general manager of Helm Paint. “People take the labor for granted. There is a lot of preparation as far patching, caulking and preparing a surface in getting ready to paint. It’s very labor intensive.”
Homeowners who don’t properly prepare wall surfaces will have to go back over their work or hire a professional to fix it. It typically takes a do-it-yourselfer days to finish what a paint crew can do in hours, Helm says.
Joe Helm of Helm Paint says there is a lot of preparation getting a surface ready for paint.
Paint preparation takes the longest. That work includes filling holes, sanding surfaces, caulking crevices and seams and cleaning the area to be painted of dust and dirt.
“Prep work is probably two-thirds of the paint job. It’s more than people think,” says Carl Segari, general superintendent for Keith Guy Inc., a New Orleans painting company.
Those who have replaced all their drywall have an easier job of it because walls that have been freshly textured and finished need little preparation for painting. Those who are patching ceilings and only partially replacing plaster or sheetrock will have more prep work.
Mistakes not to Make
Helm says there are several mistakes homeowners make when painting walls. The first is forgetting to prime surfaces before patching and caulking. Priming first gives the job a more uniform look, he says.
Other mistakes include oversanding areas and using the wrong type of primer and caulk. Helm cautions against painting over mildew or mold stains with so-called stain killing primers without first spraying the area with proper mold treatment. Never paint over damp surfaces. “Any small minute moisture inside the walls can breed mildew pretty quickly,” he says.
He also recommends premium acrylic urethane caulk. Cheaper caulk can shrink over time, requiring reapplication later.
Cost vs. Quality
There is an ongoing debate about which interior and exterior paint brands are the best. Some painters swear by Benjamin Moore or Sherwin-Williams, while others say less expensive brands work just as well. Consumer Reports did a story last year saying that large home improvement store brands like Behr and Valspar performed better than premium brands.
Professional painter Segari prefers to use Benjamin Moore paints because he says it’s a good, consistent product. His advice is that homeowners don’t always have to buy the most expensive brands to get nice looking results. However, they may have to buy more paint to get the depth of color they want. “You get what you pay for,” because premium brands usually require fewer coats, he says.
Professional renovator Benjamin Taylor, owner of Benjamin Taylor Custom Homes in New Orleans, says he recommends “middle of the road” brands of paint except on non-textured, smooth walls, which more readily show flaws. In that case, he goes with the highest end paint for better coverage.
“But normally for the cost [and] with just simple, textured walls, you really won’t notice the difference at all. I stick with the middle of the road,” he says.
Taylor recommends Sherwin-Williams 200 series paint.
His clients like eggshell finish because it is easier to clean than a matte surface.
Most agree that priming a surface is essential and, depending on the color, at least two coats of paint are necessary. Richer reds and deep colors may need more coats.
Benjamin Moore now offers a premium line called Aura that Helm says delivers great coverage with only one coat. It costs about $54 a gallon, but can save time.
It is also more “green-friendly” because it is lower in volatile organic compounds (VOC) that harm the environment. As more homeowners go green, paint companies are responding with low VOC or zero VOC products. Other “green” paints include Benjamin Moore’s Eco Spec line, Sherwin-Williams Harmony, YOLO paint, BioShield paints, and Anna Sova paints, among others.
Choosing a Color
Most have an easier time choosing their paint brand than they do picking a color. Taylor advises clients to take paint samples outside to look at them in sunlight to gauge true color. Lighting can change tone and hue dramatically. The best way to pick colors is to buy samples and paint swatches on the wall.
“Paint it on your wall before you make a big blunder,” he says. “But remember, it’s only paint. It can be repainted if you end up really hating it.”