To paint or not to paint a room yourself: That is the question that many a DIYer asks. When a dingy room needs freshening up, there’s no need to feel intimidated by the prospect of taping off woodwork, avoiding paint splatters and tedious cleanup. Armed with a dependable, contractor-grade OLFA utility knife and some practical, in-the-field advice from a seasoned contractor, it’s easy to paint with confidence—and achieve consistent, professional results every time.
John Potter, the owner of Potter the Painter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has painted professionally for more than 30 years. Potter says an OLFA 9mm stainless-steel utility knife —featuring OLFA’s hallmark snap-off blade technology and a stainless steel blade — is just as essential to his work as paintbrushes and rollers.
“I use my OLFA knives extensively for cutting tape, wallpaper and plastic,” Potter says. “I like the slim 9mm model because it fits easily in the side pocket of my painter’s pants.”
Potter also lauds the innovative snap-off-blade feature, which he says keeps his cuts accurate and efficient, not to mention improves on-the-job safety. “You’re 10 times more likely to cut yourself with a dull blade,” he points out. “Why? Because a dull blade requires more force, which increases the likelihood of the blade slipping off what you’re cutting and slicing yourself. And with the OLFA snap-off blades, as soon as a knife starts tearing tape instead of cutting it, I just snap off the dull end and a sharp new blade is ready to go.”
Over the years, Potter has picked up some great tricks of the trade. Here are his top 10 tips for getting the job done efficiently and right:
- LOTION POTION. Before you start, liberally apply hand lotion partway up your wrists. The lotion blocks your skin pores and effectively forms a barrier that prevents paint from adhering; it should come off with just some warm water and dish soap. “It saves a lot of time,” Potter notes.
- RAZOR-SHARP EDGE. To obtain a clean edge while taping off a baseboard or other trim work, extend the tape about 1/16″ onto the wall, and then firmly press it down with a fingernail to achieve good adhesion and prevent paint bleed-through. When you remove the tape after the paint dries, it’ll leave a crisp line—especially if the baseboard and wall color contrast sharply. “If you don’t do it this way, you risk getting a wavy line because of things like (uneven) caulk or a baseboard that’s not plumb,” Potter explains. “And no one will notice that it (the line) is slightly on the wall because it’s so minor; it’ll only be visible if someone gets down on their hands and knees and views it there at eye level.”
- TAKE COVER. Use tarps or sheets to cover everything in the room you’re painting, or remove things from the room. “It’s amazing how far splatter travels,” Potter says.
- TINT HINT. If you’re painting a wall with a deep color—like red, for instance—pre-tint the primer paint to a medium-gray color. “Deep-tone products are mixed with a clear base, so they don’t cover as well as a paint with a tinted base,” Potter explains. “A tinted primer will minimize the need for a third top coat.”
- DOUBLE PRIME EVERY TIME: A primer coat of paint is critical because it seals the surface, which prevents the finish coat from sinking in and requiring a second coat. Double priming not only ensures a proper seal, it also provides a flatter surface that promotes a uniform sheen level when top-coated.
- ROLL MODEL. When you roll out paint, don’t do it in straight lines; instead, do it in “W” patterns that cross over a little onto a previously rolled area. That way the top coat won’t look segmented after it dries.
- THE GREAT COVER-UP. While a roller with a 3/8″ nap is recommended for flat walls, using a 1/2″ nap will leave stipple marks that can mask small wall imperfections. The 1/2″ nap also offers an easier way to create a textured appearance without the hassle of adding sand to the paint.
- SHINE ON. If you’re using enamel paint on trim, don’t go back and try to touch it up after you’ve brushed it out. This will make it ropy and uneven. If it needs touching up, let it dry thoroughly first, then lightly sand it before repainting.
- NO DRIPS OR DROPS. To clean latex-paint splatters and drips, use warm water and dish detergent. But if you don’t get to it for a few days, use a paint-removal product (though on woodwork, test it on an inconspicuous area first to be sure it doesn’t mar the finish).
- STAY IN SHAPE. After you clean a brush, vigorously spin the handle between both your hands over a sink. This removes most of the water. While the brush still is damp, put it back in its cardboard cover so it retains its original shape.
TIPS FROM THE PROS
- Wear safety glasses and a dust mask whenever using abrasives during prep work—even during vacuuming. Dust and small particulates act as an abrasive in your lungs and eyes.
- For latex paint, warm water and a little dish detergent works best for cleaning brushes. It acts as a degreaser, which removes the acrylic or vinyl “binders” in the paint.
GOT PAINTING TIPS? Share them with other contractors and DIYers in the comments below.