Painting Ceilings

To succeed at painting a room, start at the top and work your way down. In other words, the ceiling comes first. Unless the surface is brand new, you usually can get by with one coat of paint on a ceiling. Even stubborn stains will disappear if you spot-prime them first. If you’re planning a one-coat application, let the paint lap onto the walls. If you will apply two coats to the ceiling, cut in (trim up to the ceiling/wall line) with a trim brush. Otherwise, the paint will build up on the wall and leave a ridge.

Paint across the ceiling at the room’s narrow dimension, especially if you’re using a fast-drying paint. Otherwise, the paint may lose its wet edge. A roller frame with an extension handle greatly speeds up the job, although you still need a trim brush to cut in the ceiling paint where it meets the walls. A doughnut-style roller makes quick work of painting the corner between a wall and the ceiling.

Rollers emit a fine spray of paint that settles over the room like dust. Cover furniture in the room, as well as the floor, carpeting, and woodwork. Canvas drop cloths work best because they absorb spills and are easy to walk on, but plastic drop cloths or newspapers will do the job too. Buy ceiling paint—it is flatter than flat wall paint and hides imperfections very well. It is not scrubbable, but ceilings are not prone to handprints and smudges.

Tools: Drop cloths, brushes, ladder, and a roller with an extension handle.

1. Protect lights. Usually you can remove a light fixture’s canopy. Remove the canopy’s mounting screws and allow the fixture to hang down, as long as it is not a heavy chandelier. Wrap the fixture in plastic, or cover the finish parts with masking tape.

2. Paint the corners. Start a ceiling job by cutting in a strip along the walls, as shown. If you’ll be applying only one coat, lap the paint onto the wall as well.

3. Roll and cross-roll. Start rolling the paint with a series of diagonal swaths. Don’t worry about spreading the paint evenly; just get it on the ceiling. Then even out the paint and fill in any open areas by cross-rolling.

4. Level the paint. Continue working, spreading the paint from dry areas into the wet paint. Rollers slip on smooth surfaces, so check for skips. After you’ve finished a section, check to see whether you’ve created thick lap marks. If so, even them out by going over them lightly with a fairly dry roller.

Painting Walls

Once the walls have been patched, perhaps primed, and cleaned thoroughly, the ceiling has been painted, and all of the switch and receptacle plates have been removed, you’re ready to paint walls. Do all the edging first. This includes cutting in the ceiling and around moldings and trims. Once these details are done, it’s payback time: You can paint the big, flat surfaces quickly. A neat job requires concentration and a methodical approach. Take care to keep the edges wet to prevent lap marks. Keep the roller from slipping to the side and causing skid marks. Avoid the temptation to make a roller load last too long, or you will end up with places that are not fully covered.

When painting with semigloss or high-gloss finish, make the final brush strokes away from light sources, including windows. This way, the tiny ridges that a brush leaves won’t be as noticeable. Always give paint a brisk stirring before starting, even if the paint was just shaken at the store. As you work, stir the paint occasionally. Keep an eye on the paint in the roller tray. As long as you’re filling the roller, the paint will remain properly blended. If you leave the tray for an hour or so, cover it with plastic wrap. When you’re ready to get back to work, stir the paint lightly with a paint paddle. When left untouched, paint skins over.

Tools: Drop cloths, ladder, brushes, specialty paint applicators for painting around trim, roller, extension handle.

1. Brush the corners. Begin painting walls by cutting in the corners and around all of the woodwork. With practice, you can cut neat lines without the use of masking tape. If you will paint the trim later, lap the wall paint onto the trim slightly. Paint about 3 inches out from the edges.

2. Apply paint. For large surfaces, load the roller and apply the paint in a large “M” shape. Start the roller going up, then pull it down.

3. Even out the paint. Level and fill in the M shapes by cross-rolling. You can work horizontally, as shown, or vertically. By working the paint this way, you get an even paint surface. Watch for roller skids.

4. Paint in planned sections. Determine how much area a loaded roller can fully cover. Do not attempt to “stretch” the paint, or you will probably need to apply another coat. (You can see the coverage clearly only after the paint has dried.) Plan to work in sections that are similar in size.

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