How to Paint an Entire Room | 11 Simple Steps to Perfection
I am one of those weird ones that actually likes to paint. However, I’m not a huge fan of painting trim because it’s time consuming and tedious, but entire rooms with huge walls… I’m all for it!
Over the years of remodeling and renovating, I’ve been the one that usually gets stuck with most, if not all, of the painting. I painted the entire house (interior and exterior) of our first flip, I painted the entire 1 bedroom/1 bathroom apartment above our garage and gel stained all 1,000,000 kitchen and bathroom cabinets – which isn’t really painting but it’s the same concept.
The tutorial below lists out all the steps I take when painting an entire room. And while I love painting, the part I hate it about painting is all the tedious prep work. But I whole hardheartedly believe the outcome of the paint job is (almost) ALL in the prep work. So anytime anyone asks me what my secret to painting is, I tell them it’s ALL IN THE PREP WORK – because it’s true!
If the “canvas” isn’t up to par then the final paint job won’t be up to par either – a high quality paint won’t hide low quality work!!!!
On that note, I’ve thought long and hard about the order of this list for how to paint an entire room (not just the walls) – you may or may not need to do every step, depending on the condition of the room you’re painting so adjust accordingly. (I’m usually painting rooms that are in dire need of almost every step!)
I’ve found over the course of my hundreds (if not thousands) of painting hours, that this is the best way to go about painting a room in the shortest amount of time. And everyone you ask will have a differing opinion on painting and move a few steps around – you’ve gotta figure out what works for you, and the steps below are what work for me – every time.
(Lastly, this post contains affiliate links. If you don’t know what affiliate links are it means I get a small commission if you purchase something through one of my links with no increase in cost to you. It helps me keep this blog running and you get an awesome product that I actually use and like.)
How to Paint an Entire Room – The Steps
Like I said above, I go about painting a room the exact same way every time. Feel free to play around with the steps below and figure out what works best for you. Because in the end we’re all different and go about doing things in different ways… there isn’t really a “right” and a “wrong” way to paint.
And check out this blog post I wrote about the tools I can’t live without while painting [here]!
1. Cover the floor
We all make mistakes. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re some magical unicorn and won’t get a drop of paint or spackle on the floor (or trim for that matter!) And yes, this is the absolute first thing I do because it’s nice to have something to catch all the debris as well! You won’t believe how much junk can come out of receptacles and cover plates – there are spider webs, old spackle and dust bunnies galore inside those cover plates!!
I also always use a floor cover because I opt for a ceiling paint that is known to “spray” while it’s being rolled. I opt for this specific paint (not an affiliate) because it’s incredibly easy to touch up between tenants and is wonderful for blending in spackle holes or dents after a tenant moves out.
Even if you aren’t using a paint that is known to splatter, there will be drips and other things you may not expect, so I highly recommend using a drop cloth to catch everything.
2. Remove outlet plates and switch covers
I see it time and time again…. people are literally too lazy to remove the plate covers so they paint around them! But it’s nearly impossible to paint perfectly straight and not get it on the cover – so it just winds up looking sloppy. I also see lots of homes where the covers and plates are totally painted over – they are literally the same color as the walls! Please don’t do this guys – it looks tacky and lazy!!!
Remove all outlet and switch plate covers and spackle anything that won’t be covered by a new outlet cover. I can’t tell you how often I see an outlet or switch cover that hasn’t been totally filled in. It just looks sloppy.
After I remove all the covers I spackle any and all dents, knicks and all the holes – both large and small, I still find that even thumbtack holes, more often than not, need to spackled! I do wish that paint would fill the holes but it doesn’t happen.
You’ll also want to tape any cracks at this point as well. The spackling part of painting prep takes the longest because you have to wait for the spackle to dry in between coats (and usually 3 coats are needed for tape) and then the dreaded sanding!
4. Clean up dust and dirt
At this point you can clean up all the mess you’ve made up until this step, if you haven’t already (I will say, Mr. Stone Head is great for cleaning up in between and it’s not something I think about often.) If you had a lot of spackling and sanding to do, there’s no doubt you’ll have tons of dust to clean off the baseboards, window sills and walls.
At this point, I also like to pick up my tarp and shake it outside so I don’t track the dust around the rest of the house. Sometimes you’ll find that the walls are really gross and need to be
cleaned scrubbed – I’ve come across walls covered in nicotine, grease and dare I say it – dirty heads (like from where someone didn’t use a headboard and they were so dirty there were marks from where their heads hit the wall!!!) Please don’t skip this step…. it’s truly important to the finished product!!! You definitely don’t want your immaculate painting job to peel in just a few years time!
After everything is clean and all the dust and debris gone, it’s time to caulk! I like to caulk almost everywhere trim meets wall – such as baseboards and window & door trim. It’s tedious but it makes it super easy to paint a straight line and looks a lot cleaner. Make sure to use a paintable caulk!! I’ve seen a few places where whomever caulked used a silicone caulk and the paint wouldn’t stick! The only remedy for that is to remove all the caulk and start over (or try and cover it up with paintable caulk which is possible but doesn’t always work.)
6. (OPTIONAL) Apply painter’s tape if using
I actually don’t have much to say about this section because I NEVER USE painter’s tape. In all honesty, I hate painters tape. When I first started doing a lot of painting, I would try it every time but it always looked terrible when I was done – and I tried more than 4 brands of tape! For me, the paint always bleeds through the tape and never looks like a professional did it! (It actually looks like I hired a 1st grader instead!)
So unfortunately this section is short, but it’s the truth. Just figure out how to make a straight line yourself, without tape, and you’ll be set for all the rest of your painting projects.
Priming is something a lot of people skip now-a-days because the paint companies claim “there is primer already in the paint.” And of course there is… however, there are many times when a primer is still necessary, no matter how badly you want to skip it – and trust me, I want to skip primer EVERY time I paint (because it just takes that much more time and money!!)
However, I have found that not using a primer is fine when ONLY covering over a light color, but I’ve found that priming is the way to go when covering up dark or bright colors.
Unfortunately priming is something that shouldn’t be skipped more often than not. Sorry guys!!! I can’t drive this point home enough – it’s super important to prime whenever you’ve spackled – especially if you’ve speckled a lot. I’ve found that if you don’t prime the spackle, it shows through! This is because spackle is porous and soaks up a ton of paint. However, if you’ve just touched up a few areas and don’t plan on buying a separate primer, a two in one paint will do – just paint over the spackled areas, let them dry and continue painting the entire wall as you normally would.
8. Paint the ceiling first!
If you’re painting an entire room, I always recommend painting the ceiling first. Like I said above, we use a color that is known to spatter all over everything- so it’s something we prepare ourselves for (because even if the salesman doesn’t tell you the paint might splatter, almost all ceiling paint will to some extent, especially when rolling!!)
The paint splatter usually lands on the trim or walls and can be easily wiped or scraped off before painting the walls and trim.
The other nice thing about painting the ceiling first is when you cut in the corners, you don’t have to be careful about getting it on the walls. In fact, I encourage you to go a few inches down the wall so it’s easier to get a crisp line between the wall and ceiling when you edge (especially if you aren’t going to use painter’s tape.)
9. Paint the trim (but leave baseboard final coat for last!)
When I first started painting, I never understood why everyone said “it’s important to paint the trim before the walls,” but it only took one time of painting the trim AFTER the walls to realize it’s about 1675% easier to do it first.
So trust me, paint the trim first if you’re planning on painting the trim as well as the walls of the room – my only caveat is to leave the final coat of baseboard trim until absolutely last. Baseboard is much easier to cut in to the wall than cutting the wall into the baseboard. So leaving the baseboard’s last coat as the last thing you paint is money.
10. Edge in with color
Finally we’re onto the fun part of painting – the color! You’ll want to edge the walls first before rolling. So cut in around any trim, baseboards, the ceiling and in any small areas where a roller won’t fit. Personally, if I’m painting alone, I like to do one wall at a time so that my edging is still a little wet when I roll on the color, I think it makes the edging look a little less noticeable and blends the color much better. (I mean have you ever seen a bad edge job? Yuck.)
So what I do is commit a full day to one room. I edge in two walls and then roll on those two walls, and continuing that until I’m all done!
( DIY TIP: Helpers can be an invaluable tool to have! You can usually pay them in PIZZA and have an entire home painted in one weekend!)
11. Roll the rest of the wall
Lastly, roll the walls! Like I said, I like to edge one or two walls and then roll one wall and then edge and roll the next, and so forth. There are tons of different ways to paint a wall but I prefer to use the W method. I paint a whole bunch of W’s until the whole wall is covered. I also like to go up and down as well as back and forth just to make sure everything is covered.
I find that two coats is usually enough, especially if I’ve primed, but every once in a while, especially with darker colors, a third coat is needed. I’ve also found that a third coat is sometimes needed (even for lighter colors) when I don’t prime – so there’s another reason to prime!
12. Put the final coat on the baseboards!
Now is the time to finish off the room with the last coat of baseboard paint! After which, you should probably stand back and admire your work, give yourself a pat on the back and then get to the part I hate about painting – the cleanup.
I realize when to paint the trim is a hotly debated topic and you’ll never find a group of painters who will agree on the ideal order of how to paint things. And to be honest, sometimes I paint the baseboards in totality first and then just do touch up… you really just need to figure out what works for you and you’re unique situation!
There you have it! My 12 steps to a perfect paint job. Which is actually 11 steps if you skip #6 like I always do and encourage everyone else to do too!
When remodeling, everything is a learning experience so you might find that you want to tweak a few things on this list. But it’s the process I do every time I paint and it’s been working excellent for me for years.
Speaking of painting, you should check out this post on all the painting supplies I’ve found to be super helpful over the years!
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