DIY Painting Budget Considerations

I’d say all my free time has been spent on the house but that implies that I’ve had time that could be considered “free”. It’s been worth it though, I have just a couple little things to do and it’ll be ready for the market. Since I’ve been so focused on home improvement I thought I’d do a post about it.

Painting is something just about anyone can do, is relatively inexpensive, and most mistakes can be easily fixed. Changing the wall color in a room can have a huge impact as well, more so than hanging a picture or adding an area rug.

There are plenty of sites that can teach you how to paint better than I can, but here are some money tips. I’m no expert, but I have painted almost my entire house (everything but the ceilings) and I used to work in KMart’s paint department.

Prep Work Is Priceless

The biggest hazard with painting is getting the paint places where it shouldn’t be. A .7mm drop cloth is fine for mild use but if you’ll have a lot of traffic and ladders it’s likely to rip, which you really don’t want if you’re painting over carpet. Splurge on a thicker, more durable drop cloth instead. If you’re painting over tile, laminate or other solid surface flooring you could choose to skip the drop cloth but be prepared to deal with paint getting into the seams, grout and other hard to clean places. Basically, you should assume that you will be dripping on the worst place possible.

Painters tape is well worth it as well. Unless you whip out a razor sharp edge in no time, but if that’s the case you probably don’t need any tips I can give you. Regular masking tape works too but leaves behind adhesive residue if left on for too long. The narrower rolls are cheaper, of course, and I usually just use the 1″ stuff, but wider gives you more protection. If you plan to slap paint up as fast as possible, get at least 2″ wide tape. You can go without tape if you’re very careful, but expect to spend a lot more time on edging. Seriously, a lot.

One more quick, not really money related note: clean your walls thoroughly before painting. It will save you a lot of work later on.

The Paint

If you want your paint to last a while, don’t use the really cheap stuff. I’m talking about the $10/gallon stuff KMart sells (or used to sell). It doesn’t cover as well and doesn’t last. The mid-grade stuff you find at the hardware store is good enough for just about any project. A flat finish is usually the cheapest but glossier sheens are easier to clean. Spend the extra few dollars per gallon to get the finish you want.

If you have new, unprepared walls, tough stains, or are painting over different colors with the same new color, consider getting a paint and primer. It’s more expensive per gallon, but you’ll use less and it’s still less expensive than doing a separate primer.

If you don’t need a specific color take a look at “oops” paint. Depending on the person manning the paint station, they might even be able to add some extra tint to make it closer to what you want. The only problem is that if you have to buy more you might not be able to get the exact color, so make sure you get all the paint you’ll need first.

Applying the Paint

The faster the method is for getting the paint where you want it, the more paint it uses. Paint guns over spray like crazy and require much more prep, especially inside, but they’re very fast and almost necessary on surfaces with deep textures. They also use a lot more paint. A good paint gun will cost $100+, although my cheap Harbor Freight gun was a bit more than $20 and did the job just fine.

Brushes are the slowest, use the least paint, and give you the greatest control. Foam brushes are the cheapest but generally can’t be reused. They used to be my go to for most painting but I’ve now fallen in love with bristle brushes. A good bristle brush is more expensive but you can get a lot more use out of it and the coverage will be better as well. Even my dollar store brushes are better than the hardware store’s more expensive foam brushes. In short, skip the foam and get a decent bristle. You’ll need at least one for edging and possibly touchup.

Rollers are my preference for the bulk of interior paint jobs. The really cheap roll covers are a bit of a gamble so I typically go mid-grade. High grade rollers are a bit better at holding paint and are more durable, but I don’t reuse my covers so it isn’t worth the extra to me. I used to use the thin 4″ rollers for small areas but found that they had terrible coverage and required 2-4 coats instead of 1-2. I’ve now switched to using 4″ rollers that are the same diameter as the full size. For the roller pan, buy something firm enough to stand up to the pressure. I hate cleaning paint stuff so I typically buy the cheap biodegradable pans and throw them out at the end of the project. They can be reused several times, but can easily be damaged in storage.

Hired Labor

Painting can be a one person chore but if you have a lot to do why not make a party out of it? Call your friends and family, or post the date on Facebook, and offer pizza and beer (or soda) to those who help. The job will be done faster, you’ll have more fun, and I think the extra cost is well worth it.

Or, you could hire pros. Which wouldn’t make it a DIY job anymore, but sometimes it’s worth paying people to do things that a) you don’t have time for or even b) you really don’t want to do. This assumes you can afford it, of course. If money’s tight, do it yourself or live with current wall color. Painters come in a variety of qualities and costs, so make sure you get some good references instead of calling up a company because they posted on craigslist.

As with any project, you can get it fast, good, or cheap – but only two at a time. It’s up to you to decide what your priorities are, although I wouldn’t recommend leaving the “good” out.

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