If you are able-bodied, and not a millionaire, there is no real reason to waste money paying other people to paint your house. I should not be saying this, I guess, according to some people. I was a professional painter for years, and I don’t want to mess with painters’ livelihood, but I also feel that I have a responsibility to the consumers to let them in on a few tips for saving money in these tough economic times. You can paint your own place if you have a little bit of money and a good amount of time.
One tip is to have a painting party, just to get some extra hands on the job. You send out invitations to friends who you think won’t screw it up, bribe them with some food, beer, or whatever will work, and stock up on paint, rollers, brushes, and a whole bunch of drop cloths to keep them from trashing your stuff. This works best for interior work, when you don’t have a lot of people climbing around on ladders and possibly falling and killing themselves. If you protect your carpet, furniture, and other possessions with drop cloths, you will usually be OK having a bunch of buddies over to slap paint while listening to music and telling jokes. It’s not a bad idea to have a chat with each of them to see if they have painting experience or special skills. That way, you can delegate well and choose who cuts in the detail work, who rolls out the ceiling, etc.
When working on the exterior, it’s all about the prep work. The exterior is where you are most likely to have to deal with thick, dried, nasty old paint. It looks kind of like alligator skin, and it usually does not want to come off. You can scrape it the old fashioned way, which will probably make you want just quit the whole project, or you can invest in a multi-use oscillating tool and use scraper blades to do most of the work for you. I think it’s worth buying one of these tools. They aren’t usually cheap, but they have so many uses that they will pay for themselves in no time. Once you own the tool, you can choose from a huge variety of multi tool blades so you can use it for cutting just about anything, scraping dried paint / dried concrete / drywall mud / tile grout / etc., sanding, grinding, sculpting… the list goes on and on. If you own a house, you need one of these. The replacement oscillating tool blades can get expensive, but you can find websites where you can get high quality blades at a fraction of the name brand prices. One of these tools makes scraping and prepping, the least fun parts of exterior painting, far less painful. It’s also a good idea to borrow or rent a power washer to clean up your exterior surfaces before applying paint.
Another major tip is to use rollers whenever possible. Even good brushes tend to leave brush marks / streaks in the paint. It’s impossible to avoid brushes altogether, especially when doing cut-ins / trim work, but try to limit the brush work. Between your large rollers and the small hand rollers, you can do probably 98% or more of most paint jobs with rollers. Cut in the edges with a brush and then use rollers to go over your brush work as much as possible, to even out the paint right up to the very edges. Many people never think of using rollers for external trim work, but they should. Small hand rollers on your exterior trim will spread the paint much more evenly than brushes. When it comes to interior surfaces, buy the best large roller you can afford. Make liberal use of drop cloths in case of accidents and use a high-quality roller. Buying cheap rollers is one of the most common and serious mistakes that people tend to make. Bad roller will cost you more in paint, damaged goods, and headaches than the cost of a high-quality roller, especially when rolling out the ceiling. A $40 roller can last you for months if you clean it with soap and water between jobs. It will hold the paint, spread it beautifully, and keep it from running and dripping. If you place the roller in plastic, the plastic will hold in the moisture so that the paint won’t dry and destroy the roller. This won’t work forever, but it will preserve your roller if a job takes a few days. I have tried the various roller mechanisms that pump the paint directly onto the roller through a tube. As always, the infomercials look great, but I have not had much luck with them. They tend to work great for about 15 minutes before something goes wrong and you they either create a big mess or they simply quite working. There may be some good ones out there, but I would tend to advise people to just buy a high-quality traditional roller and put down a drop cloth.
Keep it simple and use your common sense. Painting always costs some amount of time and money, but you can limit both if you plan out the job and take some good advice.
Bryan a former painting company assistant manager, construction worker, teacher, and author of several articles on painting, home improvements, and oscillating tool blades.