Step 1: How to paint a room fast: advice from a pro
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Paint pro Bill Nunn“I use a roller tray instead of a
roller screen in a bucket. There's
less mess from drips, and you have
more control over how much paint
you load on the roller. Plus, it's
easy to move your tray with your
foot—try doing that with a 5-gallon
bucket of paint!”
— Bill Nunn
Painting fast would seem to be at odds
with getting great results, but that's how
painting contractors make their living.
You, too, can paint faster without sacrificing
quality by using the tips shown
here. Some of these methods are contrary to the
painting advice you've been hearing for years, but
they work—they'll save you time and leave you with
a professional-looking finish.
For this story, we worked with painting
expert Bill Nunn. Bill is a veteran painter and
the president of William Nunn Painting. The
tricks and techniques he shows here come
from 32 years of experience painting hundreds
of homes and apartments. Besides being
a super-efficient painter, Bill leaves a flawless
finish on woodwork, walls and ceilings.
Step 2: Clean fast with TSP
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Clean surfaces with TSP
Sponge walls and trim with a TSP solution to clean off dirt, oils and grease and prep the surface for better paint adhesion.
You have to start with a clean surface
for paint to adhere to previously painted
walls and woodwork. Use a sponge
and a trisodium phosphate cleaner (or TSP substitute) to
quickly wash off dirt, grime and soot. TSP cleans fast and
usually doesn't require a lot of scrubbing. Buy TSP concentrate
and mix it with water—it's a better value than liquid
TSP. A 16-oz. box costs about $5 at home centers.
Use TSP on all of your woodwork. It slightly etches the
paint, which helps the paint form a better bond. And use it
in kitchens to clean grease from walls, in bathrooms to
remove hairspray and around light switches to remove fingerprints.
Wear rubber gloves and turn up the cuffs to keep
the TSP solution from running down your arm.
Step 3: Strain out the goobers
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Strain the paint
Pour the freshly mixed paint through a straining cloth to remove finish-marring lumps.
Even if you open your paint right after bringing it home
from the paint store, you can still have small chunks or
strands of hard paint in it. If those end up on the wall,
you'll have to pick them out and reroll the area. So
spend two minutes straining out the goobers.
Buy a paint strainer at a home center or paint
store or use old pantyhose to strain the paint. Place the
strainer over a 5-gallon bucket, then pour the paint
through the strainer. The strainer catches any debris in
the paint. If you really want to be dollar savvy, rinse
out the strainer in the sink and reuse it.
Step 4: Paint window sashes faster
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Cut in sashes
Cut in along windows. Avoid time-consuming taping.
Most DIYers slop paint onto the glass when painting
windows, then scrape it off with a razor. But if you're
good with a paintbrush, you can cut in along the glass.
You won't have to scrape, and better yet, you'll leave
the paint seal intact between the wood and the glass.
Load your brush and lay off the paint on the sash,
staying about 1/2 in. from the glass. As soon as the
brush is about half unloaded, go back and cut in closely.
Let the brush bristles just barely touch the glass so the
paint seals the tiny gap between the wood and the
glass. If paint does drip on the window, scrape it off
with a razor after it dries.
Step 5: Groove textured ceilings
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Groove textured ceiling edges
Cutting a slight groove along textured ceilings leaves a smooth edge for your paintbrush to follow.
It's almost impossible to paint
right next to rough-textured
ceilings (a process called “cutting in”) without getting
paint on the ceiling. Taping off the ceiling doesn't work
either. The solution? Knock off the texture at the edge
with a putty knife. Hold the knife at a 45-degree angle to
the wall and run the blade along the edge of the ceiling.
The blade scrapes away the texture and leaves a small
groove in the ceiling. Clean out the groove with a duster
or a dry paintbrush.
Now when you cut in along the top of the wall, the
paintbrush bristles will slide into the groove, giving you
a crisp paint line without getting paint on the ceiling.
And you'll never notice the thin line of missing texture.
Step 6: Cut in quickly with a steady hand
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Paint right to the edge on your second pass.
Cutting in along trim that's not protected by
masking tape takes a steady hand. And once
you get the knack for it, you'll never want to fuss with taping
trim again. Sure, cutting in can be hard for some DIYers, but you
can learn to do it effectively.
Use a tapered paintbrush. The angled bristles uniformly
unload the paint as you cut in. Dip the brush into the paint, then
tap (don't wipe) each side against your container to knock off the
excess. Brush the paint on the wall, about 1/2 in. from the trim.
Then make a second pass, cutting in all the way to the trim.
Avoid “pushing” the paint with your bristles or you'll leave a
ridge where you're cutting in. Apply just enough pressure to let
the bristle ends glide next to the trim. To help keep the brush
steady, move your entire arm as you paint instead of moving
your arm only from the elbow down.
Step 7: Cover paint to keep it fresh
Paint dries fast, even paint in your
roller tray. If you need to take a break
for more than 10 minutes, cover the
paint. Place a lid on your 5-gallon
bucket of paint and a damp cloth over
your handheld paint container. Use
aluminum foil to cover your roller tray.
If you don't, the film that forms on top
of the paint may end up on your walls.
Step 8: Use extenders to avoid do-overs
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Mix in a paint extender
Paint extenders slow drying and help prevent lap marks.
The longer that paint stays wet on walls or woodwork, the
fewer lap marks and runs you'll have to deal with. Lap
marks are those dark, ugly lines caused by painting over
an area that's already dry. If you can keep the paint wet
longer, you won't have to worry about them. And the way
to prolong the “open time” of paint is to add a paint extender
or a conditioner (Floetrol is one brand; at
home centers and paint stores).
Pour all the paint you need for the room into a 5-gallon
bucket, then stir in the extender or conditioner (following
the manufacturer's recommendations). Because extenders
and conditioners help level out brush marks and paint
runs, you won't have to go back and fix them later.
Step 9: Cut in one wall at a time
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Cut one wall at a time
Damp paint from cutting in will blend with the paint from the roller.
Once you have
in hand, it's
tempting to cut
in along all the
trim, the ceiling
and the corners
in the room. But you'll get better results if you
cut in just one wall, then immediately roll out
the wall before cutting in the next one. That's
because if you roll out the wall right away,
while the cut-in paint is still wet, the cut-in
paint and the wall paint will blend much better,
reducing the chance of lap marks.
Step 10: Spend less time taping
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Tape off horizontal trim
Tape on horizontal trim catches roller spatters.
Taping off all your trim with masking tape is time
consuming and doesn't guarantee good results—paint can still bleed under the
tape. In short, taping off
everything is a waste of time.
Instead, only tape horizontal surfaces, like
baseboards and chair rail, where paint splatter
can land and be noticeable. Vertical surfaces, like door and window
trim, aren't as vulnerable to splatter, so don't bother taping them. Just
be sure to cut in carefully with your paintbrush so you don't slop paint
onto the trim (for help cutting in, see “Cut in Quickly With a Steady
“Tape creates its own set of problems, like coming off before you start
painting and pulling paint off the wall when you remove it,” Bill says.
“But I learned the hard way that you still want to tape baseboards—paint will always splatter on baseboards if they're not taped.”
DIY Success Story I hate dealing with tape when I paint. I used to spend hours
taping off my trim, only to have the tape peel off before I
started slinging the paint. Now I just apply tape to the baseboards
right before I paint, and that's it. Not taping the trim
saves me a lot of time and frustration.
— Paul Squires
Step 11: The fastest way to cover walls
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Photo 1: Start at the bottom
Load the roller with paint and start at the bottom
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Photo 2: Roll straight up
Unload the roller moving it up the wall.
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Photo 3: Roll down
Roll back down over the same area.
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Photo 4: Reload and roll up
Reload the roller with paint, move over 3 inches and roll up the wall.
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Photo 5: Roll down
Shift back 6 inches and roll back down.
Everyone who's painted has a personal
technique for rolling walls.
Bill honed his technique over three
decades. It's methodical, which
makes it fast and efficient. It also
provides even coverage.
If you're right handed, paint the
wall from left to right (it'll feel more
natural when you're rolling). Load
the roller sleeve with paint and roll
from the baseboard to the ceiling to
get the paint on the wall (Photo 1). Then roll
straight back down (without reloading
the roller) to ensure the wall is
covered. Load the roller and move
over about 3 in. to the right (the
unpainted side of the wall) and roll
the full height of the wall again to
feather out the leading edge (Photo 4).
When you get to the top, move
about 6 in. to the left (without
reloading) and roll back down to
smooth out any runs or lap marks.
Then reload the roller, place it on
the feathered edge and start the
process over. As you paint, roll horizontally
where you cut in along the
baseboard and ceiling. Only roll
about 3 ft. at a time so the paint will
stay wet as you roll the walls.
“When I'm painting a room that has
an 8-ft. ceiling, I like to attach a short
handle to my roller instead of using
the more common 48-in. pole extenders.
The short handle gives me more
control over the roller, and it's easier
to turn the roller horizontal to roll
along the baseboard and ceiling.”
— Bill Nunn