Every painter has stepped in a paint pan or kicked over a pail while squeezing a ladder past the couch. If you can’t move furniture and other big stuff completely out of the room, stack it up. Set upholstered chairs upside down on the sofa. Cover the dining room tabletop with cardboard so you can set chairs on top of it. Then get out your ladder and roller and make sure you can easily reach all parts of the ceiling. Cover your furniture stack with plastic to protect it against drips and splatters.
Cover carpeting with canvas dropcloths. They’re easy to spread out, and unlike plastic, they stay put without tape. And they won’t cause your ladder to slip-slide on carpet. Just bunch them up a bit along walls and they’ll stay where you want them. Normal drips and splatter won’t soak through canvas, but heavy spills will. Pick up the dropcloths and scoop up spills with a broad putty knife or dustpan. You don’t have to cover the entire floor. Drag a long, narrow “runner” around the room as you go.
Both canvas and plastic dropcloths are slippery when laid over wood, vinyl and tile. For protection that stays put on hard surfaces, you can’t beat rosin paper. Just tape sheets of it together and then tape the perimeter to the floor. Be sure to clean wood floors thoroughly before laying down the paper; grit trapped underneath can lead to scratches. A single layer will protect against paint drips, but wipe up any spills before they can soak through.
Paint slopped on electrical cover plates, switches and outlets looks tacky. Don’t try to paint around them. Removing cover plates takes just a few seconds and makes for a faster, neater job. Grab a small bucket to hold all the odds and ends you’ll take off the walls. Unscrew cover plates and then shield each switch or outlet with 2-in.wide masking tape. Also remove curtain hardware, picture hooks, grilles that cover duct openings and anything else that might get in your way.
Don’t waste time by completely covering baseboard with several strips of tape. A single overhanging strip of wide tape will catch roller splatters just as the roof overhang on your house keeps rain off the siding. Use 1-1/2 in. tape for narrow baseboard, 2-in. tape for wider baseboard. Tape won’t stay stuck to dusty surfaces, so wipe down all your trim before masking. To minimize paint seepage under the tape, press the tape down hard by running a flexible putty knife over it.
Paint rollers throw off a mist of paint that speckles everything below. Here’s the quickest way to protect doors and windows: When you tape around door and window trim to protect the woodwork, use tape that’s wide enough to project at least 1/2 in. from the trim. That way, you can stick light plastic to the protruding tape—there’s no need to tape the perimeter of the plastic separately. For doors, slit the plastic with a utility knife so you can walk through.
A little paint in the wrong place can cripple the connections that serve your phone, TV or computer. To protect phone jacks without disconnecting all those tiny wires, unscrew the faceplate and cover the front with masking tape. Then mask the terminals on the backside of the plate. Slip the plate into the junction box. Disconnect coaxial cable from its plate and tape the cable’s connector.
Painting a ceiling is a cinch—except for the light fixture. Here’s how to get it out of your way: First remove any glass parts, including the bulbs (make sure the power is off). Unfasten the fixture, usually by removing a couple of screws. Then hook one end of a wire through the fixture and the other to the junction box. Make sure your hanger wire—not the electrical wire—supports the fixture. Then slip a plastic bag over the fixture.
Speed and lots of water are the keys to removing spilled paint from carpet. Immediately scoop up the spill with a wide putty knife, dustpan or whatever is handy. Don’t wipe up the spill; you’ll just force the paint deeper into the carpet. Then start to blot the paint with a wet (not just damp) rag. Keep the paint wet. Continue blotting, refill the bucket with clean water and blot some more until the paint is no longer visible. When you’re done, set up a fan to dry out the soaked carpet.