Painting 101

When Adrian and Abbey Dawson-Becker found out they were pregnant with their second child, they wanted their then 18-month-old son, Drake, to be a big part of getting ready for the new baby. One way to accomplish that was to have him help put a fresh coat of paint on the nursery walls to get it ready for “Sister.”

Painting a room alongside your children—whether to welcome a new baby, transform the look, or just refresh the space—is a wonderful way to teach a useful skill to kids while accomplishing a task together.

Paint, Primer, and Supplies

Experts recommend you choose a paint that matches the purpose of the room. Let the kids help you select a color. Drake chose the color for his baby sister’s nursery. Keep in mind, paint is a relatively inexpensive product and if the kids choose something wild now, you can paint over it when they (or you) get tired of their selection. For a nursery, or an area that a young child will be spending time in, Don Woodbury, paint expert at Scheels Home and Hardware, suggests a satin or semi-gloss paint. “The shinier the paint, the easier it will be to clean.”

For those who are concerned about toxins, modern latex paint is generally quite low in VOC (volatile organic compounds). However, manufacturers do suggest painting in a well-ventilated area. Some paint brands boast a minimal VOC rating, but toxin levels can increase with the addition of coloring, so it’s best to investigate which paints are appropriate for your space.

Do your walls need a primer? Some DIY painters avoid this step altogether because they think a previously painted room doesn’t need primer—not necessarily. Applying a primer will give your paint a better-looking, more durable finish, and help with overall uniformity of paint application. If the wall is in rough shape, with visible stains or marks, a primer will help seal out old stains and mask wall blemishes.

Use high quality paint, rollers, and brushes for maximum effect. “The quality of your paint job is only as good as your applicator,” says Woodbury. Other supplies to consider gathering include drop cloths (old sheets or shower curtains work well), buckets, scrapers, paint trays, painter’s tape, old rags, stir sticks, a ladder, and gloves.

Prepping the Room

You have a couple of options when it comes to getting a room ready for a new coat of paint: 1) Move all the furniture to the center of the room, giving you access to the walls, or 2) clear the furniture from the room. After you and the kids have done the heavy lifting, the next step is to thoroughly prepare the walls. Take a scraper and scrape away any loose paint. You may need to do some light sanding or patch work if the walls are riddled with holes. Next, clean the walls by taking your vacuum extension and sucking any dirt and debris from every surface that will be receiving paint. Then, thoroughly wash the walls. Woodbury suggests using a mild solution of warm water, a few drops of dish soap, and a bit of vinegar to remove any residue. Rinse with plain water. A sponge and some elbow grease can knock this task out quickly. Allow time for the walls to dry completely before moving on.

Protecting surfaces with painter’s tape is the next order of business. While this step is time consuming, it is important. Use painter’s tape along wall and ceiling edges, on fixtures, and around trim and molding to keep clean, sharp paint lines and to shield surfaces from drips and splatters. When taping, Woodbury suggests starting with the baseboards first, and moving to window sills and door frames. Don’t worry too much about the tops of sills or frames unless you’re expecting a lot of eight-foot-tall basketball players to be hanging out in the room. This is a good time to put down tarps or drop cloths to protect flooring, as well as remove all the switch plates and outlet covers. If you have little ones helping, be sure to note the dangers of an open outlet and caution them. If you feel removing them is just too unsafe, tape the covers and plates to protect them from paint instead.

The Application

Most of your wall space can be painted using a roller. However, you can’t get right up to the edges of molding, trim, or baseboards with a roller, so you’ll need to use a brush and a process called “cutting in.” Pour some paint into a bucket. Painting professionals recommend you don’t load up a paintbrush directly from the can to keep residue that might get on your brush out of the original batch of paint. Dip a two-and-a-half-inch brush into the bucket, gently shake off the excess, and “cut in” a line of paint along all the edges in the room you won’t be able to reach with a roller (molding, trim, baseboards, corners, etc.).

To use the roller, start by filling the well of a paint tray with paint. Move the roller back and forth in the well and then drag it up across the grid of the tray to eliminate the excess paint. Apply the roller to the wall in a V or W pattern, filling in a blocked section about three feet wide, working from ceiling to floor. Let young children paint with a small roller and then incorporate their painting into yours. Paint each adjacent block before the previous one dries to blend the edges together. Continue painting in three-foot sections until the first coat is complete for the entire room. Wait for the appropriate drying time (as indicated on the paint can) before repeating the process with a second coat.

Clean-Up Time

A painting project comes with a lot of clean-up, which is a great opportunity to teach kids to care for tools and supplies so they will last. How you clean paintbrushes, rollers, and trays depends on the type of paint product. Read the instructions on the paint can and use the appropriate solvent. Mineral spirits or turpentine may be recommended for oil-based paint; brushes used to apply latex paint can generally be cleaned with soap and water.

Remove painter’s tape from the walls and trim when the last coat of paint is no longer tacky to the touch (one to two hours). Pull it off slowly and, if it seems to be bringing the paint with it, use a razor to carefully score the edge.

Experts suggest waiting 12 to 24 hours until a freshly painted room is move-in ready. A completed DIY project like painting a room should give you and your kids a great sense of accomplishment. Don’t forget to enlist their help to restore the room to livability, too.

A North Dakota native, Megan Bartholomay is a freelance writer and editor with an addiction to grammar, cats, wine, and good food. She lives in downtown Fargo with her husband, Mike, and their bevy of fuzzy babies. 


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