By Mary Heyl

It’s officially spring, which means spring cleaning, garden planning and home improvement projects are probably on your mind! Even though the weather is too cold and unpredictable for outdoor projects right now, it’s a great time of year to start that interior painting project! Whether you’re sprucing up your kitchen cabinets, repainting a few accent walls, or tackling a whole room, March is the perfect time of year to get out your brushes and get busy.

While painting indoors is usually a much simpler task than exterior painting, there’s more to it than opening a gallon of paint and brushing it on the wall. Spending a small amount of time planning and prepping the surface can save a lot of time and money down the road and is certainly worth the trouble. After all, if this is a room you and your family spend a lot of time in— go the extra mile, since you’re going to be living in (and looking at!) this space every day.

Longer stretches of daylight provide more time to paint and warmer temperatures mean that windows can be cracked open for faster drying and ventilation—what are your waiting for? Head to your local home improvement or hardware store and pick up some paint samples. If you’re going for a more drastic color change, consider painting a piece of foam core board in each sample.  Tack them on different walls throughout the day to get an idea of what the color will look like in the morning, afternoon and evening. This will help you narrow down your selection with a minimum investment of just a few samples rather than several non-returnable gallons of mixed paint.

Once you’ve committed to a color, estimate the size of the room and plan to purchase one gallon of paint for every 400 square feet of wall space. Be sure to buy extra paint if the walls are texturized or unprimed. Even gallons of paint that have been purchased in a single transaction can still have a slight color variation due to the store’s color mixer. While color variation may not be noticeable upon first glance, any variation will be obvious on a large wall in your living room. To remedy this, mix all of the paint together in a five-gallon bucket. Then, fit a roller screen into the bucket, which will eliminate the need to fill and refill paint trays.

Paint doesn’t stick very well to dirty or dusty surfaces, so take the time to wipe everything down so that the paint will adhere to the surface evenly. High traffic areas, like the kitchen and living room, usually need some extra attention, as kitchen cabinets, baseboards, and doorways in these rooms frequently come into contact with oily or dirty hands. Use warm soapy water to wipe down these surfaces, and for baseboards and crown molding that are simply dusty, use an old paintbrush or china bristle brush to dust them before taping them.

Now it’s time for the real work to begin! Pick up a nylon bristle brush for water-based latex paints (this is the majority of interior paints) and use a natural bristle paintbrush for oil-based paints, as the water-based paint will dry out these brushes. Tempting as it may be to load the brush with as much paint as possible, just dip half the bristles into the paint and tap the brush on the lip of the can to get rid of the excess paint. Hold the brush near the base of the handle and paint with enough pressure to bend the bristles slightly.

If you’re using a roller, slowly roll it into the paint tray or screen. Roll it back and forth until it is evenly coated with paint and cover about a 2-foot square using the “N” pattern. Cross roll to spread the paint and fill in the “N” before moving on to another surface. Always make sure to remove the extra paint by thoroughly rolling the roller in the tray so that paint doesn’t spray everywhere when you’re rolling it on the wall!

Wait about three hours in between coats of paint or the approximate dry-time listed on the paint can. Allow at least 24 hours before putting furniture back into the space or on the surface so that the paint has plenty of time to harden. Relax and enjoy your first spring project (just don’t forget to put the lids back on those paint cans!).