We knew that priming our home wasn’t going to be a lightning fast effort, if it took us multiple days, even a week, or if our schedules only allowed us to go room by room, we were OK with that. And then, mid-first day, we were reminded about how much we hated cleaning brushes and rollers, so while everything was already a mess–the brushes, the rollers, the clothes, the hair, the dog–we decided to make the most of our weekend and get as much done as possible. With rain in the forecast, we declared it a priming date weekend and went at our home in full force.
WHITE is in, and in two days this place went from being so-Beige to being so-Clean. And it’s still only the primer coat.
Here are the details (followed by lots of before, during, and after photos):
- We set goals for ourselves, and allowed our own pace to determine how much we could finish. On Saturday, we focused on the living and dining rooms but found that we had the time and energy to also complete the hallway leading to the bedrooms. We regrouped on Sunday after a breakfast loaded with diner eggs and home fries, and went to town on the two kids’ bedrooms. By 4pm, we decided that we could “squeeze in” our 400 sq. ft. bedroom too, which probably took the longest of all the rooms, 8 man hours in all. That’s five big rooms, or about 1,750 sq. ft., wrapped into just two days. We now know that we never want to be professional painters, bless them.
- We made some money back. With the living room came removing the heavy curtains that flanked the picture window along the front of our house; out of curiosity, I tossed an ad on Craigslist Friday night just to see if anyone would be interested, and within just 12 hours, before we even started our Saturday of painting, we had a bite and a lovely, ambitious home improvement fanatic came to pick them up and customize them for her own home. People still use those things, and having suspected that new or replacement systems can sell for a lot of money, it was the easiest $50 I could have made. Plus, it covered the cost of half of our materials!
- We prepped our hearts out, which hopefully means our home and the finished paint will look b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l in the end. I also hereby declare paint textures and paint sprayers on walls a bad idea. Don’t do it, just don’t. The prep work both days consumed about 1/3 of our time (about 12 man hours) and involved removing curtains, patching holes in the plaster walls from the seller’s artwork, chipping away loose paint, applying new drywall compound to a few large areas that appeared to have water damage in the past, and sanding every surface by hand (that’d be walls, window trim, floor trim, and lotsa baseboard heating). It appeared to us that when the house was painted last, it was sprayed (not rolled) with a satin or flat paint, so the prep work was a little more rigorous than normal. The process was closer to having to remove actual wall texture, even though they were not intended to be textured walls. Some rooms even felt like sand had been added to the paint, the way the paint spatters had dried on end, and sanding (mostly 150 grit) helped to take down the many textured high points on the surface of the wall. We hoped that rolling primer and then rolling paint would help to subdue this subtle texture even more. If you’re going to spray, a process that does have a place and time, I recommend going over the wet paint lightly with a roller or a brush if you get any inclination that the surface won’t level out nicely.
- We tagged teamed, and it made things go really efficiently. Post-prep, I went about cutting in along the baseboards and along the walls, windows, and doorways with primer. I followed up by priming all of the door and window trim by hand with an angled brush. Pete took to cutting in along the ceiling, which was faster because he had no trim obstacles, and then then took to rolling. He finished rolling around the same time I finished the windows and doorways, and then together we moved to the next room.
- We didn’t do the interiors of the closets. Because who cares about them right now.
- We also didn’t do the main front entryway. It’s a little 30 sq. ft. room of its own, and we might eventually paint the walls a color. To be decided.
- We learned more about our home. We’re all about learning about its history. Removing the switch plates and outlet covers exposed more details about the home; we don’t know how recently it was painted to be beige neutral (possibly within the last year or two to help with the sale of the property) but we do know that cranberry, moss green, and carnation pink were actively used throughout the house. Totally dated awesomeness.
For the primer, we splurged on a no-VOC product, Kilz Premium, for no other reason than so that I could help without worrying that I was damaging this fetus. We paid a bit more for no-VOC over traditional full-o-VOC (about $30-50 more) but found that this was the safest and most economical way to go about the project. There were several low-VOC options, but none were priced much more favorably to sway me. For the Kilz 5 gallons container we paid $94 whereas 5 single gallons of the same product would have cost us $100. It was also the only no-VOC interior/exterior (the other no-VOC 5-gallon option–Behr–was exterior only).
My experience with no-VOCs to this point has been limited, and includes the time I painted Julia’s room in our old house with Behr paint just after they switched their formula. Like I expected with that trial, I thought the volatile compounds were the good stuff (like the artery-clogging extras), and would result in me having to do more coats or having an inconsistent product. I also anticipated Kilz having a foul smell like Behr did, which I still swear smells more offensive than the traditional VOC-ridden mixtures I’ve used. Kilz Premium surprised us both; its coverage was great (though we were going over light walls), and a lingering smell was basically non-existent (we did have windows open during the whole process, which may have helped dissipate things faster than if we were painting in the middle of the winter).
The transformation of each room happened fast. Rolling the fresh layer of white primer on the walls themselves helped a lot, but for me, updating the trim around the windows was the icing on the cake. The dining room was first. Cutting into the trim that butted up to the carpet was made easy with the help of a drywall knife, that I used to separate the yarns from the paint brush. The carpet will be coming out eventually though, and had it been something we needed around for awhile I may have been neater (and we may have covered the working area with plastic).
The living room, though big, went quickly since we were only prepping and painting two wall surfaces (the third wall is the fireplace flagstone, and the fourth is open to the hallway). A moderate amount of work went into applying drywall compound to an area beside the fireplace that was chipping away, but it’s as good as new now. If you look really hard at these pictures, you’ll also see that we removed the useless wavy glass pane. I’ll be back with more on that another day, the space it left behind needs some work.
In the hallway, we performed a miraculous feat and finally removed the sliding divider door, which makes the house 1) look so much better and less hospital-esque and 2) widened our doorway by a foot and increased head clearance by 6 inches.
And really, can you believe that a coat of primer brightened our hallway like this (comparing the home during our home inspection to present)? The light reflection is amazing, and it’ll only get better once we install hardwoods.
The bedrooms, which were two shades of blue and a butter yellow, proved harder to cover with the primer. The most noticeable difference came from removing the heavy blinds from the windows. The nursery, with only one corner window was helped a lot (though with one coat of primer still has blue undertones):
Julia’s bedroom looks like a whole new place. It’s so bright and happy with its two corner windows, I can’t wait to find replacement curtains for her:
Cutting in around the baseboards (which cover hot water piping/radiant heat, not electric) was a lot easier than it might seem. The surfaces were flat enough that zipping around each room with a paint brush was simple. I used the drywall knife here as well to shield the carpet. That there looks a little globby on the wall. Avoid globs.
The master bedroom is the room we did last, but had expected not to do at all. It was the darkest shade of all the rooms, and even with two coats of primer (the only room we did two coats in) there are still signs of blue. Nonetheless, without the curtains and with white primer on the walls, it feels like a much different space. We need more furniture.
We’ll be getting our paint this week from Sherwin-Williams. This is the type of progress that really begins to make a home feel transformed. We’re very excited already!