The most common mistakes people make when DIY painting their walls

Painting can make a big difference in how your home looks and it’s one of the least expensive home improvement projects that you can do.  It can save you a lot of money if you can do it yourself.  (And, it’s one of the few DIY projects that many people can do, provided they have enough time and patience).

The Top 10 Painting Mistakes DIYers Make

After being in the home improvement business for over 10 years, working in both flooring and painting, I’ve seen thousands of jobs – some good, and some not so good.  So, I thought I’d share the most common painting mistakes I see DIYers doing.

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The top 10 painting mistakes Do-it-yourselfers make

1.  Buying the wrong paint (and finish)

Top 10 Painting Mistakes Do-it-yourselfers makeRegardless of whether you’re painting yourself or hiring a professional, do yourself a favor and use a quality paint.  You get what you pay for, and you go cheap here, it will show in the result.  I generally recommend Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore.  They are both high quality paints that go on well and are durable.


Avoid Behr, as this paint is inferior and usually requires at least 1 extra coat of paint (sometimes more) to get the same color saturation and durability vs. Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams.  You will NOT be saving any money as you’ll need to buy more of it (and of course spend even more time painting).  And, don’t fall for the claims of painter and primer in one or that you just need one coat.  Trust me, if you need a primer, use it!  And, if you are changing the color, you will need 2 coats of paint.  Plain and simple. (In rare circumstances you may need 3 for super saturated colors).  More about primer later.


For Sherwin Williams, we typically use Promar 200 or Duration (more expensive).  There is an even more expensive line called Emerald, but our guys have found Duration to go on smoother and easier (and it shows brush marks less.


For Benjamin Moore, we typically use Regal or Aura (more expensive).  Benjamin Moore also has a specialty paint for bathrooms and kitchens.  (In Sherwin Williams, Duration serves the same purpose).  You want to be more careful in these rooms due to the extra moisture (and this can be more of an issue during the curing time (which can be 3 to 4 weeks in smaller/more enclosed spaces).


2.  Not choosing the right color or the right finish

picking the rght paint colors - mistakes do-it-yourselfs makeA lot of do-it-yourselfers struggle with this.  They may know how to paint, but they are not the best at choosing colors.  Usually when you look at someone’s home and think that it looks awesome, more often than not, they either worked with a decorator or a professional painting company to help them choose the right shade.


These 2 articles may come in handy to help you with paint selection.  Most popular shades of gray paint and Best paint colors if you’re selling your home.  I will be writing more of these sorts of articles over the next few months, so stay tuned.


In terms of finish, flat is by far the most popular and stylish finish.  I see way to many DIYers and amateurs choosing shinier finishes…and it looks really cheap and dated (plus the shinier you go, the more it shows the imperfections in the wall and your painting.).  The flat has the least sheen, followed by matte, then egg shell, then satin and semi gloss.

Do you need any paint shade fan decks?

Amazon can help with that. It’s so much easier when you have the full color wheels and can see all of these in your own home (vs. going back and forth to the store MULTIPLE times).

Sherwin Williams           Benjamin Moore


3.  Not having enough paint

Make sure you estimate properly, and if anything overestimate.  You do NOT want to run short on paint.  It will really mess you up, and you’ll notice the problem at the worst time (Murphy’s Law).  And, don’t forget that you will need 2 coats of paint if you are changing the color.


4.  Buying the wrong brush

Do not get the cheapest brush.  Get the right brush.  Your job will come out much better and much faster.  Here’s a brush I highly recommend and you can buy it on Amazon.

Buy it now on Amazon - how to test paint samples correctly

Also, here’s a great roller.  You would generally use a brush for all the edges and trim, and the roller for the larger areas.  This kit comes complete with a tray, paint brush and several other painting tools. While this does have a brush, I’d still recommend that you upgrade and get the higher quality Chinex brush I recommended above (and remember, you’ll probably need more than one brush, especially if 2 of you are doing this as well as if you’re painting trim.  This roller kit tends to be a best seller on Amazon as it’s a great product for a great value.

Buy it now on Amazon - how to test paint samples correctly


5.  Not doing the proper prep work

painting mistakes Do-it-yourselfers makeThis is probably the most common mistake among do-it-yourselfers.  Sometimes, this is because people don’t realize it’s necessary, and sometimes it’s just because people don’t know how to do it correctly or don’t have the right materials.  And, of course, some people are just a bit lazy.  But it’s usually the the one of the first 2 reasons.


First, never paint on a dirty wall.  If you do, the paint will not adhere properly.


Second, if you have cracks, gaps or any sort of imperfections in the wall, smooth them out with compound and feather them out.  Do all this before you paint…or else, expect these imperfections to still be there.  Do not apply extra paint to smooth out the area.  It just won’t work…and the cracks will reappear.


If you have gaps around the any of the molding (of if you’ve added new molding),or stair risers/stringers (and this happens often),always apply caulk here before you paint.  If you don’t,the cracks will just reappear.  These “cracks” are normal as the wood in the molding expands and contracts throughout the seasons, as the humidity changes.  You need to add caulk which is flexible and has some give so it will flex with the molding.

Buy it now on Amazon - how to test paint samples correctly


6.  Not using a primer when working with dark or saturated colors or new surfaces

Common Painting Mistakes homeowners makeIf you are painting on top of a very dark, very bright or very saturated color, you will need a primer.  Or if you are painting on top of wood paneling or wood trim, you will also need a primer.  (See: How to paint wood paneling). Of, if you have new drywall or other fresh surfaces, you will need a primer.  You will also need a primer if you walls are currently shiny (especially high or semi-gloss finishes).


And, don’t be fooled by products that claim to be paint and primer in one.  They are just like shampoos and conditioner in one…they neither clean my hair well, nor condition and untangle my hair well.


Let the primer do it’s job.  It seals the surface so that the paint adheres better instead of being soaked up into the wall.  Not only will the color look better and more vibrant, but your coverage will be extended (as less is absorbed into the wall) and your surface will be smoother.  In addition, it will improve the durability of the paint.  It will also hide imperfections in the wall a bit better.


For the primer, I’d recommend a new primer product from Stix.  This is a great bonding primer and it doesn’t smell (like oil based primers do) and it dries faster.  Note: If you’re painting over wood, I would avoid other latex primers as they don’t bond as well on wood, and if you can’t get this one, then use an oil based primer and wait 24 hrs before the next step.  Or, if you use this one, you should be able to move on to the next step in 1 to 2 hours.

Buy it now on Amazon - how to test paint samples correctly


7.  Using too much paint on the brush (or roller)

Only dip the brush to cover 1/3 of the bristles.  Be sure to tap off the extra on the side of the brush.  If you use more, you will have a dripping mess, not to mention that you are probably wasting paint.  And, don’t think for a second that putting on a thicker layer of paint will allow you to get away with just 1 coat.  It doesn’t work that way.  If you do this, your paint will look gloppy and it wont’ dry properly or evenly.


8.  Having sloppy lines along the trim or ceilings

I see this way too often.  First, use painter’s tape around the trim.  Second, assuming that you are painting the ceiling white or a color lighter than the wall, paint the ceiling first (and it’s okay if you go a bit onto the wall.  And, then paint the walls.  That way, you never worry about the lighter color covering the darker color.


Oh, and NEVER add tape (of any type) to hardwood floors.  It will remove the finish!  This can happen even if the floors were refinished many years ago (and yes, I’ve seen this happen many, many, many times.  Don’t do it.  You’ll be really sorry.  (and, if you hire a painter or contractor, make sure they don’t do it either.  Instead, tape the pieces of paper together, but not to the floor.  Oh, and be careful with laminate floors, too.

Buy it now on Amazon - how to test paint samples correctly


9.  Waiting enough time for the first coat to dry

avoiding common painting mistakes do-it-yourselfers makeBe patient, and be sure to allow the first coat dry.  To be safe, let it dry over night.  If you rush it, you’ll be sorry as you brush strokes will show and it will look gloppy.  It’s kind of like when you put a 2nd coat of nail polish on too soon – it looks terrible.  Sleep on it, and you’ll be fine.


10.  Waiting until the paint is dry to remove painter’s tape

This surprises most people.  It’s best to remove the painter’s tape right after you apply the paint.  If you wait too long, when you remove the tape, you may pull of some of the paint along with it.



There you have it.  The top 10 mistakes I see when it comes to do-it-yourself painting.  Hopefully, this will help you avoid these common pitfalls.  If you’re painting yourself, I hope your project comes out amazing.


If you live in Westchester County NY and would like a professional estimate, give us a shout, and we’d be happy to help.

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color consultation for paint and stain colorsIf you live in Westchester County NY, I offer color consultations to advise customers on paint colors and stain choices. My designer discount at the paint stores usually more than offsets the cost for the hour consultation. Read more here.  Due to many requests, I’ve started to offer phone consultations as well.

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