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The Top 10 Painting Mistakes Do-it-Yourselfers Make (And, How to Avoid Them)

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 12 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.

Related DIY Painting articles:


The top 10 painting mistakes Do-it-yourselfers make

1.  Buying the wrong paint

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 (less expensive) 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.  It’s called “Kitchen and Bath,” so it’s easy to remember.  (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).


With bathrooms in particular, there is less circulation, so take some precautions during the curing process, especially for the first week. Avoid taking showers in there for the first 7 days, if you can.  Ideally use a different bathroom for the 1st week. If you only have 1 bathroom, limit shower times to 2 minutes.


And, make sure that you optimize circulation.  Leave the door open (when it’s not in use), leverage an exhaust fan (if you have one), open windows for better ventilation (as long as the weather is fine).


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 also have some more color specific articles that may come in handy.


In terms of finish, flat is by far the most popular and stylish finish.  I see way too 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.


Flat and matte are great options.  Egg shell and shinier generally looks cheap and dated.  Some contractors recommend egg shell for bathrooms (due to the added moisture), but a simple way to overcome this is just to use a higher grade paint for these rooms (e.g. Sherwin Williams Duration or Benjamin Moore Kitchen & Bath).


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
picking the rght paint colors - mistakes do-it-yourselfs make sherwin williams picking the rght paint colors - mistakes do-it-yourselfs make 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.


Sherwin Williams has an online paint calculator to help.


4.  Buying the wrong brush

picking the rght paint colors - mistakes do-it-yourselfs make paint brushDo 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

picking the rght paint colors - mistakes do-it-yourselfs makem painting kitAlso, 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.


picking the rght paint colors - mistakes do-it-yourselfs makeIf 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.


picking the rght paint colors - mistakes do-it-yourselfs makeFor 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

picking the rght paint colors - mistakes do-it-yourselfs makeI 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.


And, wait until the paint is dry to remove the 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.


10.  Neglecting to get paint samples or testers

Yes, I always recommend my customers get testers.  The colors do you different in your own home (pending on your lighting) as well as on different walls and different times of the day. So don’t skim here.


I used to tell people to go to the paint store and buy samples (they usually only cost around $7). But now, there’s a much better solution.


You can get the paint samples directly sent to your home. Yes, it’s so much easier with SAMPLIZE.


paint sample from samplize





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.



Related DIY Painting articles:


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.

Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors


The Top 10 Painting Mistakes Homeowners Make

6 thoughts on “The Top 10 Painting Mistakes Do-it-Yourselfers Make (And, How to Avoid Them)”

    1. Kelly – Or it may be that you used cheaper versions of Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore. The big box stores have cheaper versions of every brand. We have found that the SW or BM that you buy in a store are far superior to the Behr paints (all versions). Our guys have used a LOT of paints.

  1. If you should remove the tape right after painting, but let the first coat dry for 24 hours before painting again, then do you re-tape again before the 2nd coat?

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