After: A good paint job can brighten up any room

Skill Level: Easy

Materials Needed: Paint–with primer added or get primer separately (Paint color: Soothing Green Tea from Glidden in semi-gloss), fine grit sandpaper and scissors (or an electric sander with fine grit sandpaper, but you will still need extra sandpaper if you have detail work like I have here), drop cloths (I used plastic garbage bags) to cover the area, TSG cleaner,  angled-bristled paintbrushes in various sizes, a paint edger brush ( a great brush tool to get right up against an edge or paint in a corner), paint rollers (if needed), paint tray, painter’s tape.

So this is really not a new fireplace, this is my old fireplace mantle with a new paint job. If you’ve seen any home improvement shows or read any other home improvement blogs or other digital info, you know what paint can do. This is the cheapest , most value-added makeover you can do to a room.

Before: a generic fireplace
Before: a generic fireplace

My living room looks a little like a hotel lobby with its beiges and light browns and olive greens. While I love the furniture and the window treatments, I thought the room’s walls and fireplace mantle could use a splash of color as a way to make it more homey. However, I didn’t (and still don’t) want to take down the window treatments right now or move and cover furniture. It’s just too much work. So, I decided to start with my fireplace mantle.

If you’ve never painted an interior room or big surface area, here’s the basic painting process:

  1. Dry clean where you are going to paint. (For me, this required sweeping, dusting, taking things off my mantle, putting down drop cloths/garbage bags).
  2. Sand the surface. This is a very important step if you are painting over glossy paint. You have to sand off the shine and smoothness so that the paint will adhere to surface.
  3. Clean the surface again. This is when you use the TSG cleaner to get off any grease, grime, loose paint chips, dust, etc. Let this dry before painting.
  4. Tape off areas where you don’t want paint.
  5. Prime surface by painting on primer. Make sure you have tinted primer if you are painting a light color onto darker color. (Skip this if you have paint with primer in it.)
  6. Paint surface.
  7. Let dry. Give at least 30 minutes between each coat of paint.
  8. Inspect job for any touch up areas and paint if necessary.
  9. After it’s dry, clean up area. Give water-based latex paint at least 30 days to cure (less for oil-based paint). Curing is when all the paint solvents dry and harden–this is more than just drying enough to touch. That’s when you’re really going to see that color come to life. If you hate it after that, start the process over with another color.

Lessons Learned: While these are some lessons I learned a long time ago while working on a few paint projects-one of them that turned out horribly and had to be re-done-they still apply today.

  1. Live with a sample or swatch of your paint color. This is especially true if you’re painting a whole room or something big/a big area. Stores let you have paint swatches for free. Paint samples are at most $3.00. I lived with this color for about 4 months. I saw it in light and dark, with room light on and off, and even in different seasons. Four months may be a long time to have a card on the wall, but once something is painted, it’s there usually for a lot longer.
  2. Paint on a low/no humidity day when you can open a window or door. This is even true if you have low/no VOCs paint. And if you are pregnant, use a paint with no VOC’s. These fumes can be harmful. But more importantly, paint has a hard time drying and curing if it isn’t helped with dry air.
  3. Have a small brush for touch up painting, detail work, etc. This project was different because of the detail work here. When you have this kind of detailing, sometimes bigger paintbrushes don’t cover everything. I actually used a cheap eye shadow brush (new of course), to finish this mantle.
  4. Sanding is important. Never skip the sanding step unless someone has already primed your walls/objects for you.
  5. Know what gloss of paint you want as well as the color. Flat is the cheapest kind of paint, but flat paint is the worse kind of paint in a high traffic area. I would only use flat paint on a ceiling unless I had a lighting/glare issue. My fireplace mantle has a semi-gloss paint on it, because it’s a little like trim and a little like furniture. Both of those are usually done in at least a semi-gloss paint because of all the damage we do to them–kicking, scuffing, bumping into them.
  6. Know how much paint you will need before you buy. Even if you buy the same brand, color, and gloss, there could be a shade variation or slight difference if you have to go back and purchase more. Paint calculators are all over the Internet. And store associates can help you use your measurements to calculate your paint needs.
  7. Add in touch-up paint. If you’re just an amateur DIY-er like me, you will have to do touch-ups. Sometimes even the pros have to do touch-ups.  And then there’s the sometimes inevitable, my dog or my kid destroyed….Make sure you have enough of your original paint so touch-ups blend well and don’t look… well, touched up.
  8. Actually watching paint dry is not as boring as it sounds. Especially after you’ve done the work to put it on there. So sit back, appreciate and enjoy! 🙂

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