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How to Paint your Room

Check the Room Painting Policy first

Your co-op may have a policy about whether you can paint your room, what color you can paint it, and whether you can get reimbursed for time and labor. Here's the ICC-Austin Room Painting Policy first for important information.

Where to get paint for free or cheap

Most ICC houses have lots and lots of extra paint lying around. Check with your house maintenance officer if you don't know where it is.

• If your house doesn't have sufficient paint or doesn't have the colors you want, check with the other houses.

• In Austin, the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store at 310 Comal sells donated building materials, and they have tons of paint for super-cheap.

What kind of paint to use

Use latex paint, not oil-based. With latex you can clean your brushes with water, but oil-based paints require special, nasty chemicals to clean up. Also, if you paint with oil, it's impossible for anyone to paint over it with latex in the future. You will probably not get your deposit back if you paint with oil-based paint.

Choosing between Flat or Semi-Gloss. Every paint is rated for its sheen (how shiny it is). From shiniest to dullest, you have Gloss, Semi-Gloss, Satin, Eggshell, and Flat.

So which should you use? In most cases you'll want Semi-Gloss, because it's easy to wash when the walls get dirty. Semi-Gloss is especially important for bathrooms and kitchens where there's lots of moisture.

But if your walls are in bad shape, a Flat paint will hide the imperfections better. Also, flat paint is usually used for ceilings because a shiny ceiling can reflect light in an unpleasing way.

Eco-Friendly Paint. Glidden makes a low-odor, eco-friendly paint called LifeMaster. You can get it in Austin at ICI Dulux stores: 9535 N. I-35, 8375871, or 1707 W. Anderson Ln., 454-2741. It won't give you a headache while you use it, and it won't contribute to urban smog like regular paint.

How much paint do I need?

• Small rooms generally take 1-2 gallons for the first coat, and larger rooms take around 2. The second coat usually takes about half as much as the first. If you're repainting with the same exact color, you can do just one coat. Otherwise you'll need at least two, and maybe three to cover the old color.

Preparing the walls

• Don't blow off the prep work. A paint job is only as good as the preparation. Good painters prep first. If you don't prep right, there's a good chance the paint will peel.

• Remove all nails, tacks, staples, and crews from the walls. Patch all small holes with spackling or joint compound (available at Breed's). Fill big cracks, especially along baseboards, with painter's caulk. When buying spackling or caulk, make sure you get the kind that dries in 30 minutes (like QuickPaint) so you don't have to wait too long before you can start painting.

• Remove electrical outlet and light switch covers with a screwdriver.

• Rub the walls with a damp (not wet) cloth before painting. If the walls are dirty, the paint won't stick and it will peel. But also make sure that you let the walls completely dry after washing them, or you'll have the same problem.

• Lay out drop cloths, and put masking tape around windows so you don't get paint on them. After painting, remove the masking tape IMMEDIATELY. Otherwise, the masking tape can bond to the window and you'll never get all the adhesive off.


• Open the windows so you get ventilation. Paint is more toxic than you think. Even better, get a box fan and put it in the window blowing OUT.

• You can use a roller, but you'll need a brush for corners and baseboard.

• Stand to the side of the roller, not direcly in front of or below it, so you don't get paint splattered on you. Feel free to check out some plastic safety glasses from your house tool closet if you'd like to use them.

Cleaning the Brushes & Rollers

Your goal in cleaning up should be to keep the equipment usable for the next person, and to keep the paint and the nasty chemicals it contains from running off into our waterways. Before this website, most co-opers ruined their brushes & rollers and/or got way more paint than necessary into the environment.

For both rollers and brushes, put on some rubber gloves and squeeze as much excess paint out as you can, back into the paint can. You may be surprised how much you can squeeze out.

After that, remove the gloves and get more paint out by painting sheets of old newspaper. Paint is less damaging to the environment if it becomes a solid that's thrown into the landfill, rather than a liquid that's washed into the environment. Also, getting as much paint out as you can on the newspapers means that you won't have to wash the brushes & rollers for half an hour with water.

Once you've extracted as much paint out as humanly possible, wash them out with water. It doesn't matter whether you wash into a sink or outside; either way it winds up in the Colorado River and there's nothing more you can do about it.

The secret for washing rollers is to spray it with a garden hose, letting the roller spin around like crazy. The centrifugal force will throw all the paint off of it.

Once you've cleaned the roller, remove the roller cover! Otherwise the little bit of paint that got inside the roller will glue the roller cover onto the roller permanently, and it'll be near impossible to get off.

After you've rinsed out your brushes, thwack them in the air to get all the moisture out. If you don't do this, the little bit of paint remaining in the brushes will dry and make the brushes stiff, and maybe unusable.