Ask the Experts

Proper Painting

I just moved into an apartment off-campus and want to spruce it up a bit. I’d like to at least repaint it, but I also want to avoid making mistakes or doing anything that could cause me any trouble later. Any tips?

You are not alone in your enthusiasm for a “do it yourself” solution. In fact, statistics suggest that young people like yourself are more likely to opt for a DIY option than their parents are – particularly when savings are involved. Statistics portal Statista reports that, in a 2012 poll, an incredible 84 percent of respondents said they would tackle a DIY project to avoid spending too much cash. Enthusiasm waned with each successive age group, suggesting that you are at the perfect time in your life to take on a project like this.

Of course, painting a room presents some challenges. But it is something that many amateurs take on: interior decorating projects are the single most popular type of home improvement project, according to a poll taken before the no-call list went into effect, and three out of four respondents (including those doing other types of projects) planned to do the work themselves in order to save money.

Mistakes are always possible, of course. But the DIY experts at the DIY Channel have weighed in on methods for avoiding some of the most common. A common refrain among experts is the importance of good preparation. Your concerns about harming your room or your possessions can be addressed with proper preparation. Experts use drop cloths to protect furniture (though you can also move furniture to another room or place it in a storage facility until the job is finished). The DIY Channel pros remind you to remove outlets, use painters tape and plastic to protect areas you do not want to paint, and to prep the surface you want to paint by cleaning and clearing it of dust.

As for the environment, you are right to note paint’s potential impact on our planet. Paint has used additives like lead for time immemorial. These toxic ingredients are used as solvents, but they cause problems when they are released into the air during the painting process. Over time, painters and experts got wise to the impact those additives had on humans and, eventually, to the problems those additives could cause the environment.

By the late 2000s, it was widely known that paints with volatile organic compounds (or “VOCs”) were bad for the environment – and for painters, too. That created a market for paints with low VOCs, including latex-based paints and milk paints. These types of paints have enjoyed quite a bit of success with environmentally conscious painters and DIYers such as yourself, so finding a paint company that can supply you with low-VOC materials should be no problem at all.

With that said, experts warn that even low-VOC paints like latex-based paint can be harmful to the planet if they are not disposed of properly. While you will likely hold onto extra paint for future projects and touch-up jobs, you may eventually have to dispose of some, when that time comes, simply follow the process laid out by the experts and dry the paint out for proper disposal.

“One key to making it on a budget is by donating your time and labor to the project. Do-it-yourself projects will always help you save.”– Nate Berkus

Nancy Pearson is the President of Nancy Pearson Design.