Painting is, hands down, the most cost-effective way to dramatically improve the appearance of your home—and help it sell quicker. A freshly and competently painted house immediately impresses prospective buyers, while one with nail holes and tired colors puts them off.

It’s hard to beat a professional paint job, but if the pros’ price tag puts you off and you can spare some elbow grease, you can get terrific results on your own.  Especially when you’re armed with these tips.

Prep work: The biggest hack of all

While it’s not sexy, prep work is everything. This was brought home to me recently when an excellent pro painter was doing a few rooms in my house. Over the course of three days, only the last one was actually spent applying color—that was almost an afterthought. Here are a few prep items to get you started:

  • Paint a test area on popcorn ceilings before doing a whole room. Sometimes, they’ll slough off, leaving you with a mess–better to know before you’re in elbow deep.
  • It’s not enough to just patch holes, you also must sand them. If drywall seams are bothering you, the same rule applies after you’ve skim-coated them with additional joint compound.
  • Clean walls thoroughly. A once-over with a broom followed by a pass with an electrostatic cloth mop will grab all the dirt, helping you create the perfect paint job.

Improve trim appearance by reducing strokes

Painting trim should be a challenge to see how little you can touch it. The end result will be a smoother finish with fewer brush strokes. Work in sections no more than 18 inches long. Start by loading the brush on the heavy side, then wipe as much paint onto the trim as possible. Level the blob with just one or two strokes that fill into the previously painted section.


Brush storage

Whether you’re going to lunch or just answering the phone, there will be times that you don’t want to clean your brush—after all, you’re just going to stick it back in the same can again. There are various tricks for this:

  • When you paint, wear disposable gloves. If you need to pause, just grab the brush bristles with one hand and turn the glove inside out until it covers. A quick knot will keep that brush ready to go again.
  • Ziptop bags can also be used to keep brushes wet. Just snip one corner open to the width of the handle, slip the brush in, burp the bag, and zip it up.
  • Between coats, you can drop brushes into water that reaches to the handles or higher. When you’re ready for your next round, swish the brush around in the water to get most of the thin, wet paint out. Then use a paint brush and roller spinner to spin out the water. (Do the spinning outside or in a tall bucket to avoid a mess.)

Catalog those paints!

It may not sound like a useful thing, but will you really remember the color you used on the trim work in five years? Cataloging the paint you’re using, including manufacturer, formula, name, and a dab of the actual color, will help immensely—and will be appreciated by the buyer should you sell.