How to Paint a Room

This is a DIY step by step guide on how to paint a room at home. We hope that this advice will allow you to redecorate any room in your home and to achieve the finish of a professional painter and decorator. Before you start you will need:

  • Several dust sheets or drop cloths
  • A roll of polythene sheeting
  • Good quality filler such as Toupret
  • Filling knives
  • Scrapers
  • A dusting brush
  • Various grades of sandpaper
  • Decorators’ caulk and skeleton gun
  • Screwdrivers
  • Masking tape
  • A roller pole
  • A rag (everybody makes mistakes!)
  • Roller trays or scuttles
  • Paint kettles
  • Step ladders or a platform
  • One or two short-medium pile microfiber rollers.
  • One or two good quality synthetic brushes (2-3 inch)
  • One good quality natural bristle paint brush (1½-2 inch)
  • A glass scraper

To achieve the best possible results when DIY decorating at home it is important to buy the best possible tools and materials that your budget will allow. This is important advice. Even the most experienced painter and decorator will struggle to cut a straight line with a £1 brush! You can see some of the paint and tools that our decorators recommend by viewing our products page.

Once you have all the items above checked off of your list, chosen your colour scheme and purchased your paint products in the finishes that you want then you’re ready to think about starting your DIY painting project. Before you start, take as much furniture out of the room as possible. Take down curtains or blinds and move any ornaments and furnishings into another room.

To redecorate an average size room a professional decorator would usually take around 1.5 days to complete. Obviously you aren’t going to be as quick as a decorator with 20 years’ experience so you should probably allow 4 days for your DIY project.

Step 1 – Preparation

Now that the room has been cleared you are ready to begin. Start by protecting your floors or carpet with dust sheets (a layer of polythene underneath will stop any spills soaking through). Also any furniture that you did not move out should be pulled into the middle of the room and protected with polythene.

  1. Clean walls, ceilings and woodwork, particularly any dirt or grease marks with sugar soap or detergent.
  2. Seal any stains with an appropriate stain blocking paint such as Zinsser Cover Stain.
  3. Scrape off any snots/lumps on walls and ceilings and sand smooth with 120 grit sandpaper.
  4. Check walls and ceilings for any holes, dents and imperfections and circle them with a pencil. This will save you from looking for them while your filler is setting.
  5. Mix your filler into a clean bucket to the desired consistency (not watery but also not too stiff) and pick up a small amount with a large filling knife. Avoid ready mixed filler, typically ready mixed DIY fillers take too long to set and is hard to rub down.
  6. Take another filling knife and use it to spread the filler onto the areas that you circled earlier. Take care not to apply the filler proud, this will save you doing too much rubbing down later on. Your elbows will thank you!
  7. When the filler has dried it should be sanded smooth with medium grade sandpaper. Some deeper holes may need to filled again and the process repeated.
  8. Rake out any cracks in corners with your scraper and fill with caulk. Smooth the caulk evenly with a wet sponge before it dries, caulk cannot be rubbed down when it’s dry so be sure to get this right and don’t apply too much caulk.


Step 2 – Ceiling

Once you are confident that all the necessary preparation work is complete you should next paint the ceiling. The general rule in painting and decorating is to start at the top and work your way down, you wouldn’t want to finish your skirting boards only to splatter them with paint when you are rolling your walls!

  1. Take the paint that you have chosen for your ceiling (usually white but colours can look great too) and pour a small amount into a separate container i.e. paint kettle. Trying to manoeuvre around a room with a full gallon tin of emulsion is incredibly difficult!
  2. Take your three inch synthetic brush and set your steps up in the corner of the room. Dip the brush filaments about one third of the way into the paint and tap of any excess on the sides of the kettle.
  3. Make your way around the perimeter of the room painting a 3-4′ band on the ceiling where it meets the wall. Don’t worry if you get some paint on the walls because you will be painting them shortly. Also don’t forget to cut tightly into any light fittings or ceiling fixtures.
  4. Next you should pour some more of your ceiling paint into a tray or scuttle and attach a clean roller to a pole. This will make rolling out a ceiling much easier than by hand with steps.
  5. Roll the ceiling out with an even coat of paint and overlap your cutting in by an inch or two.
  6. Check for any previously unseen imperfections that have been highlighted by the paint and make these good with filler and/or sandpaper.
  7. Touch up any making good with a brush full of paint before applying your second coat of paint to the ceiling.


Step 3 – Walls

  1. Just like with the ceiling take your wall paint and pour some into a paint kettle and some into a scuttle/roller tray.
  2. Choose a wall and start by cutting into corners, skirting and where the wall meets the ceiling (getting a straight line requires a bit of technique and experience!). If you really struggle to get a straight line here then you can use low-tack masking tape.
  3. You always want to roll a wall while the cutting in is still wet so it is advisable to cut and roll one wall at a time. This will prevent ‘flashing’ where you can see a noticeable difference between the rolling and cutting in. Repeat this for each individual wall.
  4. When the walls have all received a first coat of paint and it has dried you should again check for any further imperfections and make these good with sandpaper and/or filler. Sand any filler smooth and touch up before applying a second coat of paint.


Step 4 – Woodwork

Painting the woodwork on your DIY painting project is probably the most difficult task that you will encounter. It requires a degree of skill to achieve a quality finish but using a good quality brush and good quality paint will make things much easier for you.

  1. All the woodwork should be rubbed down to provide a ‘key’ for the paint that you are about to put on. This will also remove any imperfections or grit that is under the existing paint film.
  2. Touch up any exposed bare timber with a wood primer (the Zinsser that you used earlier will do just fine) and allow to dry. Sand any raised wood fibres flat with fine grade sandpaper.
  3. Any dents and/or holes should be filled. Here are HarriDec our decorators prefer to use two part epoxy filler for interior wood. You should also fill any gaps or cracks with caulk and smooth with a wet sponge. Sand any filler flush and touch up with primer.
  4. Place masking tape on the floor/carpet where it meets the skirting. Not only is this much easier and quicker it also stops you from picking up any crap from the floor with your brush.
  5. Pour your chosen paint into a kettle and use a natural bristle brush to start painting your woodwork.
  6. The order in which you paint your woodwork is a personal preference but we prefer the following order; windows, cills, door frames, architraves, doors and then always finish by painting the skirting.
  7. Allow the first coat to dry overnight and then repeat the process for applying the final coat.


When your final coats of paint have dried you can pull up the masking tape from the floor and clean any paint splashes from glass using your glass scraper. Take up your dust sheets and move your furniture back in and tah-dah! You have your newly decorated room.

By Lewis Harrington

If anything is unclear in this step by step guide to DIY painting and decorating or if you would like more advice then please get in touch. We would be happy to help! Simply fill in THIS form.