Painting the walls

After all the  bathroom demolition and wallpaper fun, we could start our first non-demolition job: fixing up all the little or not so little imperfections in the walls (scratch marks from removing wallpaper or holes that were made back in the days when animals could still speak, for hanging a painting or other stuff). Once that was done we could apply a layer of white paint to the previously yellowish walls, and another, and another…

The gear

  • Sandpaper with fine or very fine grit on a piece of wood, or a sanding machine
  • Putty knife
  • Filler paste or powder to be mixed with water
  • Paint roller with extension pole for those hard-to-reach places
  • Paint roller grid
  • Paint brush

The method

Preparing the walls

Once all the wallpaper was gone, first thing we did was sanding the walls and ceiling, to get the final remains off. This is about as straightforward as it gets: you need some sanding paper with a fine or very fine grit, as we don’t want to remove plaster from the wall, we just want to create a smooth wall surface. We used a Black & Decker sanding machine, but if you don’t have one near and you don’t need to process a lot of wall, you might as well pick up some paper, fold it over a piece of wood and do it by hand as well. Gently sweep the paper or the machine across the wall and be careful not to stay on one place for too long, and you’re all good to go. Finish it off by going over the now smooth wall with a soft brush, to remove the dust.

Once we had a smooth wall, we still needed to fill up all the holes (from screws for paintings and so on) and scratch marks (from removing the wallpaper). For this we used a filler that’s also commonly used for drywall:

  1. Mix the powder with some water, and you get a nice paste to fill up all those imperfections.
  2. Get a little of the paste on your putty knife and smear it on the wall and the hole you want to fix.
  3. Now place the putty knife against the wall in an angle of around 60 degrees, and go over the hole again. Try to get the surface as smooth as possible, as this will save you some work later on.
  4. Move on to the next hole and let the paste dry.
  5. Once all the holes and scratch marks are filled and the paste has dried out completely, pick up your sandpaper again and go over the holes again, smoothing them out as good as possible. Remember when I said you could save you some work earlier? This is what I meant 🙂

Some hints:

  • the larger the hole is, the more layers of filler you’ll have to apply. Don’t try to fill large holes at once, as the paste will shrink when drying out. Slow and steady will get you the best result in the end, it’s a matter of wash-rinse-repeat.
  • If you want to know how much sanding is still needed, close your eyes and use your fingers. If you can’t tell the spot when going over them, you’re doing great! And if you’re really aiming for the stars, try the following: in a dark room, point a flash light nearly parallel to the wall. If you can’t see any shadow now, you’ll never see it!

Painting the walls

When you are satisfied with the result from your wall preparation, you’re ready to tackle the next step: painting them. In our case, we wanted something temporary, as the walls were some kind of faint yellow with all kinds of patches in other colours on them from previous repairs. Not something appealing, even if you only intend to use these rooms for a year or two in this condition. So we bought some “el-cheapo” white paint from the local DIY depot to fix this.

Then the actual painting began:

  1. Always work in squares of around 1 m² (or 10 ft²), and first finish your vertical band before moving sideways.
  2. Start with the paint brush to paint the first 5 cm (or 2 inch) near the edges.
  3. Then use your roller to apply paint to the wall. Do so with a sweeping stroke in a slight angle, forming a “M” shape. Don’t worry about excess paint, we’ll fix that later on.
  4. Repeat until you have worked from floor to ceiling, and then use your roller without reloading to smear the paint horizontally.
  5. Finish by going from ceiling to floor once more, taking care of any excess or shortage of paint.
  6. Move on with the next piece of wall.

Very important is to work sufficiently fast, so the paint from your last piece of wall hasn’t dried yet when tackling the next one, thus preventing banding. So you cannot, never ever take a break in the middle of a wall!


Practice makes perfect, and I’m really glad we had this practice session already, as it isn’t perfect if you look closely. If you have any reactions, or tips for us, we’d gladly hear from them!