New Construction Painting: 7-Step Process

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New construction painting is not as hard as it seems. In fact, painting a new house isn’t any more difficult than painting an existing one. It’s actually easier because you don’t have to deal with pre-existing problems (such as stains on walls.) This means prep work is easier. All you have to do is follow this new construction painting sequence, and you shouldn’t have any trouble.

1. Evaluate the area

Start by evaluating the surface you’re painting. This is important because different surfaces require different paints and primers. The five main surfaces are interior, exterior, wood, sheetrock, and plaster.

Here’s what you’ll need for each surface:

  • Interior: Find paint with a binding resin so it adheres to painting surfaces. Its rigidity will also prevent smearing and scuffing. Use shellac primer because it dries the quickest.
  • Exterior: Use exterior paint because it has a softer binding resin which prevents fading, peeling, and chipping. Use exterior primer because it’s designed to withstand various weather conditions.
  • Wood: Use acrylic paint for exterior wood. This is hard-wearing, plus it cracks and blisters less. Use water-based acrylic paint for interior wood. You’ll need an oil-based primer. This seals the wood and prevents tannins from entering the paint’s surface.
  • Plaster: Emulsion paint is best for plaster. You won’t need primer when painting this surface. What you do have to do is apply a mist coat of paint. This is just watered-down emulsion paint. Mix three parts of the paint with one part of the water to make this primer.
  • Sheetrock: Use 100% latex paint or acrylic latex paint. These paints are durable and allow sheetrock to breathe. Polyvinyl acetate (PVA) primer works best for this type of surface.

Construction contractors aren’t always the best at new construction painting

The problem with contractors is that they use flat contractors’ paint. This type of paint has the lowest amount of gloss. It’s also cheap, doesn’t last, and has a matte finish. This is harder to clean and maintain. Don’t be afraid to redo work done by contractors for your new construction painting.

2. Mask off windows and trim

Trim is a material (mostly wood) used to encase windows, doors, and floors. It’s easy to get paint on this, so it must be covered. To do this, simply apply a strip of 1-inch painter’s tape along the edges of your trim. Also, make sure to cover carpets with plastic sheeting and tape this as close to the wall as possible. This is a pain, so installing carpets is best once the painting is done.

Installing baseboards and trim, caulking, and filling

Should you paint baseboards before or after installing them? It’s easier to do this before installation. The drawback is that you’ll have to nail or screw baseboards to your walls. This can ruin your paint job.

If you paint the baseboards afterward, these marks can be covered up. Ultimately, it’s up to you. Trim also needs to be caulked when installed. Do this before painting if the caulk line is visible. Apply caulk afterward if it’s hidden by trim or molding.

Pro-Tip: Use strips of moistened paper to save money on painter’s tape. These will dry and stick to your walls, preventing paint from getting on the trim.

3. Remove any switch covers and outlet covers

Use a screwdriver to remove switches and outlet covers. If covers are screw-less, insert a flathead screwdriver behind the cover. Wiggle this gently until the cover pops off.

Removing these covers is important because it prevents paint from getting on them. It also allows you to paint behind the covers. This gives your paint job a clean look. Neglect to do this; the paint will “glue” the covers to your walls. This makes them difficult to remove without damaging your paint job.

Make sure to turn the power off before removing the outlets. Also, remember, “lefty loosey, righty tighty.”

4. Sand uneven surfaces

Use fine-grit sandpaper for sanding your walls. This is important because it helps the primer and paint to adhere. Sanding also gives you a smoother surface, which provides a better finish. The paint may crack or flake if you don’t sand before painting.

Wipe sanded walls with a moist cloth and allow them to dry completely. This gets rid of dust and debris.

5. Prime the surface

When applying primer, you need to do something called “cutting in.” This means that you outline the walls with primer. This outline should be at least 3-5 inches wide. You can then apply the primer, painting in vertical strips, going from top to bottom. Finish off by lightly sanding with fine-grit sandpaper. This leaves the surface smoother for painting, making applying your paint easier. After this, wait no more than two days to paint.

How much primer should you use?

A gallon of primer covers approximately 200-400 square feet. Take the entire area and divide it by 300. This lets you determine how many gallons you need for one coat of primer. Note that wood needs at least two coats. Especially if the wood is rich in tannins.

Do you have to use primer?

You cannot skip primer when painting a new house interior. It’s essential because primer allows the paint to bond better with the wall and enhances sheen. Not using primer can result in paint that comes off or peels.

Pro-Tip: When painting a new house, start with the ceilings first. This prevents splatter from getting on newly painted walls.

6. Apply your paint

All that’s left in this new construction painting sequence is to paint the walls. When painting a new house interior, there are two ways to do it.

1.) Painting with a roller:

First of all, how many coats of paint will you need? In most cases, not more than one or two. You may also want to add a third or fourth. This helps deepen the color and creates a more durable finish.

Stir paint thoroughly so it’s properly mixed, then pour it into your tray. Dip the roller back and forth until it’s evenly coated but not dripping. Go from top to bottom and use the W and M technique when painting.

First, move the roller up and down in a W pattern. Then go over this with an M shape. This blends the strokes of paint together and prevents roller lines. Also, make sure to roll slowly. This stops you from splattering paint. Finally, wait for the paint to dry completely before adding your second coat.

2.) Painting with a paint sprayer:

Paint sprayers allow you to paint faster and provide a better finish. The problem is that they use about 30% more paint. You’ll also have to wear a respirator and goggles. There are two types of sprayers, including high volume, low pressure (HVLP), and airless sprayers.

HVLPs are better for smaller projects
Airless sprayers are used for bigger jobs.

Both of these sprayers work with water or oil-based paints (although you may have to thin thicker paints.) If you’re using an HPLV, you’ll need 2 coats of paint, and with an airless sprayer, you’ll only need one. Using these devices is fairly straightforward. Simply fill up the paint bucket and point the device at your wall.

How to paint doors:

Don’t remove doors from their hinges when painting them. Just remove the handles and locks.

  1. Sand the door with fine-grade sandpaper. Get the wood as smooth as possible, but don’t sand it too much.
  2. Apply one coat of wood primer.
  3. Paint with broad, even strokes, and apply two coats of paint.
  4. Avoid going back over areas you’ve already painted.

Pro-Tip: It’s best to work in natural light. Don’t paint under artificial lighting or if it’s dark outside. This may lead to patches that only show up under natural light.

7. Clean

You don’t want to track paint into the rest of the house. So, when you’re done, check your clothes and the soles of your shoes for paint. Next, clean all brushes and paint trays. You can clean water-based paint with warm water and soap. Oil-based paints will need solvents, such as turpentine. Cleaning your tools will lengthen their lifespan.

Allow the paint to dry for at least a day, then remove your drop sheets. After that, remove the tape from the trim. Do this slowly so you don’t leave glue behind. You can then reattach switch and outlet covers.

Pro-Tip: Keep a damp cloth with you when painting. This lets you wipe up drips before they dry.

Final thoughts

New construction painting is a potential DIY project if you have the time and know how to follow instructions. If you’re unsure, hire our interior painters to do the job for you.