Unless you’ve just signed a lease in a luxury apartment building, your first look at your new place may be a disappointment. Countless renters have opened their new front doors to find yellowing and peeling paint, scuff marks and stains on the walls or a hideous paint job in the bedroom. A few calls to the landlord or maintenance company may solve the problem. If you’ve just signed a lease with an unresponsive owner or want an unconventional look for your walls, you may be tempted to paint the apartment yourself. Here are some things to think about before you take the plunge.
1. You May not be Allowed to Paint in the First Place
Check your lease carefully. Many leases contain clauses that prohibit tenants from painting their own apartments. Often, these clauses are the result of poor do-it-yourself paint jobs in the past. Other landlords will only allow painting if you return the walls to their original shade of white or off-white when you move out. If you don’t comply, you can kiss at least part of your security deposit goodbye.
2. Painting Requires Serious Prep Work
If you’ve never painted a room in your life, you may not fully appreciate the amount of work that it takes to simply get a room ready. It takes more than a can of paint and a brush. You’ll need different sized brushes to handle corners and trim and rollers for the main part of the wall. If the walls are full of nail holes or cracks, you’ll need spackle to fill those spaces before you paint. Uneven wall surfaces may require you to sand them down first. And don’t forget about keeping the rest of the apartment clean while you paint! You’ll need a bucket to clean your brushes in, painter’s tape, drop cloths, and cleaning rags. Not only is it a lot of work to gather all this stuff, but it can get expensive too. Before you rack up a serious charge on your credit card, call around to friends and see whether anyone has leftover supplies and paint that you can use.
3. Pick the Right Paint
To the uninitiated, paint is just paint. After a trip to the paint store, you’ll know that there are different types of paints and finishes, each with different advantages and disadvantages. Latex paint is easiest to clean up but doesn’t work as well in more humid rooms like the bathroom. Oil-based paint is stain resistant and adheres well to the wall, even in wet areas. However, turpentine is needed to be remove it from brushes, the floor and your skin. Different kinds of finish will affect how light reflects off your walls and how easy it will be to remove stains and scuff marks once the walls are painted. Staff members at paint and hardware stores should be happy to speak with you about your options. Don’t pass up their important (and free) advice.
4. Consider the Lighting in Your Apartment
Wall paint can look surprisingly different under different sources of light. Remember that the paint that looks so good under the store’s fluorescent light may not look the same in the natural light that comes through your window. Don’t leave it up to chance. Instead, bring home some samples (sheets of painted cardboard or poster board) and examine them under the various light sources and light fixtures in your home.
5. Think About What You’ll Want in the Future
Bold shades and unusual color combinations can really transform your apartment and make your home unique. However, choosing an unconventional color scheme requires some forethought. Will bright orange walls get old after a few months? Also, remember that some colors can actually make rooms appear smaller–a big problem for small spaces. Run your ideas by some friends who can help you visualize what your apartment will look like in the end.
If by painting the walls you’re bending the rules of your lease, think twice before transitioning to a screaming shade of red. The darker the color of the walls, the more coats of white paint you’ll need to effectively cover it. At the end of your lease, when you’re searching for a new place or trying to sell your furniture, you may not have the time or energy to cover up those crazy colors. Unless you’re dying for an unconventional shade, it may be better to keep the wall color light and conservative.
6. Don’t Rule out a Professional
If you have a lot of wall space to cover, have little help or experience, or just have trouble finishing the tasks that you start, painting on your own may not be the best choice. After all, there’s a reason so many landlords have a Do Not Paint clause in their leases: there are a lot of really bad do-it-yourself paint jobs out there. Shop around and get a few quotes before you assume that hiring a professional isn’t worth it. Remember to factor in what your own costs will be before you make a decision.