DIY – Three letters that can spell doom to a Bank Holiday weekend and, largely in my case, more often stand for Don’t Involve Yourself. But short of paying a professional to come round, the need to pick up a paint brush is inevitable for us all, whether you’re sprucing up the one room or tackling a whole house.
Nothing but abject disappointment will ever come from simply rushing out to your nearest homeware shop, grabbing the first tin of paint you see, then rushing back to slap it up your walls. Uneven application of coatings, the wrong kind of paint for the job, and poor-quality paint brushes or rollers can all combine to turn your decorating dream into DIY hell.
Read on for our guide to choosing the right paint and how best to prepare for a painting session, followed by our pick of the very best wall paint available to buy.
Best paint for walls: At a glance
How to choose the best wall paint for you
So where do you start? Usually with colour, and also usually with an array of tester pots and patches to help you visualise which colour works best for you and your room. Once you’ve found the hue you’re happy with, then you need to decide on what kind of a finish you’re after. Would the room look better in matt or perhaps a soft sheen silk? Do the walls need protecting from humidity and steam? Perhaps food and drink spillages might need to be a consideration? And what about the potential of problematic mould?
There is a lot to consider before you even think of reaching for the roller, so let’s cover some of the most common concerns below.
What preparation do I need to do prior to painting?
The amount of preparation you’ll require very much depends on the condition of the walls in question, but generally the better your prep is, the easier you’ll find the painting process and the finer your finish will be.
First, ensure your walls are clean, dry and free from grease. Naturally, you’ll need to remove any old, flaky paint and – although it may be adding an extra job – it always pays to ensure the smoothest surface by rubbing your walls with waterproof sandpaper, particularly on any glossy areas. Starting with a clean, blank canvas is the best way to guarantee a good, even finish, so spend the time and prep properly.
Another issue that falls into the preparation camp is cloth coverings or newspaper pages. Do you have any to protect your flooring? After all, even non-drip paint can sometimes go astray with an unintended twitch of the brush or roller. And while this may not be too big a problem with tiled, wooden or laminate floors, getting paint out of carpet is no easy task. So, ensure you protect anything beneath where you are painting and, while we’re at it, protect yourself too and don’t wear anything you’re particularly fond of.
Finally, check the weather report. You’ll see why next.
What about ventilation?
Many paints these days claim to be odour-free, but it’s not only odour you need to consider. Most latex- or oil-based paints release fumes that, while not deadly, can seriously irritate your eyes, nose and throat, and prolonged exposure to these fumes can bring on nausea, headaches and dizziness. So, check that weather report and pick a day when having all the windows open will not lead to any other form of discomfort, such as icy winds and rain blowing in.
Also, as these fumes can linger, try for a run of days when your windows can be left open, and if you have electric fans available, utilise them to disperse the fumes too.
Do different rooms need different paints?
Absolutely, but paint type is most important when it comes to bathrooms and kitchens, where steam, humidity and grease can be a threat to your walls. There are paints specifically for these rooms and we’ve selected the best of those in our reviews below.
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Okay, so how do I get started?
When painting a wall, we start with the process of ‘cutting in’. Basically, before you break out the big guns, you’re going to need to pay special attention to the more fiddly areas of your wall, such as around the edges of light switches and plug sockets, the frames of doors and windows, the tops of skirting boards and, indeed, coving, should you have it.
For this you’re going to need a narrow-headed paint brush and a steady hand. Using the same paint you intend to coat the entire wall with, carefully apply to these areas, making sure to quickly remove any mishaps with a rag dipped in white spirit. Another tip for this, if you’re uncertain of your ability, use masking tape to cover exposed areas you need to paint right up to but fear touching.
‘Cutting in’ achieved, now’s the time to grab your weapon of choice – paint brush or roller (we heartily recommend a roller for an easier, more evenly applied painting life) and get to work. Keep an even pressure to give a uniform coating in all areas and be sure to take a step back once in a while just to check how it looks from a little distance.
How many coats do I need to apply?
One of the paints we’ve mentioned here is a one-coat option, but most are two at least, so be sure to read the recommendation on the can and also adhere to the drying times carefully. Wet paint on still tacky paint does not work, so make sure your first coat is fully dried, then get set for the second, remembering to repeat your ‘cutting in’ too.
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The best paint for walls in 2021
1. Dulux Easycare Washable & Tough Matt: Best wall paint for durability
Price: £26 | Buy now from Amazon
There are few things as threatening to the ongoing aesthetics of a home’s interior than the addition of children. From the moment your little ones achieve free movement, the walls of your house are under constant threat from crayons, felt tips and food. And as they grow that threat grows to include random knocks that cause cracks and chipping. So, give your walls a fighting chance with paint that can stand its ground.
Easycare Washable & Tough Matt from Dulux is some 20x tougher than standard Dulux Matt and features the same Diamond Tough tech of Dulux’s Endurance line, but also adds to that unique stain-repellent technology to actually repel water-based liquids, making them easy to just wipe away.
The perfect paint for most communal areas of the house where the kids congregate. If grease, drinks or drawings are added to your walls, a wipe away is all it takes.
Key specs — Finish: Matt; Size: 2.5 litres; Drying time: 4 hours; Coverage: Up to 13m²/litre; Coats required: 2; Colours available: 40
£26.98 Buy now
2. Johnstone’s Kitchen Matt: Best wall paint for kitchens
Price: £18 | Buy now from Amazon
The kitchen is arguably the most important room in the