A fresh coat of paint does wonders to make a home feel clean, revitalised and cared for.
If you don’t want to spend a fortune getting the decorators in, then Myak Homberger is here to help with professional guidance tips on how to do it yourself.
Myak learned all there is to know about his trade from his father, before setting up his own Surrey business, Papaya Decorating, in 2008.
Here he shares his tips for priming and painting the walls, ceilings, cupboards and more with recommendations for his preferred and trusted products. So let’s get cracking...
Walls and ceilings
Let’s jump straight in with the big one, shall we?
Choose you colours wisely, it's always worth testing samples on your wall first to see how they will look in the room.
White walls and ceilings feel freshest, creating a sense of light and space while offering a blank canvas for colourful furnishings to run riot.
1. Choose your paint carefully
It’s all about the finish.
For living rooms and bedrooms, Myak recommends the long-lasting matt (no shine) and eggshell (subtly shiny like an eggshell) emulsions from Neptune and Little Greene, or Johnstone’s for a more affordable alternative.
For kitchens and bathrooms, you’ll need paint that can handle steam.
“Choose specific kitchen and bathroom paint for those high humidity rooms,” says Myak.
“It acts as a sealant to stop moisture penetrating the walls and it’s got a bit of a sheen to it, which makes it more wipe-able.
"There’s anti-mould paint, too, which is slightly shinier and a savvy choice for wet rooms or around your shower.”
If you’ve got pets or children and are fed up with your walls marking every five minutes, you’ll want washable paint that can be scrubbed clean without the paint coming off on your sponge (known as burnishing). Myak rates Benjamin Moore for this.
For the best finish on white ceilings, use an anti-reflex paint.
“It covers a multitude of sins, absorbing all the light and hiding any lumps, bumps and undulations in your ceiling” says Myak. “It’s not that pricey either. We always use Tikkurila.”
“You can paint over old paint (just give it a light sand to remove any blobs or flaking) but any fresh plaster needs priming first,” says Myak.
“It’s a very thirsty material that would otherwise absorb a lot of your paint, making it look patchy."
Just like us, it should calm down a bit after a drink! Primer also gives the walls a better surface to adhere to, hence a longer-lasting finish.
Either buy a ready-mixed primer from your local DIY store or mix up what Myak dubs a ‘mist coat’ using 50% cheap white paint and 50% water.
Give it a good stir and roll it over your walls and ceiling. Let it dry thoroughly overnight before inspecting it for imperfections, which it tends to highlight.
“Fill any cracks or holes with Polyfilla, then let it dry,” says Myak.
“Lightly sand the wall until it feels smooth and even, dust it clean and you’re ready to paint.”
3. Try your hand at cutting-in… or reach for the masking tape
Before you reach for the roller (that’s ‘the fun bit’, we know!), let us introduce you to what’s known in the trade as ‘cutting in’.
This basically means delineating neatly between two surfaces of a different colour. Or more simply, ‘doing the edges’!
“Use a two-inch brush to paint in a straight line around your skirting, coving and framing,” says Myak.
“Dragging a thin layer of paint is much more likely to leave brush marks, so load it up for better flow. This technique also keeps your edges from drying before you’ve rolled on the rest of the paint.”
Alas, we can’t all be professional decorators, so what can a DIY-er do to make the job look tidy?
“If you don’t trust yourself to cut in neatly, use a low adhesion masking tape, but take your time to get it right.
Once you’ve masked up, it’s smart to still be careful with your brush, as some paint may ‘bleed’ through the tape, especially if it’s poor quality or hasn’t been smoothed over properly.
“Once your second coat of paint is dry, peel the tape off very slowly, pulling away from the paint,” says Myak. “Touch up any dodgy bits with a small angled brush.”
4. Get rolling
Grab a nine-inch roller, ready to fill in the rest of your walls. If you’re working solo, cut in and roller one wall at a time.
If it’s a team effort, nominate one person to do the cutting in while the other rolls behind them.
Just as with the brush, more paint is better than less paint.
“You shouldn’t have to put any weight into the roller when rolling,” says Myak.
“If you’re pushing hard, you’ll cover your walls faster, but your coats will be really thin, meaning you may end up needing to do more and wasting time and money.
"Keep your roller well-laden with paint, roll vertically up and down your walls, and slightly overlap each strip.”
Tackle the ceiling and any plaster coving first, in case paint drips onto your walls.
“Get on a stepladder, cut in, then use a roller on a longer pole. Roll with the direction of the major source of sunlight. If you roll the other way, it’ll look like a ploughed field!”
5. Let the first coat dry, then repeat
Myak recommends applying at least two coats of paint. How long to leave each coat to dry depends on the climate.
“You’ll struggle to get two coats of paint on in a single day if it’s cold and damp outside,” he says.
“You can use heaters to speed things up but be wary of doing that, because drying paint too quickly may cause cracking.
“In the spring or summer, your walls should only take a couple of hours to dry naturally. Don’t be impatient or there’ll only be tears later!”
1. Grab the gloss... or something more subtle
Freshening up your skirting, window frames and door frames is often what makes your decorating project sing.
It’s long been thought that the glossier your woodwork paint, the better it will be at withstanding knocks and heavy traffic.
Myak strongly advises against using the same matt paint you’ve used for the walls (it’ll just chip and peel).
Paint technology has come a long way in the last decade and many textures now give a flatter finish while also being pretty hardwearing. Think eggshell and satinwood.
2. Clean and sand
Give your woodwork a thorough clean with soap and water before lightly sanding down the top layer of existing paint, particularly if it’s glossy. Then give it another quick clean.
Apply two coats of new paint with an appropriately sized brush (always smaller for details and bigger for flat surfaces).
1. Work out what they’re made from
You’ll have realised by now that different materials require a different approach with different products, so check whether your kitchen cupboards are made from wood, MDF, vinyl or veneer.
You'll need a different type of paint for each one.
2. Get rid of grime
Thoroughly clean all your cupboards to get rid of any built-up grease and grime, otherwise your finish will be both ugly and unhygienic!
3. Sand (sometimes), prime and paint
“Give wooden cupboards a light sand and dust them down, before painting on a standard primer and applying your first coat of paint,” says Myak.
“Once that’s dry, give them another light sand, dust them down again and apply your final coat of paint.”
Sometimes you don't need to buy brand new.... We gave this kitchen a new lease of life with beautifully painted units.
If your cupboards are covered in something plasticky, things get trickier, but you can still paint them if you apply a special adhesion primer first.
Myak uses a product by Benjamin Moore called Stix Primer, which goes on and dries like paint.
“It clings to the surface of your cupboards and can be painted over with anything you like.”
Ideally, take your cupboard doors off, but you can leave them on and mask up the hinges if you wish.
“Definitely take the handles off, as that’s a doddle with a screwdriver,” says Myak. “Use a mini four-inch roller for a smooth finish on flat surfaces, and a brush for any decorative detailing.”
1. Select your paint
Painting your radiators with the same matt emulsion you’ve used on your walls isn’t a total no-go, but it’s prone to attracting dust and cracking.
Demi Stanley, a painting expert from London’s Fantastic Services, recommends using specific radiator primer and paint as it’s heat-resistant and flexible enough to handle expansion and contraction.
The downside is it only tends to come in a limited number of classic colours, namely white, grey and black.
If you’re after something jazzier, try using a standard metal paint or eggshell emulsion (the shinier stuff you use for skirting).
The backs of radiators are particularly prone to mildew, especially during the colder months, so Demi suggests applying anti-mould paint to the wall behind it as an extra precaution.
2. Turn off your heating and give your radiator a clean
“Make sure your radiator is absolutely cold to prevent paint from dripping and ensuring adherence,” says Demi.
“Regardless of how often you clean your home, wipe it down with a damp cloth or sponge, some lukewarm water and mild detergent.
“Give your radiator a gentle sand and lay down plenty of newspaper to protect your flooring.”
3. Invest in the right paintbrush
“You may think all paintbrushes are equal but reaching into narrow nooks and crannies will be much easier with an angled, two-inch radiator brush with a long handle,” she says.
“Paint the edges first, using sweeping, overlapping strokes to achieve an even finish across the radiator’s body.
"Once two coats are on, double-check that the paint is dry before turning the radiator back on.”
1. Sand back any varnish or previous staining
Bought a gorgeous old wooden table from Facebook Marketplace and ready to give it a facelift?
First, check whether it’s varnished. If it is, you’ll need to gently sand it back to its natural wood in order for your chosen product to sink in (stain or oil) or stick (fresh varnish or paint).
2. Give it a fresh lick of finish
For a period look, simply stain, oil or re-varnish the table in your chosen colour.
For a fresh colour, you'll need to prime and paint.
“If it’s previously been painted, there’s no need to strip it to the wood,” says Myak. “Just give it a light sand to smooth out any lumps and bumps, before priming and painting.”
1. Decide what look you want to achieve
If you’re after a distressed shabby chic vibe, then sand, prime and paint your floorboards with matt emulsion, which will quickly scuff in places.
For a natural wood look, there's a wide range of wood stains, oils and varnishes to choose from.
2. Prepare to sand, then take to the floor
Myak has a word of warning to heed before sanding down your floorboards.
“Make sure any nails, screws or staples are hammered down below the surface or they’ll rip your sander to pieces,” he says.
“Sanders can be hired but the sanding belts cost £5 to £10 a pop. If you go over a nail, you may as well have set a tenner on fire. Don’t rush into it, preparation is key.”
Technique is important, too, or you could have an even more expensive nightmare on your hands. “Make sure you sand along the grain of the wood, not against it, otherwise you may split your floorboards and end up with huge divots.”
3. Apply your chosen paint or stain
Myak recommends Osmo for stains, many of which are UV resistant. To find the right colour, test some samples out on an inconspicuous area that will later be hidden by furniture.