Worried about making decorating mistakes? Our handy guide will put your mind at rest and inspire you to pick up your paintbrushes in no time.
If you lack experience, the prospect of decorating your home can feel a bit daunting and it’s easy to make mistakes and learn the hard way; often, what starts as a fun idea to update a room quickly becomes a project you wish you’d never started.
It can take years to learn the tips, tricks & techniques that make interior decorating a breeze which is one of the reasons I wrote my money-saving online course - DIY & home styling on a budget. I wanted to help people save time, money and stress by sharing all my insider DIY & home styling knowledge. I’m excited to share this decorating cheat sheet (a tiny taster of what you’ll learn on the course). I’ve split the tips and tricks into three main categories focused on staying safe, spending money on the right things and getting the best results from your effort.
Common decorating mistakes you’ll want to avoid
Let’s take a look at some common decorating mistakes and most importantly how to avoid them
1. Don’t buy a huge selection of tools when you’re starting out.
Tools and decorating materials can be expensive and are often used for specific jobs, so don’t buy anything until you know exactly which decorating tasks you plan to tackle. Even then, you don’t need to spend a fortune. To keep costs down and save on storage space, I recommend occasional DIYers share the larger or more expensive tools, like a drill or electric saw, for example, with friends and family. Savvy shopping can also save you a packet on tools, keep an eye out for discount codes and special offers at DIY stores and online. Amazon does some great deals and I’ve bought lots of my tools from them.
2. Don’t buy cheap brushes
With paintbrushes, it pays to remember the adage, ‘If it seems too good to be true, it probably is’. You often see selections of impossibly cheap paintbrushes in DIY stores and when costs are mounting, it can be tempting to pick up what feels like a bargain, but it’s not the best idea. The problem with poor-quality paintbrushes is their bristles fall out and stick to the paint as you apply it to a surface. The other issue is the quality of the finish will be lower with a cheap brush making visible brush strokes more likely and it’ll be much harder to cut in seamlessly. You don’t have to buy the most expensive brushes on the market, but investing in quality will pay off as they’ll last ages if you take good care of them and inevitably, money spent on cheap brushes will be wasted.
3. Don’t forget to test paint colours in different lights
Choosing the perfect paint colour can be a bit of a minefield hence why it’s a common decorating mistake. Many people will have experienced the sinking feeling you get when you start applying your beautiful new hue to the wall or ceiling and disaster… you hate it! The problem is that paint colours look completely different under different lights. Here are my top tips for choosing a paint colour
Always get a tester, don’t rely on colour charts or images of the colour in other homes.
Paint the tester on large pieces of paper or card and place in various positions in the room.
Check the tester in natural daylight as well as under the light sources within the room.
4. Don’t buy rubbish paint
You’ll likely have seen this type of paint before - it’s ridiculously cheap & not a familiar brand, but it seems like a really good deal, so you risk it. Then, five coats later, you realise it was a big mistake as it’s patchy, offering terrible coverage. You don’t have to buy the premium brands, although some (not all) are arguably superior, but there are certain qualities you should look out for when buying paint. I recommend opting for a water-based super-low-VOC product for walls and ceilings. VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are harmful to health if breathed in and best to avoid if possible. Some paints will actually improve the quality of the air, like Bauwerk Colour limewash and Graphenstone eco paints which both take carbon dioxide from the air as they cure.
5. Don’t skip the prep
When you are decorating, the secret to a superior finish is to spend sufficient time on your prep. For walls, this might mean filling any gaps, cracks or dents and sanding rough areas or visible paintbrush strokes or roller marks before moving on to painting. For wooden surfaces like skirting, furniture or architrave, the prep might involve sanding away layers of years-old paint or repairing any dents or chips before refinishing.
6. Don’t forget to apply knotting solution to untreated wood before painting
If you are using bare wood and have visible knots, you’ll need to apply a knotting solution prior to painting. Failing to do this can lead to the resin inside the wood seeping out and spoiling your paint job.
7. Don’t rush the second coat on cabinets
Painting kitchen cabinets is a brilliant way to breathe new life into a tired or dated kitchen. It’s a simple and cost-effective DIY that can achieve brilliant results. The key to success is leaving enough time in between coats of paint to ensure they cure properly. I also recommend gently sanding any brushstrokes or imperfections with high-grit sandpaper (at least 180) before applying the next coat.
8. Don’t forget to de-lint microfibre roller heads
This is a super simple step where you remove any loose fibres from a new microfibre foller head. This process prevents bits of fluff from getting stuck in the paint and on the surface you are painting. A simple hack to remove the fluff is to wrap masking tape around the roller head and then remove it, all the fluff sticks to the tape and you’re ready to paint.
9. Don’t store paint incorrectly
Many people store tins of leftover paint in their sheds or garages, meaning they are exposed to sub-zero temperatures at certain times of the year. Storing paint in the cold can cause it to freeze, which can ruin it. I recommend decanting leftover paint into glass jars, I use the type of jars that instant coffee or pasta sauce comes in after giving them a good clean. The advantage of storing paint in jars is that you won’t get rust and flaky bits around the rim as you do with a tin. Another advantage is that you can easily see the shade of the paint through the glass and can write on the side with a sharpie the date you bought it, the name of the paint shade and where you painted it - super handy for when you need to do touch-ups.
10. Don’t use a sander without a means of dust extraction
Sanding is a brilliant tool in a DIYer’s armoury and can help achieve professional results, but it’s a dusty business and requires some planning. Ideally, all sanding should be completed outside or in a well-ventilated area and wearing a dust mask is a good idea. If you have to sand indoors, extra precautions should be taken; otherwise, you’ll be wiping up dust for weeks. Electric sanders usually have dust collectors or a hose-like connector that attach to a vacuum cleaner, these help reduce dust levels a lot. Breathing in dust particles from sanded surfaces can be very bad for you.
11. Don’t disturb untested artex
I have a personal vendetta against Artex and similar textured coatings, as our house was covered in it at the time of purchase. Over the years, I have perfected a low-budget DIY method of skimming over it, restoring both my sanity and the smooth sleekness of the ceilings. However, as it was only made fully illegal in around 2000, Artex in older houses is likely to contain asbestos, which in dust form can pose serious health risks and, if breathed in, can be fatal. Therefore, you should never disturb (drill, sand or scrape) Artex unless you have received a negative test result for the presence of asbestos.
12. Don’t drill into a wall or ceiling before testing for pipes and cables
A stud finder is a simple and cost-effective device that tests the material behind a solid surface and allows the user to identify the location of pipes, electrical wiring and wooden studs if any are present. I highly recommend buying one if you ever plan to drill into a wall or ceiling as they could literally be a lifesaver - pick one up on Amazon for around £20.
Now you know how to avoid these common decorating mistakes, you can focus on the fun stuff, like which room are you going to transform first and whether you are painting, panelling or wallpapering that feature wall.