Tips for painting like a pro

If you're looking to test the housing market, you should probably make simple home improvements before staking down the for-sale sign. Of course, it can be difficult to choose which areas to address. Fortunately, there's one cost-effective interior upgrade sure to score you major points with prospective property purchasers: new paint.

Most do-it-yourself painting projects cost around $100 to complete and net 1 to 2 percent returns, according to Consumer Reports. But before you ready your roller, review some professional-grade interior painting tips.

Properly prep surfaces
Successful painting projects often begin with preparation, Popular Mechanics found. Take stock of your walls and look for damaged areas that might require patching. Though time consuming, this step is essential, as most interior paint blends – even the expensive kinds – aren't engineered to hide serious imperfections.

Most professional painters use putty or spackle to fill in pock marks, This Old House reported. For more serious dents deeper than one-eighth of an inch, switch to plaster. Once you've filled all the holes, perform some intensive sanding to get rid of chipping and create a fresh surface for your new hue.

Finish off the prepping process by rolling on a couple coats of primer. This stuff is essential, as it prevents drywall staining and helps paint adhere to walls. However, don't apply primer straight out of the can. Tint the mixture by stirring in some of your primary paint.

Good equipment often yields favorable results.Good equipment often yields favorable results, so choose your roller wisely.

Pick the right paint
When shopping for paint, most homeowners focus on pinpointing the perfect color and spend little time talking texture. Experts uniformly agree that this superficial approach to picking paint often yields shoddy results. So, as you peruse the interior hues available at your local home improvement store, carefully consider your finishing options. Most manufacturers produce paints in two main finishes: gloss and matte.

Glossy paints are more stain resistant than matte blends but often emphasize imperfections. Conversely, matte paints are better at hiding vertical bumps and bruises but look drab when applied to walls. As a result, most professionals work with glossy paint.

"Flat paints are fine for ceilings and formal rooms, but for most of my customers, I recommend an eggshell gloss," Carmen Toto, owner of the Madison, New Jersey-based painting company C. Toto and Sons, told This Old House. "It's good for hallways, kids' rooms, even kitchens and baths."

No matter which finish you choose, make sure to purchase quality paint. Most cost between $20 and $35 per gallon. You might also consider buying some paint additives as well. These substances slow paint drying times and make it easier to manipulate once its on the wall.

Gather the necessary equipment
After you've picked your hue and finish, nab some essential painting accessories. First, you'll need a drop cloth to protect your flooring against unexpected spills. Canvas cloths are more effective than plastic alternatives, as they don't tear and easily absorb paint, Popular Mechanics found. 

"Canvas drop cloths are more effective than plastic alternatives."

Next, choose your painting tools. Professionals normally use a combination of rollers and brushes. Most work with rollers equipped with half-inch naps made of lamb's wool. These hold a good amount of paint and don't create too much texture. 

When shopping for brushes, turn your attention to bristle type. Brushes with stiff, polyurethane bristles are good for detailed work while those with nylon bristles more effectively spread paint across large surfaces. Quality, professional-grade brushes cost anywhere from $15 to $25. However, the spend is usually worth it at the end of the day.

"Pros aren't as talented as you thought," Richmond, Virginia-based painter Brian Doherty told This Old House. "The equipment has a lot to do with their success."

With these guidelines in mind, go forth and get to painting. Prospective buyers will appreciate your efforts.