Decorating Success

How to decorate a room. Step by step painting


In this step by step guide, I will show you exactly how I decorate a room professionally. If you've never decorated before or you are unsure where to start, I will help you along the way. Firstly, and most importantly, you need to decide the colour of your room before you go anywhere near a paint brush. You can get a colour chart or test pots from any paint supplier but the key thing in deciding the colour is to be confident in your choice. Usually you paint the ceiling and woodwork white but there's nothing stopping you from being a little daring. Then you can pick up a paint brush and get to work (well, after some preparation). 


What you need:

  • Emulsion paint (for the walls and ceiling)
  • Undercoat and gloss (for the woodwork)
  • Sand paper
  • White spirit
  • Cloth
  • Step ladder
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Dust sheets (preferably with a plastic back to stop paint seeping through)
  • Brushes:
    • One with a good straight tip for 'cutting in' (preferably with 'feathered' bristles)
    • One medium sized one for undercoating and glossing doors and skirting boards 
    • One small one for undercoating and glossing windows and tops of skirting boards
  • Roller tray
  • Roller with a good quality head
  • Masking tape
  • Sugar soap powder and a bucket.


Step by step:


  1. Remove as much of the furniture as possible
  2. Cover the floor and any remaining furniture with dust sheets
  3. Wipe woodwork with white spirit
  4. Sand woodwork thoroughly
  5. Shake dust sheets outside
  6. Vacuum everything
  7. Wipe woodwork with white spirit again
  8. Put masking tape down
  9. Wash walls and ceiling with sugar soap as thoroughly as possible
  10. Rinse walls and ceiling with clean water 
  11. Cut in around ceiling
  12. Roller ceiling
  13. Cut in around walls
  14. Roller walls
  15. Undercoat woodwork twice
  16. Gloss woodwork
  17. Once dry, remove masking tape
  18. Remove dust sheets
  19. Vacuum floor
  20. Replace furniture


In more detail:



This is the most important thing involved in decorating a room. Good preparation always pays off. I know, it is a monotonous task but it's infinitely better to spend a little more time and do the job properly once, than to rush it and have to re-decorate the whole room all over again in a couple of months.


  1. Remove as much of the furniture as possible

It is incredibly difficult and time-consuming to have to work around the furniture in the room so, if you have space, move it into another room. This way, it won't get any paint or dust on it as well. 


2. Cover the floor and any remaining furniture with dust sheets

This stops paint or dust from damaging them. I suggest that you cover the floor with dust sheets first then put the furniture on them then cover the furniture with dust sheets. Otherwise, the dust sheets won't cover the floor properly and you'll end up with exposed areas of floor.


3. Wipe the woodwork with white spirit using a clean old rag

The woodwork gets surprisingly greasy and dirty. This makes sanding it very difficult because it clogs up the sand paper very quickly. The white spirit gets rid of most of the grime and dries very quickly. It's best to have the window open while doing this.


4. Sand the woodwork thoroughly

It is essential that the paint has a rough surface to stick to. So, try to sand it until it isn't shiny any more. This is probably the most laborious task but it is one of the most important.  


5-7. Dealing with dust

It is easy to forget that you have just filled the whole room with dust. This will cause major problems when you come to paint. So shake the dust sheets outside (I actually have two sets of dust sheets: one for when i'm sanding and one for when I'm painting). Then vacuum the whole room including the walls, floor and woodwork (yes, the dust does settle on the walls). But there will still be a fine layer of dust on the woodwork which will stop the paint from sticking so wipe the woodwork again with white spirit.


8. Put masking tape down

Put the tape along the floor butting up to the skirting boards to stop paint from getting on the floor. Don't put masking tape on the windows because it can be incredibly difficult to get off successfully.


9-10. Washing the walls

Sugar soap normally comes as powder. All you have to do is mix a little of the powder in a bucket of warm water. Then use a clean rag to scrub the walls and ceiling to get rid of grease and dirt which can stop the paint from sticking. Rinse the walls with clean water using a rag to wash off the soap then repeat steps 9-10 if necessary.








11. Using emulsion, the first area to be painted is the ceiling. This is because if you spill any paint on the walls you can easily paint over it later. So start by 'cutting in'. Use your cutting in brush to paint the edges of the ceiling right up to the walls because the roller can't reach this far. I suggest that you cut in to about the width of your roller head. If your cutting in is too narrow, you can accidentally hit the walls with the roller. You will probably need two coats of paint for this.



12. Roller the ceiling

This is a relatively simple task. Pour some of the paint into the lower part of the roller tray then dip the roller in it and wipe off the excess on the upper part of the tray. Carefully and slowly roll the paint onto the ceiling, pressing quite hard to get most of the paint out of the roller head. Then go over the area that you have just painted using the roller very lightly to get rid of the bubbles in the paint to make a smooth finish. It may need two coats


13-14. Painting the walls

These steps  are the same as for the ceiling but take extra care not to get any paint on the ceiling.


15. Undercoat woodwork

Now all your hard work with the sand paper will start to pay off. Use the larger brush to paint the large, flat areas of the skirting boards and doors then use the smaller brush to cut in around the tops of the skirting boards and on the window. You will probably need two coats of undercoat to get a smooth finish. It may also be worth washing your brush with white spirit between coats to stop it clogging up too much.


16. Gloss woodwork

This is pretty much the same as undercoating but you may only need one coat. Make sure that you wash your brush thoroughly in white spirit afterwards. NEVER POUR WHITE SPIRIT DOWN A DRAIN! It is highly toxic and should be disposed of safely at your local waste disposal centre.


17-20. Clearing up

Once the gloss is dry (I suggest you leave it over night) you can take up the masking tape and the dust sheets. Then vacuum up again and replace all the furniture. Take care because the gloss may not have completely set under the surface so try not to scrape anything against it. 





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