Painting a Great Room: Do It Yourself or Don't?

From painting supplies to safety precautions, here are 11 things you need to know before you decide to paint your great room yourself or leave it to the pros.
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Professionally Painted Space

With soaring 22-foot ceilings and generous square footage, this Atlanta great room's painting was best left to the pros.

Removing Outlet Covers

To ensure a crisp, clean line around all outlets, it's important to remove all covers and switch plates from your great room walls. This is time consuming and requires safe keeping of the removed covers and their screws. Once the outlet covers are removed, the outlets themselves need to be taped off to protect them from paint. Pros often use painters tape to keep screws attached to their corresponding covers. This will make installation quick and easy once the painting is complete.

Removing Cable and Phone Plates

Like outlet covers, cable and phone jack plates will need to be removed from your great room walls prior to painting. This is more involved than simply removing screws to detach the cover. Once the screws are removed, the outlet covers or jack covers will need to be slid down and off from the bundled wires, and then the wires will need to be tightly wound together with zip ties and covered with plastic and painter's tape. With the wires wound together, it's easier to paint around them.

Painter's Tape

Masking off molding and casing with painter's tape is an easy task for rooms with low ceilings, but it's much more challenging in great rooms with soaring ceilings and molding only reachable with ladders. Homeowners interested in hiring out the painting of their great rooms can save on labor costs by masking off the molding and casing they can reach themselves, then leaving the higher areas to the pros. It's also best to anticipate painters charging approximately $10 for every roll of painter's tape they supply for the project.

Five-Gallon Buckets

Professional painters use five gallon buckets to make paint more easily accessible. Rather than opening one gallon of paint at a time, they'll usually pour four to five gallons into one large bucket, allowing them to coat the walls at a faster pace.

Industrial Paint Trays

When great room walls require rolling rather than spraying, professional painters will empty two to three gallons at a time into an industrial-size paint tray. This allows for faster coverage and also makes it easy for several painters to dip their rollers into the pan simultaneously.

Proper Lighting

Expert painters often work well into the night in order to complete a great room in a single day. To make this possible, most pros bring in their own artificial lighting to ensure the space is properly lit after dark. Homeowners attempting to paint great rooms in the dark should be aware that it's much more difficult to ensure even coverage due to shadows.

Painting Trim

Homeowners unfamiliar with painting techniques will be surprised to learn that professional painters usually paint trim work before drywall. Painting trim work takes approximately three times as long as coating drywall with a roller. When painting trim work first, it’s okay to be a bit less careful since the paint applied to the drywall will cover up any messy strokes made while brushing the trim.

Cutting In

The term "cutting in" refers to creating precise edges with a paintbrush where trim work meets drywall. While this requires great skill in rooms with eight- to nine-foot ceilings, it requires even more skill and a great deal of patience in extra-tall great rooms. To do this effectively, you'll need an angled paintbrush as well as an extra person to hold the ladder steadily.

Ladder Safety

Great rooms with extra-tall decorative molding and/or ceiling beams require a great deal of precision for painting crisp lines. To reach these heights, special extension ladders are needed. Extension ladders can be rented for a daily fee, but due to their size, they often require delivery directly to the house. This is a cost that is usually waived by professional painters since they own all of their own supplies and include their use in their labor fees. Due to safety concerns when painting high up on a ladder, this is often best left to the pros.

Protecting the Floor

Proper floor protection is key when painting large spaces like great rooms. While many homeowners are quick to choose inexpensive plastic rolls, professional painters often use thick canvas drop cloths, layering them throughout the space to ensure no accidents occur from spilled paint. The extra time spent on the front end ensures a more pristine finished project.

Extender Poles

To evenly coat the tops of walls with rollers, extender poles are needed. These make the rolling process much more efficient, but can also cause neck and back pain if not used correctly. While painting with an extender pole is simple in rooms with average ceiling heights, it’s much more likely to strain your back or neck when painting great rooms.