Color preferences and tastes in home decor vary from person to person, and styles change over the years. If you have dark wood where you would prefer a brighter, lighter environment, you don’t have to grin and bear it merely because you’ve been told it is impossible to paint light over dark successfully. With proper preparation and the right paint, you can have a sunnier room.
Cleaning is important
Thoroughly clean the surface you want to paint. If you paint a dirty wall, you are really painting the dirt, not the wood. The paint adheres to the overlying grime instead of the surface, so it will come off when the dirt comes off. Scrub everything down with warm soapy water, then rinse and dry well. For tough grease, use a bit of household ammonia or vinegar in the water. Kill mildew with diluted chlorine bleach, but never mix bleach with ammonia or vinegar.
Address holes, scratches and other surface imperfections. A professional paint job requires fixing, rather than covering, those flaws. Patch holes in wood with wood putty. Sand out minor scratches. Fasten down loose boards or trim as needed. Lightly sand the entire surface with extra-fine sandpaper to provide a slightly rough surface that will hold the paint. Remove sanding dust with a tack cloth. Tape off areas you do not want to paint with painter’s tape.
Priming the Surface
Apply a quality white or light gray primer according to the manufacturer’s directions, and let it dry completely. Use a primer that is compatible with the underlying stain formulation, and follow that with a topcoat paint that is compatible with the primer. Use oil-based undercoats with oil-based primers and oil-based topcoats, and use water-based primers and topcoats with a water-based undercoat. If the undercoat is shellac or other alcohol-based product or if the underlying stain is of unknown composition, use a specialty primer formulated to transition between incompatible undercoats and topcoats. In any case, you may need more than one coat to provide adequate coverage.
Now that you have a light-colored blank page with which to work, you can apply a new color. Make sure your chosen paint is compatible with the primer you used. Ask a paint store employee to help if you are unsure. Start by using a small foam or angled paintbrush to paint around the edges and any obstacles on the surface of your project – such as light fixtures and door or cabinet handles. Apply paint evenly over the rest of the surface with a paint roller. You probably will need to apply a second coat, and possibly a third.
Sealing the Paint
Sealing a wall, floor or piece of furniture is helpful if the surface receives foot traffic or heavy use. A sealer adds a protective coating to the painted finish, and you apply it with a brush or roller as you would a coat of paint. If you used a latex-based paint with a flat finish over the original stained surface, you should follow with a clear polyurethane or compatible water-based sealer, since flat latex paint does not wash easily. If you used a gloss latex or oil-based paint, particularly a durable type such as floor or porch paint, a sealer may be unnecessary, since those are specially formulated to withstand heavy use. Check the compatibility of the sealer with the topcoat paint before applying, and follow the manufacturer’s direction for use and drying times.