Paint: The Cure for Renter’s Remorse

September 14, 2011

Ever moved into that new place — now with all of its walls and floors bare — and had a deep sinking feeling as you realize why the previous tenant had so many area rugs, hanging tapestries, and strategically placed art pieces? It happens to all of us at some point in time and it has a name: renter’s remorse. You find a great place and now that it’s yours you notice every single blemish, flaw, and loose nail. Boy, did it hit me hard two weeks ago.

Torn up walls

On September 1st, when my boyfriend and I did a walk through of our new house — now with ever corner of it exposed for scrutiny — I realized that our place looked like a total dump. The walls while white had stains and holes everywhere and previous tenants had dripped a rainbow of paint colors on the wood floors and cabinets. The tub was awful with stains, chipped paint, and mold that had been painted over. The kitchen laminate floor looked like someone had stood and thrown a knife at it over and over again. And that was just the tip of the ice berg.

Shanked Floor

We were horrified, but also exhausted and depressed after spending hours moving all of our belongings from storage to a place we weren’t sure we could tolerate for 12 months. BUT we soon discovered that there is a series of remedies for renter’s remorse and foremost among them is PAINT!

That first weekend we puddied every hole, sanded, cleaned, re-caulked, and then painted nearly every room in the house — and nearly every surface in the bathroom!

The Magic and Methods of Paint

As a renter you don’t want to spend a whole bunch of money and time trying to make a place livable, but paint has the biggest impact with the smallest investment. Painting a single room costs roughly $20-50 dollars and takes only an afternoon. The result is clean, attractive walls in colors that highlight the things you already own and love!

My green bedroom. Darvin had to get in on the action.

The Basics

What you’ll need:

1. A roller handle and rollers (1 for each color)
2. A paint pan
3. An angled brush for trim
4. Painter’s tape (this is a MUST)
5. A drop clothe if you’re messy like me
6. And of course the paint of your choice

For painter’s tape I highly recommend FrogTape because it prevents a lot of the bleed through you see with conventional painter’s tape and gives your moldings, trim, and window frames a nice clean line. If you do not tape, just do not paint. I am serious. Lazy painters should simply cease and desist. (If lazy painters would take that to heart, I wouldn’t have spent hours using latex paint remover on my front door and cabinets last weekend — a nearly impossible feat!)

Once you’ve got all of your supplies ready, I recommend first using the roller to cover as much as you can without getting paint on your trim or ceiling. This can seriously reduce the amount of time you spend trimming because you’ll know exactly where your roller can’t safely reach. Also – since the trim usually takes longer – when you are finished trimming, the sections you used the roller for will be close to dry and ready for a second coat.

Color Selection

For me color selection is the toughest part of painting. The way colors on a paint tile morph once they are on a wall in different light or with a more durable finish like eggshell or semi-gloss never ceases to amaze me. That is why I tend towards lighter, more “safe” colors such as beige, cream, and the palest versions of yellow, blue, and green. I also like to try to match or highlight the key feature of a room like a fireplace, cabinet, couch, or bed spread.

Before at Left, After at Right

Before at Left, After at Right

However, another worthy route is just to pick a color you really like that goes with a lot of different things. Examples are rich browns, dark greens, or slate blues. That is the way my boyfriend likes to pick colors and to his credit the rooms he painted are my favorite in our new house and have the most character. He is not afraid of dark colors and you shouldn’t be either. (That is as along as you have good natural or artificial lighting. For hallways you should stick to lighter colors.) He also suggests a flat finish to maintain the integrity of the color from paint tile to painted wall. However, for a high traffic area like a kitchen or bathroom you really have to go with semi-gloss or eggshell for water durability and heavy use.

Appropriate Paint for the Appropriate Job

While it can be tempting to use extra paint you have laying around to touch up or fully cover an unattractive or peeling exterior doorway, tub, [fill in the blank], you may actually make the problem worse. For example, whenever I rub up against my front door (and particularly during the move) a flurry of white snow paint flakes falls from the front doorway. Why? Because someone used interior paint (instead of more durable exterior paint) to cover up blemishes around the frame and now it is just a peeling mess. If you’re painting outside, use exterior paint.

Before at Left, After at Right

That goes double for porcelain tubs and other enamel based materials, which should be sanded and then painted with an apoxy (the type of high durability paint used on kitchen appliances like refrigerators and stoves). If you want to maintain the integrity of wood features and furniture, use a wood stain. The rule with unique painting surfaces is: when in doubt, ask a professional at your local paint or hardware store.

Before at Left, After at Right

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