By Nicole Villalpando

Austin American-Statesman

Painting is one of the easiest way to transform the look of your home, and yet, often, we’re just not good at it. We think we can do a room in a day, the whole house in a weekend.

“People think painting is a very easy thing,” says Michael Parreno of 78 Painting, Textures, Plasters and More, in Austin, Texas. “It’s all about the prep and many years of experience. … Patience is everything in painting.”

That prep work is going to be about 75 percent of the job, says Louie Funk of Funk Paint Contractors. “If people take time to tape off the room, they can do almost as good a job as we can. They’ve got to be serious about taping it off.”

Painting also is about knowing what jobs you can do and what jobs are best for the professionals. And, most important, it’s about having the right kind of tools and paint for the job.

Choosing the right color is also important.

Gray is the big color right now, says Stacy Paulson of Stacy Paulson Design. It’s a light-to-medium gray, but you have to be careful because some grays tend to go blue, and when it’s too cool, gray can go wrong, she says. “You’ve got to find the right gray that stays gray,” she says.

Clement Ebbo of Clement’s Paints says he’s selling a lot of Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter. Paulson says people are playing with all-gray walls and white trim. “It’s really clean.”

Ebbo and Paulson also see people going for bright colors as well and definitely ditching the beige that was so popular for so long.

“People are more adventurous with paint,” Paulson says of her clients, including one for whom she just did black caviar walls. “If you don’t like it, in a year or two, you can repaint.”

Before you pick any color, spend $5 to $7 and get a sample. Paint a square of it on the walls and look at it at different times of day to make sure it looks right in any light and with your furniture.

Paulson says she hires professionals for her clients, but for her own home, she paints the interior walls herself. Light colors are less risky than trying to do dark colors.

For dark colors, as well as trim work and exteriors, the professional might be worth the investment.

When you’re looking for a professional painter, you want to make sure the company is bonded and insured. Ask how long the painter has been in the business. You also want to know how many people will be on the job. If you’re doing your whole house, know that if the company is bringing only one or two people, they are going to be there for weeks versus the time a whole crew would take.

Ask for detailed estimates. How many coats will they do? What kind of prep work? What kind of paint will they use? The paint is also going to be only about 15 percent of the total bill. Labor is your big cost.

For exteriors, if you decide to paint it yourself, know you’re going to be on a ladder a lot (especially for two-story homes). You’ll need to pressure wash to start with a clean surface, but hand scrub around the windows and other delicate areas. You’ll need to check the condition of the wood and siding to know whether there are spots that need to be replaced.

You’ll fill in holes and caulk around the trim, windows and doors.

Many professionals use paint sprayers for the exteriors, but you have to be careful. Spray can go everywhere and be influenced by the direction of the wind. You’ll also lose about 25 percent of the paint to overspray. Cover with tape and paper 3 feet to 4 feet around the brick and cover the windows and doors. Painters should apply at least two coats with a good paint.

While you can paint indoors any time of the year as long as you have the air conditioner or heater running to pull out the humidity and keep the temperature consistent, painting outside is a different story. Avoid days that are excessively humid or raining or drizzling.

Cold is an issue with painting. If it’s going to be colder than 35 degrees at any point in the 24-hour to 36-hour drying time, do not paint.

In the heat of summer, you also have to be careful. Paint in the morning and follow the shade of the house. If paint dries too quickly it won’t adhere to the surface and can crack or peel off later. Make sure you’re using paint designed for exteriors.

Low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) or no-VOC paints are becoming more common, but ask whether the tint is also low VOC or no VOC. Some brands have low or no-VOC in the base paint, but not in the tint, which means you’re still getting VOCs.