How to Paint a Condo: a DIY Guide

Everyone assumes that they know how to paint a condo. They’ve done it a few times in college and assume they are experts at it. The reality is that painting can impact the resale value of your home. Your condo isn’t your college apartment rental and needs to be painted properly.  It takes more than a Saturday trip to Home Depot and buying pizza for your friends to do a good job!  The good news is that painting your condo is something you can do yourself.

Planning Is Key

Many people don’t realize this but planning a DIY paint job is critical. Proper planning and preparation is the first step to a beautiful new look for your home.

Organize the chaos

Before starting anything, you’ll need to have some idea of the order of your project.  This will affect where you will move furniture to when the time comes to paint.  Think of where that heavy couch will need to go and how many times you will have to move it.  Will you have enough room to work?  If you’ll be in tight quarters, buy a cheap plastic tarp to put over your furniture.  This will catch any droplets of paint that come off the roller or paintbrush.

If you’re painting many rooms, it’s important to plan for disruptions in your life. You’re unlikely to get it all done in under a day. Have prepared meals ready to go in your refrigerator to shorten meal breaks. While it may be tempting to order pizza, don’t forget that the delivery guy’s schedule isn’t yours. You don’t want to have to clean up to answer the door when you only have one more wall to roll.

A plan needs to be in place for children or pets. You don’t want to their hands, feet, paws or tails to touch fresh paint. Young children shouldn’t be exposed to paint fumes. Plan to have them brought somewhere else for the day.

Paint doesn’t fill holes

Check the condition of the walls and ceilings in your condo. If there are nail holes, dents, or high spots you will need to repair them. This is a must! Don’t expect the paint to fill any cracks or make defects in the wall disappear.

Fixing minor scuffs requires three common tools: spackling, a putty knife and a sanding sponge.

The combined cost of these three items amounts to less than $20.  It will make a painting project go from looking acceptable to magnificent.

How to: Apply spackling over the scuff with the putty knife and sand it down once it dries.  Common mistakes people make are applying too much spackling and not sanding enough.  This will leave a visible bump on the wall after painting.

Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to apply primer on top of the patch before applying the colored paint. The absorption rate of dry spackling is different than the paint of the surrounding wall. It’ll create a visible spot on your wall if you don’t prime the patch.

Clean up before the mess

Your walls and ceiling must be clean, and in perfect condition before you start painting. Look for any spider webs, dust, oils or grease that may have deposited on the walls.  Areas behind couches are often dirty and will gunk up your paintbrush and roller with hair and dust if not cleaned ahead of time.  If any spackle was applied to scuffs in the walls, now is the time to clean up the dust that was created from the sanding.

Your walls don’t have to be clean like a surgery room.  All what is needed is a damp cloth run over dirty areas.  Use hot water to speed up the drying process and allow any repairs to dry thoroughly.

Color Selection

Choosing a color that will complement your furniture and flooring is not an easy task. If you need inspiration, there are many resources online you can consult., Pinterest and are excellent resources.

Once you have a general idea of the colors you want, head to the hardware store. If this is your first experience shopping for paint, be ready to be overwhelmed. The selection of colors and finishes is incredible.

Grab as many color samples as you like and go back home with them.  With a piece of tape, install them on the wall and see if it looks good.  Most paint samples have many colors on them.  To better visualize, fold the sample so that only one color shows at a time.

Bonus Tip: If you’re unsure between two shades, look at the samples in daylight and artificial light (ie at night). Some hues look different depending on the time of day.

A note on primer

If the color you chose is drastically different than the one already on your wall, you will need to apply primer. This is a special type of paint that is thicker and more absorbent than regular paint. Without primer, previous paint color will be visible. You’ll need to apply more coats to get the end result you want. This will cost you more money since you’ll need more paint.

Unfortunately, you will have to go through all the steps of painting the room with primer first.  When applying primer, don’t get caught up making it look perfect.  Primer doesn’t apply well because it’s so thick.

Buying paint

Did you know that there are different types of paint?  For example, regular wall paint is much different than trim paint.  Manufacturers change their chemical compositions to suit various types of applications.  For example, bathroom paint doesn’t absorb moisture to reduce mold buildup.

The easiest way to make sure you’re getting the proper paint for the room you’re painting is to ask the paint store clerk for assistance. Explain what type of room you’re painting.  While you have the clerk around, given him the dimensions of the room so he can help you choose the proper amount of paint to purchase.

Supplies to buy for painting a room

Since you’re at the hardware store, may as well buy the supplies you’ll need.  Here is what you’ll need to paint a condo:

  • Drop cloths or plastic tarps
  • Rolls of painter’s tape
  • Paint tray, 9 inch roller and roller refills
  • Good quality paint brush (tapered) (1-2 inch)
  • Paint edger and refills

Step by step procedure for painting a room

  1. Remove electrical socket and light switch covers. Keep the screws and plates in a bag so you don’t misplace them.
  2. With painter’s tape, cover surfaces you don’t want painted such as baseboard edges, door trims and around panels such as thermostats.
  3. Ensure there is fresh air circulation.
  4. Install drop cloths or plastic tarps on the ground. Cover any furniture you can’t move out of the way.
  5. If you bought the paint a few days before painting, stir the paint very well to ensure uniformity and consistency. Paint bought the same day shouldn’t require stirring if it was mechanically shaken at the store.
  6. If you are also painting the ceiling, start there. Paint the edges with the paint brush and finish the inside with the roller
  7. To speed up cleaning up, put a plastic bag over your tray. When it’s clean up time, flip the bag inside out and throw it out!
  8. Load up your edger with paint. Dip it flat into the tray and remove any excess on the tray’s edges.  If you’re unsure how the edger works, apply paint in the middle of the wall.  The trick to using edgers is to apply minimal pressure.  When you’re ready, use the edger along the ceiling.
  9. To paint around door frames and along the baseboards, use the paintbrush.
  10. Once you have the perimeter of a wall painted, it’s time for some rolling. Dip the roller into the paint and roll until the paint covers the whole side without dripping. Roll the roller in the tray to remove excess paint.  Apply the paint on the wall in a W pattern.  Use the roller to go all the way up to the areas you painted with the edger and paintbrush.  Use minimal pressure.
  11. Leave the paint to dry a few hours (see your paint’s label for specific time) before applying a second coat of paint. Usually two coats of paint are enough.


Painting a condo is a way to dramatically improve the look and appearance of your room. If you follow the above steps, you will be assured of a successful DIY room painting.