Common Decorating Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Decorating provides an instant clean new look for a property, whether you’re painting your first home or revamping an older property, nothing puts a stamp on a place faster than a fresh lick of paint. And then it’s the fun bit… styling the newly decorated room with accessories and personal touches, so get your paint brushes out!

Despite the best advance planning, many homeowners still find themselves facing decorating obstacles, which can soon turn a seemingly simple task into a frustrating ordeal.

The most common painting challenges relate to the condition of the building, surface preparation, sheen and colour selection, accessibility, temperature and knowledge!

Wondering where to start? Follow our top tips to avoid common decorating errors and benefit from our professional painting advice.

Thorough Preparation

The most common mistake when it comes to painting and decorating is skipping the preparation work. It’s really important to thoroughly inspect and prepare the surfaces before you start, addressing issues like peeling surfaces, cracks, damp patches or uneven areas.

  1. Cleaning surfaces – Walls accumulate dust, dirt or cobwebs over the years, which might not be instantly obvious. Cleaning the surface is essential. Depending on the situation, use a soft broom to remove dry surface dirt, wipe down greasy walls with a sugarsoap solution and wipe skirtings and woodwork with a soft cloth soaked in proprietary soapsuds.
  2. Repairing damages – Inspect the walls for cracks, holes or dents. Fill with a polyfiller type product and let this fully harden before sanding to ensure the surface is smooth for painting.
  3. Prime – Primers provide a base coat that ensures a blemish-free surface prior to top-coating. Good quality primers will help to conceal any marks or stains on the walls and are recommended in older properties in particular.

Selecting The Right Paint Colour

Selecting the right paint colour is the first conundrum for many homeowners. There is a vast – and confusing – range of colours, sheens and brands that can seem overwhelming. Take your time and gather swatches; create a few paint samples and review them in different lights. Some confident folks have a natural eye for design, while others use rely on Colour Trends suggested by magazines, or on social media, or in friend’s homes. However, you make your choice, if you’re not confident simply paint a section of one wall and let it dry before doing the whole room to be sure you love it, remembering to review it in both artificial and natural lighting.

Choosing the best colour depends on various factors, but re-painting can be an expensive interior decorating mistake so go slow!

  1. Light Dynamics – Choosing the right colour depends on the lighting in the room. Grab some paint samples and observe how they appear in natural daylights, and under artificial lights and at different times of the day before making a final decision.
  2. Room Size – The size of the room is also an important factor. If a room is small, lighter colours can help to create an illusion of space, but the current trend for very dark paints will create a cosier feel and add drama. In larger rooms, opting for a darker shade on the walls and a paler ceiling will provide a fresh and bright space.

Using the Right Tools and Equipment

While choosing the right colour and type of paint is crucial, equally selecting the appropriate tools and equipment is key. The correct brushes, rollers and masking materials will significantly impact the finish.

  1. Brushes – Brushes with synthetic (nylon/polyester) bristles are good for joinery and woodwork. Using the wrong brush or the same brush to paint every area will result in poor coverage, uneven strokes and unsatisfactory results. For oil-based paints use a natural bristle brush and a synthetic bristle brush for water-based paint. Ideally invest in a variety of brushes for different surfaces, and make sure you clean them properly afterwards.
  2. Rollers – Rollers are effective for covering large areas quickly and efficiently. But the wrong rollers, or overused rollers, can lead to uneven coats of paint and streaks. Always roll the paint in one direction to maintain consistency and use shorter naps for smooth surfaces and longer naps for textured surfaces.
  3. Masking – Using high-quality masking tape will achieve clean lines and a professional finish. Masking prevents the paint from leaking and creates beautiful straight lines. To prevent peeling, remove the masking tape before the paint dries and use low-tack tape.

Consider Weather Conditions

Another common mistake homeowners make when decorating, and especially when painting exterior areas, is ignoring the weather, especially in the UK where temperatures and conditions can be highly unpredictable. Hot days and high temperatures can make paint dry too quickly, similarly, cold weather or humidity can significantly slow down the drying process leading to reduced durability and poor adhesion.

DIY Painting tips in the UK-

  1. Check the Forecast- Keep an eye on the weather forecast and plan your schedule accordingly for both external and internal projects.
  2. Time- The time of the day matters, consider painting in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the scorching heat during summer.
  3. Use fast-drying paints – opt for fast-drying or proofing paints specially designed for humid or cold weather for painting protection.

Some Professional Techniques-

To achieve smooth and even surfaces, most DIY enthusiasts ignore the finer details and nuances of painting. Professional painting advice:

  1. Feathered Strokes – Instead of short choppy strokes, use feathered strokes for painting, feathering helps the paint to spread evenly without visible brush marks.
  2. Sampling Paint Colours- Sometimes you can end up wasting time, money and energy if you hate the end result and have to re-do the whole job! It is always safer to sample a few colours first.
  3. Brush/Roll in one direction- To maintain a uniform texture and avoid brush or roller marks, aim to consistently paint in one direction.

Sufficient Drying Time-

Decorating can be a test of patience! Not allowing sufficient drying time can lead to a host of issues, such as peeling, stickiness and uneven texture. Drying time is a critical and necessary step to achieve a flawless and durable finish.

Importance of drying time-

  1. Promotes even coverage and colour- Sufficient drying time allows the first coat to settle prior to applying the second coat and will eliminate unsightly patches.
  2. Avoid Peeling- If you recoat a wall without letting the first coat dry first, you’ll likely experience peeling and have to re-sand the whole area and start again.

Decorating and painting is not just about pre-preparation but also about post-preparation. Once you are happy with the result ensure correct disposal of specific cans and aim to clean brushes and tools following the manufacturer’s guidelines on the tins.  You can store leftover paint in a cool and dry place for touch-ups in the future, just make sure the lid is on tightly and securely.

By incorporating the above expert tips from UK Painters and knowing how to avoid common painting errors you’ll love your flawless finish. If decorating is really not your thing, give us a call and we’ll pleased to send our team in to lend a hand.

Contact Brush Strokes Decorating to ask us any questions that you may have. You can call us on 020 8468 1512 or email