Do it yourself: Paint for big savings

When money is tight and a room needs a facelift, there's no easier, cheaper or faster fix-up than a coat of paint. Paint brightens dull walls and creates a fresh, new feeling in a room and a uniform backdrop for furnishings. For a beginning DIYer, painting is goof-proof because the paint and equipment are relatively inexpensive and you learn the skills on the job. It's no surprise, then, that painting is the most popular DIY project.

A contractor will charge $764 to prepare and paint one coat of latex paint on the ceiling, walls and woodwork of a 15- by 20-foot room (900 square feet of total area) with two windows and two doors. A handy homeowner can buy the paint and equipment for $150 and do the job himself, saving 80 percent.

To get the most professional-looking results, plan to spend more time preparing the surfaces than actually applying the paint. Fill any nail holes or nicks in the walls with a wallboard repair compound and sand them smooth. Do the same to any damaged woodwork or trim using a wood repair compound. Apply a stain block primer like Kilz to any stains to prevent them from re-emerging through the new coat of paint.

Pro cost: $764

DIY cost: $150

Pro time: 6.8

DIY time: 10.0

DIY savings: $614

Percent saved: 80 percent

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