Property Management Tips: Covering Areas Where Paint Has Been Chipped

Take a Picture of the Work to Be Done

Take a picture of the damage then ascertain if you have any leftover paint from when the wall was originally painted. In many cases, you will not have any paint left to use because either the building is old or the previous contractor failed to leave a can of the right color. You will need to take some paint chips to the paint store so they can analyze the color. Take a look at the wall and try to get an idea of the color before you head off to the store for some paint!

However, driving to the store too soon may just end in confusion because that off color white is just about the most common color of paint on earth with thousands of hues. Every brand has it’s own shade of white and no two color mixtures are the same. The store person will happily proceed to list off scores of shades of pure, rental-property-worthy white. Even Egg-Shell white does not look like the color that you picture as being on the side of an egg. Your description of the color brings a smile from the Clerk and a request for a paint chip at least the width of your thumb so that he or she can analyze the color. Best to cut the chip before you head off to the store.

Getting the Paint Scrape off the wall

Most people start to panic at the thought of removing a large painted divit from their wall. However, you will most likely be able to easily correct the appearance of what you remove when you obtain the paint. Maybe the scratch is not too bad or you can always buy a small painting to cover the patch. Hey – a calendar might work in this case. Sadly, the only realistic choice is to cut a hole and get the chip.

There are few simple ideas to use before you start cutting visible holes. A common one is to first look for a light switch or a power outlet on the same wall. Odds are that the area under the cover has been painted with the same color paint as the area your renter scraped off. Either draw a line around your outlet or eyeball the surrounding area if that is preferable to you. The idea is to prevent cutting a sample bigger than the area that the cover switch hides. Now remove the coverlet from the wall and take an exacto knife (or a similar blade) and cut away a sample from the area normally covered by the outlet or switch cover. Hopefully, you will have enough of a sample to take to the store.

The Store

In most cases, going to a store specializing in paint is the best idea because their staff is trained to match colors. However, many large retailers have the equipment required to analyze the shade needed from a paint chip so that is also an option.

In any case, take the chip into a store and have it analyzed. The retail person will take the chip and place it into the color analyzer that will give a formula for the color based upon your brand of paint. As an aside, there are several different types of analyzers on the market and they need varying sample sizes. The larger the sample the better.

Now comes the tough part – determining whether to use brand name or a generic paint and figuring out how long you want the paint to last. Do you want a 12 year or a twenty year paint? Most people will want to go cheap but there are some advantages to the longer life of more expensive paints. For example, Hiding “is the ability of the paint to obscure the color and pattern of the surface being painted. Top quality interior latex wall paint offers better hiding than ordinary wall paint” (The Paint Quality Institute, 2007).

Learning about the characteristics of paint is always a good idea but basically you want to buy paint that will hide the previous problem and bonds to the wall. Longer lasting paints – twenty year especially – usually possess these qualities. An added bonus is that you will probably use less paint to cover the surface area.

Remember that finding the color does not mean that you will only have to repaint the holes and the scraped area. At a minimum, paint the entire wall surrounding the affected area.

A typical ten foot by twelve foot interior wall will use considerably less than a gallon of paint so keep your purchase to the minimum amount needed for the job. In this case, you should buy a gallon even though the job will use less than that amount. The extra can be kept for your next rental problem.

Finally, ask the sales person before you leave the paint store about other items you will need to finish your job. You will need putty to cover the holes with, a piece of sand paper to sand the filled holes and bring the putty to the height of the wall before you paint. In addition, you will need rollers, tarps, prep tape and – if needed – trim brushes or mini rollers. Last but not least, you will need a common step ladder though you probably already have one. There are a few cautions about which equipment to use and buy.

All Tarps are Not Equal

The art of painting runs like an equation – ten percent brush stroke, forty percent paint and equipment and fifty percent prep. In other words, prepping before painting is half the battle. Prepping for a paint job begins with the right purchase. First, there are several types of tarps and all of them come in different thicknesses. My favorite is the one that slightly adheres to the carpet. Place this layer down directly on the carpet and leave a little edge to ride up on the wall to form a good seal.

Secondly, buy another tarp that is about the thickness of an outdoor table cloth. A good reusable tarp will have one plastic side just like an outdoor table clothe. The second tarp can be placed down on top of the tarp that is adhering to the carpet. Use prep tape to adhere to the edge of the second tarp to the bottom of the wall. Purchasing and using a double tarp system will go a long ways towards reducing those unsightly drips on the carpet and preventing those clumsy spills..

Rollers and Rolling Pans

Few things confuse would-be painters more than rollers. After all, you are only going to paint one wall but there are an endless number of rollers to choose from in the store. Just look at the combinations – for handles to hold the rollers you can use quick release, basic or a wide range of wire cages that will fit different types of brushes. There are mini rollers for small jobs in tight areas and long handled or adjustable ones that reach way up high (how long can you hold your arm straight up anyway?). And there are roller covers that come in a variety of materials ranging from polyester to Wool. There are over a half dozen polyester wool combinations for the pro painter. Take a deep breath and remember a few basic points.

The first rule of thumb is to keep it simple. Polyester rollers do not hold much paint and they often drip if the roller is too thick. Wool Polyester roller mixes work well and hold more paint but they are more expensive. If your budget is tight, use a paint kit that comes with two polyester rollers and one roller paint brush to put them on. Make sure that the roller is at least 3/8 inch thick although 1/2 inch is probably preferable if you are going to roll them over a larger area.

Second, do not buy too much stuff. One kit with one roller and two covers is more than enough for a wall. Just do not scrimp on the prep take or the tarps.

Finally, for this small a job you should avoid the high tech gadgets and use equipment that anybody can use. Stick to your budget and remember that people have been painting for many years. Buying roller trays comes down to angle and ease rather than expensive trays that you will probably not need in the immediate future. How often do you paint anyway?

Back to Prepping

Take your paint and basic supplies to your rental property and relax a little. This job will probably be simple so long as you remember that prepping is half the battle. Go back to the wall that you want to paint and lay down the first tarp that adheres to the floor. Then tape and place down the second tarp and tape the edges. Piece of cake.

You will eventually notice the large window is staring back at you and begin to hyperventilate. Window sills require a little work so it is best to avoid painting the sill unless it is absolutely needed for this paint job. The best bet is to tape the edges of the window seal and cover the window. You can pretend that the window edge needs it’s own tarp and seal the area accordingly. Make sure that your tape adheres evenly by cleaning the surface before you tape.

Now, remove the light fixtures. You can tape over the socket that remains so that these stay white and clean.

Next, tape the corners up and down the wall so that you avoid painting a second wall. Tape floor to ceiling and then ceiling wall to ceiling wall. You can always come back and use a small brush to blend brush strokes.

Last – but not least -make sure that all your holes are filled in with dabs of putty and sanded so that they are level with the surface of the wall. This may take a moment to dry.

Finally, look at your handiwork. Has every cover been prepped? Are the corners covered to avoid hitting the next wall? Going backwards over each stage of the prep will ease your mind and avoid big hassles like paint drips on the carpet.

Time to Roll

Bring out the paint, the rollers, your step ladder and the covers. Place the items on the top tarp or bring in a table to place the roller on so that you do not have to bend. In any case, it is time to do a final step. Look at your window – it should be slightly open so that you have good ventilation. If needed, go back through the house and make sure that a second window is open for cross ventilation.

Now, return back to the rollers, cover and paint. Ease the roller cover onto the roller and place it down. Pour a little bit of paint into the tray. gently roll your brush over the paint so that every part of the cover has a light coating of paint. It is time to make a choice. Paint the wall or try a sample of the wall to make sure you have the correct color. If your paint chip was adequate, then it is likely that your color is fairly close to the original paint so you can begin to roll.

Use the step ladder so you can apply the paint in smooth even strokes that overlap. Avoid over-soaking your roller cover so that you have a nice even roll on the wall. That extra glide cover protection that comes with the twenty year paint will begin to be extremely important as you notice that even a light coating a paint covers the color of the smooth but roughened (for bonding) putty in the screw holes in the wall. Keep your arm going up and down and double-check to make sure all areas are covered. If you did great prep work , then the painting should be done in a snap.

From Paint Chip to Job Well Done

Finish up and reseal the paint can. Make sure that you stay on the tarp and check yourself to make sure that you have not spilled any paint on yourself. You can always buy a painting outfit if paint bothers you but you will probably only get paint on your hands rather than the rest of you if you planned your area before you started to paint. Step back to the far edge of the tarp and take a look at the painted wall. Is the scrape covered? Are the holes gone?

Smile – you have just painted a wall with a shade that is close to the original color. In most cases, the wall will blend with the rest of the room after it dries for a day. Now it is time to clean up. First, make sure that the lid on the can is on tight. Now carefully toss the roller color and wash the roller. The paint will come off easily if this job is done quickly. Your roller tray may have a little plastic insert that can be tossed after use. Or you may just have a roller tray that can be cleaned with your roller. Again, wash and clean up any drops of paint before they dry.

Wait for half an hour and then go back to your wall. The shade should now be much closer to the original wall. Overall, the painted wall should be blending in with the other walls in the room. Success – you have repaired a paint job from paint scrap to painting the wall – and your place is ready to rent.


(2007). Quality Interior Latex Paint retrieved September 3, 2007 from

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