All appearances to the contrary (at least in North Texas), it's the dead of winter. That's normally one of the best times of the year to tackle interior painting projects. The current unseasonably warm weather actually provides the bonus benefit of being able to open windows for ventilation and air circulation while working.As with any painting project, the most important step is preparation. Walls and woodwork must be thoroughly cleaned in order to provide good adhesion for the paint finish. The best stuff to use, trisodium phosphate (TSP), has been legislated out of existence, but there is an excellent substitute on the market. Rinse thoroughly after washing, as the TSP residue will give you problems with adhesion.Patch any holes or dents. Small holes in walls can be fixed with pre-mixed spackling compound; larger areas may need to be repaired with a patch kit (available at your local home center) and re-textured to blend with the existing wall finish. Dents or chips in wood trim can be touched up with wood putty and then sanded smooth. You'll need to prime any patched areas before applying the finish coat of paint.The paint industry is currently supplying a myriad of products that would seem to make work easier for the do-it-yourselfer. “Paint and primer in one” is the newest gimmick. I personally don't believe in it, because it's a misnomer. Paint and primer are two separate products that do two separate jobs. These new products actually are paints with additional binding chemicals in them, which supposedly cause the molecules to stick together better and provide better coverage, allowing for fewer coats and less work.While they do cover better, they still don't do what primers are intended to do – seal raw wood or drywall and cover dark colors when repainting with a light color. For the best result, I recommend sticking with the tried-and-true, and priming before applying the finish color. And know this: paint is one of those few products where cost and quality are directly related. Buying a better quality paint may cost a few bucks more a gallon, but the results will be worth it.The question always arises: to tape or not to tape? The answer is found in knowing your skill level. The only time I use tape is when I'm creating an effect of some kind, or the area I'm trying to paint is smaller than the thickness of the edge of my brush. But I've been painting for more than 45 years. I've had time to refine my “cutting-in” technique. If you're less experienced or less confident in your ability, by all means use tape. Again, spend the money and get good quality painter's tape, which is usually blue or green in color. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly before removing it. You'll end up with fewer frayed edges. And, no matter how experienced you are, cover the floors before you begin. Ruined carpet can turn even a great paint job into an expensive proposition.To sum it up: Spend wisely, prepare well, take the time to do the task well. Follow these steps and even a first-timer can end up with a first-class interior paint job.If you have any home improvement or repair questions or any suggestions for future columns, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.