Q: What is the cheapest, quickest way to paint a full studio apartment? I am a senior with limited physical and financial resources.

My problem is common to many urbanites: In San Francisco, landlords are not obliged to repaint apartments, no matter how long the tenant has lived there. So they don’t. Many of us have grown out of our places, but because of rent control and high rents elsewhere, moving is not a viable option.

Here are some of the things I need to know:

1. Do I ask painters to include in their estimate the packing and unpacking of the hundreds of books, art materials, office items, etc. — or do I hire a crew to do that? If so, how do I find one?

2. I will need dozens of boxes. Can these be rented? Is there a recycled boxes source? I may be able to store everything in the house hallway. If not, what are those large soft-walled storage crates that I see outside people’s homes? Is that service available without relocation? Is it expensive?

3. The painting must happen over the weekend, as that is when I have somewhere local to stay. Do painting contractors charge more to work over a weekend?

4. Is there a quick-drying paint that doesn’t smell?

A: The quickest, cheapest way to paint a small apartment is to do it all yourself. By acting as your own packer and painter you can control the time it takes to pack, prep and paint. The cost will be a few gallons of paint, some rudimentary tools (a paintbrush and a roller) and perhaps some packing boxes if you can’t find enough of them at the local grocery store.

But because you are a senior with financial and physical limitations, we’ll try to give you some suggestions that can keep the costs down and make the job go smoothly. We’ll assume that you are hiring painters to do the painting. The actual paint job should take just one day. The challenge for you will be in dealing with your books, art and other stuff. We’ll try to answer your specific questions in the order in which you’ve posed them.

1. Don’t ask the painters to pack and unpack boxes. Painters paint. That’s all. To save money boxing up your belongings is something you should do yourself. If you find you can store the boxes in the hallway, we suggest you enlist some strong young backs to hoist the boxes. Your church or the local senior center may be able to suggest a source of this labor.

If you insist on hiring the packing out, we suggest you contact a local moving company to perform the service. They can provide the boxes and, if you wish, store your property during the painting and return it when the job is done.

2. Boxes are available at moving companies — even self-serve outfits like Ryder and U-Haul have boxes to buy. For some freebies, try a grocery store or a liquor store. We’re not familiar with the soft-sided storage of which you speak. For portable storage containers try PODS (Portable on Demand Storage, www.pods.com). If you decide to use a portable storage container, check out the local regulations if you plan to leave it on the street.

3. Painting contractors will work weekends. As for price, get three estimates from licensed painting contractors. Make sure to let each know from the beginning the scope of the work and that you want it done on a weekend.

4. Most water-based paints are quick-drying. While there will be some odor, the smell will dissipate over time and once fully cured there will be no odor at all. Low-VOC and no-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints generally are low-odor products. For a discussion of low- and no-VOC paints and a list of manufacturers go to www.eartheasy.com/live_nontoxic_paints.htm.

We hear your lament about having to repaint a place you’re living in. The easiest interior paint job is one where there is nothing in the house. You might take solace that in our experience moving is much worse than painting.


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