On almost every floor, there was a wall, a ledge or door to be painted. And in almost every room, there were a bucket of paint and a group of people armed with brushes and rollers, busy at painting, scraping, touching and retouching.

It was casual, nothing fancy: just a group of local volunteers in sneakers, jeans, shorts and T-shirts, some splattered with paint and sprinkled with sawdust, giving a downtown building an indoor face lifting and pushing it a little bit closer to their goal. When their hour was up, a new group would arrive ready to continue the round-the-clock painting of the eight-story building.

The two-day paintathon that began yesterday was one of the many preparations for the opening of the new Washington International Youth Hostel, the only of its kind in the metropolitan area. When it opens in early August, the 250-bed facility at 1009 11th St. NW in downtown Washington will be the largest hostel in the United States.

Hostel project organizers have "adopted" the block where the building stands and started a neighborhood spruce-up campaign. Abandoned buildings have been neatly boarded up, and a deteriorating lot has been cleaned and fenced.

"We felt that if this was going to be a center for community programs where young people from across the world come to meet each other, the neighborhood block could be more attractive," said Christopher Causey, program director of the Potomac Area Council of the American Youth Hostels.

While some visitors will shell out an average $89 a night in local hotels, American Youth Hostel members traveling to the District on a tight budget will be able to stay in the hostel for $10.

Reservations for rooms have been pouring in already, Causey said. A group of band members is coming from California, and 90 Japanese students are arriving in August.

Membership in the International Youth Hostel Association is $20 a year for those aged 18 to 59, and the price is $10 for people older or younger. Members can then take advantage of hostel prices, which are rarely above $10 a day, throughout the world.

The local council and the national office of American Youth Hostels are helping to coordinate fund-raising efforts for the $3.9 million renovation of the building. The painting project, fueled by paint donations and labor from more than 190 volunteers from local groups such as the Metropolitan D.C. Police Boys and Girls Club, Mid-Town Youth Academy and the Sierra Club, will save the hostel project -- which still needs to raise more than $150,000 -- an estimated $10,000, Causey said.

The hostel will fill a gap left by a makeshift hostel operated for nine years in the Franklin Park Hotel at 14th and I streets NW, which closed a year and a half ago.

Jon Cousins, 16, a volunteer, said yesterday he likes to go out and help people. Helping paint the new hostel is his way of saying "thanks" to the community.

Russell Lusher, a member of the Sierra Club who volunteered, said that for some people who cannot afford hotel rates, "It's not a matter of staying in a hotel or staying here, it's staying here or not staying here {in D.C.} at all."