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Painting Prep:  How To Do It Properly

Painting Prep: How To Do It Properly

There is nothing more important to the look and longevity of a paint job than proper preparation.  While it’s so exciting to get to the final step – changing the color if your room – taking the time to prepare for the final coat will pay off in the end.

Preparing to paint your walls is not difficult, but it does take some time to do it properly.  Contrary to what you see on DIY television programs, you cannot simply start painting your walls without any preparation and expect the project to turn out fabulous.  You may be able to fake it for awhile, but over time, your lack of preparation will catch up with you – in the form of bumpy walls or peeling paint.  Here’s how to prepare your walls properly before you paint.

First, remove everything you can from your walls – paintings, decorations, wall switch covers, outlet covers, light fixtures, etc.  I have actually seem homes where people have painted AROUND outlet covers and wall sconces.  Really?  I know…hard to believe.  Don’t be lazy.  If you paint around these items, and want to change them later, you will have a big mess on your hands and will create more work for yourself in the end.  Take the time to remove them before you begin.  Items such as permanently installed mirrors or cabinetry can be painted around.

Remove outlet covers

Remove outlet covers before proceeding with prep for your painting project.

If you need to, now is the time to fill any holes with spackle or drywall compound. Fill the holes, let the compound dry according to the directions on the package, and sand smooth.  If you plan to hang your wall decor back in exactly the same places after you paint, do NOT fill the nail holes; it will simply create more work for you later when you need to decide where to pound that nail in again!

Next, wash your walls.  This is the step rarely shown in TV, but a very important one.  At a minimum, you must wash your walls with a solution of warm water and a detergent that does not require rinsing. A degreaser can work well, also. I have always used a cleanser called Spic & Span, available in powder or liquid form, with great results. Wash walls, top to bottom, with a damp sponge to remove any cobwebs, dust and other random smears and smudges that may affect your painted finish. This step is important – I can’t stress this enough! Any dust or other debris left on your walls will find its way into the paint, and will mar your finish. Any grease left behind may affect the way your paint sticks to the wall, and cause peeling later.  You’ll be surprised how dusty your walls can be after a few years.  Use a light touch over the areas you filled in; it’s easy to scrub away your drywall mud if you aren’t careful, and then you will need to fill in the area again!

wash the walls

Wash your walls before painting!

Now, prepare your work area by covering anything you don’t want to paint. This will include your flooring, cabinetry, furniture, light fixtures, mirrors, and anything else that doesn’t need a speckle of paint. Use old bed sheets, plastic sheeting or tarps. Use 2″ wide blue or green painter’s tape to mask off any wood trim, cabinetry or other permanent items that you don’t want to paint. (There are many tape widths available, but I like a little wider strip.  It helps to protect my surface when I hit it with my roller.  Oops. 🙂 )  The better you mask, the less clean-up you will have later.  Be sure to choose the right tape for your surface; if you just painted your trim, for example, choose one for delicate surfaces so it doesn’t mar your surface!  Read the labels to find the best one for your.  Some folks prefer to skip this step, since they have a very steady hand, and they can paint right up to their door and window casings and base trim without the need for tape.  If that’s you, great.  I’m far too lazy to be that careful when I paint, so I prefer to have the protection of a little painter’s tape when I do a project.  It’s up to you.

Paint prep

Taping around window and base trim will save time and protect your surfaces. Notice, too, the dents in the wall that were filled with drywall mud and sanded for a smooth finish.

You are finally ready to prime your walls. Priming is an important step in the painting process. It will seal in any stains, so they don’t bleed through your final coat, and will allow your final paint color to be more “true”. Priming is especially important if you want to radically change your wall color. For example, if you would like to paint your brick red dining room robin’s egg blue, it is essential to prime the walls first. Otherwise, your blue walls will have a slightly red undertone to them.  If you removed wallpaper prior to painting, the primer will seal in any adhesive that may still be on the wall, creating a smoother surface and blocking it from bleed through as a stain later on.

Prime wall

Prime your walls before painting....goodbye green, hello Biltmore Buff! Eventually...

Now you are ready to paint!

I know it seems like a lot of steps and lot of work.  But, proper prep can mean the difference between a professional-looking result and a amateurish project.  Take the time to prep your walls properly, and you will never regret it.

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2 Responses to Painting Prep: How To Do It Properly

  1. yikes! I have never washed the walls before painting!! will remember next time!

    • Teri says:

      Definitely a good idea! I’m always amazed at how dirty my walls are when I do wash them – if it’s not dust it’s smudgy kiddo fingerprints… 🙂
      Glad I could help!

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