Getting Ready to Paint: 10 Essential Steps


As any professional painter will tell you, the key to a successful paint job is all in the prep work.  It doesn’t matter how high the quality of the paint is, or how much skill the painter has if the area has not been properly prepared. Guests may think you hired the neighbor kid to do an after school project.  If you want to end up with a professional-looking project, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Remove everything off the walls of the room.  This includes items such as curtains, curtain rods, blinds, pictures, clocks, switch and outlet plates, towel bars, phone jack covers, nails, tape, etc.  If you are painting the ceiling, remove all light fixtures and decorations form the ceiling.

  2. Remove everything possible from the floor.  This means that everything, including dressers, beds, couches and desks need to go somewhere else. If something can’t be removed, the next best option is to move it to the center of the room.

  3. Cover the floor and anything left in the room with a high quality drop cloth.  Plain plastic may be cheapest, but it can become slippery during painting and can tear easily.  It may seem like a good idea to use bedsheets or old linens as drop cloths, but when the paint spills (and it always spills) it will soak right through.  Sometimes, the cheap plastic can be covered with the used linens to make a good drop cloth.

  4. Patch and repair any holes, dents, or other damages or blemishes.  This is easily done with a putty knife and spackle from the local hardware store.  After it dries for a few hours, sand over the patch to make sure it is smooth and the edges are completely blended in.  Depending on the size of the repair, this may take two or three coats of spackle.

  5. Large holes may need a piece mesh or even new sheetrock to span the hole and then patch the area.

  6. Using a slightly dampened rag, wipe down and clean all dust from all of the walls. It’s also a good idea to wash the walls and mop boards, especially in bathrooms and kitchens.  The new paint won’t last if it is painted over oily and dirty walls.  Mix up an inexpensive and effective cleaner by combining three teaspoons of laundry soap with one gallon of water.

  7. Check the caulk around trim pieces and other areas and replace as needed.

  8. Scrape any loose paint from the walls.  Patch the area with spackle and sand as needed.

  9. Apply painters tape to all corners and trim pieces as needed to make sure the paint is trimmed in a precise, straight line.

  10. Stir the paint very thoroughly, even if it was just purchased and mixed at the paint store.

Once you’ve completed all of the prep work.  It’s time to start the fun part, painting!


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