Aug. 3, 2011
Did you know the most important part of a painting project happens before you ever lay a brush or roller on the wall? Surface preparation is, by some estimations, as much as 90 percent of any successful painting project.
Different surface preparation is required for different projects—i.e., whether it’s interior or exterior, what type of surface it is, and whether the surface has been previously painted or is unpainted. For the repaint of an interior room, we suggest the following steps.
Patch & Repair
Patch over nail holes, small cracks or surface blemishes with spackling compound. Some companies like DAP even have a color-changing feature. It goes on pink, then turns white to let the consumer know when it is time to sand and paint. For larger holes, use a wall repair kit that includes a self-adhesive patch, heavy-duty spackling compound and putty knife. Let dry according to the product specifications, and then sand smooth.
Use caulk as needed to fill gaps around tubs and tile, kitchen sinks, windows, doors, molding, etc. Follow the label to determine how long the caulk must dry before you are ready to paint.
Cleaning the Walls
Make sure the walls are free of dust, dirt and cobwebs prior to painting. Use a mixture of mild detergent and warm water to clean any grease or grime from the walls. Use a paint scraper to remove any small patches of peeling paint.
Important exception: For those who live in homes built prior to the 1978 ban of lead in paint, The Paint Quality Institute cautions that if you suspect that the paint currently on the wall has lead in it, do not attempt to remove it yourself. Contact a contractor qualified for the removal of such paint.
Protect Your Surfaces
To ensure that paint ends up on only the surfaces you want painted, take the time to remove or protect everything else in the room. Move or cover furniture, remove switchplates and outlet covers. Use drop cloths that will not slip or pull away from the wall. Use quality painters’ tape to protect baseboards, doorjambs and windows. Remember that the best tapes will remove cleanly and will not allow paint to seep underneath. Some of the premium tapes even have a chemical compound on their edge that actually repels paint and gives you clean, sharp painting lines.
To Prime or Not to Prime
There’s a general consensus that it is not necessary to prime your wall if you are doing a simple repaint of a room in which the existing paint is already in good shape. Two coats of a quality paint should work out just fine. However, if the walls have unsightly stains or you have patched in multiple places and want to ensure an even topcoat, priming the wall is an excellent idea. Priming also makes sense if you are concerned about adhesion or covering over glossy surfaces or dark colors. The primer provides all of those qualities and will ensure that the topcoat looks its best.
As we mentioned, there are a lot of different circumstances that will determine what steps you take in surface prep. We recommend visiting The Paint Quality Institute’s “Prep, Prime & Paint” section for a wealth of information on prepping a variety of interior and exterior projects