Best Techniques for Prepping a Surface Before Painting

Surface paint colors

Many people underestimate the time and energy it takes to paint a room or an entire building. Each painting job is unique and requires different skills and supplies. But the one thing that is true for all painting projects is that you will need to prep your surfaces before picking up that roller or brush.

This article will explore why properly prepping surfaces is so important and what you’ll need to do to get the professional results you want.

Why Do I Need to Prep My Surfaces Before Painting?

Paint pros know that the difference between a fantastic paint job and a major disappointment is preparation. Failing to prepare your surfaces can result in spotty coverage, streaks, and ugly lumps and bumps. Instead of a smooth, clean-looking wall, you’ll see imperfections and uneven coverage.

When you are excited about a fresh coat of color, or you’re in a rush to finish the job quickly, skipping the prep and getting straight to the painting part can be tempting. But ignoring this essential process may cause the project to take even longer or require more energy because you’ll need to paint more coats–or even start over from square one.

Don’t skip the prep. Learn how to prepare your surfaces and take the time to do it well. A little investment of time can save you much more down the road, and you’ll be much happier with the results.

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Prepping a Surface For Painting

Most people don’t paint every day, and many don’t know how to prepare a surface for painting properly. Taking a little extra time in the beginning can save you a lot of time and stress later on. Here is a step-by-step guide to getting your walls ready for a fresh coat of paint.

Step 1:Clean

Cleaning is an essential first step that you absolutely should not skip. Even if you believe your walls are clean, dust, cobwebs, and oil from being touched can build up over time. Painting dirty walls means paint can’t go on smoothly, won’t dry as evenly, and is more likely to show imperfections.

The way you clean depends on whether you’re painting interior or exterior walls. When painting inside, begin by using a duster or dry cloth all over the wall. Pay special attention to corners and where the wall meets the ceiling and floor. This step will remove a lot of the dust and cobwebs that can accumulate over time.

Next, wipe down the walls with a damp cloth or soft sponge soaked in a mixture of warm water and mild detergent. Don’t skip this step–you’ll want to ensure you’ve removed as much dust, dirt, and buildup as possible. Kitchen walls may need special attention because they are often exposed to more smoke, oil, and splatters than other surfaces. Use a grease-cutting detergent to remove tough buildup if necessary.

For exterior surfaces, cleaning is even more critical. Outdoor surfaces are exposed to all kinds of environmental debris, from leaves and insects to pollen, dander, and dirt. Power washing is generally the quickest and most effective way to remove outdoor buildup.

Step 2: Remove Mildew

Mildew is a type of fungus that can multiply in moist places, such as damp basements, under sinks, and in your bathroom fixtures. Mildew smells terrible and is believed to make people sick, so you should remove it whenever you find it in your home.

Mildew can also grow on walls, especially in rooms where there is a lot of moisture, such as a bathroom. If you plan to paint in an area where you have mildew, you’ll need to remove it before getting started. Painting over the mildew will not eliminate it, and it can still grow and spread.

Before painting a mildewy wall, wash it with warm water and antibacterial dish soap. You may also use vinegar to kill the mildew. Simply mix a solution of vinegar and water for light mildew coverage, or apply undiluted vinegar onto areas where the mildew is thick.

If you have mold or mildew on your exterior walls, use a store bought mildew remover or make your own by combining 1 part bleach in 3 parts water. You can use this mixture when power washing before you paint. This will kill existing mold and prevent it from returning.

In some cases, mildew can be so heavy and pervasive that you’ll need to sandpaper it away. You should use 150-grit sandpaper to remove the mildew, then wash the entire surface with a mixture of warm water and mild detergent.

Step 3: Sand

Sanding is an essential step in prepping walls for painting because it ensures that the surface is as smooth as possible, allowing the paint to go on smoothly. Even if your walls have been painted in the past, you must sand any rough or uneven areas.

Look carefully at your walls and use your hands to feel for rough spots or raised imperfections. Once you’ve found areas that require smoothing, use a sanding block or sandpaper to even out the surface. Then use a damp cloth to remove the dust and allow it to dry completely.

If you find cracks in the existing paint, do not simply paint over them. Cracked or flaking paint can cause unsightly lumps and imperfections. Take the time to scrape or sand any areas of cracked or chipped paint before applying a new coat.

Step 4: Protect

Protecting nearby surfaces and furniture is one of the most critical steps in preparing to paint. Move anything you can into another room, including furniture and rugs. Lay down canvas drop cloths over floors and any furniture you can’t move. Remove decorative light fixtures, light switch and outlet covers, and any vent and return covers in the room.

Use painter’s tape to protect molding, baseboards, around windows, and any other features you don’t want to paint. Taking these steps will make sure you get clean lines and minimize mess.

Step 5: Patch

You’ll need to patch any holes or imperfections to get the smoothest coverage. Use drywall patching compound to fill in nail holes or to repair large scuffs. You may also need to provide texture after patching to match the existing surface.  This will allow your paint to go on smoothly and get the clean, professional look you want.

Step 5: Prime

The color and finish of your paint are clearly an important part of how your new paint will look. But the primer you use will also significantly affect your overall results when painting.

Primers cover up imperfections, allow the paint to dry uniformly, and create a smooth surface for your paint to adhere to depending on the surface, using a separate primer may be the best way to get professional-looking results.

Giving your surfaces a coat of primer can actually save you time, energy, and money in the long run. You’ll spend less time painting and re-painting multiple coats and be happier with the results.

Step 6: Check the paint

After you’ve sanded, filled, taped, and smoothed your walls to perfection, it’s almost time to get those rollers to work. But before you can get painting, it’s essential to check your paint one last time. Open a can and make sure the paint is mixed completely. You should see uniform color with no streaks of saturated pigment.

Do a small test patch to ensure the color and finish are correct. Choose an inconspicuous area of the room and apply a little paint. Let it dry completely to get a sense of how the color will look. If you’re satisfied that the color and finish are correct, you may finally begin to paint.

While taking these steps may require more time and energy, you’ll appreciate the effort when you get the professional results you hoped for.

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