How To Prepare a Wall for Painting

Any professional painter will tell you that proper preparation of the walls before getting started painting is absolutely essential. A clean, smooth wall will be easier to paint, will use less paint, and will give you a nicer finish. Fortunately, preparing a wall for painting is very simple, and the time you spend in preparation will ensure a quality paint job and the protection of your home, as well as provide for the safety of yourself and others. 

Following these basic steps will help you to prepare your walls for painting: 

  1. Remove paintings, photos, or other decorative items from the wall. Take down curtains or window coverings, and all curtain rods or other fasteners.
  2. Turn off the electricity and remove everything else from the walls, including switch plates, outlet covers, and light fixtures or lamps. Wrap any exposed wires safely in plastic, or tape securely with electrical tape.
  3. Use painters tape to cover the edges around windows, doors, and to cover trim pieces. (You can use masking tape for this, but painters tape is comparable in cost and can be removed more easily.) Alternatively, you can remove trim pieces using a pry bar and wooden shims.
  4. Repair any holes or cracks in the wall. For small holes, like those caused by nails or tacks, you can quickly fill them with putty (or a simple paste of water and flour if you're in a bind).
  5. Once any wall defects have been repaired, vacuum the walls or use a dry shop cloth to remove any dust. Then, using a tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) solution and a big sponge, clean the walls. *Remember to wear rubber gloves during this step.
  6. Rinse the wall with plain water, and allow it to dry completely.

This is all you really MUST do to prepare a wall for painting, but it is highly recommended that you always apply a good quality primer that is appropriate for your surface (i.e., drywall, wallpaper, etc.) before actually applying the first coat of paint. 

Of course, if you are painting a wall that has old or damaged wallpaper on it, or that has very serious cosmetic defects, there will be additional work required to ready those walls for a good paint finish. However, the simple steps outlined here should be effective in preparing most walls for painting, and remember, a little bit of preparation can make all the difference between a paint job that revitalizes your room, and one that just looks crummy.


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