How To Paint Smoky Walls

Smoke-damaged walls are extremely unpleasant both to one’s eyes and nose. Whether the soot and noxious odor have been created by an electrical fire, use of fireplaces or wood stoves, or years of cigarette smoking, cleanup will take a little bit more than simply painting over the smoky wall. Covering the damage with a thick coat of paint is just a temporary measure. In a short time, the discoloration will come seeping out of the newly-painted walls. This article will guide you in the proper ways to painting over smoke-damaged surfaces.

  • Assess the smoke-damage. Determine the degree of the smoke damage. If the smoke stain is just light, you can simply wipe down the smoky area with white vinegar. This should remove the stain and the annoying smoke smell. If the smoke damage is a bit more extensive, you will need to use a harsher cleaner.
  • Remove the greasy smoke stain from the wall. Using a water-based cleaner will only allow the dirt and stain to go deeper into your wall. For this project, you will need an alkaline cleaner like trisodium phosphate. To use TSP, you will need to prepare a large sponge, two large buckets, some warm water, cleaning gloves, a pair of goggles, and clean rags. Don the protective gear before touching the cleaner. TSP can cause severe eye and skin irritation. Fill your bucket with a gallon of water then add no more than two teaspoons of the alkaline cleaner. Too much trisodium phosphate can dull or dissolve the paint on your walls. Wipe a small section of the wall with your cleaning solution then rinse well with a clean cloth soaked in water. Repeat the process until the entire wall has been sponged down and rinsed. TSP is a very harsh cleaner that may not be available at your local cleaning supplies store. You can use ammonia or borax as a substitute. To make a cleaning solution, simply mix a teaspoon or two of the alkali cleaner with one gallon of warm water. When using ammonia or borax, the same precautions should be taken as with using TSP.
  • Prime the cleaned walls. Use two coats of quality primer, like Kilz Original or Zinsser Bin. These special primers will seal in the stain and smell and are available in most hardware or paint supply centers. Remember to keep the work area well ventilated, as the fumes from the primer can get overwhelming. Protect your floors and other surfaces with old newspapers, the primer are really runny and will surely drip everywhere as you apply it.
  • Paint over the primer. Put on your chosen paint color over the special primer. It is recommended that you use three thin coats for this paint job. By doing so, the paint will be more even and will dry thoroughly, giving at a more professional look.

If your home suffered from a fire, hire a licensed inspector to assess any damage before starting your painting project. It is unethical to cover damage caused by fire especially if it affects or has affected the underlying building structure. This can cost you a lawsuit as well, should you try to sell the house. Once the inspector is sure that there isn’t any considerable damage, you can proceed with the steps to restoring the appearance, and smell, of your house.


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