Prepare a Room for Painting

Did you know that one of the key elements of all paint jobs begins even before you pick up a paintbrush? In fact, preparing a room for painting largely determines not only the quality of the paint job (i.e. smooth surfaces, no cracks, no holes, smooth coats) but ensures protection of the room and everything in it. From moving and removing furniture to covering floors and carpets to protecting electric outlets, doorknobs, and window treatments, proper room preparation is what separates the professionals from the amateurs.

Step One: Empty the Room/Move Furniture

Begin preparing rooms to be painted by emptying the room of all furnishings and objects, and/or by pushing heavy furniture into the middle of the room, allowing for clear and easy access to walls and borders. Cover all items remaining in the room to protect against paint splatters (you'd be amazed how easily paint manages to get into unexpected places!) And here's a tip from the experts: Heavy furniture is easier to drag if you stick a large drop cloth underneath the legs of the furniture and then pull/drag.

Next, remove all wall hangings (including nails or other hardware used to secure items to the wall) outlet covers, electrical fixtures, room and closet doors, door handles/knobs, and window treatments.

Step Two: Cover the Floor

You can choose between drop cloths, tarps, or plastic coverings to cover all areas of the floor. Even if you're on a tight budget, stay away from newspaper, which the paint will inevitably leak through and which leaves ink stains on your hands and the floor. For added protection from paint splashes and spills, attach masking tape to the baseboard and adjacent to the baseboard on the floor.

Step Three: Remove Wall Defects

With a flashlight and pencil in hand, carefully examine the room's walls and mark any defects such as holes from nails, small dents, grease and smoke stains, hairline cracks, or deeper holes in the drywall. Your next job is to fill these holes/cracks with a filler compound such as premixed plaster, dry filler compound to which water is added, a lightweight spackle, or white latex caulk (not silicone). Two or three thin coats may be required.

Step Four: Tackle Stained Walls

To prevent grease and dirt stains from bleeding through your paint finish, wash walls first with chemicals such as a mixture of 1 cup trisodium phosphate (TSP), 3 quarts of water, and 1 quart liquid laundry bleach, rinsing with a sponge and fresh water once the surface is clean. To clean walls from cigarette smoke use a solution of ammonia and water, with a higher concentration of ammonia for tougher jobs. A stain killer purchased at any hardware store should also do the job and should be applied before priming to seal off possible bleed-through of past wall residues.

Step Five: Sand the Wall

Any plaster repairs should be sanded with a flat sanding pad or sponge (taking care not to over-sand and leave a depression in the wall). To remove mold or old paint drips, sand wall with 100-grit sandpaper.

Step Six: Tape off Adjacent Surfaces

To prevent paint splatters from landing on surfaces you don't want painted, tape off woodwork, light switches, and adjacent walls with painter's tape.

Step Seven: Clean the Room

Remove dust, cobwebs, and debris by vacuuming/mopping floors and wiping woodwork with a damp cloth. To clean walls before painting them, simply sponge down with a solution of dish soap and water, rinsing with plain water to remove soap residue.

Step Eight: Priming

To prepare a room for painting, priming is essential if you are painting over oil-based paint or a semi-gloss or gloss surface. If the walls were formerly painted with a low-gloss, water-based paint, however, you can paint directly over the old paint. Regardless of the type of wall, prime any areas which were spackled to prevent them from appearing "shiny" when your paint job is done.

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