Wall Preparation Tips for a Durable, Beautiful Paint Job

One of the biggest mistakes with painting is skipping the surface preparation that makes for a beautiful, durable finish. It’s not as much fun as slathering your walls in a brand new color, but it’s important to take the time to first clean, patch and prepare your walls. You’ll be making the most of the paint you’ve purchased and increasing your satisfaction with the finished product.

Start out by scrubbing away accumulations of smoke, oil and grime that can keep your new finish from adhering. Use liquid sandpaper to remove buildup from trim, and wash down walls with a TSP (trisodium phosphate) solution, available at most home centers and hardware stores. You can add efficiency to this chore and remove the risk of a ladder-and-liquid mishap by employing a sponge-head floor mop for application.

Wall Preparation Tips for a Durable, Beautiful Paint JobOnce cleaned surfaces are completely dry, smooth them out. Take time to fill all holes and cracks, following with a thorough allover sanding and removal of the resulting dust. Repair cracks by applying fiberglass wall tape followed by a few topcoats of spackle applied and smoothed with progressively wider spackle knives. You’ll also need to fix any nail pops that you see.

Nail pops are pesky problems that frequently pop up in the first few years after a home is built. As the framing lumber dries out, it expands and contracts and sort of “spits” the nail back out of the hole it was originally driven into.Though unsightly and annoying, nail pops are normal and don’t indicate a structural problem. To fix them, drive another nail next to the loose nail, being sure to overlap the heads. If the nail is really loose, remove it and replace it with a drywall screw, and respackle the wall.

Once you think you’re done making all the necessary repairs to the wall, grab a really strong flashlight and hold it against and parallel to the wall. As the light bounces over the repaired area, you’ll be able to see exactly how the surface will look when the sunshine hits it in that typically unflattering direction. If this test reveals rough patches, go back and smooth them before packing up the sander.

Marvelous masking
One more detail round to go: protecting everything you don’t want painted and creating a clean edge for every coat. Take your time and plenty of care with this step as well, because whatever you leave to chance will only be defined by the new paint. Apply painter’s tape along trim and glass edges, and use it in combination with plastic sheeting or masking paper to cover fixtures that can’t be moved and large surface areas to be left out of the equation. Also take the time to remove switch and socket plates (followed by a bit of tape over remaining switches and plugs) and all possible hardware.

Strive for sharp stripes
Wall Preparation Tips for a Durable, Beautiful Paint JobIf stripes or patterns are what you’re creating with tape, here’s a trick-of-the-trade to make sure it comes out great. First, paint your base color. Then, after that coat has dried, apply the tape to outline your desired effect. Next, paint over the tape again using the first color. This allows the first color of paint to bleed under the tape and seal the edge. Lastly and only after the first color is thoroughly dry; apply the accent color or sheen into the masked areas. Follow these steps and you’ll have sharp, crisp lines when you remove the tape!

Primer makes perfect
Before starting in with the paint, check your thermometer ─ paint won’t adhere if it’s below 55 degrees and won’t go on smoothly if it’s above 90 degrees. All clear? Then get started with a coat of primer that helps paint stick and provides a smooth topcoat that’ll show fewer brush or roller marks. If your walls have any tough stains like water marks or smoke damage, we recommend using oil-based primer rather than water-based, as it does a better job of sealing in stain-damaged surfaces.

When you’re ready to swing that paint brush into action, do the edges first, then fill in  with a roller using a “w” motion, always maintaining a wet edge. After the primer has thoroughly dried, apply your new paint shade in two rounds using the same technique for a durable, beautiful finish.

Your excitement at the prospect of a brand new color for your room might tempt you to pick up the paint brush or roller before your walls are really ready. But when it comes to room painting, it does not pay to be impatient. Skipping painting prep only sets you up for messy edges, bumpy finishes and peeling layers. The key to a successful paint job is taking your time and attending to every aspect of proper wall preparation so that the project gets done right the first time.

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