Proper Prep for Painting Projects

I'm about to tackle my first interior paint job, and don't want to wind up with the same rough-looking results I've seen in other DIYers' homes. What's the key to getting a great finish?
firsthome08 2-29-08 6:47 p.m.

When it comes to painting, preparation makes perfect. What you've probably seen in those other homes is the result of someone being so excited about the new paint color that they skipped over the "boring" parts of a proper paint job. Here are the three basic prep steps:

1. Clean all surfaces. The first step is to scrub away any accumulations of smoke, oil and grime that can keep paint from adhering. Use liquid sandpaper to remove buildup from trim, and wash walls down with a TSP (trisodium phosphate) solution, available at most home centers and hardware stores. Tip: Apply the solution with a sponge-head floor mop for an easier reach and avoidance of ladder catastrophes.

2. Smooth everything out. Once cleaned surfaces are completely dry, you'll need to smooth them out. This is where a lot of the work happens, so don't skimp or get lazy with the details, because the new paint won't hide them. Fill all holes and cracks, followed by a thorough allover sanding and removal of the resulting dust. Then grab a really strong flashlight and hold it against and parallel to the wall to check your work. As the light bounces over the repaired area, you'll be able to see exactly how the surface will look when sunshine hits it. If this test reveals unsightly details, go back and smooth them before packing up the sander.

3. Mask marvelously. Finally, you'll need to mask off everything you don't want painted and carefully create a clean edge for every coat of 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 remove switch and socket plates (followed by a bit of tape over remaining switches and plugs) and all possible hardware.

From there, all you need to do is make sure the room temperature is below 90 degrees and above 55 so that paint goes on smoothly, and you're good to go on primer application. Cut in around edges and then fill in surfaces, and after the primer's dry, apply your new paint shade in two rounds for a durable, beautiful finish.

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