How to Prep Your Walls for Painting


A fresh coat of paint can transform the look and feel of a room. But it takes time to prepare walls for painting.

Over time, walls can pick up nicks and holes that are magnified by the light of a new coat of paint. It’s best to fix these problems before you start painting to avoid having painter’s remorse later.

Clean the Walls

No painting tip is ignored more often than the one advising that you wash the walls before you apply any primer or paint. Despite the fact that many do-it-yourselfers ignore this advice or clean their walls in a cursory fashion, all major paint manufacturers insist that washing is an important step.

In most cases, a solution of warm water and soap is all that’s required to make a wall paint-ready. In some situations, particularly in kitchens and bathrooms, you might want to add a grease-cutting detergent to the wash. However, it’s important to test a small area of paint with these cleaners before using them on an entire wall.

Marker and crayon marks can bleed through even several coats of paint. If possible, wash these marks with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser dipped in warm water. If this doesn’t work, cover the marks with stainblocking primer. If the marks are on concrete walls, seal the cracks with drywall compound before priming and painting.

Repair Cracks

From time to time, even the best-laid wall surfaces can start to crack and chip. A little sanding will smooth these areas and ensure that your paint adheres well to the drywall surface.

A good way to find flaws in your walls before you start sanding is to turn off the lights and use a trouble light to move over the surface. This will highlight any problems that need to be addressed. Stick a piece of tape next to each problem spot so you can easily identify them when you come back with the sanding and joint compound.

If you have any small holes or cracks in the drywall, seal them with a product like DAP Alex Plus Spackling. This ready-to-use, easy-to-spread white formula is perfect for repairing dents, dings, and scratches. For severe damage, you may need to strip the wall and re-drywall it. Before filling the cracks, clean them thoroughly with a soft brush or vacuum. This will make it easier for the filler to bind with the drywall.

Seal Torn Paper

Anyone who says that walls don’t need any preparation before painting is clearly not concerned about the quality of their paint finish. If you’re working with previously wallpapered walls, Marianne Shillingford from Dulux recommends cleaning the wall with sugar soap and rinsing well. An electric sander can make the process much faster than trying to do it by hand.

After repairing any cracks, holes or torn paper in your walls, you’ll want to seal them before painting. Use a product like Zinsser Gardz to prevent the new paint from getting sucked into the torn drywall paper and turning it brown.

It’s also a good idea to apply a mist coat of primer to the entire wall before you start to paint. This will help the fresh paint stay on top of the bare drywall and minimize the amount of time it takes to dry between coats. You can buy a mist coat primer in a spray can for easy application.

Prime the Walls

Painting a room can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it, but the prep work is just as important as the actual application of the paint. Proper painting prep will result in a professional-looking finish.

In addition to washing walls, you’ll need to sand any cracks or holes and tackle flaky plaster or peeling paint. You’ll also need to prime any filled areas (with a wood filler that can be sanded). Priming seals the area and helps your new color adhere for solid coverage.

You should always use stain blocking primer before you paint over water stains, marker and crayon marks or smoke odors. It will block the odors and stains, and it’s usually oil-based so it will stand up to most paints, though it can release unpleasant VOCs. Depending on the severity of these issues, you may need to do several coats. Be sure to let each coat dry completely before you apply the next.

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