Prepping for Painting

Whether painting the interior or exterior, a solid painting job starts with good preparation of the area. Discuss with the painting company ahead of time exactly what prep work is included in the painting contract.

Furniture. Many times, removing furnishings, wall art, and other things in the rooms to be painted will be the responsibility of the homeowner. Items that cannot be easily relocated should be moved away from the walls and thoroughly covered with drop cloths to prevent paint spatters from damaging them. Fixtures such as switch plates and lighting features may also need to be removed. If the contractor has agreed to be responsible for the fixtures, make sure he or she has a system for ensuring proper replacement after the paint job is complete.

Surface. Surface preparation is vital to a smooth, streak-free paint application. Old paint that is peeling or cracking should be sanded or scraped away. Any holes or cracks must be filled in and sanded to be even with the surface, and any mold or mildew on the surface should also be removed with a bleach and water solution to prevent regrowth under new paint. Nail pops—protruding nail heads caused by the natural settling of the house over time—should be repaired, puttied, and sanded over. Exterior surfaces are usually prepared by pressure washing the surfaces to remove mold, mildew, and dirt. Since the surface has to dry completely before the painting can begin, weather can create a significant delay in the preparation of exteriors. Bugs can also interfere with the drying process.

Primer. Primer is a base coat of paint that allows the new paint to take a better grip on the surface. Surfaces that are primed also look fresher longer than surfaces to which the paint is applied directly. Water-damaged areas, bare wood, repaired areas, paneled walls, existing oil-based paint, or any surfaces that are undergoing a significant change in color should have primer coats applied to them prior to painting. Existing glossy paint should be “dulled” by applying an oil-based primer.

Tape. Low-tack painter’s tape is preferred to masking tape in protecting items that cannot be removed, such as glass, built-in fixtures, door handles, and latches. It is easier to remove than masking tape and is coated to prevent paint bleed, which masking tape can sometimes allow.