Repair & Maintenance

Preparing a wall for painting

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Preparing before you paint ensures a smooth, professional look
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Painting a room is an easy and inexpensive way to redecorate and give your home a completely new feel. While it is tempting to simply dive in and apply the new paint over the old, preparing the walls is an essential step if you want a great look that will last.

Dealing with old runs and drips

In order to paint a wall, it needs to be clean, dry and relatively free from imperfections. If the wall has been painted a number of times and there are runs or drips on the old surface, it may need to be sanded down for a smooth finish. Depending upon the condition, you may be able to simply go over rough areas with a piece of sandpaper or a sanding block, then remove the dust with a tack cloth.

If previous paint jobs have left you with an abundance of flaws, drips and puddles, you may wish to go over the entire wall with an electric hand sander and fine grit non-loading sandpaper.

Remember safety

Before you begin any extensive sanding, be sure to check for leaded paint. Sanding these surfaces could release dangerous lead-filled dust into your home. If you find lead paint on your wall, consult a professional for removal or sealing procedures. Even if your walls are lead paint-free, you'll want to seal the room off from other areas of the house while you sand, and use a painter's respirator to protect your lungs.

Holes, cracks and missing plaster

Once the surface is smooth, inspect the wall for any cracks, holes or other damage that needs to be repaired.

Small holes and cracks can be filled with spackling or wall joint compound. Apply a small amount in and over the hole with a putty knife and smooth carefully, feathering the putty out in all directions as you move away from the hole. Allow the hole to dry before continuing and if necessary, sand and fill the hole a second time. Don't forget to inspect areas around windows and doors, as well as corners for small cracks that need to be repaired. Fill these with a paintable latex caulk. Once the filler is completely dry, sand the surface smooth.

Larger cracks or missing areas of plaster will need to be repaired with patching plaster. The pros at your local home store can tell you about the supplies and tools you'll need to do the job.

Clean it well

Wipe the walls down with a tack cloth, or soft damp cloth to remove any dust and debris and to improve adhesion; paint does not stick very well to dirty walls. If the surfaces are quite dirty, as in a kitchen where greasy film can build up over the years, use a TSP solution to wash the walls. Let all surfaces dry completely before you paint…at least overnight. For a neater paint job, remove outlet covers, doorknob plates, light switch covers and window coverings.

Tape off the room

When it comes to painting, an ounce of prevention is worth days of cleaning up after the fact. Prepare your room by removing as much of the furniture as you can. What you can't remove, pile in the center of the room and cover with a drop cloth or plastic sheeting. Use blue painter's tape along the edges of the walls, windows, trim that will not be painted (or has already been painted a different color), and along the edge of floor and ceiling. This type of tape peels off easily to give you a clean line of paint along edges

Cover the floor or carpet with drop cloths – absorbent cloths are better than plastic as they soak up spills and drips before they're tracked around.

Seal the walls before you paint

If you're painting a bare wall for the first time, painting a wall which has been sanded extensively, painting a wall in a historic home, or painting over patching plaster, spackling or joint compound, you need to seal the walls before you apply your color. A good quality acrylic primer/sealer will do the trick in most cases. Some surfaces will require a shellac sealer to prevent bleed-through of stains, cigarette deposits, or old oil paint – Kilz is the best known brand of shellac sealant and is available in most home stores and some discount stores.

Allow all sealers to dry for the full length of time listed on the can.

Ready to paint!

Preparing a wall for painting is tedious work but ensures that your paint job lasts longer and looks professional. If happen to be painting for a bedroom and not sure as to the color or theme, check out some helpful bedroom painting ideas to get inspired.

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