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Preparing Surfaces for Paint

Preparing to paint is an essential part of a good paint job. If you want paint to last as long as the label on the can boasts, your part is getting the surfaces ready to accept the paint.
Clean, smooth, dull, dry and sound.
This is the condition your walls should be in before you paint. Shiny surfaces should be dulled with sandpaper. Walls should be cleaned with mild detergent and rinsed well. Uneven surfaces should be sanded and patched, and some walls may have to be primed.
TSP is a good detergent for walls. Start with the ceiling and then move on to walls which should be washed from the bottom up to prevent streaking. Rinse well or the paint you apply could eventually peel.
Let the walls dry overnight then prepare a dulled, even surface to apply the paint. Use a scraper and sandpaper to remove flaking, chipping paint. Patch uneven places with spackle, wood filler or putty. Use a tack cloth to remove sanding dust before painting. Primers seal surface porosity better than topcoat paints and can be tinted towards the final color to help you end up with a richer topcoat. One coat of primer can equal two or three coats of regular paint.
It is best to paint during low humidity, when you know the temperature will remain around 70 degrees. Avoid painting in direct sunlight. Rapid drying of the paint film traps solvents which later vaporize and put pressure against the topcoat. Make sure the paint is thoroughly shaken on our shaker and wait an hour to give the bubbles a chance to settle out. If you ever have to wait a while before painting, bring the paint in and we'll shake it again for you.

Preparing Exterior Surfaces For Painting

Take time to caulk all joints, cracks, and seams in the surface before painting. This is easy and quick with a caulking gun and caulking cartridges. Don't start painting until the caulking is finished and thoroughly dried.

Before painting windows, check around the windowpanes for loose or missing putty. Replace the putty in these areas with new putty before starting the painting job.

Use a good grade of putty and apply it according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Always clean the surface to be painted. Use a wire brush, sanding block, or power sander to remove loose paint and grime before applying the primer coat. If you try to cut corners and save time by failing to clean the surface, you'll likely end up with trouble later.

Fill in any cracks or large holes appearing on the surface with wood putty before starting the painting job The putty should have the texture of paste. Allow time for the wood putty to dry before applying the primer coat.

Use a special V-shaped putty knife for puttying along a window sash. This special tool is inexpensive and helps you do a professional-looking job much faster and easier.

If you need to remove a heavy buildup of old paint, use a propane torch to help make the job faster and easier. A wide-mouth burner tip is available to spread the flame over large areas. Use a long-handled scraper to keep your fingers away from the heat as you work.

Use your power drill for smoothing rough spots before painting. Purchase a sanding wheel drill attachment to make sanding much easier. A wire brush attachment for your power drill is an excellent tool for removing rust and scale from metal.

Use plastic or paper drop cloths to cover sidewalks, shrubbery, or other areas needing protection before you start the painting. Use drop cloths to cover floors, furniture, etc., for indoor painting. These cloths are inexpensive and save you a lot of clean-up time.


Correcting common paint problems.  If you have peeling, mildew or other paint problems, click here for excellent illustrated information.

Illustrated painting tips - making painting easier.

Removing paint and varnish

Wallpaper is making a comeback!  Click here for illustrated information on how to remove and install wallpaper.


How do I paint in a wooded area?

Before you paint your "Little House in the Big Woods" you need to remember a few things that will affect the job. First, the surface should be prepared to the paint manufacturer recommendations. This often means that all moss and mildew should be removed with either bleach or Jomax (a less harmful bleach alternative). A power washer is a good idea and saves hours of hand scrubbing.
Most high-end exterior paints have adequate mildewcides to prevent new mildew from occurring on the surface. If you have a really tough area you may want to consider a mildew additive for better protection. In the last few years we have sold much more satin (eggshell) paint for outside use. It has a superior surface to scrub than flat exterior paint and doesn't have the sheen of semi-gloss. Make sure you apply the paint in accordance with manufacturer guidelines, usually 400 sq. ft./gal for both coats. Paint drying time will take up to 24 hours taking into consideration temperature, humidity etc., but don't expect your paint to cure for 20 to 30 days. Latex paint that has not cured will temporarily discolor when it is dampened with water. If you are painting over a previously stained surface, a good quality oil based primer will extend your paint job several years. Make certain that you allow about twice as much drying time as called for on the can for your shady location. Try to paint as much as you can in the morning to provide adequate drying time before dusk.


How do I know which caulk or sealant to buy?

This depends on a variety of factors:

  Where will the sealant be applied?

  What type of surfaces will be bonded or caulked?

  How much stress or movement will the joint be subject to?

  What other performance requirements will it need to meet?


What kind of caulk should I use around window frames?

Latex caulks are good for filling these kinds of gaps. They clean up with water and most are paintable. However, they must be applied in temperatures of more than 40 degrees Farenheit.

I'm going to be painting a table that has a gloss finish. Do I need to prepare the surface?

You should use a liquid deglosser, which works without sanding and produces a slight tack for better adhesion of the new finish.

How do I tell which steel wool is finer?

The smaller the number, the finer the steel wool.

What can be used to produce a nice, smooth surface when I finish furniture?

Using a fine steel wool between multiple coats will give you a smoother surface. Be sure to clean the surface with a tack cloth before painting each additional coat.

How does a sandpaper holder help me sand?

A sanding block helps speed up sanding jobs, relieves strain on your hands and makes your sandpaper last longer.

I want to sand several chair legs, but I'm having difficulty because of the contours and hard-to-reach areas. Can you help me?

Try a flexible sanding sponge.

What does a number such as 120 on sandpaper mean?

These numbers stand for the number of particles per square inch. The higher the number, the finer the sandpaper.

Is sandpaper better than steel wool for smoothing finishes between?

It can be just a matter of preference, but steel wool is normally recommended. You might also want to consider a finishing pad. They don't shed or rust like steel wool, and they can be rinsed and reused. They're available for wood, metal and stripping.

Are there different kinds of latex caulk?

Yes. For example, vinyl latex is good for small cracks. Acrylic latex is a little more flexible and lasts longer, up to 10 or 15 years. Siliconized acrylic latex should not be confused with a pure silicone caulk. It is a medium-performance caulk that provides some water resistance and lasts up to 25 years or more.