Going Through the Prep Steps: How to Prepare a Room for Painting


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Painting a room is one of the most manageable DIY projects all homeowners can do. Painting, however, is more time consuming than most people expect.

This is because you need to know how to prep a room for painting as well as how to paint the walls. There are many steps involved in prepping a room for painting, and each of them is important to ensure your belongings are protected and the paint job looks great.

Many novice painters make the mistake of painting a wall without preparation first. While this is an easy mistake to make, not prepping can do more harm than good. It could also cost you extra to replace carpet, furniture, or fixtures that were damaged by paint splatters.

But, lucky for you, you’re taking all the necessary precautions to ensure a professional look is achieved. Read on to discover how to prep a room for painting to get it right the first time.

1. Clear Out the Room

The first step in how to prep a room for painting is to clear out the room. Start by removing all wall decor and nails. Then safely lift and remove all of the furniture out of the room that you are able to. This includes couches, end tables, rugs, and house plants.

Place these items in another room if possible for the duration of the project and until the final paint job is fully dry. Once the room is fully dry, then you can place all furniture items back into the room.

2. Cover

If you are unable to remove certain furniture items such as a large sectional, then place these items in the middle of the room. Make sure to always ask for help when completing this task to avoid hurting yourself or someone else.

Once these items are placed in the middle of the room, then it’s time to cover them with plastic. Plastic furniture cover sheets can be purchased at most hardware stores. When covering these items, make sure to cover the bottom as well to avoid paint splatters stains.

You should also cover doorknobs and other pieces of hardware with plastic and/or painter’s tape.

3. Remove Fixtures

Next, you’ll need to remove all fixtures in the room. This includes light switch plates, outlet plates, and light fixtures if you plan on painting the ceiling. If you need to remove light fixtures, then make sure to shut off the circuit breaker before removing them.

Once these items are unscrewed and stored in a secure location, then you should cover the switches and outlets with painter’s tape. Painter’s tape can be purchased at nearly all hardware and department stores.

If light fixtures cannot fully be removed, then cover them with plastic and allow them to hang as low as the fixture allows. Make sure to always have the circuit breaker off for the remainder of the project. Try to paint during the day or set up a portable light.

4. Lay Down Drop Cloth

Next, you’ll need to lay down a drop cloth to cover the flooring. Drop clothes are typically made out of cotton which will help you to not slip while painting.

5. Repair

After laying the drop cloth, repair any holes, knicks, or irregularities in your walls using drywall joint compound or spackling. Allow these mixtures to dry thoroughly according to the manufacturer’s instructions before proceeding with the remaining steps.

6. Sand

After repairing the walls, use 220-grit sandpaper to lightly sand the walls. This will smooth the walls to allow for a more clean and professional paint job later on.

7. Wash

Next, get a bucket of warm clean water and add in mild dish soap to create a soapy mixture. Then, take a sponge and clean the walls thoroughly. Focus on removing any staining as well.

Allow the walls to dry completely.

For hard to clean stains, use trisodium phosphate (TSP). TSP can also remove any oily stains on the walls as well. When using TSP, follow the manufacturer’s instructions accordingly.

8. Dust and Vacuum

After washing, it’s time to dust the walls using a tack cloth. Vacuum the moldings and baseboards as well. Doing so ensures that the paint goes on smoothly reducing bumps, flaking, and spotty texture.

9. Apply Caulking as Needed

Apply painter’s caulking as needed in between baseboards, windows, and door casings. After applying, smooth out the caulking using your finger or a painter’s tool and a rag for hard to reach areas. Allow caulking to dry according to the manufacturer’s instruction manual.

10. Painter’s Tape

Once caulking is dry, it’s time to tape baseboards, door casings, moldings, and window frames using painter’s tape. You can use the tape in long or short segments, but it’s important to fully press down on the tape to achieve a sharper edge after painting. Otherwise, the paint may be allowed to seep under the tape.

If your ceiling is painted a different color, then you’ll also want to apply painter’s tape to the edge between the ceiling and the wall.

11. Check Paint Type

Before you start painting, it’s important to know what type of paint your walls are currently painted with. This is because oil-based paint cannot paint over latex paint. However, latex paint can paint over oil-based paint when prepared properly.

To determine what type of paint it is, wet a Q-tip or cotton swab with rubbing alcohol, then gently apply to the wall in a small area. If paint rubs off on the cotton swab, then it’s latex paint.

To learn more about latex paint versus enamel paint, check out this article.

12. Apply Primer

Lastly, use oil-based bonding primer for oil-based paint and latex based bonding primer for all other paint types. Apply primer to stained areas, repaired areas, and walls that are drastically turning from a darker to a lighter shade.

Place in the primer, one to two tablespoons of your paint color to achieve a similar color for better coverage.

How to Prep a Room for Painting

Knowing how to prep a room for painting will help you to get the job done right the first time. It will also help to reduce any additional costs due to mishaps. But, once it’s all done, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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