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November 27th, 2019 Preparing for a painting project

Benjamin Franklin has been credited with saying, “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.” While it is unclear if Franklin ever uttered this phrase, it’s clear why the idea resonates with people. Most of us have had experiences that reinforce this message. Whether hosting an event, leading a work team, playing competitive sports, or even taking on a home improvement project, intentional preparation can lead to a great outcome.


As professional painters we understand the importance of proper planning. Bushing, rolling or spraying paint is a lot of fun and offers immediate satisfaction. A beautiful paint job sparks the most awesome “before and after” sense of accomplishment. But there are important steps to take to ensure great results before you can even open the can of paint. The success of a project depends largely on time spent identifying the desired outcome, protecting the environment, and preparing the substrate.

First: Decide what’s your goal? 

You want to make sure you have a clear goal in mind. If you are painting your own property, do you know exactly what you want to achieve? Similarly, if you live with others or are painting someone else’s space, you can avoid a headache by getting on the same page before the project begins. For example, is it preferred that the woodwork appear flawless or do they love their antique trim with all of its character? Do they prefer a super smooth finish or the presence of some brush strokes?

Second: Prepare your environment.

Preparing the environment where you plan to paint is a critical step in protecting the property. Follow the checklist below for all the necessary steps: 

• Take quick pictures of the room in case you want items to be returned exactly where they were

• Move valuables and other items where they will be free of dust and paint

• Drape plastic or drop cloths over what cannot be removed

• Cover the floor (painter’s drop cloths or protective cardboard are recommended)

• Take down pictures and other decorative items (determine if you plan to hang them back up in the same location or if you wish to spackle nail holes)

• Remove outlet plates, light switch covers, and any other removable fixtures

• Keep track of screws by inserting them back in their designated slots and covering with tape

• Use blue tape and plastic to cover thermostats and other fixtures

• Place blue painter’s tape over outlets and light switches to avoid getting paint on these items

• Remove heating/cooling ventilation registers

• Carefully remove window treatments and hardware

• If painting a door, you will get the best results if you can remove the doorknob handle and hardware (you may want to take pictures and reassemble the hardware after removal so that you have all pieces together and can see how it should be assembled)

• If you plan to spray your paint, be sure to cover window panes with plastic and secure floor covering safely to the floor or shoe mold

• If you are painting the walls, consider placing blue tape on the top of the baseboard to prevent drips from landing on your baseboard

• Depending on your confidence in your brushing abilities, you may want to use some painter’s tape to assist in painting straight lines (“cutting in”)

Third: Prepare your substrates. 

The condition of the substrate (walls, woodwork, etc.) and the end result you desire will determine the next steps you need to take. This may include sanding, scraping, spackling, priming, caulking, cleaning, or other tasks. But below are more detail steps to help guide you properly:

• To ensure adhesion you will want to sand most substrates (this creates a surface that the spackle, primer, or paint can bond to)

• When sanding wood, sand with the grain so you don’t tear wood fibers

• Start with lower grit sandpaper (100) and move to higher grit paper once major imperfections are smoothed out

• Use a hammer and nail set to drive nails below the surface

• Fill the holes and imperfections with wood putty or spackle

• On walls use a 5-in-1 tool to scrape imperfections down to being flush with the wall

• Sand spackle/putty down to be flush. Reapply and repeat if needed.

• Clean (or tack) the surface to remove dust. You can use a lint-free cloth and water if using a water-based paint or use mineral spirits (if applying oil-based paint)

• Apply a coat of primer where you have spackled imperfections. If this is on a wall, you may be able to spot prime just those areas. If it is woodwork, you will want to prime each section of wood that you spackled or puttied. If you are working with raw wood or if sanding left raw wood exposed, you will want to prime those pieces of wood.

• Once the primer has cured, sand lightly to scuff the surface

• Vacuum the work space and the surface you will paint.

• If there is woodwork, caulk the joints and allow it to cure. For baseboards be sure to caulk any separate pieces of wood, like the quarter-round (or shoe) or cap to the base.

• Vacuum the area, tack again, and you are ready to go!


Now that your surface is ready, you can start the fun part: painting! 

Painting can really transform a space and the process can be quite enjoyable. The key is preparation. How do you prepare for a task? Do you make lists, research extensively, or go with your gut and just wing it? Is there anything we missed that is important to highlight? Let us know, we would love to hear your thoughts! Also, if you are in the New Orleans area and you have any questions or if you are interested in a quote give us a call 504.239.1302

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