various tools and supplies for a DIY paint and prep job

How to Prep Walls for Paint – Paint Series Part Two

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Welcome back for part two of “How to paint your walls…”! You can catch up here on part one. The prep phase of any painting project is hands down the most important but also tedious part. I’m not gonna lie, if there were a way to skip it, I would. But we are aiming for a gorgeous, professional looking result, so there is no getting around this one. And if you are going to invest all this time into doing it yourself, you might as well do it properly.

The aim of this post is to get you to the point where you are ready to begin painting from beginning to beautiful end.

how to prep walls pinterest image

Part One | Part Three

A word of caution: I am not a professional painter. What I am describing are steps learned from personal experience over the course of many paint jobs over a number of years. Please be sure to always follow all safety precautions as described on any tools and materials you use. Always use proper safety equipment.

If working in a home built before 1978, always check for lead paint. Consult your professional at the paint store on how to check for and properly work with walls that may contain lead paint.

Here are the steps that will be covered in this post:

  • Room Prep
  • Wall Repair and Prep
  • Cleanup

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Room Prep

Ideally you would be working in an empty room. Often that’s just not possible, so moving any furniture to the center and covering it with tarps or old sheets is a close second. You want to be able to move along each wall unimpeded. Leave space so you can easily scoot your step stool or ladder as you progress.

Protecting your floor will save you lots of clean up down the road. It is virtually impossible to avoid little paint droplets and splatters, Having a great floor cover in place will save you from having to scrape them off the hardwoods with a razor on your hands and knees. Unless you like tedious, back-breaking stuff like that, in that case, splatter away;)

There are many different floor covering options out there. Some are better than others. Most professional painters will opt to cover floors in this paper. I recently found this drop cloth that has a non-slip backing. While it may seem like a bit of an investment, keep in mind that safety is the most important part of any DIY project and reusable supplies like this are often cheaper in the long run anyway. Since you will be moving your step stool or ladder around the room a few times, a flat, non-slip surface is imperative.

Take any pictures or decorations off the walls and remove curtain rods and shades. I prefer doing this after the room has been emptied or the furniture has been moved out of the way. It’s just easier to reach that way.

Remove all outlet covers and switch plates. Wash and clean them well, place in a plastic baggie.

Wall  Repair and Prep

Time for the fun stuff. Working your way around the room, begin filling all nail holes as well as minor dents and gouges. Be sure to use just enough, but not too much spackle compound to avoid having to sand a lot. It’s better to come back for a second round than to goop it on thick the first time.

You are aiming for something that looks like this:

example of a hole in the wall patched with spackle

As you work your way around feel for any uneven, bumpy spots on the wall and scrape them off gently with your scraper tool. You can see some of them in the picture above. I prefer my razor tool for this. Just be sure to stay at a fairly shallow angle to prevent causing damage.

Larger holes and dents may require a repair kit or different spackle, as well as more drying time. If your walls need some extra TLC in that regard complete those first, then move on to the smaller stuff.

You may also find gaps like this above your baseboards:

picture showing gap between wall and baseboard

I have a kitchen inspired tip for you. Put spackle compound in a plastic zip bag, cut a small hole in one corner and you are ready to pipe the spackling compound like icing on a cake. Smooth the bead of spackle with your gloved finger and let dry. Much faster, not to mention less mess – no fancy equipment required:) After it is all sanded it looks amazing!

picture showing spackle in a plastic zip bag with a corner cut off. some spackle is squeezed onto a lid

Here is a sad example of a lazy prep job. This wall used to sport wall paper that was apparently stuck on with super glue. I thought I could get away with painting over it. Don’t be me.

Example of a wall that was not properly patched


Once all repairs are thoroughly dry, sand everything well with a drywall sanding sponge. A good sanding sponge can be vacuumed in between and should last through several jobs. Sanding is tedious, but doing it well will make your finished project look great. Always wear a dust mask  and safety glasses for this part of the project! Drywall dust belongs on the floor, not in your lungs. If you have ever had a piece of drywall in your eye because you were too lazy to put on safety glasses, you’ll know why they are important. Not that I have and experience with that sort of thing…


Sanding is followed by cleaning. To keep dust particles from winding up in your paint and back on your wall, clean all surfaces well. My personal preference is to sweep any dust off the walls and ceilings. Dust particles stay airborne, so give them time to settle before vacuuming everything with a shop vac (one with a good filter, of course). Wipe down all of the walls with a damp microfiber rag to insure the cleanest, smoothest surface possible.

Not cleaning the walls thoroughly may result in something that looks like this:

examples of impurities trapped in the wall from poor prep


With the walls sanded and nice and clean, this is the time to tape along the edges, if you don’t feel comfortable enough to free hand it.

Once you are finished, pat yourself on the back, you are ready to begin priming and painting!

Join me next time for the last part of this little series: part three painting! Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments! I’d love to hear from you and I am always open for suggestions!

Keep it simple!

Karin signature line

Part One | Part Three

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