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Tips for good surface preparation

When to consult with a professional

If you are uncertain about the condition of a surface or how to make it ready for surface preparation, consult with a paint manufacturing company’s representative or a licensed professional contractor. Most large paint manufacturers have knowledgable representatives that are available for consultation. Call your paint dealer should you need the advice of their manufacturer's representative.

Removing adhesive residue from clear tapes and masking tapes

The glue-like adhesive found on clear tapes and masking tapes is often difficult to clean. Adhesive residue from stickers and contact paper can also be difficult to remove. Sanding may remove dried adhesive residue, but is often unsuccessful in removing gummier residue.

Use an adhesive removing product to remove adhesive residue from painted surfaces. After the residue has been removed, wash the surface with TSP, TSP 90 or TSP Substitute. Rinse and allow 24 hours for washed surfaces to dry. Humid conditions may lengthen drying.


Remove flecks before sanding

Flecks are small surface particles. They often consist of crumb-sized pieces of dried paint film, repair compound and sanding dust that have become part of the painted surface. Flecks will often give the surface a gritty appearance. Surface sanding does not always remove flecks, especially larger flecks. Remove flecks from painted surfaces by gently scraping using a putty knife or scraper. Once flecks have been removed, sand ceiling, wall and trim surfaces.

Preventing flecks

Surface flecks can be prevented by following these tips:

Do not skimp on priming and sealing

Do not try to cut corners when it comes to priming and sealing. Surfaces that are not properly primed and sealed often show clearly unacceptable results when painted.

Preparing ahead

Preparing a room for interior painting, decorative painting or faux finishing may require several days, and can require a week or more. When possible, prepare two or more rooms at a time for greatest efficiency. When preparation in one room is complete, painting can begin. Continue to prepare additional rooms as you wait for either preparation materials or paint to dry. Preparing ahead eliminates much of the down time lost waiting for preparation materials and paint to dry when working on only one room.

Avoid applying excessive amounts of drywall joint compound, or other repair compound, when crafting surface preparation repairs

One of the biggest obstacles to crafting good surface preparation repairs is the excessive application of drywall joint compound. (or other repair compound or material such as lightweight spackling compound, spackling compound or wood filler) This was my biggest challenge as a beginning painting contractor. I applied drywall joint compound in thick layers that extended well beyond repair materials and the repair area. Needless to say, most of the repairs that I completed during my early days needed quite a bit of sanding. A more experienced painting contractor noticed my excessive sanding of repairs and taught me how to apply smaller amounts of joint compound in thinner layers when crafting repairs

The goal is to gradually build up repairs with thin coats of drywall joint compound that are properly shaped and contoured so that the repair or repair area will, after sanding, blend into the surrounding surface.

Skim-coated surfaces should be built-up to flush with thin coats that leave the surface uniform and smooth. For flush-fill repairs, such as small holes, indentations and nail or screw dimples, make your fill flush to the surface and avoid application outside the fill. Repairs, skim-coated areas and flush-fills crafted in this manner reduce material waste and require less sanding time and effort.

Detailed information about interior house painting surface preparation is available in the book:

The Homeowner's Guide to Surface Preparation for Interior House Painting.