How to Prepare a Room for Painting

How to Prepare a Room for Painting


If painting a room is something you’ve never done before, (or you’ve tried and it did NOT go well), this do-it-yourself project can feel a bit overwhelming. But when you’re on a budget, or just have that DIY, ‘get-some!’ spirit, learning to paint a room by yourself is invigorating and a great place to shave off some of the expense of home renovation.  And once you’ve learned the skill for one project, you’ll use it over and over again, saving hundreds of dollars along the way!

In this post, I give you exactly what I do when I paint a room. You will notice that I have left out using painter’s tape. That’s because when I was starting out, it seemed I made more mistakes WITH the tape than just going ahead and perfecting my edging. You may want tape. You also may find other tips and tricks that work better for you as you go. That’s totally cool! You do you. Just remember to take your time, have fun with it and breathe! 

Here are the steps:

Clear out the room as much as possible and move larger furniture to the centre of the room

Trust me. It might be a bit of a pain to move so many things out of a room at first. I’ve tried it the impatient way. I figured I could manage the small obstacle course I had created for myself by not moving everything out. But the amount of time I spent ducking and dodging things to make sure I didn’t knock anything over took more time, (and increased my risk of injury), than if I had just committed to doing the menial task of simply moving things to another room first. Clear out the room.

(Obviously for larger items, this may not be possible. But those things can be moved to the center of the room, or if you are working in a smaller space, you can easily move items from one side of the room to the other as needed.)

Take all electrical plates etc off the walls

This includes light switch plates, electrical plug plates, central vacuum plates, phone jack plates, thermostat covers…you get it. Grab a Ziploc bag or a container with a lid to hold all of your electrical plates and screws in one place. As you go around taking things off the walls, you will be thankful you had an organized approach to keep all the little things together!

Take nails, screws, hangers out of the walls/ceiling

Chances are pretty good that if you are painting a room to freshen it up, you will probably not be putting all of your artwork, mirrors, shelving or curtains back up all in the same places. Once you paint, there’s no going back afterwards to fill a hole and try to repaint it to look the same as the rest of the wall. So do yourself a favour and take everything out. The additional plus to this is it’s much harder to paint around nails, screws or hangers. They also get gunked up with hardened paint, which makes it much harder to remove if you do decide to change things later.

Repair all damages and nail holes to walls with PolyFil

Before beginning to paint, I always go over my surfaces meticulously. If you don’t, your end result isn’t quite the same. The best strategy to this is multiple thin layers and sandings in between, rather than trying to lay one thick layer of Polyfil and then trying to sand it evenly with the wall. That doesn’t work. You’ll have a lumpy, bumpy wall.  Take your time. Look for dents, holes, scratches and dings and take care of them one thin layer at a time. At most, you’ll probably have three applications.

For larger holes, you may need a repair kit, which can be found at any hardware, DIY store. Just follow the directions on the kit and again, multiple thin layers is better than a glooped-on, one-application mess.


Sand down patches and wipe them down

When your layer is dry, use a sanding block or pad to sand down the patch to a smooth surface on the wall. Run your hand over the patch. It should not be raised away from the wall. It should just feel…smooth. Sand after each layer of Polyfil application

Wash all surfaces, including baseboards and corners with TSP (trisodium phosphate).

There are several versions of cleaners available that degrease your walls, cupboards and baseboards. You can ask at your local supplier, but for me I use the TSP powder. TSP comes in a spray as well, which you may prefer. But I find the powder is more economical so I get more bang for my buck. Use gloves, as this stuff is harmful to skin. Just follow the directions on the packaging and make sure to get EVERY area that you will be painting.

Want to skip this step? You can, but I’ve done that and the end result for your colour is darker and dingier than after it’s been cleaned.

(Case in point-I once painted a kitchen that I didn’t take the time to move everything out of and created a barricade for myself.  I couldn’t reach an area above a doorway with TSP. No big deal, I thought. End result: when the paint was finished, one half of above the doorway was a beautiful bright blue and the other half blueish-grease??…it was gross. Don’t skip this step.)

Put down drop cloths to protect your floor and furniture

This is pretty self-explanatory. Save your floors. Drop that cloth.

Caulk all window and door frames and around baseboards

After time, caulking around frames and baseboards disintegrates, leaving room for air leaks and gapping in your end result. For energy saving and aesthetic reasons, it’s always good to freshen your caulking. You can get it in clear or white and it’s paintable, so don’t worry about being able to get a nice edge of paint on the bottom of your walls.

Take off the old caulking with a caulking tool and wipe down the area you are about to caulk. Cut an angled hole in your caulking tube, making sure it isn’t too big. Load your tube into a caulking gun and slowly run a new bead of caulk along the surface you are working on. Wipe along the area with a dampened cloth (or I just use my finger) to smooth out the job. Go around ALL of your baseboards and trim around the room and any doors and windows as well. Slow and steady wins the race.