Painting: 5 ways to prep like a pro

When it comes to painting a bedroom, how much prep work do you put in?

We’re currently painting our second bedroom – including skirting boards and window frames – and after spending almost an entire morning prepping the walls, I thought it could be useful to share some of the stages we work through, and the tricks we use, to get the best results possible.

Renovating an older property definitely requires more of this initial legwork. When we renovated the flat, I remember being very detailed oriented but nowhere near this.

Yet we’re working with original skirting boards and window frames as well as plaster which, in places, is covered in glue from where the cornicing was replaced.

So, with ceilings already painted, here’s our 5 tried and tested tips for walls & woodwork:

  • Strip & sand your woodwork
    I know the temptation to just paint over what was already there but after stripping through several layers of paint on everything from stairs to skirting boards, a plea from us – please don’t. You can tell the difference, particularly on detailed woodwork, and eventually paint will start to chip and crack. In our bedroom, we didn’t strip the paint off our skirting boards and we regret it. It’s true that, when the room is furnished properly, it’s unlikely that anyone will notice but when you compare them to the other bedrooms, where we spent hours with a heat gun and reels of sandpaper, you can tell the difference. Use a heat gun and a scraper or use Nitromors – just wear a mask, open all the windows and put the effort in. Use sandpaper (probably an 80 grit) afterwards to smooth everything off. Check out our blog post on the staircase for more tips on this stage.
  • Prepare your walls.
    This sounds crazy – new plaster is ready for painting right? Wrong. Even if you have the best plasterers in the world, it’s inevitable that every now and again there might be a little bump or drip. As I mentioned earlier, we also had little drops of glue scattered across our walls due to the cornicing that had been installed early on. Arm yourself with a scraper, some light sandpaper (120 grit works perfectly) and work your way round the room, top to bottom to smooth out any bumps. Brush off any loose dust afterwards.
    This sounds like a lot of work – and it is. It took me an entire morning to do one room. But if you’re painting rather than putting up wallpaper, it’s worth it to get the best, smoothest finish possible.
  • Wipe EVERYTHING down.
    Even if you’ve brushed down after sanding, we’d recommend hoovering any ledges that might gather dust before wiping down every single surface you’re going to paint. Dead simple – grab a damp microfibre cloth and work round the room to wipe down walls and woodwork to lift off any remaining dirt or dust.
  • Frogtape is your friend.
    People laugh at how much frogtape we’ve used in our place and how obsessed we are with it. But if you want crisp lines, and a less stressful painting experience, use it. Outline any of the areas you’re going to be painting but don’t expect it to be foolproof. It’s inevitable that in some places, the tape might lift up paint from elsewhere (e.g – ceilings) but you can just go round and touch these up after with a little brush. Better that than realising you’ve got a splodge of dark wall paint on your nice white ceilings…
  • Layer up paint correctly
    Probably a bit of a no-brainer for many, but for those of us with little to no prior knowledge of painting, listen up.
    Woodwork
    If you’re working with old woodwork which you’ve painstakingly stripped, sanded and wiped down, start off with an acrylic primer. This is a water based paint that helps seal the wood. As it’s water based, you’ll be able to wash & re-use your brush after.
    Once this has dried, follow up with 2 coats of a wood undercoat, sanding lightly between each coat (120 grit). This is oil based, so open all the windows because it STINKS. It also takes a while to dry – we leave about 4 days minimum in between each coat to avoid it going tacky.
    Finally, finish up with your top coat using either eggshell, gloss or satin. We’ve opted for eggshell as it has the least shine and still looks fairly modern.
    If you’ve put in new woodwork, check whether you’ve used wood that’s already primed. If you have, skip the first stage and go straight for the undercoat.

    For walls which have been plastered, once the plaster has fully dried whack on a coat of whitewash or buy some new plaster paint to seal the walls. This effectively draws out any remaining moisture so your paint won’t splinter. We use Wickes own new plaster paint and it does the job well. You only need one coat of this, which dries pretty quick, so then you can follow up with at least 2 coats of your chosen paint colour.

I know everyone will have different methods and if they work for you – stick with them. But in the course of our renovations so far, we’ve worked through 5 heat guns and more sandpaper than we care to acknowledge, and in the rooms where we put in that extra bit of prep work, the finish is far, far better. Luke worked for a little while as a painter-decorator so I’m always grateful that he has some knowledge on this!

Have any tips for us? Pop them in the comments below & let us know if this was useful!

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