If you’ve never painted your walls yourself before, you may think that all it takes is a brush and a can of paint. However, you don’t really want to go into these things without a plan. Today, we’re going to talk about the first step in that plan — prepping a room for painting.
Having the room or rooms ready for you to paint will make your job that much easier. So here are some of the things you’ll need to do before even seeing a can of paint.
The following step-by-step guide is really a mix of things I learned over the years I’ve been painting my own walls and some tips I found online. Without further ado, let’s get to it.
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1. Take Small Items to Another Room
You can start with the small stuff. The knick-knacks you keep on your tables, chairs, and other small decorative items can all go to another room for the duration of the paint job.
If you’re already pressed for space, you can also shuffle things around just to gain access to the walls. However, you can also just stuff everything in the middle of the room.
2. Move Big Pieces of Furniture to the Middle of the Room
If you have large pieces of furniture, you don’t want to have to move them out only to have to return them the next day. If you have tall bookshelves, wardrobes, or cabinets, you can slide them across the floor toward the middle of the room. Make sure to roll up your carpets first, if you have any.
I recommend having a helper slide a rag underneath it, then leaning it to the other side and sliding another rag there, too. If you have wooden floors, that will allow the heavy furniture to slide more easily. Moving the furniture to the middle of the room is going to help you get to the walls later.
If you don’t have a place to sleep, though, you can just take the mattress and put it on the floor in another room and leave the bed frame in the room.
3. Get Supplies
At this point, you can bring some of your supplies into the room. I went ahead and made a list of everything you’ll need to paint your walls from start to finish. So you can refer back to that if you need it — in fact, I’m sure I’ll use that list from time to time too. Hey, even I forget to buy things — that’s why having a list is important.
The complete list is much longer than what I’m about to present to you. Still, these are just the things you’ll need to prep the room for painting:
- Claw hammer or pliers
- Painter’s tape
- Canvas or plastic covers
- Old newspapers
Wondering what this assortment of tools is for? Allow me to explain.
4. Take Off Any Artwork
The first few items on the list above are for removing various things from your walls. If you have any paintings, prints, or posters on the walls, now would be the time to take them off.
Just make sure that you take all of the artwork somewhere safe. Don’t put it in a place that gets a lot of foot traffic and don’t put it in a moist place either. You can pretty much use your common sense with this one. And after you take the artwork off, you can use the claw hammer or the pliers to take the nails off the walls.
5. Remove Outlet Covers and Switch Plates
Now you’ll want to take off anything else that remains on the walls. These will mostly be outlet covers and light switch plates. However, if you have an air vent in the room, you can also take the grates off of that. Our goal is to have as much access to the wall as possible. Trust me — the bits of the old color peeking out from underneath the switch plate get incredibly annoying after a while.
If you have a screwdriver, now’s the time to get it. Personally, I like the ones with magnetic bits that hold onto the screws as you take them out. But really, you can use any old screwdriver — this isn’t rocket science.
When you take the covers and the plates off, I suggest putting each of them into a small lunch bag along with the screws that kept it attached. I also like to use a regular marker to label which cover came from which outlet, just because. And, before you put the covers into the bags, you can also clean them a bit. That way, they’ll be as good as new when you go to put them back.
6. Take Off the Lighting Fixtures
I usually take off my lighting fixtures after I’ve covered my furniture, mostly because I don’t want any dust raining down on it from above. However, you can also do it now, while you’ve got your screwdriver in hand. Just position your ladder underneath the lighting fixture and take a look. Many of the glass bowl types of fixtures don’t even require a screwdriver to take off, so you may be able to do this by just tugging the right thing.
When you come down from the ladder with your bowl, you should wash it and store it someplace safe. Usually, these things are full of tiny insects, so be careful when you’re carrying the lighting fixtures down. Empty the bugs out into the trash can and wash the bowl as you would wash your dishes.
Of course, this is applicable to just this one type of lighting fixture; others might entail a different approach. For example, if you don’t want to take off your lighting fixture or you don’t believe that you need to, you can also just cover it with plastic and tape.
7. Dust and Vacuum
Before you cover everything up, you should do a bit of cleaning. Get rid of any cobwebs you may have discovered when you moved all of your furniture. I also use this opportunity to get the dust off of my tallest wardrobe — I basically only clean it when I’m painting the room. Use a vacuum with a brush attachment on it to pick up everything that might have found its way to your floor.
8. Cover Everything
Now let’s put those drop covers and painter’s tape to good use. If all of your furniture is in the middle of the room, covering it will be easy. You can get a friend to help you — and if the mountain of furniture is too tall, you can use ladders or chairs to go above it. Once the cover is in place, you can tape it down with painter’s tape or improvise with belts or safety pins (if you have a canvas drop cloth). However, if you do end up using a canvas cover, you should also have some type of plastic underneath it, just in case the paint seeps through.
But your furniture island isn’t the only thing you’ll need to cover. You should also protect your windows by taping them. If you feel confident, you can just tape the edges closest to the walls you’ll be painting. However, you can also put old newspapers over the parts of the window you want to protect, and then use the painter’s tape.
Finally, you’ll need to cover the floor. I’d go for a sturdier plastic tarp here (in fact, thicker plastic is always better than the thin one since you’re able to reuse it). Just lay the cover on the floor and tape it down around the edges. You can either work in pieces or get a tarp large enough for the whole floor and tape all around it.
Additionally, if you have baseboards — those small wooden boards at the bottom of your walls — you can also protect those with tape. And you’ll want to put a piece of tape over the outlets and the light switches as well (unless you want to paint them). Basically, you don’t want to see anything except for the walls you’ll be painting.
9. Prepare the Walls
Now that you’ve cleared everything and covered it, you have to prepare the walls themselves. I do have another article that goes into this in much more detail. But for now, we can talk about the purpose of prepping your drywall. What do you even need to do to get your walls ready for paint?
Well, first, you need to get the walls as smooth as possible. That includes:
- Spackling over any holes in the walls, no matter what size. If you removed the nails from your walls, this would help you cover up the holes. Keep in mind that spackle takes a day to fully dry.
- Using 220-grit sandpaper or a sanding block to even out the surface of the wall. You will need protective gear for this. Also, the Internet is full of warnings about pre-1978 homes that have lead paint. So you can test for it before you start sanding.
- Wiping your walls with a damp sponge and a bit of dish soap. That will remove the dust and leave your walls ready for the next step.
The last step before you get to apply your new paint is really optional. However, if you want light paint to show up over dark or vibrant colors, you will need a great primer. I have several primer and paint recommendations in the article I’ve linked to, so I won’t bore you with the details here.
Room Prep for Paint Jobs: Final Thoughts
Once your walls have been primed, there’s nothing else to do but go in with your paint. Trust me, painting your walls yourself is much easier than it may seem. In fact, I find it pretty relaxing. However, if you want to feel more confident about it before you start, I recommend checking out my other guides.
That’s actually how I started to paint my own walls, too. The Internet is full of helpful resources if you know how to find them. Hopefully, these guides will be useful to someone else looking to get into home decor.