What You Need To Know Before Preparing To Paint

Why Prepare?

Careful preparation is the key to a quality finish.
Careful preparation is the key to a quality finish.

Preparing to paint can be a daunting task, but the quality of your preparation is what determines the quality of finish. Here’s what to do.

As an apprentice, I wasn’t allowed to touch paint for my entire first year. My day started at 6am and consisted of puttying, sanding, dusting, and sweeping, then pack up and wash up brushes, only to start again the next day. After 6 months straight of basically eating dust for breakfast – and annoyed – I asked my employer why I haven’t been painting. 

Russell put down his pot and brush, and turned to me.

“Listen carefully, Chris, because what I’m about to is everything when it comes to painting. How good your finish is depends almost completely on the quality of your preparation. It doesn’t matter if you’re a complete beginner and a mediocre painter: a good preparation will give you a good finish. Painting well accounts for only 20% of the final result – 80% is in the quality of the preparation. If you learn to sand properly, dust well, putty completely and prime solidly, the finish coats will almost take care of themselves. Master the basics!”

I never complained again…

Prep Like Your Life Depends On It

For all the specific step-by-step details, see our series on preparation. 

Preparation includes anything that prepares a surface for a coat of paint or varnish. This can be dusting, sanding, puttying, filling, and the laying of tape or drop sheets. 

It’s essential, because the type of finish you end up with depends directly on the quality of your preparation. You can have the best paint, the most expensive brushes and the greatest equipment – if your prep is sub-par, your finished job will be unprofessional and sub-standard. 

Dust is the enemy of a good finish.
Dust is the enemy of a good finish.

The Importance of Undercoat

Undercoating well is arguably one the most important parts of preparing to paint – some would say THE most important – so let’s dive into it a bit.

Simply put, an UNDERCOAT is any coat of paint that isn’t the final coat (aka the TOPCOAT). This can include a ‘primer coat’, which is the first ‘undercoat’ to go on bare material. These coats are considered preparation.

Why is it important? Because the quality of the final coat depends on the quality of the under coats. Since topcoats are usually a glossy enamel (which don’t have coverage), if the undercoats are not full and solid, it will show through. 

So in short – spend lots of time and several coats getting some solid undercoats. And invest a little time in our article about undercoating for the details. 

Understand Where You’re Heading

Preparing to paint involves lots of tape.
Preparing to paint involves lots of tape

What is the intended end result? The type of preparation to paint which is necessary depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Make sure that you’re clear on whether you’re trying to paint an entire house interior, gloss the woodwork in a single bedroom, or varnish a staircase. It matters.

So tape. Dust. Sweep. Sand. Undercoat. 

It’s tedious, but you’ll be glad you took the time to do it right. 

Happy painting. 

PaintSpace Admin

Christos is a fully-qualified Painter and Decorator with a Certificate III in Building and Construction. He has been working in the industry since 2004. Having studied Health Science at Torrens University in Melbourne, Christos is passionate about the cutting edge between health and painting.

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