Before starting any prep work be sure to read our health page including lead section, this type of work could cause lead exposure

 As you have probably heard before preparation is the key to a good job. In many cases the prep takes longer to do than the actual painting. If a room to that is to be repainted is in reasonably good shape you may be able to get by without an extensive prep. If the previous job was done well that is a big help.

First step: Get a good idea of what you are getting into look around the room for the obvious repairs: Water stains, large holes, cracks, and so forth. These are things that will absolutely need repair

2nd: Optional prep: take a close look. Does the old paint appear to be bonded well? If large areas are pealing from a prior coat of paint, you will probably have to totally remove the pealing layer of the pealing section to prevent this from continuing.
Is there much debris in the previous paint that should be sanded out, are there runs sags heavy brush marks that could require a lot of sanding to remove? Look at woodwork for chipped corners and dents, do you want to take the time to fill them? Are there lead hazards? These are things that could require a lot of extra work and create dust.

3rd General prep: Caulking joints filling nail & pinholes, sealing knots, washing surfaces, removing mildew, and dulling surfaces. These jobs are pretty much standard routine.

Getting Materials

Once you assessed your situation you can make a list of the materials you will be using. Having most of the materials on site before you start saves time from having to leave off to go to the hardware store.

Most Common Materials: 120 and 220 grit Sandpaper, latex caulk, spackling compound, masking tape, rags.

Other items to consider: Wood dough, joint compound, joint tape, stick on wall patch, disposable plastic drop cloths, masking paper, stain sealer, paint thinner, detergent, de-glosser, denatured alcohol tack cloth, paint strainers.

Tools: Drop cloths, step ladder paint brushes, buckets, roller covers, roller handles, roller pan, pan liners, extension poll, putty knife, dust brush, caulk gun, nail set, hammer, utility knife, wire to poke caulk tube, screw driver, sponge work light.

Other tools to consider: Joint knifes, poll sander

Personal Items: Goggles, work gloves, rubber gloves, hat, dust mask, respirator.

Beginning The Work

Clear out the room; move as much furniture as possible to another room. If large furniture is to difficult to move out, see it can be moved to the center of the room and covered with the plastic drop cloths. Take down pictures and curtains. Cover the floor with drop cloths.

Any washing you have decided can be done at this point.  See Washing Surfaces

Remove electrical wall plates (use caution), and cover outlets and switches with tape.

Next start the major wallboard repairs you will be doing: patch holes in wallboard, the larger repairs usually take several coats of joint compound, and you must allow dry time between each coat. Nail holes in wallboard can also be filled with joint compound.  See Interior Repaint 1

Scrape any areas of loose paint, sand debris from prior coats of paint. If the prior paint is in very good condition the fine 220 paper can be used, but most often a coarser paper is needed for this purpose.

Seal stains and knots. Oil based stain sealers will work on most stains but the alcohol-based sealer should be used on knots.

Glossy surfaces can now be dulled by sanding with 180 or 220 grit sandpaper See Dulling Surfaces

Fill holes in woodwork with spackling, wood dough, or other preferred wood filler using a putty knife. Nail holes in wallboard may be filled with spackling.

Caulk joints at door and window casings baseboards and other painted woodwork use an acrylic latex caulk. Caulking can often repair cracks at corners of walls and ceilings.

When the fillers (joint compound, spackling, wood dough) have dried sand any build up of filler flush with surface. Spot prime filled areas and bare wood with the sealer or other appropriate primer. Note if you will be priming an entire area spot priming is not necessary.

Surfaces Priming
Any patched or bare surfaces will need to be spot primed.
Now prime any areas such as the ceiling or walls that will get a full coat of primer. This step is optional and usually does not have to be done on previously painted surfaces ,but can often give the best results especially on discolored or splotchy ceilings.

Final Prep Steps

Check the primer to see if it needs any sanding to do before the first coat of finish paint is applied, hopefully there will be very little to do at this point. Check around the room for places that might have gotten missed during the prep stages. Seal any stains. If you decide to fill any holes, keep in mind that they should be spot primed before painting.

Clean the room. If you have not had allot of repairs to do, then you may be about ready to start painting .If you have created allot of dust try to eliminate the dust as much as possible. (See Dust section on our health page).

Dust A common method of clearing dust out cloth drop cloths has been to take them out and shake them. But you must know there are no lead paint issues and you feel you have an appropriate area to do so away from play areas, pet areas, and bird feeders ect. Other wise it is probably better to wash them. Plastic tarps can sometimes be swept with a broom. Disposable drop cloths can disposed of.


Make sure every thing is that could get spattered is covered.

Ceiling: Start by cutting in along the edges of the ceiling with the finish ceiling paint. Use a 2 inch or a 2.5 inch angular sash brush. Paint out a strip about 3 or 4 inches wide from the wall. Cut in the entire perimeter of the ceiling. All the way around the room. Also cut in around any lights or other fixtures that are installed on the ceiling. Paint any ceiling moldings that are to be painted in with ceiling paint. Next: Roll out the ceiling. We suggest using a 9 inch roller, an extension poll and a roller pan. Begin rolling at a corner. Roll a strip about 2 feet wide along the shorter dimension of the room .Roll along beside the wall. Over lap your cut in strip about an inch or more. Continue to the corner at the other side of the room, then paint another strip going back and overlapping the previously painted strip. Continue until the ceiling is complete.

See Interior Repaint 2 Bottom Picture

Allow the ceiling time to dry to see if it needs another coat. Often it will not look satisfactory until at least several hours of dry time. Work on something else for a while

If recoating, allow sufficient between recoats. Check can label for recoat time

Tip For ceiling divided into sections by beams or moldings, paint one complete section at a time

Tip Cutting in textured ceilings can be difficult. Allowing some of the ceiling paint to get on the wall while cutting in, and then cutting in with the wall paint after is easier. Or try masking tape on wall. Experiment with one wall and remove tape immediately

Trim: The wood work is often the most time consuming part of an interior paint job  It is usually easier as far as the "cutting in ", if the woodwork (except for baseboards) is painted before the walls are painted. This way it will usually be ok if you get narrow light strip of the trim paint on the walls as long as this paint will cover with the wall paint cutting in with wall paint

For windows: Removing the locks first will help. Paint the top window sash first, then the casing. Leave the window at least slightly open to dry for a few hours.

For doors: Remove or tape around the doorknob. Decide if you think it will be easier to paint the door or the casing first. You will have to be changing the position the door at least several times while painting.

Tip Keep a wedge-shaped doorstop handy to hold the door in a preferred position

Tip For fine finishes use a tack-cloth to remove any remaining dust just prior to painting.

See  Interior Repaint 3 Bottom two Pictures

Walls: After the trim has had adequate time to dry decide weather or not to recoat the trim. If not, it is time to paint the walls. Or paint the walls, recoat the trim and then recoat the walls.

Remove wall plates. Cut in an entire wall use a 2 inch or 2.5 inch angular sash brush. Paint a strip about 3 inches wide next to the ceiling, around door and window casings, at the wall corners ,and next to the baseboards. Then roll the wall .We suggest using a 9 inch roller, an extension poll and a roller pan. Start rolling at the top corner of one wall, overlapping your cut in paint as you go and work your way down so as to paint a vertical strip from top to bottom. Make the about 2 feet wide.. Then roll another 2 foot strip from top to bottom overlapping the first strip an inch or so. Continue until the wall is finished. Next cut in and roll the next wall .Continue until all walls in the room are completed.

Allow the walls adequate time to dry. Decide weather or not the walls need another coat. If so; recoat the walls next and paint the baseboards later.
If not ; move on to paint the baseboards next

See "Interior Repaint 3" link above

Baseboards: After the walls have had adequate time to dry you can begin the baseboards. You may be painting down next to a finished floor such as a linoleum or a carpet. You will have to cut in to the wall and the floor as you paint the baseboards. Using masking tape on the floor is often advantageous. A cut in shield can be used to cut in next to carpet. We have actually had good results using masking 1" tape on the carpet .

When using masking tape as a cut in guide do not put paint on thickly against the tape edge, as it may leak. Painters sometimes refer to this as dry brushing . Try a section, then pull off the tape to make sure you are getting no leaks. If you get leaks clean the wet paint immediately.

It may be safer to cut in to the floor as good as possible ,even when using masking tape, but if the paint is going on to thick it could still leak through the masking tape

Finish all base boards then carefully pull up masking tape. See Interior Repaint 4