The Ultimate Guide to Preparing Surfaces for Decoration

While everyone knows that surfaces need prepping before you begin work on applying the final colour and coat, it’s sometimes not given the full time and attention it deserves. However, the correct preparation can make the difference - not only to the final finish but how smoothly the job goes.

Read our guide on how to prepare a surface for decoration:

 

  • Masking correctly

Painters use masking tape all the time, to create clean lines and stop the paint from leaking onto unwanted areas. However, this is one of those easy jobs that is also easy to not do properly! If you just set the tape lightly, it will let the paint in, and you will ruin your wall - it may be easier to remove, but it won’t do its job. As a pro tip, always use low adhesive tape because it will be easier to take from the wall when the job is done and won’t risk removing any surfaces underneath. 

 

  • Preparing brickwork

Painting brickworks has two positive effects on the surface. It has a decorative impact and a physical impact as a good covering will make the surface waterproof. 

The first step towards preparing brickwork for decoration is brushing the masonry clean to ensure paint goes on evenly and no residues or dirt elements get caught up. A wire or good stiff brush should be all you need to clean this up. If outside, you may want to pressure wash the lower bricks closest to the ground if you can. You can also use a brick cleaning acid if the situation requires it, which is friendly to the surface of bricks. 

If all the surfaces are clean, then proceed to check the brick thoroughly for holes. If you have any gaps, fill them in with some quick cement so you will not have some glaring holes. The final process is to stabilise the surface by using a primer binder before painting.

 

  • How to prepare walls and ceilings

It sounds obvious, but if you can fully clear the room of any furniture that may sustain paint, this is your best option! Alternatively, cover the surfaces with dust sheets, but make sure they are covered and won’t lift off with any air coming in from doors or open windows. Once everything has been removed or covered, you can prep the walls. As before, the first thing is to brush around the walls to remove any loose residue or cobwebs. You can then proceed to wash the wall or ceiling with a soap and sugar solution. The purpose of this mixture is to remove any grease or dust from the surface.

Once the wall is clean, it is worth checking for any cracks or holes in the plaster, as these will of course impact the quality of the finish. 

 

  • Preparing wood surfaces for painting

Possibly more than any other surface, wood is one where you really do need to prepare properly. When looking at wooden areas, you need to ensure that it is clean, even, smooth and also primed to receive the pain and give the best finish. 

If you need to remove paint from the original finish, then it can depend on the physical access you have to the area - whether you want to use a paint stripper, a blow torch, a scraper etc. You need to be very careful on this so that you don’t get over-enthusiastic on the scraping and accidentally remove a chunk of wood!

Once you have removed the paint you can fill in any little holes with wood filler (either colour specific or white as you will be painting over it). You will then want to sand down the area to ensure it is smooth and even for priming. 

It’s always worth using an undercoat when working with wood. It will provide a uniform and even surface for the paint to adhere to and therefore will help the final finish no end.


Here are additional preparation tips for wooden surfaces:

  • When sanding. use aluminium oxide sandpapers or silicon carbide- these can be a little more expensive, but do a far better job than other types. They also have a longer lifespan and are smoother on the surface.
  • For different contours, wrap the sandpaper around a firm sponge. Timber is not always straight or even. It may have a skirting surface and, as such, will require the sandpaper to get deeper into these contours.
  • Always remember to wear your mask correctly before sanding any surface. While most woods you will encounter won’t give problems, some species can be nasty to inhale and it’s worth taking precautions.

 

All the tools you will need!

  • Steam stripper- If the surface was previously papered by wallpaper, use this tool to strip. It has a water reservoir and hose that allows you to steam the surface which loosens and helps the wallpaper peel. Be careful to not get scolded when using it and ensure that you leave it on each area long enough to remove the top of the wallpaper and any lining paper underneath.
  • A wire brush - used to remove any flaking or loose material from the surface you want to paint.
  • Scrapers- these are also known as stripping knives. They are characterized by a sprung blade that is flat. They are mainly used for stripping wallpapers and removing softened paint from surfaces before painting takes place. View the Hamilton Paint Scrapers options.
  • Hot air guns / blow-torches - used to soften the paint right before the stripping takes place.
  • Safety goggles and dust masks - these are essential tools for the job. That is because each year, many painters and decorators sustain injuries from dust or rust particles. Therefore, it is essential to protect yourself while on the job.

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