Keep It Clean: Understanding Paint Surface Preparation in Professional Painting 1

Justin saw the problem right away. The new member of his paint team had done a great job on the entire room….except for a spot the size of a dinner plate that looked terrible.

“You didn’t clean the wall, did you?” he asked. The new member of the team looked dumbfounded. Justin continued, “That area on the wall was dirty before you started. And now the paint is different on that spot because you tried to paint over something that wasn’t supposed to be there. My guess is that it’s some old glue or grease that the builder didn’t see on the sheetrock.”

It didn’t matter to Justin or the client that the rest of the room looked great. That one spot was an eye-sore and would have to be addressed right away.

Cleaning and priming a surface is key

Cleaning and priming a surface is key to a lasting paint job.
Image courtesy of Victorian Antiquities.

One of the oft-overlooked aspects of professional painting is proper surface preparation. And by “oft-overlooked,” we mean to say that many professional painters ignore surface preparation all together. Too often, professional painters go through the trouble to make sure their paint is properly mixed, drop cloths are in place, and brushes are clean, but spend virtually no time at all preparing the surface they are about to paint. However, producing excellent work for clients is about more than just the paint you apply. Ensuring that the surface is properly prepared for painting is a vital step in producing paint work that not only looks great, but also holds up well over time.

A surface that is not prepared correctly for painting can create a number of problems like the one detailed above. In many cases, paint won’t stick to an unclean surface. In the event that the paint does stick to the dirty surface, it may be discolored or hazy upon drying. And if you do manage to paint over a dirty or greasy surface with no noticeable problems, the paint is unlikely to hold up well over time compared to how well it would hold up on a properly prepared surface.

Many surfaces can be cleaned prior to work with simple soap and water or non-toxic solvents. After cleaning accumulated dirt, scraping any loose paint, and sanding down imperfections in the surface you can be reasonably certain that prior issues with the surface have been addressed. Additionally, using a primer or pre-coating not only addresses any surface imperfections like cracks and divots, but also provides extra protection for the substrate over time. Even though many clients might not notice the difference between a coating that will last for 15 years versus one that lasts only 10, as a professional painter you should be providing the best work possible for the client, and that means painting only when you are sure the surface, primer, and coating are prepped for optimal results.

Pressure washing an outside surface

External surface preparation requires proper cleaning as well.
Image courtesy of

The reality is that no surface or substrate should be painted without careful inspection. Making sure the surface is clear of dirt, grease, and debris takes just a few moments. Making sure the surface texture is consistent and all cracks and crevices have been addressed is a small investment of time before you starting working that will pay dividends in the form of an excellent paint job for years in to the future. Click here to learn more about paint chemistry and proper adhesion!

One comment

  1. Pingback: 4 Concerns When Remodeling Vintage Homes with Original Lead-Based Paint - BYK - Protect Workers from Toxins

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