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To get the best results when painting, you need to spend time before you start properly prepping the room and the walls. It makes all the difference, and with this tutorial video, you can have professional-looking results and the pride of knowing you did it yourself.

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The key to a successful paint project is making sure you prepare the walls before the paint goes on. It’s the most important step to a smooth and durable finish.

In this video I’m going to show you how to prepare your interior walls for great results. First, we’ll mask off the floor and trim. I’ll show you how to properly clean the surface. Then we’ll take some time to caulk and fill nail holes. So let’s get started.

To protect the floor, we’ll start by spreading a large canvas drop cloth over the floor. Make sure the edge is tucked up to the baseboard as tight as possible. Use a separate drop cloth under paint cans, paint trays and things like ladders and lights.

If the space isn’t well lit you may want to bring in additional lighting, such as this halogen work light. A well lit room will help you see the work area much better.

Next, take off any outlet or light switch covers and place them somewhere out of the way.

Now we’re ready to mix up our cleaning solution to wash the walls. I use a mixture of water and tri-sodium phosphate (TSP), which is good at removing surface dirt and grime.

The trick here is not to get the wall too wet, so wring out your sponge thoroughly before washing the wall. And be careful not to let any water drip into electrical outlets or wall switches. Have a rag handy to wipe away drips. Then repeat the process using clean water.

When the wall is completely dry, it’s time to remove any nails and fill any nail holes or blemishes with spackling or drywall joint compound. When the spackling is dry, sand your repairs. You might have to repeat this process a couple of times. To learn how to repair holes in drywall, see our video Repairing Drywall for more information.

Now it’s time to give the entire wall a light sanding. This step ensures a smooth finish, and is usually the what separates an average looking paint job from a professional looking finish. Remove the dust with a tack cloth.

Next we’ll caulk any gaps between the wall and trim, such as around baseboards and door and winding casings with an acrylic latex painter’s caulk. To smooth it out, lightly run your finger along the bead and wipe away any excess.

You can also use a damp towel wrapped around your 5-in-1 tool to remove excess caulk in tight places.

For tips on proper caulking techniques, see our list of Frequently Asked Questions related to this video.

Next, comes masking. How much you mask will largely depend on how steady you can cut in straight edges with your brush. You should always mask any horizontal areas that could catch falling paint drips or roller spatter, like the top of baseboard and window and door casing.

For vertical areas, however, you can either choose to mask or to go without masking. To learn the proper technique on cutting in trim, be sure to watch our video, Interior Wall Painting Basics.

The key to masking in a straight line is to work with small runs of tape, no longer than 18-inches or so. Start at the corners and work your way across.

We’re almost there. Now it’s time to spot prime any areas where you repaired hole in the wall or any heavily stained or trouble areas. It’s always a good idea to tint your primer to the final color of your paint.

That should just about do it. Now it’s time to prime and paint. Just remember, the time you spend preparing the room is some of the best time you can spend to ensure a smooth finish in the end. If you have questions about this or any other home improvement project, be sure to read our list of Frequently Asked Questions for this video. And be sure to print out our Project Instructions, which includes a Tools and Materials checklist, before visiting your local independent home improvement retailer. That’s where you’ll find all the products and helpful advice to complete your project. If you’re not sure where to find your local store, check out our Store Locator. Good luck with your project and thanks for watching.

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  1. 1.spread canvas on floor

    Spread a large drop cloth along the floor to protect it.

  2. 2.take off wall coverings

    Take off all light switch and plug outlet covers.

  3. 3.mix cleaning solution

    Prepare a wall cleaning solution with water and a little bit of trisodium phosphate (TSP). Dip a sponge into the solution.

  4. 4.wipe walls with sponge

    Wring the sponge out well and gently wipe the walls. Have a rag ready to catch drips and excess water. Repeat process with clean water.

  5. 5.remove nails and cover holes

    Remove nails and cover nail holes with spackling or drywall joint compound.

  6. 6.sand wall

    Give the entire wall a light sanding. This ensures a smooth surface.

  7. 7.remove dust

    Remove dust with a tack cloth.

  8. 8.caulk gaps

    Caulk any gaps between the wall and baseboards or window and door casings. Use an acrylic latex painter’s caulk.

  9. 9.smooth out caulk

    Wipe finger along the caulk to smooth it out. Use a painter's tool and rag for tight places.

  10. 10.mask area

    Mask along the horizontal areas of all wall surfaces, especially along baseboards and window and door casings. Sides are optional depending on skill level.

  11. problem areas

    Spot prime in trouble areas, such as heavy stains or repaired holes. It’s best if the prime color is the same or similar in color to your paint.


Project Faqs « back to project

I’m going to be painting a table that has a gloss finish. Do I need to prepare the surface?

You should use a liquid deglosser, which works without sanding and also produces a slight tack for better adhesion of the new... More »

How much glaze will I need for an average room?

It depends, but generally one quart of tinted paint to six quarts of glaze is common. When using acrylic glaze, the ratio increases to one quart of... More »

Do I need to prime my ceiling before painting it?

While it’s always a good idea to prime before painting, unless you ceiling has stains, you probably don’t need to because it doesn’t take the... More »

Should my door swing into or out of the room?

Generally, exterior doors should swing into the building, while interior doors should swing into the room. Doors that swing out into traffic areas... More »


What type of caulk should I use on trim before painting?

Use siliconized acrylic latex caulk. It tends to be more flexible and has better adhesion. This will prevent cracks later... More »


Where do I start when painting an interior wall?

Use an angled brush to trim the perimeter of the room and around door and window... More »

The inside of my grill needs painting. What type of paint should I use?

If you need to touch up the paint on the non-porcelain surfaces of your grill, such as the endcaps or the cook box, use a high heat-resistant... More »

Can I avoid scraping the peeling paint off the exterior of my home by using a pressure washer before painting?

It is not advisable. Pressure washers should only be used for removing dirt, mildew and algae that can lead to premature paint failure. Flaking... More »

How do I caulk baseboard and trim around window and doors before painting?

First, cut a small hole 1/8th of an inch from the tip of the spout at an angle. Don’t cut off too much of the tip. Then, most caulk guns come with... More »

I have roaches in a basement room. What do you recommend?

There are both room foggers and roach... More »

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