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Prepping Walls for Paint

Properly preparing your walls will help you avoid a lot of paint problems in the future. Save yourself from bubbling, flaking and chipping. Take the necessary steps below to get a smooth surface ready for your new decor.

Remove Electrical Plates, Switches and Other Fixtures

Head to your electrical panel and shut off the circuit breakers to the rooms you'll be painting. Once the power is off, remove the outlet plates and switch covers. Also remove any wall-mounted light fixtures. If you're painting your ceiling, take down any ceiling fans, pendant lights or medallions. Once all light fixture wires are wrapped for safety, you can turn the breakers back on.

Scrape Old Wallpaper or Paint

Wallpaper. It's best not to paint over wallpaper. New wallpaper is easy to peel off a wall. Pick a corner of wallpaper and start pulling. Use a putty knife to help loosen the paper as you peel. It's also a good idea to use a wetting agent to help detach wallpaper and its glue. A wetting agent can be water, a water and vinegar solution or a steamer. Apply the agent with a sponge, roller or spray. Be sure you remove the wallpaper before the agent dries.

Some wallpaper, such as vinyl, doesn't respond well to wetting agents. Sand the wallpaper with fine grit sandpaper to remove the water-resistant coating. You can also use a perforator or utility knife to cut small, shallow slits in the paper, which will help wetting agents get to the glue faster.

After the paper and glue is removed with a wide blade putty knife (or something similar), wash the walls with a cleanser and let it dry for at least a day before continuing your preparation.

Old Paint. If your walls have old paint that is chipped or peeling, you'll want to scrape it off before you add a new coat. A broad putty knife will work best. Be careful when scraping that you don't dig into the wall's surface. For areas that are lightly cracked, a wire brush can be used. Ask a Lowe's associate for the best tool for your paint problem.

If you're also removing paint from trim, you might need to use a paint-stripping agent. Follow the manufacturer's instruction for this project.

Repair Dinged and Dented Walls

After your walls are clear of old paint or wallpaper, you might find blemishes that need repair. Small nail holes or cracks can be easily fixed with joint compound. Larger holes require you to patch the wall. Read up on wall repair in Lowe's How-To section.


You'll want the smoothest surface possible before you paint. Sand trouble spots with fine grit sandpaper. Sand stubborn patches of wallpaper adhesive or areas where cracked paint was scraped. If repairs were made, you'll need to sand the joint compound after it is completely dried.

Sanding also helps remove gloss from areas. By removing high-gloss and semi-gloss, you prep a surface to better take new coats of paint.


Clean walls with tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) and water solution. Apply this solution with a sponge or roller. Wear safety glasses and rubber gloves during this process. Rinse the walls with water after scrubbing with TSP. Allow the surfaces to dry thoroughly before applying paint.

Note: If you can take the odor, you can use ammonia instead of TSP.

Apply Primer

It's recommended to apply primer to the entire surface before painting. Primer helps retain your color choice. It can also solve a lot of unforeseeable problems left behind by the house's former owners, like painting over enameled surfaces without sanding first. A primer can help the new paint adhere to the surface better.

To apply primer, use the same steps as if you were painting. Remember to tape off trim, woodwork and any other area you don't want to paint.

If you decided to skip an entire surface primer, you'll still need to spot prime. Apply primer to any joint compound you may have added or areas where you scraped old paint.

Now you're ready to start painting.

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