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Prep for Paint

When it comes to painting, we all want to jump in and see the new beautiful color on the walls. However, spending a few extra minutes on prep work will give you much better results and help you avoid problems along the way.

Protect the Room


Step 1

Cover furniture with drop cloths.

Move heavy furniture to the center of the room and cover with plastic drop cloths. Use canvas drop cloths on the floor since plastic can get slippery.

Step 2

Remove cover plates and protect with tape.

If you need to cover a ceiling light or fan, shut off the circuit breakers to the room and set up a work light. Remove cover plates from switches and outlets. Protect switches with tape. Tape the screws to the back of the plates so you don’t lose them.

Step 3

Loosen the cover plate and slide the fan down.

If you’re painting the ceiling, you’ll need to protect hanging fixtures like ceiling fans and pendant lights. For fans, remove the blades, loosen the cover plate and slide it down. Then wrap the fixture with plastic. Hanging pendant lights should have a cover plate that just slides down too.

You should also cover up recessed lights. First remove the bulb. Then pull the outer trim down just a little bit. Release the springs or wires holding the cover in place and cover with plastic and tape. Now you can paint the ceiling area covered by the trim.

Step 4

Cover door hardware.

Cover any door hardware with painter’s tape and/or plastic bags.

Repair the Walls

Remove Wallpaper

Step 1

Score the wallpaper.

Score the paper with a wallpaper scoring tool. Use a circular motion to perforate the paper.

Step 2

Spray with a wallpaper removal spray.

Spray the paper with a wallpaper removal spray. The paper needs to be wet. Follow the recommended wait time before scraping.

You can also use a wallpaper steamer to wet and soften the paper. Hold the steamer against the paper for a few seconds to soften it.

Step 3

Scrape with a removal tool.

Scrape off the paper with a putty knife.

Step 4

Thoroughly clean off any paste residue with warm water.

Scrape Off Flaking Paint

Step 1

Scrape off the flaking paint with a putty knife. Just remove the loose stuff.


Homes built before 1978 might have lead paint so it’s best to check with a test kit. Typically you break open the swab, rub against the paint, and check the reading. If your home tests positive, you might want to call a professional for removal.

Patch Small Holes

Step 1

Clean the hole with a dusting brush.

Clean the hole with a brush.

Step 2

Apply spackle with a putty knife.

Apply spackling product with a putty knife and smooth it out. Use wood filler for trimwork. Let it dry.

Step 3

Sand smooth.

Sand smooth. You can use a wet sponge to smooth some compounds - just check the directions.

Step 4

Apply primer to the repaired area.

Step 5

Use a patch kit for larger holes. For steps, watch our How to Repair Drywall video.


Step 1

Vacuum up dust on baseboards.

Vacuum dust on the baseboards and mouldings.

Step 2

Wipe the walls down with a damp rag. A quick once-over will do.

Step 3

Wash with TSP (trisodium phosphate) for a more thorough cleaning.

If your walls have oil or other residue on them, wash with TSP (trisodium phosphate) for a more thorough cleaning. Follow the manufacturer's instructions. Rinse with water and let dry.


Use primer when necessary.

Primer is not necessary for all paint jobs. It’s only needed in these cases:

  • bare drywall
  • stained or repaired areas
  • bare wood
  • high-gloss finishes
  • drastic color changes

Lowe’s carries many paint-and-primer-in-one products that can save time. Consult a store associate for your specific project needs.

Painting Over Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based paint can’t be painted over with latex paint. You’ll need to prepare the surface. 

You need to know which type of paint you have before you start your project. Watch our DIY Basics video: Do I Have Oil or Latex Paint?

Step 1

Check the surface for oil-based paint.

Check the surface for oil-based paint. Wet a cotton swab with alcohol and rub the surface. If the paint comes off, it’s latex. If not, it’s oil-based.

Step 2

Lightly sand the surface.

Lightly sand the surface. For sanding tips, watch our DIY Basics video: How Do I Use Sandpaper?

Step 3

Apply a bonding primer.

Apply a bonding primer.