How to Prepare a Room for Painting

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.



  1. How to Prepare a Room for Painting - Step 1

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

  2. How to Prepare a Room for Painting - Step 2

    Take off all light switch and plug outlet covers.

  3. How to Prepare a Room for Painting - Step 3

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

  4. How to Prepare a Room for Painting - Step 4

    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. How to Prepare a Room for Painting - Step 5

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

  6. How to Prepare a Room for Painting - Step 6

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

  7. How to Prepare a Room for Painting - Step 7

    Remove dust with a tack cloth.

  8. How to Prepare a Room for Painting - Step 8

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

  9. How to Prepare a Room for Painting - Step 9

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

  10. How to Prepare a Room for Painting - Step 10

    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. How to Prepare a Room for Painting - Step 11

    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.

Read Video Transcript

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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19 responses to “How to Prepare a Room for Painting”

  1. kenny says:

    this website is fucking shite its useless

  2. Carol says:

    I’ve been searching a video tutorial for room painting, then I found your blog, thank you for sharing, how much does it costs to buy that light equipment?

  3. Dmitri Kara says:

    I clever tip I’ve learned as a decorator is to use foil to cover handles or lamps. It is incredibly handy to protect something you can not relocate. Another helpful tip I could add is to microwave old tape. This way you could rejuvenate glue gone old. I would also recommend sanding between coats as well, of course, if you have the time to leave each one dry properly.

    Dmitri, from Fantastic Handyman painters and decorators team:

  4. sammy says:

    tx helpful

  5. DIYNewb says:

    Really helpful. Thank you very much!

  6. I appreciate your tips for getting a room ready for painting. Why it it smart to caulk any gaps between the wall and baseboards? Is that just so the paint doesn’t drip into the gap, or something else?

  7. Stan says:

    Nice tips as I will need to repaint the room soon to make my girlfriend happy 🙂

  8. Now those are some nice suggestions as we always try to improve the quality of our services. Thanks mate!

  9. Appreciate the tips really helpful 🙂

  10. Steven Desormier says:

    Awsome tips very helpful

  11. some great tips here, also learned a few tricks from the comments too thanks for sharing everyone

  12. James rudy says:

    very informative, been a wile forgot a lot brings back a lot of insite… THANKS

  13. Michele says:

    Thanks for the great tips. Question: If walls have a texture, would you still sand?

  14. Ivy Baker says:

    This is some really good information about the interior home painting. I liked that you pointing out that it would be smart to spackle nail holes before painting. That does seem like a good thing to be aware of when you need to paint your walls.

  15. Eric A says:

    I like how you added step 2, removing outlet covers. I don’t understand why painters or homeowners opt to paint around these instead of taking one minute to remove them.

  16. This is a great and useful article, those tips are really helpful.

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