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When it comes to home improvement, a fresh coat of paint does wonders for the interior of a house. Because it is cost efficient and relatively simple to do, home owners will readily take on the task of painting their own home. But often they do not possess the tricks of the trade to make for an outstanding paint job. That includes one of the most important stages of the process, prepping the walls before the paint even leaves the can. As painting contractor Mike Dingfelder says, "Ninety-five percent of the job is prep. The other five percent is putting the paint on."
First, the walls and trim must be cleaned of dirt, dust, and mildew. A sponge and soapy water will take care of the first two, but mildew has to be washed away with a mixture of bleach and water. If the mildew is not removed, it will grow right through the new coat of paint.
Next, after all the plate covers have been removed, the walls and trim should be closely inspected for holes and gaps. Small holes in the drywall can be repaired by applying a paste such as spackle with a putty knife. Larger holes may require several layers of filler or an inexpensive patching kit available at any hardware. Once the paste dries it needs to be sanded. Gaps between the drywall, molding, and windows, can be filled with caulk. The caulk should be applied in a bead wide enough to fill the space and then smoothed with a fingertip. It's good to keep a wet rag handy to wipe excess caulk off fingers.
If the existing paint on the walls is uneven, gritty, or speckled, the walls must be sanded. This can be done by hand or with a sanding wand, a cheap tool available at any hardware. In either case, the best sandpaper for the job is 100-grit. Though sanding sounds tedious and time consuming, it takes just a few minutes and will even out many of the imperfections in the walls. If, however, the walls and trim are in poor shape, with paint peeling, they will obviously require much more strenuous sanding.
The final step is to decide if the walls and trim require a primer. Any trim in which paint has peeled badly will need a coat of primer. If the existing paint is oil-based and will be covered with a latex paint, a latex primer must be used. Walls or trim that will be painted in a lighter color than the existing paint, or walls that are heavily stained must be primed. For small stains or discoloration in the walls, primer comes in a convenient spray can.
Though prepping adds a layer of work to the task of painting a house, the results can be dramatic. Just a little extra effort could mean the difference between a shoddy job and a terrific one.