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Painting Preparation and Cleanup Tips

By Jim Sulski

Summary: Painting projects go much more smoothly when you prepare for them. Follow these preperation and clean-up tips to minimize painting problems.

What's the best advice for an interior painting job? Prepare for it.
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Good preparation can be the difference between decent and great results. In fact, the preparation process alone can be longer than the actual painting job itself.

Start your preparation several days before you start painting, making sure that you have enough paint and all the necessary tools.

After you've decided what type of paint (flat, semi-gloss, etc.) you'd like to use, determine how much you'll need.

Most interior paints will list the square footage they cover on the can. Usually it's in the range of 300 to 450 square feet, depending on the type of paint.

To determine how much paint you'll need, determine the square footage of the room. For example, a room 10 by 12 feet with an eight foot high ceiling will need 352 square feet of paint to amply cover the walls (8 x 10 x 2 + 8 x 12 x 2 = 352).

Don't worry about subtracting doors and windows unless you have an entire wall of windows or something.

Painting the ceiling will require an additional 120 square feet of paint (10 x 12 = 120).

Just as important as the paint are the painting tools. Here's what recommended for a one-room paint job:

A three- or four-inch brush for larger trim areas, such as corners; and a two-inch brush for tight trim areas, such as next to window trim. What's recommended is good quality nylon or polyester bristle brushes.

A good quality roller with a synthetic nap. If you're using a flat wall paint over a smooth wall, a 3/8-inch roller is recommended. Glossier paints require a 1/4-inch nap. A stucco wall may require a 1/2-inch roller.

Some ancillary tools you can purchase is a bucket insert, which goes on top of the paint can and prevents the paint from collecting in the chime (the lid groove) on the can when you wipe the brush. The inserts sell for about $2.

If you're a sloppy, impatient painter, buy plastic paint shields and/or masking tape to protect trim and glass.

Drop cloths are also a good investment to protect carpets and furniture.


If your walls require repair, and most do, try to schedule that process during daylight hours at least several days before you paint.

Remove everything off and away from the walls and look for cracks, chips and stains.

Cracks and chips should be filled with a spackling compound, allowed to dry for a day, and then painted with a primer.

Wooden trim that will be painted should also be inspected for flaws and repaired with a wood putty.

High- or semi-gloss painted surfaces should also be sanded or covered with primer so that the new paint adheres correctly.

Stains may also have to be covered with primer.


At least 12 hours or so before painting, remove furniture from the room, do so. Furniture that's too large or heavy to be moved should be covered with drop cloths.

It's also the time to clean off the walls and ceilings to be painted.

Use a mild detergent and warm water and wipe down the walls and ceiling with a sponge. Pay close attention to corners in and out of the room and light switches.

If you have a stucco finish, vacuum clean the walls and ceilings.

Then, mask off the trim and glass.


If you're painting the wood trim, remove all window and door locks, hooks and hardware.

If you don't have a paint can insert, you can drill or punch a few holes in the chime of the can so that paint that is wiped off the brush goes back into the can.

Pre-wet the brushes and rollers with tap water to prevent them from absorbing the initial water out of paint. Shake them to get rid of the excess water.

Also, another trick is to line the roller pan with aluminum foil to make it easier to clean.


As soon as you're through painting, remove the excess paint from brushes and rollers by simply painting a piece of cardboard or paper. Or, take a piece of newspaper, wrap it around the brush, and squeeze the paint out.

Then, wash the brushes out with warm water and dish soap. Rinse the brush thoroughly so that it looks like new.

Hang the brushes up to dry and later smooth out the bristles on the brush so it retains its chiseled shape. Store the brush in its original wrapper or a piece of newspaper and a rubber band to help keep its shape in storage.

If you plan on continuing your painting job the next day, place the brushes and rollers in zip lock bags or cover them completely with aluminum foil.

© June 25, 2005.

NOTE: This column is distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, Illinois, 60022. This column may not be resold, reprinted, resyndicated or redistributed without written permission from the publisher. 

2005 by Ilyce R. Glink. Distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate.




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