How to Prepare a Surface for Painting

How to Prepare a Surface for Painting

Instead of painting a beautiful color on your walls that's doomed to peel or flake off and will require another coat (or two), always prime first. Any surface you paint should be primed, including walls, wood, concrete, or metal. The only time you may be able to skip priming is when you're painting over an already painted surface—that is, as long as the existing paint is in good condition and the new paint you're applying matches the base (oil or water) of the existing paint. If the existing paint is cracking, peeling, or chipped, or if you're applying oil-based paint over latex or vice versa, you must prime.

The tools you choose will depend on how much existing paint you need to rip off before applying new paint. So tools may range from a paint scraper to a wire brush to just a damp washcloth. Gauge the tools you need, and if at first you don't succeed, try something a little more heavy-duty.


• Paint scraper, wire brush, or damp washcloth

• Fine sandpaper


• Primer

1 If you are switching from an oil-based to a water-based paint (or vice versa) and the paint is intact on the surface, apply primer evenly and move on.

2 If the existing paint is flaking, it's time to get scraping. Scrape until paint stops coming off.

3 After scraping, you'll want to sand. This helps to get those last few chips of old paint off the surface and will also smooth imperfections.

4 Wipe the surface with a damp washcloth to remove sawdust, dust, spiderwebs, and everything else you prefer not to make a permanent part of the surface.

5 Finally, apply primer. Paint it on as you would a regular coat of paint, and let dry.

Pro tip: Tint the primer with a little bit of the final paint color.