Repairing and Priming Indoor Surfaces

Some parts of a house need a little work before you can apply finish to them. Sometimes things need to be fixed. Taking care of irregularities before painting increases the chance that your work will endure. Complete the necessary fixes and priming according to the key points that follow.

Take a Good Look at Vertical Surfaces and Ceilings

Before starting to paint, notice places where the old finish is soiled, broken, or peeling.

Stains May Signal Water Problems

Dampness can leave a distinct impression on a wall, and it’s one you shouldn’t ignore. A wet surface, or one marked by mold or rust, may be the first clue that air in the room isn’t circulating enough, or that water is coming in from a bathroom above, perhaps due to faulty pipes. Water damage should bring out the Sherlock Holmes in every homeowner. The goal: Trace it to its root cause, and resolve the problem. If it remains unresolved, the next coat of paint will suffer just as much as the last, if not more so.

Fungus has to be washed away, and the area it occupied must then be covered with primer designed to eradicate stains. Only when you know what produced those stains, and have ensured that the problem won’t recur, should you conceal the damage.

How to Deal with Tough Stains

Not all stains are created equal. Cigarette smoke is especially hard to remove from walls, as are cosmetic products and markers. If one of these substances has tarnished the paint, your initial task is to take as much of it off as possible. Unfortunately, flat paint sucks these materials up like a sponge; your efforts may therefore be in vain. Plan B: multiple layers of stain-fighting primer. If you don’t take this step, the marks on your wall will be visible through the new finish.

Taking on Paint that Peels

Deal cautiously with peeling paint in houses constructed prior to 1978. It may be lead paint, which obligates you to use certain safety methods as you scrape and sand. Lead paint dust can be a serious health hazard, and lead paint chips, which are just as dangerous, can be tempting for children and pets to eat.

Once you’ve eliminated the peeling paint, use a few layers of drywall compound to make the walls even. Rough spots can be worked over with a sanding block. Remove as much dust as you can using a vacuum, then run a wet rag over the surfaces to pick up any particles that remain. Finally, apply primer on top of the drywall compound. While you’d think painting over an imperfection in a wall would hide it, the opposite is usually true: It stands out even more.

Take Care of Gaps in the Surface

Spackle or drywall compound can fill a break in the drywall, provided it isn’t very large. If it is, a drywall patch is a better option. Gaps in corners, on the other hand, can be eliminated with caulk. Just make sure to buy the kind you can paint on.

Breaks Between Baseboards and Casings

These openings are easy for various insects, including roaches and ants, to travel through. They also detract from the beauty of an interior space. As with corner gaps, caulk you can brush into nooks and crannies is the best solution.

If You’ve Fixed Something, Apply Primer

After taking care of irregularities in the walls, it’s vital to prime the spots in question. If you had to take out bad trim, put primer on the wood that ends up in its place.

After you’ve made your fixes and finished priming, it’s finally time to paint. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of using well-made products throughout the process. Try not to cut corners due to cost, and don’t rush through the preparation phase. Less inexpensive tools, primers, and paints may cost you more than pricier ones over time, and hurrying may lead to time-consuming repairs. A project done well is really its own reward; you’ll be reminded of that every time you enter the room.

  • Pamela Jones

    Have a garage that is dry walled & taped. Is it better to use a paint/ primer mix or separate the 2?

    • LBC_Amigo

      Probably already did the job but I would only suggest using topcoat (paint & primer at the big box stores) on a clean (or heavily cleaned) surface that you still sanded and is away from grease or humidity or soap scum deposits. Other than that it is best to consider it a topcoat that goes on after the appropriate primer. Your best bet is either one coat of quality drywall primer or two coats of regular primer (one regular will do but two is better).

      Hope it goes/went well.