This breaks down into two areas — preparing the room and preparing the surface. Preparing the room consists of ensuring a clean, dry dust-free environment, and protecting the furnishings from splashes of paint. Preparing the surface is what gives the finishing coats their smooth base.

preparing the surfaceStart by giving yourself room to work. Move all the furniture away from the area you are painting — and preferably right out of the room. Remove anything else which is likely to be in the way or might get splashed with paint — curtains if you are painting windows, for example. If you are painting the skirting boards then where at all possible roll the carpets back out of the way.

Cover the floor and other vulnerable furnishings with dust sheets. Spread them over a wide area — splashes can travel further than might be expected — and don’t leave gaps.

Once this has been done, you can prepare the surface to take the new paint. Start by un-screwing and removing all the fittings — doorhandles, catches etc. — that might be in the way: it isn’t easy to paint around them and it makes a neater job. Keep them safe together with the fixing screws.

What you need to do next depends on the surface. It may be very easy. Or it may be the hardest part of the whole job.

Painted surfaces

How much preparation these need depends on one thing — whether or not the old paint is in good condition.

If it is, you don’t need to do very much to provide a stable base for the new paint. The first thing is to wash it thoroughly to remove all traces of grease which will prevent the paint from sticking — this is essential even if it looks clean. Use a mild solution of deter-gent and a sponge or decorators’ sugar soap.

A shiny gloss surface doesn’t provide much for new paint to stick to — so to prevent the finish from lifting, ‘key’ the old paint by rubbing it with fine abrasive paper. You don’t have to rub very hard — it’s enough just to remove the shine.

fine grade glasspaperTIP: Fine grade glasspaper is suitable for this, but better results are obtained with fine wet and dry paper. Use this wet — it prevents the paint dust from clogging the surface of the paper. Rinse it from time to time in clean water and wipe the residue off the paint surface.

If there are any small blemishes in the paint, rub them down with medium, then fine glasspaper, back to a smooth surface — if necessary down to bare wood. Feather the edges of the sanded patch into the surround-ing area so you don’t get a visible line where it finishes. Prime any bare patches before you paint.

Fill any holes or cracks where necessary and sand them down flush with the surface of the surrounding paint.

One thing to watch out for — especially in older houses — is woodwork which has been stained and varnished. Even where old fashioned varnish is still in good condition, it is often very difficult to get the paint to take over it — no matter how well you clean and rub it down. The best solution is usually to strip it completely and treat as bare wood.

If the old paint is in bad condition —flaking, crazed or blistered, for example —over a large area there is no point in resorting to half measures. Strip it off completely to be sure of a good surface and a paint job that won’t develop faults after a month or two.

The next task is stripping paint.

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