Preparing Walls for Decorating


Preparation is one stage of decorating where the rewards are not immediately evident. Although making a good surface can be time-consuming, laborious and messy, proper preparation is essential if you want a successful result.


Almost all decorating finishes require a surface that is clean, even and dry. The first step is to analyze the condition of the surface and assess how much work has to be done to bring it up to standard. In some cases, all that may be needed is to wash and degrease the area and then allow it to dry thoroughly. More often, though, there will be small holes or cracks to fill, existing finishes to be stripped, and some minor repair work. Occasionally, you will discover that what seemed to be a minor fault is in fact the outward manifestation of a major one requiring remedial action before you can continue to decorate.

Major Problems

Symptoms of major problems can include:

• patches of discoloured or mouldy plaster

• wide cracks in walls which continue to widen

• cracking, warped or crumbling woodwork

• excessive moisture

Whenever you suspect an underlying defect it is crucial that you treat the cause, not just the symptoms: simply ignoring the problem could, at worst, lead to the overall weakening of the entire fabric of your home.

Structural decay, as shown up by poor surfaces, has several causes, including dampness, structural instability, infestations of woodworm or beetle and fungal growths such as dry rot. One cause may lead to another: for example, dampness can create the conditions for dry rot to flourish. If you suspect any of these defects, call in an expert to treat the condition — or, if you are extremely lucky, to allay your suspicions.

Walls and Ceilings

Preparation can be dusty and messy, so you should protect furnishings and fittings as carefully as you would if you were already starting to decorate. Clear the room of furniture as far as possible. Remove lampshades, take down curtains and cover floors with dustsheets. Before you start to work, assemble all the tools and equipment you will need.


Painted walls and ceilings that are in good condition may just need to be cleaned before you begin decorating. First brush or vacuum off loose dirt and dust. Then, using a solution of warm water and detergent or sugar soap, wash all the surfaces with a clean rag or sponge.

Small cracks and holes can be filled with any number of fillers: some are ready-mixed, others come in powder form and must be mixed with water. Choose the filler that suits the surface and degree of damage.

Foam Fillers

Foam fillers expand and can be used for awkward gaps.

Filling Cracks

1. Rake out loose material and undercut edges.

2. Moisten surface. Press filler into crack. Level off proud of surface and sand.

Filling Holes

1. Prepare as for cracks, cutting round edge for a firm line. Cover with mesh tape, which will act as a backing.

2. Apply thin film of filler.

Filling Gaps

1. Gaps, such as those between skirting boards (baseboards) and floors can be filled using a bunched tissue or newspaper or a strip of expanded polystyrene.

2. Apply sealant to fill and seal the gap. Smooth with wetted fingertips.


Fitting a Ceiling Rose (Medallion)

To fix a polystyrene ceiling rose, apply adhesive to its back and simply press it into place. If you are using it in conjunction with a light, you can feed the cord down through a hole drilled in the middle. Fill any gaps around the edges.


Architectural Details

Cleaning decorative plasterwork is extremely time-consuming, but it may be the only way to restore its original beauty.

Test a small area by sponging with water. If the paint comes off, soak the plasterwork for 30 minutes and then scrape off the paint using small knives and brushes, working gently into cracks and crevices. If the paint is not soluble in water, try a chemical solvent or a hot-air stripper.

Where architectural detail is lacking, you can buy ready-made cornices (crown moldings), ceiling roses (medallions) and mouldings in fibrous plaster or polystyrene.



Do not paint polystyrene details with oil-based paint — this causes a fire hazard. Switch off electricity at the mains or fuse box before tampering with light fittings.




Emulsion (Latex)

If the paint is peeling, strip back to ensure a good working surface. Otherwise, clean with sugar soap and water before painting. New plaster should be primed.



If the paintwork is cracked, strip right back to ensure a good working surface. Otherwise, clean with sugar soap and water. New or exposed wood or metal should be primed.



Use a coarse cloth or a scourer and water to scrub the walls. If the layer of distemper is thick, dampen the wall and scrub off. Use stabilizing solution to cover any remaining areas.


Textured Paint

If you are planning to paint the surface, scrub lightly with a mild solution of sugar soap and water. Use a textured-paint stripper to remove it completely and safely.



Dampen the paper with water and use a scraper to strip. Roughen the surface of painted wallpaper with coarse sandpaper or serrated scraper. Washable papers should be stripped using a serrated scraper. Use a steam stripper for ‘difficult’ papers.

01. June 2011 by admin
Categories: Decorating | Tags: , | Comments Off on Preparing Walls for Decorating


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