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Preparing to decorate: Getting surfaces ready for paint or paper


1st Jan 2015 Home & Garden

Preparing to decorate: Getting surfaces ready for paint or paper

Before you start any decorating job, make sure your surfaces—walls, ceilings and woodwork—are clean, prepared and ready to go. Follow these tips and you can't go wrong.

Wash with sugar soap

Clean dirt and grease off old paintwork by washing it thoroughly with sugar soap and water. The solution also takes the shine off gloss-painted surfaces, providing a good key for the new coat of paint. Rinse off the sugar soap with clean water and allow the paintwork to dry before repainting.


Dress for the job

Protect your eyes and skin from sugar soap by wearing safety spectacles and a long-sleeved top, with the cuffs tucked securely inside a pair of rubber gloves.

The eye protection is especially vital when washing a ceiling.


Score and soak

Wallpaper is easier to strip if you soften it first. Score it with a wallpaper perforator or stripping knife, then soak the surface with hot soapy water. Adding a small quantity of wallpaper paste to the water thickens it slightly, so that it doesn’t run down the wall quite so quickly.


Use a steam stripper

Make the task of removing old wallpaper easier and quicker by using a steam stripper. A lot of hot water is generated by the equipment, so wear rubber gloves over long sleeves and protect the floor well. If you intend to hire a steam stripper, it is probably worth reserving it—they’re always in demand.


Dust-free woodwork

After rubbing down woodwork with an abrasive paper to provide a key for new paint, wipe it with a clean rag dipped in white spirit to remove the dust.


Protect light fittings

Use plastic bags to guard ceiling lights and fans against paint drips. First, switch off MCB or remove fuse at the consumer unit, then unscrew the ceiling rose cover and slide it down the flex. Enclose the fitting in a bag, securing the neck of it around the flex with a freezer bag tie.

Make tubes from stiff paper to slip over wall lights, removing shades and bulbs Ïrst.


Bright idea for seeing clearly

If you are painting a poorly lit room, or have disconnected the lighting circuit for safety, consider hiring a portable work light. Plug it into a socket and angle the light so that it bounces off the ceiling—then your shadow won’t be cast on the wall you’re decorating. The powerful bulb will show up imperfections.


Painting over wallpaper

You can save time by painting over wallpaper that is well stuck down, although doing so will make it much more difficult to remove at some future date. Test paint a small area first; if the paper bubbles, over-painting is not an option.


Thin the first coat

Newly plastered walls must be allowed to dry out completely before painting.

They will be very absorbent, so thin the first coat of emulsion by adding an extra 20 per cent of water.


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