A checklist for perfect prep


2098-36D_PLATINUM_conform1_SR.tifJust like packing for a vacation is a drag or rototilling a garden is a pain, prepping for a paint job isn’t fun. But in a business where time means money, every pro painter knows that prepping done correctly can mean the difference between a job done right and a job done over.

Products or techniques that reduce labor and increase efficiency help painters get to the main event faster. And they’ll help reduce overall job cost, too. Here are a few prep tips to make the process both more thorough and efficient. Knowing them can be especially helpful to a pro painter if his newest and least-skilled crew members are tagged with prepping a job.


Don’t rush. Before getting started (before even bidding the job), check all surfaces for defects that will require extra prep work. If you don’t catch them now, they’ll show up later, and they’ll be a costly find.

Check for job-site hazards. If the site was built before 1978, be sure to check for lead. Since early 2010, contractors performing renovation, repair and painting (RRP) projects that disturb lead-based paint require certification and must follow lead-safe work practices.

Prepare your own safety gear. After understanding the scope of the job, prepping yourself is an important part of the process.

Protect the floor in the pathway you’ll be using to and from the job site with red rosin paper. If the pathway is carpeted, tape down the edges with masking tape. If the pathway has wood flooring, don’t use masking tape; instead, run the rosin paper up the trim/baseboard a little bit and apply the masking tape to the trim/baseboard.

Cover the floor and furniture with drop cloths (ask your customer to move everything to the center of the room), and secure the edges with a masking tape that’s safe for that surface.

Remove all light switch wall plates and all electrical outlet plates.

Patch and prep any surface imperfections. Use abrasives to smooth the surface, but wait until the patching material is dry.

Wash the walls and trim using lukewarm water and TSP (trisodium phosphate) or any product recommended for cleaning walls prior to painting. Rinse with a slightly damp sponge.  Make sure you let the surfaces dry.

Use masking film to cover windows, countertops, doors and cabinets.

Apply paintable caulk around any trim to cover cracks. Check the label to see how long the caulk needs to dry before taping or painting.

Use painter’s tape on all surfaces you need to keep clean. Not all tapes provide the same adhesion and performance levels. Understand the surface and the length of time the tape needs to be on that surface to help you choose the right tape for the job.

For more prep tips, read the feature article in the June/July issue of inPAINT magazine:


Article provided by a collaboration of the Technical Services team in 3M’s Construction & Home Improvement Markets Division. Michelle Rookey, Technical Service Manager,

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