How To: Surface Prep

Every once in a while we will share some of our knowledge and standards with you on our blog. 🙂 You’re in luck, today is that day.

I want to share the importance of prep before any job. We deliver excellent quality finishes in a range of mediums – concrete, glazes, paints, plasters, and more. One of the biggest factors to the success of our finishes, no matter the medium, is the surface prep before the finish is applied. Without proper cleaning and prepping the integrity of the finished product is compromised.

If you’re like me, (before my apprenticeship with Nancy) you dread cleaning. Most people avoid it and just go straight to the desired finish. Once I began working with Nancy I learned very quickly the importance of a clean substrate. For the amount of time it takes to paint an entire room and the hassle of moving all the furniture away from the walls, taking down the artwork, patching the holes – wouldn’t you rather have the paint adhere well and not flake, chip or crack once finished? It’s worth the extra 10-20 minutes (per average wall) to give it the “once over” with a clean sweep.

Since every surface requires different prep steps, I’ll try to cover just the basics – quickly. Of course, we are happy to give you more detailed instruction. Each class we offer at Artworks Spokane ALWAYS covers surface prep. There is not a finish out there that doesn’t require some form of prep.

A few of the staples for prepping most jobs: bucket, rags, shop towels, sandling blocks, sponges.

Just a few of the items we use on a regular basis – with almost EVERY finish: a bucket, Krud Kutter, sponges, sanding blocks, terry rags, and shop towels.

Walls: Of course the obvious is to remove everything from the wall: shelves, artwork, photos, switch plate covers, outlet covers, etc. Always give your walls a washing. We use a solution of Krud Kutter or TSP diluted with LOTS of water. Perhaps a better way to say that would be “water with a little Krud Kutter or TSP added”. The more of those products you put in the water the more likely you are to have to rinse your walls afterward. We use terry rags for this step. When the walls are washed fill the holes your “stuff” created. Sand and spray matching texture if necessary. NOW you’re ready to paint or glaze.

Furniture/Cabinets: This prep step is a little more in depth… but furniture and cabinets see a lot more action than walls! So, if you want a durable finish that will handle the “troops” we highly recommend these steps:

  1. Wipe down with mineral spirits to remove grease and dirt.
  2. Wipe down with Krud Kutter or Simple Green to continue to remove grease and dirt.
  3. Rinse with a 50/50 vinegar/water mixture to remove soap residues.

This process will ensure optimal adhesion and ultimately a longer finish life for your piece. Time spent on the front end will mean less touch up later! In some cases we also recommend a light sanding to dull the surface further, giving the paint or stain more “tooth” to grab on to.

Cleaning solvents used to determine existing finish and dull the surface of most cabinets and furniture.

These products are specifically used to clean furniture and cabinetry. They also come in handy in determining what the existing finish is.

tape and plastic protect the portions of this table that are not to be changed.

While taping takes time up front, it ensures your piece gets the finish WHERE you want it! It also saves time in the back end cleaning up spills and splatters. When you’ve taped a piece well you can generally work faster during the process because you’re not worried about getting paint or stain where it shouldn’t be!

Floors: Mainly there are two types of floors we deal with that require “prep”: concrete and wood. The finish you want will determine your prep. If you are going over concrete with a decorative concrete overlay you may need to grind the surface to ensure proper adhesion of the new product. SkimStone makes a bonding primer that allows us to put decorative concrete directly over sealed concrete, tile, and a myriad of other surfaces. Even before we use the bonding primer we must clean the surface! We will often use the watered down solution of Krud Kutter and water or a cement cleaner. If acid staining is the end result we need to wash the concrete with a myriatic acid solution to open the pores of the concrete – but that’s getting in to actual “finish” steps. If you are removing tile or carpet and padding sometimes the concrete will need to be ground in order to level it and make it ready to accept another layer of concrete. Wood floors simply need to be mopped and sanded well. Before we stain – there are more steps required to ready the surface.

basket of supplies - tape, sanding blocks, sponges.

Don’t forget to tape. It saves a lot of time in the end!

That’s it in a nutshell. I wanted it to be a smaller nutshell, but prep is IMPORTANT! Don’t skip this step. If your time is valuable to you then make it count and don’t do it over… that reminds me of a saying, “If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, how will you find time to do it over?”