Painting and wall prep
August 18, 2016 6:55 AM   Subscribe

What is the best way to prep my kitchen walls before painting? I am getting conflicting advice from the internet and well-meaning friends.

I have painted interior walls before, but it was over 20 years ago, at a house I owned in another state. Where I live now tends to get very humid this time of year, and this morning it's nice and cool, so I'd like to at least start taping the trim, with blue painter's tape, and paint some edges before rolling paint onto the larger areas, later today, or this weekend.

One website says to wash the walls with mild laundry detergent mixed with water (3 tablespoons to one gallon), no rinsing required. Others say to be careful not to leave any residue.

Right now, my goal is to get the first wall, the one next to my front door, painted, and then continue on around the room, as I have to pull things away from the walls and do it in sections.

This wall has a door (flush with wall to the left), then 2 switch plates (one for the outside light, one for the overhead light), then a window, and an electrical outlet down and to the right of the cupboard unit. The cupboard unit is light-weight, has no back (I think an old bathroom unit? It was left here, so I am using it for now), and is easily moved.

The other day, I wiped down a small section of the wall, near the door, around the two switch plates (pics below). Looking at it this morning, I can see a big rectangle of washed wall, with the rest looking somewhat darker. Take it for granted that there have been smokers here in the past, and so some dirt could be from that.

The kitchen has 4 partial walls: the one near the front door, another that is basically surrounding the cabinets (with a window over the sink), a third half-wall, part of which has a large chalkboard paint area, which is trimmed with thin cork, which someone apparently glued onto the wall and painted the same color as the walls, the sort of taupe color that is currently there.

I do know, from a prior tenant, that the walls were primed before this taupe paint was done, and it was done about a year ago, maybe a year and a half.

The paint I am using is Behr, Marquee Satin Enamel, Advanced Stain Paint and Primer in One, in Polka Dot Skirt, which is a pale yellow, chosen to go with my valances (pic below). I picked this color to brighten up the room without (hopefully) seeming too garish. The guy at the hardware store wasn't sure if I'd need one or two coats, as I was having a hard time describing the current wall color. Brown, but not quite, a little darker than tan, so taupe is the only color name I can come up with, but it looks a tiny bit more reddish than the taupe swatches I see when I do a Google search.

Pic 1: washed wall near switch plates.
Pic 2: valance, showing color I am trying to pick up with new paint color. I realize it's not matchy-matchy, and the yellow flowers aren't that visible from a distance.
Pic 3: corner of kitchen, to right of switch plates.

Question: do I have to wash the entire wall? If so, do I use the detergent and water mix? Do I have to then rinse with more water? Then how long do I have to let it dry, as this current paint looks like a similar finish, and is washable (i.e., not matte, eggshell or satin).

Is it okay to wash with the detergent/water mix, let dry (using a fan if necessary) and then start painting around the doorsill? I am going to remove the switch plates and keep them in a safe place (it says to tape the screws to the switch plates and mark where they came from, which I will do).

The wood trim will not be painted, as it matches the pine cabinets, and the living room has pine tongue-and-groove walls, so this is the only area that will be painted (for now, still have the bathroom and bedroom to paint, which will be a future project). I really want to get this done, while it's still warm enough to open the windows and have fans running. The weather was very hot and humid last week, so I had to wait until this week to start thinking about painting.

Sorry if I am asking the obvious: I haven't really painted a room in a long time, and at my old house, I once wallpapered my bathroom, took advice from my boss and other people, and ended up with a bunch of mold spots under my brand new wallpaper, which then had to be torn down and redone, ugh. My boyfriend at the time painted my kitchen for me: I did the ceiling, and ended up with paint in my hair, on my glasses, and on my Keds (as I stepped backwards and into the rolling pan, which was full of, well, paint).

I have a drop cloth and some old sheets, to protect the laminate faux-wood floor, which is pretty nice, and is a light pale color.

Any tips on prepping and actual real life experience would be appreciated, particularly: do I wash the entire wall, or just the spots where I can see that it's dirty (as around the switch plates, where people obviously put their hands a lot)? How long do I let it dry? Is it okay to start painting around the edges today? If it's dry, I mean. How do I tell if it's dry enough?

Bonus question: how will I know if I need two coats? I think I have enough do to do this project with only one gallon, the guy at the hardware store seemed to think so, and it looks like a pretty small area, with windows and doors taking up lots of space, so I'll only be painting around them and the cabinets. Do I wait a day or two after painting (a week?) to see if it needs another coat, or will I be able to tell right away?

Thanks, MetaFilter! My sad little kitchen awaits your advice.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Use this to wash the walls, following package directions. No rinsing required.
posted by yesster at 7:13 AM on August 18, 2016

Best answer: I always just wash with hot water, making sure to wash until the washrag rinses dry (it can take a couple of swipes on each wall, but it's better than trying to rinse off anything). I would wash all the walls, especially if you see a difference in the way the wall looks on the washed parts vs. the unwashed parts. You don't want dust or grime or grease in your paint, it's going to alter the color in places.

I would just wait until it's dry to the touch. If you're using latex paint, that's water-soluble, so a teeny bit of dampness isn't going to ruin you (it never has for me, and I've been painting interiors forever).

You'll now if you need two coats by the way it looks after the first coat. If you're changing a color, you'll almost definitely need two coats, unless you're using one of those fancier paints, which don't always do that job the way they say they do.
posted by xingcat at 7:14 AM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In the kitchen, you'll have oils on the walks. Get a "no-rinse TSP substitute" and follow the directions on the container. I wouldn't use laundry detergent. Wash every surface you're painting with it.
posted by quince at 7:32 AM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would definitely use hot water to wash obviously dirty areas, especially anything that feels greasy. I may admit to being lazy though and say I would just damp dust most of it rather than really scrubbing. This is more to get rid of dust/hair/fur which is annoying to take off a nicely rolled wall.

I have a similar color and covered a lighter color. We needed two coats (also used a behr all in one). I would plan for two.
posted by MandaSayGrr at 7:35 AM on August 18, 2016

You're getting varying advice because you're looking for a correct/standard/universal procedure that doesn't exist. You do need to get the walls clean. The best cleaning method depends on how much and what kind of dirt is on the walls. In a kitchen I'd worry about cooking oils settling out if the air and transferring from people's hands. A dish soap solution weak enough to not leave problematic residue might not be effective on cooking oils that have sat awhile. I'd probably use an ammonia-based cleaner.

How dry after cleaning? If you can detect even a fog of liquid moisture on the surface, it's not dry yet. If there's no detectable liquid but the surface still feels a bit cool, that's okay.

Based on your description of the colors and on your inexperience, it will probably take two coats. It would be cheaper and nearly as effective to use one coat of white primer followed by one of paint.

Trust what you can see and feel. It's not rocket science.
posted by jon1270 at 7:39 AM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I would use the stuff Yesstr linked, or whatever brand you can find of the same thing, which you should be able to get at any large hardware store in the painting supplies section. I do my washing with the cheapest sponge mop that has a replaceable head.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:40 AM on August 18, 2016

Best answer: No-rinse TSP substitute is the way to go, it will clean the walls like a dream. The stuff yesster linked is probably fine. Wash the whole wall, but it doesn't have to be super intense washing everywhere. Wear dishwashing gloves- TSP, even the substitute, is not great for your skin. If you have a fan you can aim at the walls, they'll dry pretty quickly. The walls shouldn't be really damp when you paint, but it's okay if they're cool to the touch. If the walls are still damp when you paint, the water may thin the paint out, which will mean you need more coats. This is why you want to wait until they're dry.
You'll almost certainly need two coats. You can probably do one, wait an hour or two until the paint is dry, and then do the next one. If the color is solid and you can't see any of the taupe flashing through after a couple of hours, you can leave it at one, but that is very unlikely. You might me tempted to try to do a thick coat, so that you only have to do one. This is a false economy. A thick coat is much more likely to dry unevenly, and end up with sags and drips. Two thin coats will cover better and dry faster.
posted by Adridne at 8:09 AM on August 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Is there any chance I can convince you to use a separate primer rather than paint/primer? You'll get better hiding, better adhesion, and a more durable finish that way. Especially where you're painting a lighter color over a darker one, I think it would be best to use a separate primer as it will give you a more even result with fewer coats. Every professional painter I know does separate primer followed by two coats of paint, and I think there's a good reason for that: it gives the best, most consistent-looking, most long-lasting result.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:13 AM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Jumping on the TSP bandwagon. It will clean up the unseen cooking oils from your walls and the smoke residue. I know it's a PITA, but painting success is mostly in the prepwork.
posted by sarajane at 8:19 AM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just tried to cover ugly taupe bedroom walls with a pale yellow and found that I need two coats. I also found that painting with central air conditioning on does not go well. I am waiting to do the second coat until the temperature is cool enough to open windows all day.
posted by mareli at 8:29 AM on August 18, 2016

I did a LOT of reading about painting recently before embarking on my own adventure. I second the suggestion to wash the walls with a no rinse TSP substitute--mostly because kitchen walls get dirty with all kinds of stuff and that stuff will mess with your paint adhesion.

I'd also recommend priming. It'll save you paint since you're going lighter than what's currently on the walls. I recommend Kilz water-based primer. Aside from better adhesion, Kilz will block any invisible grease spots you can't see that might bleed through the paint a day or two after it has dried.

I think there's less that can go wrong with painting than with wallpaper, fwiw. But I understand why you want to do it right--it's a lot of time-consuming work. Do you have a good angled brush for cutting in? Remember to peel off the tape while your paint is still wet, pulling evenly and slowly.
posted by purple_bird at 9:13 AM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you do choose to use some sort of soap and water combo that you make from dishwashing detergent or that sort of thing, you absolutely must rinse it off. Soap leaves its own film on things, even if diluted. It will cause the paint to fisheye, as will greasy or dirty walls. If the soap cuts through grease and grime and leaves the walls clean, then fine...use it. Are your walls gloss? You should use a deglosser, which by the way, is also a cleaner. It will completely prep your walls for painting by cleaning and "sanding" them. If you use a deglosser there is no need to wash the walls first. It's my number one painting time saver and I adore it. It wipes on (use gloves and a sponge) and you have to rinse it off (use a damp rag that you rinse out with clean water after each scrubbing or use damp paper towels). It's easy and fast. It replaces sandpaper for many jobs and takes the gloss off (hence the name ;) so that your new paint adheres well to the old.

As sarajane said, painting success is mostly in the prepwork. I use Behr paint most of the time (we are right now painting every wall in our home and the home we just is so so so SO fun) and have used the exact paint you're using, and I would recommend two coats. Or one coat with a regular primer underneath. But of course your eyeballs are the best judge - if the walls look a bit two tone or streaky after one coat then yeah, you need another coat. Call a friend over to take a look if you feel you aren't the best judge.
posted by the webmistress at 9:19 AM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you do use a primer, you can get some that can be tinted to match the color of the paint your using over it. That can help avoid a second coat of paint.
posted by ShooBoo at 10:22 AM on August 18, 2016

Response by poster: I've decided to go with a TSP or substitute, would use deglosser, but I have a cat and it has fumes, apparently. May try deglosser later on in the bathroom, as I can shut the cat out and vent the fumes out the window with a fan. Would consider priming next time, this paint was pretty expensive so budget is only going to allow for 2 coats of what I have. Next time will consider primer. Thanks everyone!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 1:55 PM on August 18, 2016

I paint regularly, and have done for 25 years or so. TSP for sure, or Borax, if the walls are really, really dirty and/or greasy. Otherwise just water and a rag in the dirtiest spots. Do however make sure you remove the faceplates, curtain rods, towel holders and any other hardware before painting. That way you don't have to worry about getting paint on them and you can roll over the walls with no interruptions. It's easy enough to put them all back and you'll end up with a much neater job. It's worth it to buy blue painters' tape for masking off the wood trim. The blue tape is less sticky and shouldn't damage any finish that's on the wood (you shouldn't leave it on for more than a day or two though because all tape gets stickier the longer it's left in place). I could get way more involved with my own opinionated advice, but really it's your house and you only need to please yourself. A fresh coat of paint works wonders. Whatever you do will look better, no matter what. You will definitely always need two coats of paint though!!!
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 9:03 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older How do committees of adjustment and variance (to...   |   Picking a dark/middle age setting for a mock... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.