The Workbench: Tricks of trade when repainting interiors

  • Use painter’s tape to achieve a crisp edge between wall and ceiling. If the tape for your project will remain in place for a few days, use blue painter’s tape because it doesn’t permanently bond to painted surfaces.

Achieving professional results when repainting interior walls and ceilings involves much more than just slinging paint. Prep work is as important as the actual painting process.

Santa Rosa-based professional painters Stephan Sallee (Stephan-sallee-painting.com) and Michael Chavez (mikechavezpainting.com) share their tips about how to prepare wall surfaces, when to use a primer and how to get crisp paint edges and ensure proper paint coverage.


If your walls have flat paint and are relatively clean, you’re probably good to go. But if they are dirty and grimy, Sallee recommends scrubbing them with no-rinse TSP (trisodium phosphate). “Wipe the walls with a rag and then wipe down with a dry rag,” he says. Wear gloves, a long-sleeve shirt and safety glasses to avoid skin irritation.

For kitchens, and bathrooms, Sallee recommends adding the TSP to one gallon of water, along with ½ cup of bleach. The solution also is ideal for cleaning window frames, especially aluminum, where mildew tends to accumulate.

Drape furniture, and mask the windows. Sallee suggests inexpensive paper tarps with plastic backing for floor protection, which absorbs spills and splatters better than plastic.

Caulk the edges of windows and door trim, as well as the top edge of baseboards to hide gaps and create a crisp transition between trim and wall surfaces. Sallee prefers the 35-year siliconized caulk because it resists cracking and shrinkage over time.

Prime time

If you are painting over gloss or semigloss oil-based paint on doors, trim or walls, Chavez recommends lightly sanding, then priming the surfaces with an oil-based or hybrid primer, which will bond with the new paint. For problem walls with water stains or crayon marks, he recommends Zinsser High-Hide primer.

If your color palette includes dark red colors, Chavez highly recommends a gray-tinted primer, and dark gray for darker colors. A white primer is essential for light colors such as yellow and pink that have semi-translucent characteristics.

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