Smooth over. Scrape away cracked or peeling paint with a metal putty knife, and use it to remove bumps, dried-on paint, and edges around nail holes. Taper any sharp edges where old paint remains by sanding very lightly with very fine sandpaper.

Fill gouges. Apply a lightweight, fast-drying spackling compound, such as Fast ‘N Final. Rub a tiny dab into the holes using your finger. (With a putty knife, you’re more likely to use too much spackle, leaving lumps.) Let dry, then sand smooth with a scrub sponge to clean the wall.

Close gaps. Apply caulk to the gaps around windows and trim using a wet fingertip to smooth it flush as you go.

Remove cobwebs. Paint needs a clean, dry surface to adhere. Dust ceilings, walls, and trim with a duster on a pole extension. Or cover a broom’s bristles with an old pillowcase, and dust.

Clean up. Mix a low-suds detergent such as Spic and Span in a bucket of water. (Sudsy detergents will leave the surface too slippery.) Then use a scrub sponge to clean and sand imperfections, roughing up the surface for better paint adhesion.

Check our interior paint ratings to find a finish that's right for your project and budget. 

How to Paint

Do you have some painting projects planned for your home? On the 'Consumer 101' TV show, Consumer Reports' expert Rico De Paz shows host Jack Rico how to give walls the perfect coat.How to Paint

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the May 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.