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DIY prep we’re tempted to skip, but definitely shouldn’t

By Emma Smith

At the risk of sounding like your Year 11 English teacher, a job well done is all in the preparation you put in. It was true back in high school and it’s true of your next DIY job, too. 

Michael Duffy, former Blockhead and expert on all things renovation, admits to being “one for rushing in, picking up the tools and thinking ‘oh I’ll just be careful’.” But that approach rarely works out, he concedes.

His advice? Take a little bit of extra care and precision before diving into a DIY project, saving yourself time and hassle later on.

Here’s Michael’s low-down on the painting and DIY prep tasks that should never be skipped.

Cover all surfaces

A clean paint job means keeping your furniture and valuables clean, too. Picture: Chris Jones

Drop sheets, which cost $3 or less from your local hardware store, will be your saviour.

When you’re working on your next DIY job cover floors, couches and basically anything else you want to ensure is safe from paint splatters and sawdust.

Fill holes and gaps

Holes in walls and gaps around windows, doors and skirting boards are a painter’s worst enemy.

Luckily they’re a cinch to get rid of without calling in the professionals.

A rigid gap filler, such as Selleys Spakfilla, will take care of any holes or dints on your walls. Unsightly gaps around doors, windows or skirting boards will require a flexible filler, such as Selleys No More Gaps Multipurpose, which has the flexibility to cope with the natural movement of your house without cracking.

No need to get your hands dirty with easy-application gap fillers. Picture: Chris Jones

Sand surfaces

Sanding is often the bane of many-a-DIY-enthusiast’s existence. But it doesn’t matter whether you’re upcycling a piece of old furniture or paint-prepping your walls, sanding is one essential step you shouldn’t be tempted to skip.

“Carlene [Michael’s wife and former partner on The Block] painted a cabinet at our place and she didn’t sand it, and you can literally peel it all off!” Michael says.

“Sanding can get rid of a glossy surface. You need to sand and remove the shine so you get better adhesion of the paint,” he adds.

“Sanding between coats is essential, too. When you roll paint on you’re going to have ridges and valleys, so sanding in between coats gets rid of all those high points.”

Move furniture aside

When conducting DIY indoors, it’s essential to make a safe and open zone for you to work in, as well as to keep your valuable items clean and protected.

Michael recommends pushing all your furniture into the centre of a room when painting, and then covering the whole lot with a drop sheet.

Remove fixtures

Remove fittings such as blind pelmets to make for a smoother paint process and better finish. Picture: Craig Wall

Taking out all of your fixtures and fittings may seem like a laborious and unnecessary task, but if you’re not confident in your paint skills it offers an easy workaround.

“A lot of people might just paint around a blind pelmet, but in your prep stage if you go around and remove all of those fittings, you might get a better finish,” Michael says.

This job will require a power drill, but should only take you a couple of minutes.

Sugar soap the walls

Sugar-soaping the walls is going to give you a better paint job, plain and simple.

“It just gets rid of all your grease and grime and years of dust that might have built up on the walls,” Michael says.

Bonus – with Selleys Original Sugar Soap Concentrate you’ll win some time back in your day because there is no rinsing required.

Set up a work station

When painting, setting up a bit of a base with everything you need on a drop sheet will make the whole process run much more smoothly.

Buckets of water, roller trays, rollers, paint brushes, stirrers and bags of clean rags are essential items that should form the base of your paint work station.

“If you spend a bit of time setting it up, it’s going to save you time down the track,” Michael says.

Before beginning any DIY project, always check product instructions carefully and wear personal protective equipment if necessary. If in doubt, consult a skilled tradesperson.
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