Paint Prep Tips: Filling Holes and Power Sanding

| April 3, 2016 | 3 Comments

Getting Cosmetic Work ‘Done in One’ and Tooling Up to Sand…

At the 2016 PDCA Expo in New Orleans, Prep to Finish presented a Master’s Class on Interior Wood Finishing. This 4 hour class included discussion and process demonstrations of 4 step finishing sequences for both paint grade and stain/clear.

Here are some paint prep tips and highlights from the class transcript.

It actually can take you longer to brush out a thin coat of paint than to brush out a heavier coat because it’s a drier surface, there’s not as much going on off the brush, there’s more friction between the brush and the surface…

Same applies with filler. If you fill heavier, you fill faster. And if you’re gonna power sand, fill heavier. The goal of streamlining is to only do a step once. This is how product drives process.

Cosmetic work, or filling is step one in prep. In paint grade, with a good filler product, we can fill before we do anything else. The whole surface can get sanded, scuffed, mill glaze removed and edges eased after filling is done, and that sand is where adhesion for primer or paint is established.

What we’re looking for in a filler is something we can apply heavily and apply one time. A filler that dries quickly and hard, and then sands well. Ideally, it is capable of working both interior and exterior if needed.

[Read about the 3M Patch Plus Primer used in this Master’s Class]

In order to best execute the step you are on, you have to know what the next step is going to be.

If your company still hand sands, that changes the way you fill. If you are going to hand sand, you probably don’t fill very heavily, and therefore you probably fill more than once. If guys are trying to fill really dainty and thin, so that the sanding is easier, they are trying to make their own lives easier – but then they get to do it again.

Every time you hand sand, you’ll likely have to vacuum. So what should be a one round fill and then dustless power sand can quickly turn into repetition resulting in 4-6 moves to complete a single step. The days of filling and skimming (and hand sanding and cleaning) multiple times during early paint prep stages are gone.

Please leave questions below if your company still struggles in paint prep. And stay tuned for the next round of footage to be released from our PDCA Master’s Class, which will include more paint prep tips, with a focus on primer application.


Category: How to Series

About the Author ()

Scott Burt is a paint contractor, writer and paint trainer from Vermont. He writes for American Painting Contractor magazine,, and is a featured blogger at JLCOnline.

Comments (3)

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  1. Delevan says:

    I am wondering what fillers you have had the best results with for stain grade material? Any input would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Indeed, if you want to be quicker, then put more paint on the brush. After you do that, then you can easily get smaller amounts and paint any holes, or any place where the coat ended up being too thin. Painting interior walls is usually fairly simple, it’s just the tricks to make it faster that you need to learn.

  3. Sam Solo says:

    I never considered using a dustless power sand to save time on cleaning up all the dust. That would significantly speed up the process of having to repeat a bunch of steps. I’ll have to consider your tips the next time I need to work on wood.

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