Alright, let's talk sandpaper. If you're thinking about refreshing your space with a new coat of paint, you might be wondering why sandpaper even matters. Think of it as the behind-the-scenes hero of any painting job. It sets the stage, making sure everything looks smooth and stays put. But what's the right way to get sanding? And what happens if you just skip it and dive straight into painting? In this article, we'll break it all down - why sandpaper is a big deal, some tips to use it right, and the pitfalls of giving it the flick. Dive in with us as we uncover the not-so-secret weapon of the painting world.

What is sandpaper?

Sandpaper is a versatile tool commonly used in woodworking, painting, and various other crafts and projects. At its core, sandpaper consists of a backing material, usually paper, cloth, or film, to which an abrasive material like aluminium oxide or silicon carbide is adhered. The abrasive particles are what do the actual "sanding" work, removing material from surfaces or smoothing them out.

The grit number on sandpaper refers to the size of these abrasive particles. Lower numbers indicate larger, coarser particles, while higher numbers signify finer particles. For instance, a 40-grit sandpaper will be much coarser and remove material more aggressively than a 220-grit one, which is finer and best suited for finishing touches.

Why the name "sandpaper", you ask? Historically, crushed shells, seeds, and sand were used as abrasive materials. Over time, as technology advanced, more effective abrasive materials replaced sand, but the traditional name stuck.

Using the right grit for a specific task is vital. Coarse sandpaper can help remove old paint or smooth rough wood quickly, while finer grades are used for finishing surfaces or preparing them for paint or varnish. By selecting the appropriate sandpaper and using it correctly, craftsmen can achieve the desired finish on a range of materials, from timber to metals and beyond.

What are the most common sandpaper grit sizes?

While there are many grit sizes available, the most common ones you'll typically encounter, especially for painting preparation, include:

  • Coarse (40-60 grit): These are some of the most aggressive grits, suitable for removing old finishes, rough-shaping wood, or addressing deep scratches and imperfections.
  • Medium (80-120 grit): This range is used for moderate stock removal. It's suitable for sanding bare wood in preparation for finishing or removing old varnish.
  • Fine (150-180 grit): These are used for final smoothing before applying a finish or primer. They're perfect for light sanding between coats of finish or to gently sand out minor blemishes.
  • Very Fine (220-240 grit): Often used for very light sanding between finish coats or for gently sanding surfaces before applying paint.
  • Extra Fine (320-400 grit): These are often used for wet sanding finishes, polishing metals, or preparing surfaces for very fine finishes.
  • Super Fine (500-600 grit and up): Primarily used for polishing and achieving ultra-smooth finishes on surfaces, especially in automotive or metalwork applications.

It can help to have sandpaper in a range of grits to deal with a range of painted surfaces, rough surfaces, and specific tasks.

What are the benefits of using sandpaper?

Using sandpaper as part of painting projects offers several benefits that can greatly enhance the final outcome and longevity of your paint job:

  1. Smooth surface: Sanding walls can eliminate bumps, ridges, or imperfections, ensuring a uniform surface. A smooth surface ensures paint goes on evenly and adheres properly, reducing the risk of peeling or chipping.
  2. Better paint adhesion: Sanding, especially between coats, provides a slightly roughened surface, which promotes better paint adhesion. This means the paint is less likely to peel, flake, or chip over time.
  3. Improved appearance: Walls that have been sanded correctly will have a more professional and polished look, as paint will appear smoother and without brush or roller marks.
  4. Removal of old paint or finish: Coarse-grit sandpaper can be used to strip away old, chipping, or peeling paint, providing a fresh surface for the new coat.
  5. Enhanced durability: A well-prepared, sanded surface can make the paint job last longer. The combination of improved adhesion and the removal of imperfections contributes to a longer-lasting finish.
  6. Reduced paint consumption: A smoother, well-prepared wall can reduce the amount of paint required for coverage, as paint will spread more efficiently on a sanded surface.

In conclusion, incorporating sandpaper into your wall painting preparation is a simple step that can elevate the quality, appearance, and longevity of your paint job.

How much should you sand before painting?

Sanding before painting is a bit like preparing a canvas for an artist: you're setting the stage for your masterpiece. But how much sanding is truly necessary?

It largely hinges on the state of the surface in question. If you're dealing with brand-new plasterboard, a light sanding to smooth out joint compounds or any minor imperfections will do.

However, when you're addressing walls with old paint, particularly if it's chipping or uneven, more aggressive sanding might be in order. You're aiming to strip away peeling paint and create an even surface.

But there's no need to overdo it. Sanding is about preparation, not destruction. Be gentle, methodical, and remember: it's about creating the best possible surface for your paint. Once you feel the surface is smooth to the touch and free of noticeable imperfections, you're ready to introduce it to its new vibrant future.

Should you sand in between coats of paint?

should you sand between coats of paint


Sanding between coats of paint is a step that some might consider skipping, but it's a game changer in achieving a flawless finish. Think of each coat of paint as a new chapter in a book. Sanding between these chapters ensures clarity, cohesion, and a polished narrative.

When paint dries, it can sometimes leave behind minuscule imperfections: tiny brush or roller marks, dust particles, or a slight texture from the paint itself. By lightly sanding between coats, you're doing a gentle edit, smoothing out these tiny bumps and creating an ideal surface for the next layer of paint. This not only enhances the paint's adhesion but also helps prevent visible lines and rough patches in the final coat.

But remember, this isn't about taking off layers; it's about refinement. A fine-grit sandpaper, typically around 220-grit, is perfect for this task. Gently go over the dried paint, just enough to smooth things out. Wipe away the dust, and you're ready for the next coat.

In essence, while it might seem like an extra step, sanding between coats is a small investment of time that pays off with a smoother, more professional-looking result. It's the subtle difference between a good paint job and a great one.

Should you wet or dry sand between paint coats?

When deciding between wet and dry sanding between paint coats, wet sanding is often the preferred method. Wet sanding, using water or a special sanding lubricant, reduces the amount of dust produced and can prevent the sandpaper from clogging up with paint residue. This allows for a smoother, more consistent sanding experience. Additionally, wet sanding provides a finer finish, which is especially useful when aiming for a high-gloss or polished final appearance. However, it's crucial to ensure the surface is completely dry before applying the next coat of paint. On the other hand, if you're working on a project where moisture might be problematic or if you're looking for a quicker turnaround between coats, dry sanding might be more suitable.

What grade sandpaper should you use between coats of oil-based enamel paint?

When sanding between coats of oil-based enamel paint, it's important to use a fine-grade sandpaper to ensure you smooth the surface without causing excessive abrasion. Typically, a 220-grit to 320-grit sandpaper is ideal for this purpose. This range allows you to gently buff out imperfections and ensure proper adhesion of the subsequent coat, without risking removal of too much of the underlying layer.

What happens if you don't sand between paint coats?

If you skip sanding between paint coats, you risk a finish that's less than ideal. Without sanding, subsequent layers may not adhere as well, leading to potential peeling or chipping down the line. Additionally, any imperfections from the first coat, like brush strokes or dust, will be amplified, resulting in a rougher and less polished finish. Sanding helps to smooth out these issues, ensuring each coat is smoother and more uniform. In essence, not sanding can compromise both the appearance and durability of your paint job.

What happens if you apply a second coat of paint too soon?

If you apply a second coat of paint too soon, before the first coat has fully dried, you can run into several issues. The wet underlayer can mix with the fresh coat, leading to streaks, colour inconsistency, or a mottled appearance. Additionally, the paint may not adhere properly, increasing the risk of peeling or chipping in the future. The drying time can also be extended since the moisture trapped between the layers takes longer to evaporate. Overall, painting too quickly can compromise the finish's look and longevity, making patience between coats crucial for optimal results.

What grit sandpaper should you use for painting over old paint?

When painting over old paint, the choice of sandpaper grit largely depends on the condition of the existing paint. If the old paint is chipped, flaking, or rough, starting with a coarser grit like 80-100 grit can be effective to smooth out major imperfections. After the initial pass, switch to a finer grit, around 120-150 grit, to further smooth the surface and prepare it for the new coat of paint. This progression ensures a well-prepped surface, promoting better adhesion and a smoother finish for the new paint layer.

What tools can you use for sanding a wall?

tools for sanding


For sanding a wall, a variety of tools can be employed to make the job more efficient and achieve the desired smoothness. Manual sanding blocks or pads work well for smaller areas or detailed work. For larger surfaces, pole sanders or devices for holding whole sandpaper sheets offer extended reach and efficient coverage. Electric or pneumatic orbital sanders can expedite the process, especially for sizable walls or rooms. Portable belt sanders are a great power tool option for sanding wooden door and window frames. Additionally, there are specialised dustless sanders with integrated dust collection systems that can significantly reduce the mess typically associated with sanding. Regardless of the tool, it's essential to choose the appropriate grit of sandpaper based on the wall's condition and the intended outcome.


In wrapping up, the meticulous art of preparing and painting walls is truly about the details. Sanding stands out as an integral part of this process, often distinguishing a professional, long-lasting finish from a mediocre one. Whether you're rejuvenating old paint, sanding surfaces between coats, or embarking on a fresh project, the tools and techniques you employ for sanding can make a world of difference. Understanding when and how to sand, the right grit to use, and the importance of patience between paint coats is paramount. So the next time you pick up that paintbrush or roller, ensure that sanding is an essential step in your painting adventure. The walls, and your future self, will thank you!