Surface Preparation Guidelines For Brick, Metal, Wood And Plaster

Technical Procedures Disclaimer

Prior to inclusion in GSA’s library of procedures, documents are reviewed by one or more qualified preservation specialists for general consistency with the Secretary of Interior Standards for rehabilitating historic buildings as understood at the time the procedure is added to the library. All specifications require project-specific editing and professional judgement regarding the applicability of a procedure to a particular building, project or location. References to products and suppliers are to serve as a general guideline and do not constitute a federal endorsement or determination that a product or method is the best or most current alternative, remains available, or is compliant with current environmental regulations and safety standards. The library of procedures is intended to serve as a resource, not a substitute, for specification development by a qualified preservation professional.


We’ve reviewed these procedures for general consistency with federal standards for rehabilitating historic buildings and provide them only as a reference. Specifications should only be applied under the guidance of a qualified preservation professional who can assess the applicability of a procedure to a particular building, project or location. References to products and suppliers serve as general guidelines and do not constitute a federal endorsement nor a determination that a product or method is the best alternative or compliant with current environmental regulations and safety standards.



    1. This procedure includes guidance on preparing various surface types for repainting. These include brick, metal, wood and plaster.
    2. See "General Project Guidelines" for general project guidelines to be reviewed along with this procedure. These guidelines cover the following sections:
      1. Safety Precautions
      2. Historic Structures Precautions
      3. Submittals
      4. Quality Assurance
      5. Delivery, Storage and Handling
      6. Project/Site Conditions
      7. Sequencing and Scheduling
      8. General Protection (Surface and Surrounding)
        These guidelines should be reviewed prior to performing this procedure and should be followed, when applicable, along with recommendations from the Regional Historic Preservation Officer (RHPO).



  1. Red Devil, Inc.
    Pryor, OK


NOTE: Chemical products are sometimes sold under a common name. This usually means that the substance is not as pure as the same chemical sold under its chemical name. The grade of purity of common name substances, however, is usually adequate for stain removal work, and these products should be purchased when available, as they tend to be less expensive. Common names are indicated below by an asterisk (*).

  1. Mineral spirits:
    1. A petroleum distillate that is used especially as a paint or varnish thinner.
    2. Other chemical or common names include Benzine* (not Benzene); Naphtha*; Petroleum spirits*; Solvent naphtha*.
    3. Potential Hazards: TOXIC AND FLAMMABLE.
    4. Safety Precautions:
      2. ALWAYS wear rubber gloves when handling mineral spirits
      3. If any chemical is splashed onto the skin, wash immediately with soap and water.
      4. Available from construction specialties distributor, hardware store, paint store, or printer's supply distributor
  2. Water-soluble detergent
  3. Clean, potable water
  4. Sandpaper
  5. Trisodium Phosphate (TSP)


  1. Strong base-type powdered cleaning material sold under brand names.
  2. Other chemical or common names include Sodium Orthophosphate; Tribasic sodium phosphate; Trisodium orthophosphate; TSP*; Phosphate of soda*; (also sold under brand names such as Red Devil).
  3. Potential Hazards: CORROSIVE TO FLESH.
  4. Available from chemical supply house, grocery store or supermarket or hardware store.
  5. Chemical deglosser
  6. White shellac, or other approved knot sealer
  7. Primer
  8. Varnish, or other approved sealer


  1. Wood and metal scrapers
  2. Wire brushes (non-ferrous bristle)
  3. Stiff bristle brushes



    1. Protection: Remove hardware, hardware accessories, machined surfaces, plates, lighting fixtures, and similar items in place and not to be finish-painted, or provide surface-applied protection prior to surface preparation and painting operations. Remove, if necessary, for complete painting of items and adjacent surfaces. Following completion of painting of each space or area, reinstall removed items.
    2. Surface Preparation: Do not paint over dirt, rust, scale, grease, moisture, scuffed surfaces, or conditions otherwise detrimental to formation of a durable paint film.


  1. Perform preparation and cleaning procedures in accordance with paint manufacturer's instructions and as herein specified, for each particular substrate condition.
  2. Clean surfaces to be painted before applying paint or surface treatments. Remove oil and grease prior to mechanical cleaning. Program cleaning and painting so that contaminants from cleaning process will not fall onto wet, newly-painted surfaces.
    1. Brick: Clean brick surfaces to be painted for loose or peeling paint, dirt, oil, or other foreign substances with scrapers, stiff bristle brushes and mineral spirits as required. Wash entire surface with a water-soluble detergent and rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove cleaner residue and soil.
    2. Ornamental Metal: Clean ornamental metal surfaces to be painted of dirt, oil or other foreign substances with scrapers and solvent cleaners as required. Remove loose or peeling paint by gently wire brushing surfaces. Sandpaper smooth any rough edges created by removal of peeling or loose paint to create an even plane across surface.
    3. Ferrous Metals: Clean ferrous surfaces, which are not galvanized or shop-coated, of oil, grease, dirt, loose mill scale and other foreign substances by solvent or mechanical cleaning.
      1. Touch-up shop-applied prime coats wherever damaged or bare, where required by other sections of these specifications. Clean and touch-up with same type shop primer.
      2. Galvanized Surfaces: Clean free of oil and surface contaminants with non-petroleum-based solvent.
    4. New Wood:
      1. Clean wood surfaces to be painted of dirt, oil, or other foreign substances with scrapers, mineral spirits, and sandpaper, as required. Sandpaper smooth those finished surfaces exposed to view, and dust off. Scrape and clean small, dry, seasoned knots and apply thin coat of white shellac or other recommended knot sealer, before application of priming coat. After priming, fill holes and imperfections in finish surfaces with putty or plastic wood-filler. Sandpaper smooth when dried.
      2. Prime, stain or seal wood required to be job-painted immediately upon delivery to job. Prime edges, ends, faces, undersides, and backsides of such wood, including cabinets, counters, cases, and paneling.
      3. When transparent finish is required, use spar varnish for back priming.
      4. Back prime paneling on interior partitions only where masonry, plaster or other wet wall construction occurs on backside.

      5. Seal tops, bottoms, and cut-outs of unprimed wood doors with a heavy coat of varnish or equivalent sealer immediately upon delivery to job
    5. Existing Wood:
      1. Scrape existing wood surfaces to be painted with a flat blade scraper to remove all peeling or blistering paint finish. Sand surface to a smooth finish, flush with contiguous surfaces. To ensure bonding of new paint material, clean surfaces free of dirt, oil, dust or other foreign substances with trisodium phosphate (TSP) cleaning solution. Rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove cleaner residue and soil. Lightly sand or treat existing surfaces with a chemical paint bonding agent.
      2. Clean existing wood surfaces to receive a clear finish with mineral spirits to remove dirt, oil, or other foreign substances and wipe with a clean cloth. Wipe entire surface with a pre-impregnated tack rag and immediately apply finish.
    6. Plaster:
      1. Clean plaster surfaces to be painted for dirt, oil or other foreign substances with scrapers, mineral spirits and sandpaper. Wash entire surface with a trisodium phosphate (TSP) cleaning solution and rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove cleaner residue and soil.
      2. Prepare plaster areas by first scraping the entire surface to remove all loose paint of
        finish plaster. Apply a bonding agent to exposed areas and then apply complete skim finish coat over the low areas to bring the entire finished surface out flush with adjacent firm and sound layers of plaster or paint. Sandpaper smooth to create a flat plane without bumps, cracks or depressions, ready to receive paint.
  3. Mix and prepare painting materials in accordance with manufacturer's directions.
  1. Store materials not in actual use in tightly covered containers. Maintain containers used in storage, mixing and application of paint in a clean condition, free of foreign materials and residue.
  2. Stir materials before application to produce a mixture of uniform density and stir as required during application. Do not stir surface film into material. Remove film and, if necessary, strain material before using.


    1. During progress of work, remove from site discarded materials, rubbish, cans and rags at end of each work day.
    2. Upon completion of painting work, clean window glass and other paint-spattered surfaces. Remove spattered paint by proper methods of washing and scraping, using care not to scratch or otherwise damage finished surfaces.


  1. Protect work of other trades, whether to be painted or not, against damage by painting and finishing work. Correct any damage by cleaning, repairing or replacing, and repainting, as acceptable to RHPO.
  2. At the completion of work of other trades, touch-up and restore all damaged or defaced painted surfaces.