Do Professional Painters Sand Between Coats?


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When it comes to achieving a flawless finish on our walls, we’ve often wondered if professional painters have a secret technique up their sleeves. So, we couldn’t help but wonder, do these seasoned experts actually sand between coats? After all, it seems like an extra step that could potentially slow down the painting process. Today, we uncover the truth behind whether professional painters sand between coats and what impact it has on the final result.

Do Professional Painters Sand Between Coats

Benefits of Sanding Between Coats

Ensures a Smooth and Even Finish

One of the primary benefits of sanding between coats is that it helps ensure a smooth and even finish on your painted surface. When you apply multiple coats of paint, slight imperfections and unevenness can occur. By sanding between each coat, you are able to level out any ridges, bumps, or brushstrokes that may have formed during the application process. This results in a professional-looking finish that is not only visually appealing but also pleasing to the touch.

Improves Adhesion of Paint

Sanding between coats also promotes better adhesion of the paint layers. When you sand the surface before applying the next coat, it creates a slightly roughened texture that allows the subsequent layer of paint to adhere more effectively. This significantly reduces the risk of peeling, flaking, or cracking of the paint over time. Sanding between coats is particularly crucial when working with glossy or smooth surfaces, as these tend to have poor paint adhesion.

Removes Dust and Debris

Another advantage of sanding between coats is that it helps remove any dust or debris that may have settled on the surface during the drying process. Even in a controlled environment, it is nearly impossible to prevent some dust particles from landing on the freshly painted surface. By lightly sanding between coats, you can gently remove these impurities, ensuring a cleaner and more professional finish. This step is especially necessary if you are painting in a dusty or high-traffic area.

Promotes Better Coverage

Sanding between coats also promotes better coverage of the paint. When you sand the surface, you create microscopic scratches that provide a better grip for the paint, allowing it to spread more evenly and effectively. This helps eliminate streaks or uneven patches that may have formed during the initial application. By sanding between each coat, you are maximizing the coverage of your paint and achieving a more consistent finish.

When to Sand Between Coats

Before Applying the Next Coat

The most common time to sand between coats is before applying the next layer of paint. Once the previous coat has dried completely, typically within a few hours or overnight, you can gently sand the surface using the appropriate tools and techniques. Sanding before the next coat helps create a smooth and even base for the subsequent layer, ensuring a flawless finish in the end.

After Primer Application

Sanding between coats is especially crucial after applying a primer. Primer helps create a uniform surface and enhances adhesion, but it can also leave a slightly rough texture. By sanding the primed surface before applying the first coat of paint, you can remove any imperfections and achieve a smoother finish. This step is essential for achieving a professional-looking paint job, especially when working with porous surfaces or those prone to absorbing paint unevenly.

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For Glossy Finishes

If you are aiming for a glossy finish, sanding between coats becomes even more important. Glossy surfaces tend to show imperfections more prominently, which can include brush marks, drips, or uneven textures. By sanding between each coat, you can eliminate these flaws and achieve a high-quality, flawless glossy finish. Remember to choose a fine-grit sandpaper or sanding sponge to avoid scratching the glossy surface.

When There Are Imperfections

Sanding between coats is also necessary when there are visible imperfections or flaws on the painted surface. Whether it’s a brushstroke, a drip, or a piece of debris that has somehow found its way onto the wet paint, sanding can help smooth out these imperfections and create a seamless finish. Take care to identify the specific areas that need sanding and focus your efforts there to avoid excessive sanding on the entire surface.

Tools and Materials for Sanding

Sandpaper or Sanding Block

To sand between coats, you will need sandpaper or a sanding block. Sandpaper comes in various grits, ranging from coarse to fine. Coarse-grit sandpaper, such as 80-grit or 100-grit, is ideal for removing rough surfaces or leveling uneven areas. As you progress to finer grits, such as 180-grit or 220-grit, you will achieve a smoother finish. So, make sure to have a selection of sandpaper with different grits to suit your specific sanding needs.

Sanding Sponges

Sanding sponges are also a popular choice for sanding between coats. They come in different grits and are often more comfortable to hold and maneuver compared to sandpaper. Sanding sponges are particularly useful for sanding curved or contoured surfaces, as their flexible nature allows them to conform to the shape of the surface better. They can also be rinsed and reused, making them a cost-effective option for sanding projects.

Tack Cloth or Lint-Free Cloth

To ensure a clean and debris-free surface before applying the next coat, it is essential to have a tack cloth or lint-free cloth on hand. After sanding, gently wipe down the surface with a tack cloth or a cloth dampened with denatured alcohol. This will remove any sanding dust or loose particles that may have accumulated during the sanding process. A clean surface will help ensure better adhesion and a smoother finish.

Masking Tape or Painter’s Tape

In some cases, you may need to protect certain areas or create sharp paint lines while sanding between coats. Masking tape or painter’s tape is a handy tool for this purpose. By carefully applying tape to areas you want to preserve or mask off, you can sand without worrying about accidentally damaging or sanding off the paint in those specific areas. This is especially useful when you have adjacent surfaces or intricate details that require precision during the sanding process.

How to Properly Sand Between Coats

Prepare the Surface

Before you start sanding, it is crucial to prepare the surface properly. Ensure that the previous coat of paint or primer has completely dried. Remove any loose or peeling paint using a scraper or putty knife. Clean the surface with a mild detergent and water to remove any dirt, grease, or grime. Allow the surface to dry completely before proceeding with the sanding process.

Choose the Right Grit

Selecting the appropriate grit of sandpaper is essential for achieving the desired results. As a general guideline, start with a coarser grit sandpaper if you need to level out rough or uneven surfaces. Once the surface is relatively smooth, progress to finer grits for a smoother finish. Avoid using sandpaper that is too coarse, as it can leave noticeable scratches on the surface. Similarly, using sandpaper that is too fine may not be effective in removing imperfections.

Sand Lightly and Evenly

When sanding between coats, it is crucial to sand lightly and evenly. Apply minimal pressure while sanding to prevent removing too much paint or damaging the surface. Use long, even strokes, moving in the direction of the grain or in a circular motion for more even results. Take care not to sand excessively in one area, as this can create a depression or uneven surface. Remember that the goal is to smooth out imperfections, not remove large amounts of paint.

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Remove Sanding Dust

After sanding, it is important to remove all sanding dust from the surface before proceeding. Use a tack cloth or a lint-free cloth to wipe away any dust or particles. Make sure to clean all crevices and corners thoroughly. If necessary, you can also use a vacuum cleaner or a soft brush to remove any stubborn dust. Failing to remove the sanding dust can compromise the adhesion and smoothness of the subsequent coat of paint.

Inspect for Imperfections

Once the surface is completely dust-free, carefully inspect it for any remaining imperfections. Look for scratches, brush marks, or any other flaws that may affect the smoothness or appearance of the final finish. If you notice any issues, go back and sand those specific areas using a finer grit sandpaper or sanding sponge. Repeat the cleaning process to ensure a pristine surface before applying the next coat of paint.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Sanding Between Coats

Not Sanding Enough

One common mistake when sanding between coats is not sanding enough. It’s important to create a slightly roughened surface to promote better adhesion of the next coat of paint. Failing to sand adequately can result in poor paint adhesion, which may lead to peeling or flaking of the paint over time. Take the time to properly sand the surface and achieve the desired texture before proceeding with the next coat.

Over-Sanding the Surface

While it’s important to sand between coats, over-sanding can also be a problem. Applying excessive pressure or using a sandpaper with a grit that is too coarse can remove too much paint or damage the surface. This can create uneven patches, depressions, or even expose the underlying substrate. Always sand lightly and evenly, keeping in mind that the goal is to smooth the surface, not remove large amounts of paint.

Using the Wrong Grit

Choosing the wrong grit of sandpaper is another mistake to avoid when sanding between coats. Using sandpaper that is too coarse can leave noticeable scratches on the surface, while using sandpaper that is too fine may not effectively remove imperfections. It’s essential to select the appropriate grit based on the condition of the surface and the desired level of smoothness. Experiment with different grits if needed to find the most suitable one for your project.

Not Cleaning the Surface Properly

Properly cleaning the surface before sanding and between each coat is crucial for achieving a flawless finish. Failing to remove dust, dirt, or debris can compromise the adhesion and appearance of the paint. Make sure to follow the necessary cleaning steps, such as using a mild detergent to remove grease and grime, and wiping the surface with a tack cloth or a cloth dampened with denatured alcohol to remove sanding dust.

Skipping Inspection

Skipping the inspection step after sanding is a common mistake that can lead to subpar results. It is important to thoroughly inspect the sanded surface for any remaining imperfections, such as scratches, brush marks, or uneven texture. By identifying and addressing these issues before applying the next coat of paint, you can ensure a smoother and more professional-looking finish.

Alternatives to Sanding Between Coats

Using a Deglosser

If you are working with glossy surfaces or those with multiple layers of paint, you may consider using a deglosser as an alternative to sanding. Deglossers work by chemically dulling the surface, allowing for better paint adhesion without the need for sanding. They can be particularly useful for removing the glossy finish from previously painted surfaces or preparing surfaces with enamel or oil-based paints. Follow the product instructions carefully when using a deglosser.

Applying a Chemical Prepping Solution

Another alternative to sanding between coats is the use of a chemical prepping solution. These solutions are designed to clean, degrease, and etch the surface, preparing it for better paint adhesion. They are particularly effective for surfaces with stubborn stains, grease, or oil that may interfere with the paint’s ability to bond properly. Like using a deglosser, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using a chemical prepping solution.

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Factors to Consider Before Deciding to Sand Between Coats

Type of Paint being Applied

The type of paint being applied is an essential factor to consider when deciding whether to sand between coats. Some types of paint, such as latex or acrylic-based paints, typically do not require sanding between coats, unless there are imperfections to address. However, oil-based paints or glossy finishes often benefit from sanding between coats to promote better adhesion and achieve a smooth finish. Consult the manufacturer’s recommendations for the specific type of paint you are using.

Surface Condition

The condition of the surface you are painting is also a key consideration. If the surface is smooth, clean, and free from imperfections, sanding between coats may not be necessary. However, if the surface has rough patches, uneven textures, or visible flaws, sanding becomes crucial to create a smooth and even finish. Evaluate the surface condition and determine whether sanding is needed to achieve the desired results.

Time and Budget Constraints

Finally, consider your time and budget constraints when deciding whether to sand between coats. Sanding between coats does add additional time and effort to the painting process, as it requires proper preparation, sanding, and cleaning steps. If you are working on a tight schedule or have budget limitations, you may opt for alternatives to sanding or choose to sand only certain areas with visible imperfections. Keep in mind that sacrificing proper surface preparation can compromise the overall quality and longevity of the paint job.

Expert Tips for Sanding Between Coats

Work in a Well-Ventilated Area

When sanding between coats, it is important to work in a well-ventilated area. Sanding can generate fine dust particles, which can be harmful if inhaled. Ensure that the work area has adequate ventilation, such as open windows or a fan, to help disperse the dust. If the area lacks natural ventilation, consider using a dust mask or respirator to protect your lungs.

Wear Protective Gear

To protect yourself from any potential hazards, it is essential to wear protective gear while sanding between coats. This includes safety glasses or goggles to shield your eyes from flying debris, gloves to protect your hands, and a dust mask or respirator to prevent inhalation of dust particles. Proper protective gear will not only keep you safe but also contribute to a more comfortable working experience.

Use Small, Controlled Movements

When sanding between coats, use small, controlled movements to ensure consistent sanding and avoid over-sanding in specific areas. Avoid applying excessive pressure, as this can result in uneven surfaces or remove too much paint. By using smaller strokes, you can achieve a more even and uniform sanding. Remember to follow the grain of the wood or the shape of the surface for the best results.

Take Breaks to Avoid Fatigue

Sanding can be a physically demanding task, especially if you are working on a large surface area. Take regular breaks to avoid fatigue and prevent any strain or discomfort. Stretch your muscles, hydrate, and rest periodically to maintain your energy and focus. This will help you maintain optimal sanding technique and achieve better results.


In conclusion, sanding between coats is a crucial step to achieve a smooth and professional finish when painting. It ensures a level surface, improves paint adhesion, removes dust and debris, and promotes better coverage. Knowing when to sand between coats, the tools and materials required, and how to properly sand are important factors to consider. Avoiding common mistakes, exploring alternative methods, and considering relevant factors can also contribute to a successful paint job.

By following expert tips and taking the necessary precautions, you can achieve a flawless finish that will enhance the overall aesthetic appeal and longevity of your painted surfaces. So, the next time you embark on a painting project, don’t overlook the benefits of sanding between coats.

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