Can I Paint Without Sanding?

Can I Paint Without Sanding?

Finish painting is the easy part.

Many folks say that painting is extraordinarily therapeutic, peaceful, almost Zen-like.

Chances are those saying this are not referring to the prep portion of their projects.

It is not unusual to contemplate whether sanding should be involved with the prep process for your particular project.

With few exceptions, sanding is almost ALWAYS necessary.

The reason being is by sanding you not only eliminate roughness and set the stage for the magnificent paint or stain system you are about to apply, but by doing so you also allow the surface to be in a position to “hold” your coating system in place for a long time to come.


On the exterior, sanding is often necessary to eliminate the edges of peeling paint and to make sure that unsightly imperfections are as limited as they can be given an individual circumstance.


On the interior, sanding is necessary to smooth out plaster, joint compound, or spackling that has been applied, allow for “bite” in between coatings of paint or polyurethane, or scuffing up older finishes to cut down glossiness.

If there is lead paint present (most notably on homes built prior to 1978), it is generally advised that sanding should never be done unless by a certified professional who has the proper equipment to appropriately work with this type of situation.


Another instance where sanding should not be done is with certain types of wood decking and the deck finishes that are associated with them.

This is because by sanding certain types of wood that are already have tightly dense wood grains to begin with (Ipe as an example), sanding these surfaces would cause the wood grain to tighten up even further and as crazy as it may seem, disallow any stain applied to its surface (seemingly no matter how thin the stain may be) to correctly penetrate.

As far as what we are all traditionally taught in terms of preparing surfaces, this may appear to be quite the ‘Catch 22’!

There are other nuanced situations where sanding would not make sense to do, these are the exceptions rather than the rule, however.

To truly prepare any surface that you will be painting or staining, sanding should be planned on being included in some capacity nearly 100% of the time.

When sanding, it is important to not only use the proper equipment, but to also wear the proper personal protection (the correct facemask, eye protection, etc.) that is necessary to help guard you from harm.


When sanding, there are different “grits” associated with the variety of sandpaper you may use.

The higher the grit, the smoother the sandpaper (typically used for final sanding or tasks that do not need as rough a paper).

The lower the grit, the rougher the paper (typically for tasks that require a “heavier hand” – i.e., exterior surface prep).

It is easy (with good reason!!) to envision the idea of sanding as being an excruciating task that is neither fun nor relaxing.

While some types of sanding are certainly more of a workout than others, the fact that the act of sanding is an overall vital part of the surface preparation process when it comes to painting, may be the unfortunate realization for any lazy bone that may be approaching a painting project and desires it to come out as best as possible.

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