Prior to painting walls or flat ceilings you should check for any large damage and repair it. However, there is always damage that appears (be it because of other tradesmen banging up the walls or because the light changes the surface after the prime coat goes on). The process we use is to do major repairs (large broken tape joints, larger holes, eye level damage) the put the 1st coat on. After the first coat we pole sand the entire surface and light check it for smaller damage. Basically every surface gets a double check. Heres a ceiling in Woodbury where we scraped down the popcorn texture and repaired some major damage (a total of 6 broken tape joints). Then we skim coated the entire ceiling and primed with a flat ceiling primer. After the prime process we light checked the entire surface for smaller prep. After the smaller prep was repaired we put two coats of flat ceiling paint. Turned out great.
Here is Jason after the primer doing the additional light check and ceiling repair.
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