So you’re finally going to paint it! It has bothered you for months, maybe even years. It taunts you every time you pull the car in or eyeball the grimy hand prints or spy the spider webs and dust dangling here and there.
It’s the garage. But how do you go about painting a monstrosity like this? What paint should you use? What color?
Well, don’t despair! I’m going to answer these questions and many more so you can paint your garage like a pro.
How to Paint Your Garage – Case Study
Garages come in every shape and size. I’ve painted some that seemed big enough for Air Force One and others a sports car could barely squeeze in. For the sake of our discussion, here is our case study:
- Two-car garage.
- Walls & ceiling are drywall and painted an off-white color; the finish is flat.
- Windows are on either side and are trimmed.
- Cinder block (unpainted) is beneath the walls.
- Baseboard covers the gap between the cinder block and drywall.
- Small stairs (painted gray) lead up to the entry door.
- Window trim and baseboards are painted white in a semi-gloss finish.
In our case study, we will be painting:
- Cinder block
We will not paint:
- Garage floor
Preparing To Paint
The first item of business is to get everything out of the garage in order to prep and paint. Because this is a big undertaking, it’s best to tackle this in the spring or early fall when it’s warm and not too hot, and there’s plenty of daylight.
Do not use a hose or pressure washer to spray down the walls. Water can damage the drywall and will take too long to dry. However, if you want to clean the floor, now’s the time to do it.
To get rid of dust, debris, and cobwebs, use the following:
- Shop-Vac for low-lying pickup
- Swiffer on a long pole to grab cobwebs
- Pole sander with 220 grit. Sand all the walls to remove dust, loose paint, and debris
- Windex to clean the windows
- If the trim is dirty, try using a cleaner like Krud Kutter or Simple Green
Quality paints will cover most marks and stains, but some stains will need to be primed. Here are a few of them:
- Oil (this can be anything from motor oil to cooking oil)
- Sharpie pen marks
- Water stains
Purchase a can of oil-based primer like those made by Kilz or Zinsser, and be sure to get one that dries within thirty minutes to an hour. You don’t want to be waiting on primer to dry when you’re ready to get painting.
When you spray, use a back and forth motion with short bursts to cover the stain with an even coat and eliminate drips.
When patching nail holes, I use my painter’s tool and, using the handle butt, press the hole in ever so slightly.
With a putty knife, apply an even coat of drywall patch. I prefer DAP’s DryDex that goes on pink but dries white.
I love this product because I can check how it’s drying from a distance while working in another area. I also use a box fan to speed up the dry time.
Also, some nail holes may need two coats of spackling. When they are dry, use a sanding square or pole sander to sand and smooth.
I use wall patches by DAP to cover 3″-8″ holes in the drywall. Patching large holes like these will require drywall spackling and drywall knives to skim several thin coats over the patch.
Plan on 1-2 days to complete as the compound takes longer to dry. Anything larger than these will require drywall pro or handyman to cut out and repair with new sheetrock.
Drywall Screw Pops
Take a Phillips screwdriver and turn the screw slightly to set deeper. Next, use your painter’s tool to press down the edges. Lastly, patch with 2-3 coats of spackling.
In our case study, let’s assume there are small gaps in the window trim and baseboards that need caulking.
My go-to caulk is DAP’s Dynaflex. It’s latex, paintable, dries quickly, and goes on like butter. It’s more expensive than other types but its silicon-like qualities allow it to expand and contract with the seasons without cracking. Avoid silicone caulk. It’s messy to work with (only cleans up with thinner) and is not paintable.
Yes, prepping is time-consuming, but it’s the key to making your paint job pop and look brand new. Speaking of which, let’s get some drops laid out and some paint on the walls!
Cinder Block Painting
In our case study, the cinder block is dry, void of mold, and in good condition. You will need to prime it with a product like Block Filler 2X before painting with your color.
Purchase a 9″ roller with at least a 1″ nap, and be prepared to spend some time working the primer into the nooks and crannies of the block.
Best Paint Color for Garage Walls
When it comes to what color to use, you’re probably going to fall into one of the following categories:
- Repaint with the same color
- New color
- Transform the garage into a showpiece
At this juncture, let me give you some advice: avoid using paints from a big box store. Instead, opt for superior paints from Benjamin Moore (my go-to), Sherwin Williams, or PPG.
I know the big box stores carry paints with these labels, but they’re a cheaper quality.
Here are my color and paint tips for our three categories.
Repaint With the Same Color
This is the easiest and the cheapest method. You won’t need as much paint because you should be able to get by with (1) coat, which means you’ll finish sooner.
However, be sure to get the same sheen. If you plan to paint the current flat finish with something washable, you need to plan for (2) coats. It’s the only way to get the sheen consistent.
If you don’t know the color’s name and don’t have the paint can lying around, find a swatch or use a color fan (ask your local paint store for one) to find a match. It doesn’t have to be a 100% match, just in the ballpark.
Another method is to take in something with paint on it for the paint store to match. The last resort is to remove a light switch or outlet cover and cut some excess drywall to take to the paint store. Yes, you’ll get some eye rolls when you present your sliver, but they can match it.
Most garages have a flat finish, so I recommend using Benjamin Moore’s Super Hide. It’s inexpensive, covers better than other paints at this price point, and is easy to use.
Sherwin Williams has some comparable paints as well, but you’ll need to contact your local retailer for what’s in stock.
Painting the trim will depend on what is on it currently. In our example, the trim is white in a semi gloss finish and let’s make it latex.
If you know the color or have some leftover trim paint, then you’re all set. If not, you’ll need to match the existing trim using the same tips I listed above.
Painting with New Color
I recommend selecting a neutral color, like a light gray or off-white or a light beige. Always get a sample and put some on the wall or poster board to make sure you love the color.
Nothing is worse than shelling out money on gallons of paint to learn later you don’t like the color.
Next comes selecting the sheen. Here’s a breakdown of the various paint sheen types for walls with the pros and cons.
Flat Paint Sheen
- Less expensive
- Great for touch up
- Hides drywall imperfections and defects
- It’s not cleanable and will show fingerprints and smudges. Don’t be fooled by paint companies offering a cleanable flat. I’ve heard nothing but complaints from homeowners who used these paints
- Next best choice for hiding imperfections and defects
- Touch-ups may be noticeable; sheens may “flash”
Eggshell Paint Sheen
- Very popular finish
- More cleanable than matte
- Wall imperfections may be noticeable
- Touch-ups will be noticeable; sheens will “flash”
- More cleanable than eggshell
- Wall imperfections will be noticeable
- Not used that often on interior walls
Selecting your trim color follows the same guidelines as in the previous example.
Transforming Into a Showpiece
This is for the owner who wants to turn the garage into something a NASCAR or NASA crew would use.
When I’ve painted garages like these, light gray seems to be the color of choice. It’s not too dark, adds some color to a usually drab room, and lets your wall decor be the focal point.
Although we are not painting the garage floor in our case study, to accomplish this look, you will want to consider having this done.
The process is too laborious to discuss in this post, but it will wow your friends and neighbors when done correctly.
In closing, let me deal with some loose end topics in a FAQ fashion.
“Do I need to prime my walls?”
Other than that, no, you don’t need to prime. If the current color is dark, plan on painting the third coat with the new color instead of purchasing primer. You’ll save time and money.
“Shall I use oil paint on my walls?”
Although this statement would have been true back in the’ 50s-’70’s, paint manufacturers have created some fantastic latex products that, in my opinion, outperform oil paints.
My favorite for high traffic areas and even bathrooms is Scuff-X. Watch their video showing how resistant it is to scuffing.
It’s also resistant to water, which is why I use it in a bathroom and comes in a low-sheen finish to hide wall imperfections.
For trim paint, I use either Advance or Command. Both clean up with water, have exceptional leveling abilities (brush marks “level out”) like oils, dry faster than oils, are as durable as oils, and don’t stink like oils. Another excellent latex trim paint is Pro Classic. It levels out well and is durable, too.
“The previous paint is shiny. It must be oil based correct?”
Not necessarily. Even latex paints can be that glossy. But you do need to know for sure since latex paints will not bond to oil paints. Your local paint store should have a testing kit you can purchase, or you can watch the video below on how to test.
If it is oil, then you need to prime it. Back in the day, you would need to use an oil primer, which stinks, is toxic, and can only be cleaned up with thinner.
I use Stix which is latex, sands well, and is easy to apply. I’ve even used it on a Formica counter for a client. Yes, I had to do some prepping to ensure it would adhere, but her topcoat paint has lasted for years without chipping.
“But for trim, isn’t oil the best choice?”
No. I haven’t used oil paint in over ten years, especially with unique waterborne products like Advance, Pro Classic, and Command.
I hope this post eased some of the anxiety associated with painting a garage and has given you the confidence to tackle it head-on.
Image Credit: Car vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com
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