Face it, the garage is often the forgotten workhorse of the home. It houses and protects your cars, sports gear, lawn equipment, tools, bikes, camping paraphernalia, and a whole host of other possessions. Yet the interior of many garages looks neglected—unfinished plywood and studs or taped drywall. Give the hardest-working area of your house a simple facelift with the best paint for garage walls, and you’ll be surprised how much it transforms this functional space into one you don’t mind spending time in.
Proper Prep Is Vital
While it isn’t difficult to paint your garage, there are a few differences from painting regular walls in your home. Follow these steps before you paint garage walls and you’ll be much happier with the result.
Step 1: Protect the Rest of the Garage
Before you begin, take down anything hanging on your garage walls, and move everything away from the walls. Cover the floor, outlets, hardware, and anything else you don’t want to get paint on.
Step 2: Ensure Proper Ventilation
Any kind of painting has fumes that are not healthy if breathed in too much. Make sure you have good ventilation when you begin your garage wall painting project.
Step 3: Clean Garage Walls
Garage walls and ceilings tend to be unfinished, often only taped and drywalled. Add in exposure to the outdoors every time you open your garage, your cars going in and out, chemicals and other things stored in there, and it’s no surprise garage walls are dirtier than the ones in your home. They have likely accumulated dust and dirt, and may also have oil stains or water damage. These stains can bleed through paint if left on the surface.
Clean the walls with a Shop-Vac (recommended) or broom to remove the majority of dust and dirt. Then wash the walls with a mixture of water and dish soap. (Dawn cuts through any grease well.) There’s no need for stronger cleaning chemicals or a pressure washer, which can damage the soft surface. If the walls of your garage aren’t that dirty, you can skip washing them.
Once your walls are clean and dried completely, you can move on to the next step.
Step 4: Prep the Surface
Prepping your garage walls will require different steps, depending on the material. If your walls are not already sheetrocked, you may have some extra work to get them ready for painting.
- Drywall - Fill chips, dents, and nail holes with drywall compound and sand them smooth.
- Wood - Multiple rounds of cleaning and sanding are required.
- Brick - Clean with a wire brush and borax.
- Concrete - Fill cracks and clean the surface well.
Step 5: Apply Primer
After cleaning the walls, it’s time to prime them. Determining which primer you need, or if you need to prime at all, depends on what you’re working with.
Normal paints are not made for drywall, which is a porous material. Therefore, if your garage walls are unpainted drywall, you will need a good surface drywall primer, or PVA primer (polyvinyl acetate). A PVA primer seals the pores in sheetrock and creates an even coat. It will also make your paint last longer.
If you skip primer and simply paint garage walls directly on the drywall, most of the paint will soak into the sheetrock. The finish will be bumpy and uneven, and won’t look as good as it could. So make sure your hard work pays off by not skipping this essential prep.
NOTE: Although it may be tempting, don’t think you’ll save time by applying a paint and primer in one product. Drywall primers seal the surface better than a paint and primer in one, which may require three to four coats. Using the right primer from the start will give you better results in fewer coats, and ultimately cost less, as well.
There are many drywall primers to choose from, like Glidden, Behr, Kilz, Valspar, and Benjamin Moore, to name a few.
If your garage walls are already painted, determine if a latex (water-based) or oil-based paint was used. If you don’t know, a simple test can tell you:
- Clean an area of the wall then soak a cotton ball or Q-tip in rubbing alcohol.
- Run it back and forth over the cleaned area.
- If paint comes off, it’s latex; if paint doesn’t transfer to your Q-tip, it’s oil-based.
You don’t need to prime if your garage walls are already painted with latex paint, unless you’re trying to cover a dark color with a new, lighter color or stains are bleeding through the garage wall paint. If you do have stains, use an oil-based primer over the stain area (like Covertstain, Preprite Problock, or Kilz) then let it dry. If the stains are large, apply primer to the entire wall.
If your Q-tip test revealed that you’re dealing with oil-based paint, you will need to use a bonding primer. Why? Because we suggest you use an interior latex paint to paint garage walls, and latex paint doesn’t bond well to the finish of oil paint. Without the proper surface prep, you run the risk of paint failure. Sanding the surface before applying the bonding primer can also help it stick well. However, you can skip this step if you choose to use another oil-based paint.
Some bonding primer options are: KILZ Adhesion Bonding Primer, Sherwin Williams Extreme Bond Primer, or X-I-M UMA Bonder.
It’s Go Time: Garage Painting Tips
Now your walls are prepped and you’re ready to roll your way to a sleeker, more finished-looking garage. Here are some tips to help you get results that will make any weekend-warrior proud.
Tip 1: Mind the Temperature
Painting your garage may seem like a worthy winter home improvement project, but if you live where temperatures often dip below freezing in the colder months, it may be better left for spring. The same goes for the height of summer in hotter climates. Most paint manufacturers list minimum and maximum temperatures for painting because temperatures outside that range mess with the paint curing process.
Tip 2: Applying Multiple Coats
Just like painting any walls, you may want more than one coat of paint to get the desired look. Simply make sure the current coat is dry before adding another coat.
Tip 3: The Best Paint for Garage Walls, Ceilings, and Floors
The best paint for garage walls and ceilings is interior latex paint, though oil-based paints can also be used. Latex paint is quick drying, can be thinned with water because it’s water-based, and has less odor/vapors than oil-based paint. It’s also easier to clean up with soap and water, and is less irritating to your skin.
Oil-based paint takes longer to dry, must be thinned with paint thinner, and has a strong odor and fumes. It is also much more challenging to clean up, since you can’t use soap and water.
WARNING: Do not use exterior paint in your garage, thinking it’s more resistant to stains, scratches, scuffs, or mold. Exterior paints often have toxins that can be harmful if used indoors, even in a well-ventilated room. There are many durable interior brands that are safe options for garage wall paint.
The same paint can be used for garage walls and ceilings. Garage floors, however, must be painted with a brand that is specifically designed to be used with cement. Usually homeowners seal garage floors with an epoxy-type coating, rather than paint.
Tip 4: The Best Paint Brands for Garage Walls
Most paint manufacturers have good options for painting your garage walls, from household names like Glidden and KILZ to eco-friendly newcomer Montage Signature. You don’t need to choose the most expensive paints and primers for painting your garage. Simply make sure you select a PVA primer and the paint is good quality and latex-based. But you can’t go wrong with Sherwin Williams Promar 200 Zero VOC Eggshell (latex), or the Sherwin Williams Pro Classic Acrylic Satin or Semi-gloss.
Tip 5: The Best Color for Garage Walls
To brighten what can often be a darker space, many people like to paint garage walls white. But white shows every scuff, dirt streak, and mark. It grows dingy fast in a space like the garage that is regularly more exposed to dirt. However, dark colors can visually shrink your garage.
The best colors for garage walls fall in between bright white and dark colors, and can hide dirt while still looking good. Don’t forget to take into account the color of your garage door, the door to your house, and the floor of your garage, if it’s colored.
The best colors for garage walls are:
- Neutral blues and greens
Most people prefer to paint garage ceilings white or match the walls.
Tip 6: Tools You Will Need
Nothing is worse than discovering you forgot some essential supplies when you’re in the middle of a painting project, with an open paint can and paint-covered brush or roller. Use this list to make sure you have everything you need before you are elbow-deep into painting your garage.
- Shop-Vac or broom
- Drop cloth
- Painter’s tape
- Soapy water
- Paint roller with extendable handle (9 inches long with ½ inch nap)
- Paint tray
- Edging brush
- Drywall compound, putty knife, sanding block (if you need to fix any wall blemishes)
- Drywall primer
- Latex interior paint
Organize Your Newly-Painted Garage
Now that your garage is sporting its fresh new coat of paint, make it even more pleasant and functional with the most convenient storage solutions by Garage Smart. Our next-generation products can help you turn unused overhead space into versatile, 100% safe, and simple storage, like this tool rack that keeps all your lawn equipment together and out of the way.
See how Garage Smart can take your garage organization to the next level today.