28th April 2020

How to Paint Skirting Boards

This seems like a simple concept but can really be confusing when you’re faced with the choice of paint, colours, what brushes or rollers to use and how to prepare before you paint.

Paint really is the icing on the cake for your mouldings and a poor job at this point can undo all of the hard installation and design work you have done to get here…. so here’s our advice to some common questions.

Why do you paint skirting boards?

The reason is mostly for aesthetics, so they blend in with the interior design of the surrounding room décor and furnishings.

Physically, paint does provide your skirting boards some protection against moisture absorption, prolonging their life. If all faces have at minimum been preprimed (ie even the back and bottom which cannot be seen when installed) you’re in a good position for many years of low maintenance, durable skirting.

When do you paint skirting boards?

After you have installed, filled, prepared and sanded skirting boards.

When do you sand skirting boards?

After you have installed and filled all fixings or surface features of your skirting. A fine sand is recommended prior to applying top coats. 400 grit should be used to avoid sanding through the sealer on the mouldings, which can lead to differential grain swell.

Can you paint skirting boards without sanding?

Paint suppliers will only give warranty on their coating adhesion if the surface that the paint is being applied too has been prepared properly, and this includes the sanding process. Not only will your paint ‘stick’ better, you will achieve a smoother, more pleasing result.

What colour can you paint skirting boards? Do they have to be white?

Historically skirting boards weren’t white. Georgian era walls, skirting and architrave would have been painted the same colour, which really compliments a room and does look beautiful.

There is no clear reason why skirting boards tend to be white. They do really pop against a wall, especially a coloured one, and having all your skirting boards white creates a beautiful frame and theme that flows throughout the house.

Don’t be afraid to go old school and paint them the same colour as your walls! This can help remove dividing lines and give the appearance of more height, helping open up a smaller room.

You can also paint them darker than your walls for a greater contrast and a more edgy, modern look.

Which paint to use on skirting boards?

Most commonly used on skirting boards is a water/acrylic based or oil/enamel-based paint.

Water based/acrylic top coats may be directly applied and do not require another primer or sealer coat. If you wish to add a further prime coat, we recommend Dulux precision maximum strength adhesion primer.

Oil based/enamel top coats must have a suitable primer. We recommend Dulux One Step Alkyd Primer/Undercoat or Zinsser Cover Stain Primer Sealer be applied prior to applying top coats.

Do not use paints that are designed for absorbent surfaces such as plasterboard sealers.

Paint coats should always be applied in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Do you have to choose gloss paint for mouldings?

Typically a gloss (very shiny) or semi-gloss (mildly shiny) paint is used on skirting boards.

A high gloss finish highlights any imperfections on the surface and therefore there needs a lot more preparation to fill and sand any fixing holes, timber features, including grain lift, splits, small cracks, surface variations that are inherent with natural timber.

Our recommendation for timber skirting boards, whether it is to stain, clear lacquer or paint, is to choose a semi-gloss, low sheen or matt finish top coat of paint on the skirting boards.

If you are set on having a high gloss finish, we would recommend using MDF (Medium density fibreboard) material instead of natural timber for your skirting boards. MDF is an engineered material like particleboard (has no natural timber features), so requires minimal surface preparation to achieve a smooth surface prior to applying further coats.

Can you paint with emulsion?

Some of you might be thinking ‘what is emulsion?’ The definition of emulsion is the coming together of two liquids that would not easily mix well ie. water and oil, which is pretty much what emulsion paint is. The paint is water-based with vinyl or acrylic resin added for durability.

Emulsion paints are thick and easy to apply, humidity resistant (great for use in kitchen and bathrooms), dry quickly, are less toxic, don’t  dry, crack or fade in the sunlight and are less likely to attract the growth of mildew. Getting all these benefits of course equate to a higher cost and bigger hit to your back pocket and when we’re talking about mouldings, which are usually finished in a gloss or semi gloss, emulsion paint usually provides a matte finish.

Now, can you use this paint on mouldings? The answer is Yes, but you must prepare the skirting board as set out in this article for a positive result.

Sanding is a VERY important step that cannot be missed. If your skirting boards are  MDF, it is important not to scratch through the pre primer as it is waterproof and the result will be grain swell in the scratches, which can look unsightly. It is best to use fine sandpaper (say 400 grit).

If you are choosing not to sand (which is not the way we recommend to prepare skirting boards) we do suggest applying Dulux Precision Max adhesion as the first coat down.

How do you apply the paint?

It is recommended to apply coats by brush.

If you wish to spray coats, you must test a small section of moulding, prior to coating all the product.

How many coats do you need to apply?

Typically apply another prime coat on top of pre-primed skirting boards and two top coats, depending on the paint cover and finish you wish to achieve.

It is not recommended that further coats be watered down or thinned out as this can cause problems with paint integrity (peeling, cracking, bubbling) and not provide a smooth, even coverage.

You should always refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations and assess the level of coverage after each coat has fully dried.

How can you stop your skirting boards going yellow?

“Yellowing” is the term most commonly used to describe the discoloration effect that occurs naturally on ageing, when an alkyd (oil-based) enamel paint is used indoors. It is most noticeable in situations where the natural lighting is poor, for example skirting boards, sliding cavity doors, inside door-jambs, behind furniture or inside cupboards.

The “yellowing” phenomenon is an industry wide technology characteristic which is prevalent in all paint manufacturers of oil-based enamel paints and is not restricted to any one individual product or brand.

How do you fix it? Unfortunately the “yellowing” effect is irreversible and the colour can often be irregular or patchy in appearance.

To minimise the “yellowing” effect during the drying process, all conventional water-based prep-coats and topcoats should be applied first and allowed to cure for up to two weeks (longer if cold) prior to the commencement of the enamel work (or vice-versa).

Good ventilation, with the aid of fans, during application and during the drying period for all water-based paints will allow ammonia vapours (if present) to escape more quickly.

As an alternative to conventional water-based paints, low VOC water-based paints that usually do not contain ammonia, can be employed.

The only effective way to overcome the “yellowing” problem, once it has occurred, is to allow the enamel paint to harden and lightly sand to remove the gloss prior to repainting with a non-yellowing water-based coating system, over the alkyd enamel.

How can you prevent your paint yellowing?

In order to prevent this problem, it is recommended to avoid applying white or light coloured enamel or alkyd paints in presence of water based paints at the same time, because it can adversely and permanently affect the colour of the alkyd enamel.

Allow as much natural light as possible into the painting area both during and after application on enamels. Rooms that remain closed-up until the occupant moves in are very susceptible to early “yellowing”, due to the lack of ventilation and lack of daylight.

When a completely non-yellowing enamel finish is required, a premium quality water-based enamel paint should be employed.

Unlike oil-based enamels, most water-based Acrylic latex paints, will not “yellow” over time.