painting skirting boards

Painting Skirting Boards – The Ultimate Guide

Repairing and painting skirting boards to match your home décor gives any room a polished look.

However, you might only need to give your skirting boards a touch up, because like me, you have a young family and they inevitably become damaged.

Alternatively, you may want to repaint them entirely to match your new home décor. 

Either way, this guide will help you brightening up your tired and dull skirting boards through our step-by-step instructions. 


How Difficult Is It To Repair And Paint Skirting Board?

Some people suggest it’s easier to replace skirting boards rather than repair and repaint them.

In many cases I disagree with this, as you may have original skirting boards (these tend to be taller than modern day skirting) that add charm to any room and should be considered a desirable feature.

Painting skirting boards is not a particularly difficult job, but many find painting skirting boards an arduous task because you’re crouched down in an uncomfortable position while you do it.

As always, the more prepared you are, the quicker the job will be.

Cost

Time

Difficulty


Choosing Paint

I tend to get a bit overwhelmed when it comes to choosing paint, as there are so many decisions to make. Should I go with a varnish, gloss, satinwood or egg-shell finish? What colour should I choose? Decisions, decisions!

According to Dulux, it’s a good idea to match your skirting board to the same colour tones used on the wall.

Regarding finish, I tend to stick with satinwood and white, mainly because I can trust it.

However, egg-shell is now an excellent choice for a matt or contemporary look.

For more info, Watford Painter & Decorator have got some great tips about selecting a finish for your skirting boards, including which paints to consider.


Tools & Materials

Please note that you may not require all these tools and materials depending on what steps you need to take. Please read through the method first to check what tools you’ll need.

Tools

  • Paper or dust sheets
  • Masking tape
  • Mask, goggles and suitable clothing
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    Heat gun
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    Wallpaper scraper
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    Sandpaper
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    Caulk gun
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    5cm paint brushes

Materials

  • Sugar soap or washing up liquid
  • Knotting solution
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    Caulk
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    Primer
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    Undercoat paint
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    Topcoat paint
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    Polyurethane Varnish
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    White spirit

How To Prepare Your Skirting Boards

Preparing Your Work Area

masking carpet

I highly recommend not skipping this step, as there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing your freshly painted skirting board sitting on top of a paint-splattered carpet!

You should protect furniture and floors with dust sheets and canvas drop cloths respectively. If you have hard floors, use rosin paper instead of drop cloths.

Use masking tape where the carpet meets the skirting board (see image above). 

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Pro Tip: Masking tape can deteriorate when left out in the open, so store in airtight container. Also, cheap ones can leave a residue behind, so buy quality tape

When carrying out this job, remember to wear suitable clothing, goggles and a dust mask because it can become a dirty job.

See our post Painting A Room With No Mess to learn more about preparing a room for painting

Test Paint Colour

At this point, you may want to test your choice of paint, by applying a small amount to the skirting board. Let it dry and then judge if it truly is the colour and finish you want.

As you’re stripping the skirting boards in the next step, it makes sense to do this test now.

Strip Skirting Boards

If your paintwork is in reasonable shape, you can skip this step and go straight to either step 5 or step 6, depending on the condition of your skirting boards (read on for further clarification).

To strip skirting boards that are already painted, you may need to use a heat gun such as this one from Amazon. You can use this with a wallpaper scraper to strip the paint off

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Pro Tip (from personal experience): The end of paint guns are very hot! Obvious I know, but I was so focused on getting the job done, that when the nozzle of the heat gun fell off, I just picked it up to keep the job moving and acquired a nasty blister on each fingertip!

One extra thing to note, is that you shouldn’t use heat guns on lead-based paint! Lead paint can be found in some old houses, generally on paintwork pre-1960s. You can find out more by reading this government leaflet.

Repair Damage

Fill any cracks or holes in the wood with a specialist wood filler. 

Occasionally a crack can form between the wall and the skirting board, but don’t be too concerned. The crack could be due to quick drying plaster for example. All you need to do, is seal it with a caulk. Take your time when using a caulk gun, as it can be quite tricky to get a neat finish.

Sand Skirting Board

If your existing paintwork is in a decent condition, you may not need to strip it back entirely. Instead, you can use sandpaper to blend any parts where paint has chipped off. 

When sanding wood, remember to follow the grain. If the previous finish was glossed paint, you need to sand it down so the shine has been removed from the gloss.

When you feel the paintwork with your fingertip, you shouldn’t be able to feel any ridges around broken paintwork. Instead, it should feel completely smooth. Keep sanding until you achieve this state.

Once you’ve dealt with the imperfections, go over the 

Clean And Key Surface

If your skirting boards are in good condition and don’t require this level of prep, just give them a good clean. I.e. apply washing up liquid or sugar soap and then wipe down with a cloth. 

Next, lightly sand the entire skirting board with fine sandpaper to rough it up a little. This 'roughing up' produces a 'key' which helps paint cling to the surface and prevents future chipping.

Apply Knotting Solution

Use knotting solution to treat any knots. Follow the instructions on knotting solution, as it will explain the number of coats required. You typically need 2-3 coats.

For more information on preparing skirting board for painting, or any other interior woodwork, check out this handy video below:


How To Paint Skirting Boards

Mask Wall

In addition to protecting the floor with sheets/drop cloths and masking tape, you also need to protect the wall above the skirting board. Masking tape is ideal for this

Clean Skirting Board

To achieve a professional finish, give the skirting board one last clean before painting.
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Pro Tip: Use a vacuum with a brush attachment to thoroughly remove dust, then use a damp cloth to rub over it. Vacuum the whole room to reduce the risk of dust ruining your paint finish

Prime

If you're painting untreated wood,  apply primer to get the best results. Decorating Advice have some great tips on which primer to use and when you need it. Apply one coat and allow to dry.

Apply Undercoat

painting skirting

Now you’re going to apply an undercoat. I like to use a 5cm brush for skirting boards, as it’s big enough to make decent progress but small enough to be accurate. You will need a brush with synthetic bristles if using water-based paint.

It will make life much easier if you dip the brush in the paint so that the paint only goes halfway up the bristles. Apply paint thinly, so it doesn’t drip and follow the grain of the wood with your brush strokes to achieve a smooth finish.

I like to do the top of the skirting board first, then the bottom, as these are the hardest parts due to the accuracy and neatness required. Next, I will fill in the middle which is now easier to do.

Keep checking for drips while you’re painting, and either brush and blend them in, or use a cloth to remove excess paint.

Apply two to three coats depending on the coverage the paint achieves and the colour you want. Bear in mind that the top/finish coat (gloss, satin or eggshell finish) is just to add texture rather than colour. Your colour is achieved with the undercoat.

If you see any imperfections when the layers dry, sand them down and paint again.

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Pro Tip: use a coat hanger as a drip stopper by following these instructions

Apply Topcoat

finished skirting board

It’s topcoat time! Once the undercoat is dry, you can apply the top coat.

Apply the top/finish coat in thin layers and work with the grain using long brush strokes.

Begin with painting at the top of the skirting board (still going along the grain) then work towards the bottom, smoothing out any drips as you work your way down.

Varnish

I like to give my skirting boards extra protection, as they’re prone to be knocked and damaged (primarily by my son and our dog!). I achieve this by applying a few layers of polyurethane varnish

For more information on painting skirting board for painting, or any other interior woodwork, check out this video:


Finishing the job

Remove Masking Tape

Carefully remove all masking tape, but only once the paint is thoroughly dry.

Also, make sure the paint is completely dry on the floor protection used (plastic sheets, drop cloths/rosin paper) before rolling it up. You certainly wouldn’t want to get paint on your floor at this point!

Clean Brushes

Cleaning your brushes will prolong their life. If you used a water-based paint, you should clean them using tap water.

If you used a solvent-based paint, you should use white spirit to get them clean. DIY Doctor has some great tips for cleaning your brushes.


Final Thoughts

painted skirting board

If you want your room to have a professional and seamless finish, you must commit to painting your skirting boards.

Painting skirting board is not the most glamorous job, but the result will make your room look refreshed and polished.

Remember that the key to a long-lasting finish is all in the prep work, so don’t skip or rush this stage!

white skirting board

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About the Author Hannah

I live in Manchester, UK with my young family, 2 cats and a crazy dog. I’m passionate about Victorian houses, Pinterest, Kevin McCloud and creating a home that’s beautiful yet practical for our family!