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How To Paint Skirting Boards | Professional Clean Cut Method

How To Paint Skirting Boards | Professional Clean Cut Method

Posted by Lee Watkinson on 11th Jan 2024

Paint colours and paint brush next to skirting board

Painting skirting boards might seem like a simple and straightforward project, however there are a number of easy mistakes you could make, and several complications you could encounter.

For a picture perfect finish that lasts a lifetime, you have to approach this painting project with due diligence and precision.

Read on to learn how to expertly paint your skirting boards for a showroom worthy finish and to protect them from moisture, scuffs, bumps and yellowing.

Tools & Materials

  • Sandpaper (Medium and fine grit) or sanding sponge
  • Sugar soap solution or mild detergent
  • Paint brush: 2-inch synthetic brush (For water-based paint) / Natural bristle brush (For oil-based paint)
  • Painter's tape
  • Dust sheets 
  • Primer (If skirting boards are untreated)
  • Paint (Gloss, satin or eggshell finish)
  • Rags or cloths

How To Paint Skirting Boards - 9 Step Guide


1. Room and Surface Preparation

  • Clear the room as much as possible.
  • Lay down dust sheets to protect the floor.
  • Remove old caulk from the edges of the skirting boards.

2. Cleaning and Sanding

  • Clean the skirting boards thoroughly using a degreaser or TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) solution.
  • Sand the surface with medium grit sandpaper to remove old paint and create a smooth surface.
  • Switch to fine grit sandpaper for a finer finish.
  • Use a tack cloth to wipe away all the dust.

3. Masking and Taping

  • Apply professional-grade painter's tape carefully along the wall and floor edges. Ensure it's securely adhered to prevent paint bleed.
  • Alternatively, use a piece of cardboard and slide it under the skirting boards, in the gap between the skirting and the floor.
  • Another option is to use a piece of paper inside a plastic wallet (poly pocket). The plastic surface is impermeable to the paint and will glide along the floor easily as you progress.


4. Primer Application

  • Use a high-adhesion primer for untreated or stained wood. (If painting MDF skirting, see our guide on the best paints for MDF.)
  • Apply evenly, covering all areas.
  • Allow the primer to dry completely. For oil-based primers, allow 24-48 hours, for water-based primers 24 hours is sufficient. It should feel dry without any tackiness.
  • Primed skirting boards that feel cool to the touch likely still retains moisture and needs more drying time.
  • Use a dehumidifier to speed up the process.

5. Paint Selection

  • Water-based paints are easier to clean and have less odour, but oil-based paints are more durable.

6. Brush Selection

  • Select angled, synthetic brushes for water-based paints and natural bristle brushes for oil-based paints.
  • Natural bristles like hog hair absorb and hold oil-based paints better than synthetic filaments, water-based paints can make natural bristles go limp. Synthetic bristles like nylon and polyester maintain their shape and flexibility better with water-based paints.
  • Brushes should be of high quality to avoid bristle loss and ensure a smooth application.

7. Paint Application

  • Stir the paint well before use.
  • Start from one corner, applying paint in long, smooth strokes.
  • Maintain a wet edge; this means overlapping the last stroke with the new one to avoid lap marks.
  • Apply the first coat thinly and evenly.
  • Let the first coat dry completely. 

Paint drying guide:

The drying time for the first coat of paint on skirting boards can vary slightly depending on the type of paint, but general guidelines are:

  • Oil-based paints: 8-24 hours before recoating
  • Latex/acrylic paints: 2-4 hours before recoating
  • Quick-drying enamels: 1-2 hours before recoating

Here are some additional factors that affect first coat drying time:

  • Humidity - Higher humidity lengthens the drying time.
  • Ventilation - Proper air flow accelerates drying.
  • Temperature - Warmer rooms speed up drying.
  • Thickness - Thin even coats dry faster than thick coats.
  • Type of wood - Porous woods like pine may take longer.
  • Primer use - Properly primed wood accelerates topcoat drying.

The best way to test if the first coat is fully dry before adding a second coat is to lightly touch the surface with your knuckle. If it still feels cool or tacky, it needs more drying time. Rushing recoats can cause poor adhesion and leave marks. Patience leads to the best results.

  • Lightly sand the surface for a better bond and apply the second coat.

8. Detailing

  • Pay close attention to edges and corners.
  • Remove the tape while the last coat is slightly tacky to prevent paint from lifting.


9. Inspection and Touch-Ups

  • Once the paint is completely dry, inspect the skirting boards for any missed spots or drips.
  • Touch up as necessary to ensure a uniform finish.

Expert Tips

  • Always paint in the direction of the wood grain for a professional finish.
  • Good ventilation is crucial for faster drying and safety.
  • Invest in quality materials for a durable and aesthetic finish.
  • Check the work from different angles to ensure even coverage and smoothness.
  • Wait for each layer to dry before progressing to the next, it may seem as though you are saving time by not waiting for it to fully dry, however the moisture trapped underneath will make the final coat take longer to dry as it works its way out to the surface, which could lead to a compromised finish.

By following these detailed steps and tips, you can achieve a professional, long-lasting finish on your skirting boards. Remember, patience and attention to detail are key in achieving the best results.

Skirting Board Painting Hacks

Here are some additional hacks to help you master painting your skirting boards.

  1. Use a small piece of cardboard or plastic as a guard when cutting in near the edges. This protects the wall and floor from paint splatters.
  2. Dip a mitre block in paint and press it against inside corners for a clean, professional look.
  3. Apply painter's tape to the top edge of the skirting boards before painting to create a crisp line between the boards and the wall.
  4. Use an angled trim brush to easily paint the top and bottom edges in one stroke. Look for ones with blended filaments that hold more paint.
  5. Extend the life of brushes by wrapping them in plastic wrap when taking a break. This prevents them from drying out.
  6. Pour paint into a paint tray liner or disposable container so you can toss it when finished. No need to wash out a paint tray.
  7. Slide a thin board behind the edge you are painting to prevent paint from getting on the wall behind the skirting boards.
  8. Fill gaps and holes with filler before beginning. Sand smooth once dry for an even finish.
  9. Paint vertical boards first, then horizontals for easier cutting in and smoother finish.
  10. Use a small foam roller for faster coverage on long stretches. Follow with an angled trim brush.

How Much Paint Do I Need For Skirting Boards

Let our handy calculator do the math for you!

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Skirting Board Paint Calculator

Skirting Board Dimensions

Paint Layers

Note: This calculator assumes primer and undercoat are applied to all sides of the skirting board to seal it completely for moisture resistance. Topcoat is applied only to the front, visible side for a decorative finish.

Assumes paint coverage of 10m2 per litre.*