How to Decorate a Rental Property – a Landlord’s Guide

Updated May 19, 2024 | Posted Jul 28, 2023 | Professional insight, Product Advice | 0 comments

As a landlord, decorating your rental property gives you something to think about. You want the rental looking smart for your tenant, but you also need to look at it as a business. Let’s face it, Professional Decorators are expensive, and it can cost a lot of money getting a property re-vamped. What’s more, decorating is the one job you know you will need to carry out after every tenant. A house with clean and tidy walls is only ever temporary.

So, what’s the answer? How do you decorate a rental property, so it looks good, but doesn’t set you back several months’ worth of rent every time you do it? Well, as a Decorator myself, I have worked for many landlords, and I think I can answer that.


Keeping The Cost of Decorating a Rental Property Down


This is your business, so a penny saved is a penny in your pocket, which is what owning a rental property is all about. There are certain things you can do to keep the cost down.

The first thing you can do is always use the same materials every time you decorate (I’ll go into the best colours and materials for a rental property later in the blog). Same brand, same finish, same paint colour. This is because it will cut down on the number of coats needed when “flipping” the house or flat after each tenant.

What’s more, you rarely need to redecorate fully after each tenant. It might be that the ceilings are mainly fine throughout, and maybe 3 of the walls in the lounge need to be touched-up and recoated. Maybe the wall behind the headboard in a bedroom needs a bit of stain block on it and a couple of coats. Providing you use a suitable product on the woodwork, one coat throughout is generally fine. Only do the decorating you need to.


My point is, that you may only need to decorate a rental property properly once. After that, you can generally cut right back on the amount of work needed, but still get it looking mint. This for me, is how you save money on decorating a rental property.


The Different Levels of Finish for Different Types of Rental Property


Of course, the section above only works up to a certain level of property. After all, the better your rental looks, the more rent it will command. For me, you need to reverse engineer things a little bit; instead of looking at how much work you need to carry out then looking at how much it will cost, look at how far your budget will stretch and stick to that instead.

This isn’t an issue if you can carry out all the decorating work every time you need to and still remain under budget. But if things are tight, then maybe it’s time to cut back and think about it as “maintenance”, rather than decorating. The Next Section Will Help 😉


Colours and Paint Products


The advice I’m about to give you will help massively. Certain paint products will help you keep on top of the decorating without having to spend too much money.

Do not think for one second that by trying to save money on paint, you will save money overall. Quite the opposite in fact, trade paint may cost a little bit more, but it will go further, cover in less coats, and is generally more durable.

I cherry pick the best products from each brand, and I’m happy to share what I use with you. It’s worth noting that unless you qualify for a trade discount with favourable rates, then it’s almost certainly going to be cheaper to buy this type of paint online than it is from a trade counter. The website I’d recommend is The Decorating Centre Online, where you will find almost every trade product available, and all at a reasonable price. Click here to visit.


Do not over-complicate your ceilings when redecorating a rental property. All you need is a white contact matt with good opacity and a relatively low sheen. My recommendation is MacPherson Eclipse. Manufactured by Crown Paints, this product is cheap, will generally cover itself in one coat, and looks good. What more can you ask for?


You need a vinyl matt for the walls in your rental property as it’s slightly more durable than contract matt, but it’s still relatively cheap. Colour wise, I stick with grey (I hate grey by the way, but it’s what most people like to see). Avoid white and magnolia as they make a property look cheap.

I generally get Farrow and Ball Ammonite (which is a nice warm grey), mixed into Johnstone’s Covaplus, which is a great quality trade emulsion. This is ideal for a rental, as providing you stick with the same product and colour, the “one coat freshen-up” approach every couple of years will be easily achievable.

the best emulsion for walls in a rental house


I generally use water-based on woodwork, except when working on a rental property! Water-based can take 3 coats to cover, but if you were to go with a good quality oil-based satinwood like Crown Trade, then you’re looking at one coat every time you need to redecorate!

This paint is thick, but you can dilute it slightly with white spirit to make it easy to use. The opacity is unreal! It’s a dull white rather than a brilliant white, but that’s a good thing because it highlights less imperfections.

the best paint to use on the woodwork of a rental property

Final Thoughts


I hope this blog doesn’t anger hundreds of tenants up and down the country. I’m not saying that a rental property shouldn’t be decorated to a high-standard. In fact, it should, the first time you decorate it, go all out and get it mint. But, after that, all you need to do is maintain it.

What do Other Decorators Advise?

My advice for the landlords on how to decorate a rental property would be to avoid cheap paint product and corner cutting.

Dulux Diamond Matt for example, will last around 5 years and is washable of 10k scrubs.

This would be much more efficient for the landlord. They might pay an extra 50% on materials but would produce a top-notch maintainable finish for 5 years minimum.

Whereas if they chose a vinyl Matt or a contract Matt, it wouldn’t look so good in a year if not close to terrible. Especially student digs.

Calum Collins

Professional Decorator


My advice is always the same.

Keep it one colour so a landlord can repaint one wall or one room if needed after the end of a tenancy. No fancy paints ie mixed colours. I always use Johnstone’s Covaplus.

It’s impossible to say how often a rental house should be decorated, as it depends on the condition. I have noticed lately that rented houses aren’t being painted as often because in my area there is a lack of rentals. One agent told me “We could rent a cardboard box at the moment”.

Paint en-suites and bathroom ceilings with perma white as tenants rarely ventilate during showers.

Marty Nesbitt

Professional Decorator

Spend a bit extra for quality paints. cheeping out costs more in the long run because you’re redecorating it more often.

Jay Townley

Professional Decorator

My advice to landlords is vet your tenants. Because a nicely decorated property will stay nice for a long time with the right tenants 👌👌

Philip Dean Parker

Professional Decorator

  1. Use the exact same brand and colour of paint throughout the property. This saves time repainting whole rooms.
  2. Damp seal everything
  3. Oil based satin/gloss for cost for durability (cheaper too as less coats needed compared to water-based).
Hev Govan

Professional Decorator


I recommend using durable paint on walls when decorating a rental property and use a good quality bathroom paint.

Benjamin Moore Scuff-x on the woodwork.

When someone moves out its likely just a good touch-up and roll on walls that need it. Woodwork will likely just need a light sand and one coat.

This works out cheaper in the long run.

Dave Pearce

Professional Decorator

Don’t be so bloody tight!

Spend a bit more to have a proper job done. If a house is in good condition when someone moves in, then they are more likely to look after it.

Bryan Dennett

Professional Decorator

The landlord I work for has over 450 properties.

They have bought into the idea of acrylic eggshell ceiling and walls. They see the benefit of less mould and overall damage.

Ceilings are white and all walls are Farrow and Ball Ammonite matched into Johnstone’s paint. Looks very good.

Older woodwork in oil-based Armstead Satin.

Andy Foster

Professional Decorator

Spend a little more on materials that will last longer, the cost of applying it will be the same 👍

John Sweeney

Professional Decorator

Updated May 19, 2024 | Posted Jul 28, 2023 | 0 comments

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Gregory is a Professional Painter and Decorator who works in the Northwest of England. He mainly sub-contracts for large decorating firms and works on a wide variety of projects.


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