What order should you paint a room?

By Mike Cupit


I’m a professional decorator and have been for the past 20 years. I’m often asked by homeowners “what order should you paint a room?” Or, “should I paint skirting boards before the walls”. To be honest, even decorators on the Forum argue about this sometimes. For me, it depends on what materials and application methods you’re using. I thought I’d put a quick blog together and explain the various methods.


For this blog I’m going to use the following scenario as an example. Let’s pretend we’re re-decorating a standard lounge. All the woodwork is previously painted, as are the walls and ceilings. The first thing you should do before opening a tin of paint is your prep!! This includes filling imperfections to walls, ceiling and woodwork, before sanding everything down. Block any stains, get rid if the dust, you get the idea!!


When Using Oil-Based Paint on your Woodwork (gloss, Satin or Eggshell)



First job – Two full coats of emulsion on the ceiling.

Second job – Two full coats of emulsion on the walls.

Third Job – Undercoat and topcoat on all woodwork.


We use this order for painting most rooms. The Idea behind it is: work from top to bottom, because if you do splash paint, it’s more than likely to hit something lower than the thing you’re painting. Plus, it’s easier to cut the walls into the ceiling, and it’s very easy to strike a sharp line on the woodwork when you’re using oil-based paint.


Using Water-Based Paint on your Woodwork


First job – Two full coats of Emulsion on the Ceilings

Second Job – Two to three full coats of paint on the woodwork.

Third Job – Tape the woodwork up, then apply two full coats of emulsion to the walls.

Fourth job – De-mask all woodwork and tidy up with your woodwork paint.


Slightly different order this time, simply because a lot of water-based woodwork paints are trickier to work with. You will find it harder to strike a straight line when using them. So, paint the woodwork and spread the paint slightly onto the walls. Then when you mask the woodwork up, run a length of masking tape along the top of your woodwork where you want your line to be. When you emulsion the walls, paint onto the masking tape. When you remove the tape, you’ll be left with nice, sharp lines. This will make some of the older decorators angry as they seem to think masking tape makes you less of a decorator. Trust me though, it is the best way if you’re using water-based.




First job – Spray the first coat on the walls.

Second job – Spray two full coats on the ceiling.

Third job – Spray two or three full coats on the woodwork.

Fourth Job – Tape woodwork and finish the walls with a brush and roller.


A lot of modern decorators spray nowadays, including me. Most of the time it’s a lot quicker and the finish is far superior. You can spray everything, but I find it too much of a faff trying to strike straight lines between ceiling and walls with masking tape, so it’s easier to do everything else, then apply the last coat on the walls with a brush and roller.

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What order should you paint a room?