What order should you paint a room?

Updated May 10, 2024 | Posted Oct 30, 2021 | Professional insight, Miscellaneous | 1 comment

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!!


What Order Should you Paint a Room When Using Oil-Based Paint on your Woodwork?


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.


What Order Should You Paint a Room When Using Water-Based Paint on 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.


What Order Should You Paint a Room When Spraying?


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.

What Order do you Decorate a Room When Wallpapering?


First job – line all walls which are to be wallpapered.

Second job – paint two coats of emulsion on your ceiling

Third job – apply an undercoat and topcoat to your woodwork

Fourth job – hang your wallpaper


When wallpapering, you should tackle things slightly differently. Most decorators I know insist on lining all the walls which are to be papered. We do this for a few reasons, including the prevention of joints opening and the even drying rate of your paste. Lining paper should be carried out BEFORE painting, but the finish paper should be your last job.




Should you cut in before or after rolling?

Generally, you should always cut in before rolling. This will help avoid a defect called picture framing, which is when you can see the cutting in after you’ve finished painting.


Is it OK to cut in one day and paint the next?

Yes, apart from on your final coat. In which case, it’s better to roll straight after cutting in.


Do I need to cut in twice when painting?

Unless you are painting with the same colour as is already on your wall or ceiling, you will need to cut in twice and roll twice.


Can you roll paint right after cutting in?

You should roll a wall straight after cutting in. The only exception with when using paint that contains a lot of acrylic. In which case, you may need to let your cutting in dry before rolling, especially on your first coat.


Final Thoughts


I know it isn’t straightforward, but hopefully this blog has made things a lot clearer for you. Regardless of your aim, I think as long as you’re being methodical and carry out the steps in the correct order, you should be fine. Now go and decorate that room!

Updated May 10, 2024 | Posted Oct 30, 2021 | 1 comment

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Cupit has been in the decorating industry since 2002 and has mostly worked as a Trade Decorator in the domestic sector (peoples’ homes). Self-proclaimed “product geek”, Mike has a passion for paint and decorating tools. Mike now spends most of his time testing paint products and tools, comparing them to similar products on the market, and blogging about the industry in general.
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1 Comment

  1. Sushi

    Brilliant! Thank You 🙂


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