Painting skirting boards step-by-step – with carpet down or not

Painting skirting boards is a quick DIY job with our guide. From paint choices to priming – ensure yours get that professional finish.

White skirting boards with hardwood floors
(Image credit: Skirting boards)

Painting skirting boards in a carpeted or hardwood floor room can breathe new life into a tired looking space. If yours are looking lacklustre and in need of a fresh coat of classic white, grey or another coloured paint, you can rest assured that this is a simple DIY job that's not as messy or as awkward as you might think...

A surefire way of polishing them up when a regular clean won't get rid of dirty marks and chipped paint, learn how to paint skirting boards and do this decorating task at least every couple of years to keep your home looking smart – more especially if you are thinking of selling your house...

Do you paint walls or skirting boards first? 

The correct order of painting a room like a pro, is to paint skirting boards after you've tackled the ceiling and the walls. Whether you're freshening up a dated room or, helping new skirting boards blend in with a new decor scheme,  this is how to get a professional finish.


(Image credit: Painting)

How to paint skirting boards: step-by-step

1. Select your colour and gather tools

The colour you choose when painting skirting boards will be dependent on your taste of course, however, for a cohesive look throughout your home, try and choose a hue that's in-keeping with the colour you have on the walls. Many people will go for white for a clean finish or grey for a neutral look. Darker colours will give a room more character but if you want a space that feels brighter and larger, go for a lighter shade.

Remember to consider the different types of paint finishes available too. According to Deborah Drew (opens in new tab)of DIY SOS, when painting skirting boards, you want to 'Use high gloss on skirting boards, doors and woodwork, for more light reflection. Matt finishes are dull and light absorbing. High gloss finishes add depth and are easier to clean.'

The complete list of tools you will need:

  • 2” (5cm) paint brush (make it synthetic if using a water-based paint)
  • Cleaning solution and sponge
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Low tack masking tape
  • Skirting board paint of choice
  • Dust sheet/cardboard

2. Protect your floors

If you're painting skirting boards when you have carpet down, there is a risk of spills or marks where the fibres meet the wood. Your best option is to pull up the carpet at the edges before you start and to fold it back so it is out of the way of the paintbrush. It’s not the simplest, but it is the most effective.

You can of course use masking tape if this isn't an option. In which case you should vacuum the carpet so there’s no dust or debris on it, use wide-set masking tape and apply it along the carpet ‘s edge. 

You can do the same with a dust sheet, fitting it as close to the skirting board as you can. Alternatively, slide a thin piece of cardboard under the skirting board and secure it with tape.

Zoe Warren, interior expert at (opens in new tab) adds, 'If you wish to paint skirting boards without removing your carpet, you should place masking tape  around the edges of the carpet. When doing this, you need to make sure that you create straight edges that are completely flush against the carpet to prevent paint from damaging the floor  covering.'

3. Sand down your skirting boards

Some will skip this rule when painting skirting boards but sanding before painting makes for more professional looking results. Rub down the existing paintwork, using sandpaper along the grain of the wood, most of the time this means sanding in a horizontal direction. You'll then want to fill any holes or cracks, then allow them to dry before sanding them back so that the filler is level with the skirting board.

4. Clean your skirting boards thoroughly

Vacuum thoroughly then use a damp cloth to remove every spec of sanding dust or dirt you can. A sugar soap solution makes this easy.

5. Straighten your edges

Run more low tack masking tape along the base of the wall where it meets the skirting board for a crisp line and to prevent the paint you are using going onto the wall or wallpaper.

6. Paint on the primer

Again, some skip this step but we think it's crucial to a professional finish if you're painting skirting boards yourself. Without overloading your brush, paint the top half of the skirting board in the direction of the grain. Start at the door and make your way round the room, then repeat this to paint the remaining bottom half of your skirting and the centre.

Let this dry thoroughly. before you move on to the next step. 

7. Start painting the skirting

Paint the skirting board in the same direction you sanded it so that any paintbrush lines go in the direction of the wood grain. This will give you a neater, more professional looking finish. Allow to dry and add another coat if needed.

8. Let it dry

This might take a few hours but it's really important to keep your masking tape in place until the paint is entirely dry, to ensure clean lines when you come to remove it.

9. Remove the tape

When you have finished and the paint is completely dry, gently remove the tape from the carpet and walls. Or fold back the carpet, press down and tack it back into place.

10. Clean up

Pile dust sheets in the washer, close and store any half empty paint tins and ensure you clean your paintbrushes straight away to increase their longevity and help them last until the next time.

An open plan ground floor with wooden flooring and white skirting boards

(Image credit: Getty)

Perfectly polished.

Alison is Assistant Editor on Real Homes magazine. She previously worked on national newspapers, in later years as a film critic and has also written on property, fashion and lifestyle. Having recently purchased a Victorian property in severe need of some updating, much of her time is spent solving the usual issues renovators encounter.