Remodeling Tip: Should Painting or Flooring Come First?

Kristin Luna
Written by Kristin Luna
Updated December 29, 2021
Living room with blue couch and rug
Photo: Michael / Adobe Stock

Highlights

  • Install flooring first, so you don’t ding up your new paint job

  • Before beginning, you’ll want to remove all old materials

  • Cleaning up between steps eliminates dust and dirt

  • Painting is almost always the final step in any remodeling project

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You’re nearing the end of your renovation project and can see the finish line. But before you cross it, you need to plot out the proper order of events that will make your remodeling project go as smoothly as possible. And one of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make is to decide which comes first: Painting or installing new floors?

While it may seem an easy question to tackle, there’s actually quite a bit of thought that should go into the proper order of flooring and painting—and we’re outlining the reasoning behind the decision below. 

The Flooring (Usually) Comes First

Before you take a paintbrush to the walls or start to install new flooring, you’ll need to remove the existing flooring first. This might entail taking a sledgehammer and masonry chisel to a roomful of tile or a use pry bar and clawhammer pull up hardwood flooring. It’s dirty work that requires a decent amount of muscle and elbow grease and renting a dumpster to take care of the waste you’ll generate during the flooring project. 

Since there is bound to be some light damage to the bottom of the walls and trim during the deconstruction and demolition phase of any flooring project, you’ll want to do the flooring before you paint. Installing new floors also necessitates removing baseboards and trim; you’ll need to patch and fill the nail holes when each trim piece is reinstalled after the flooring is laid down.

Always Clean Between Steps

Remodeling projects like installing new flooring can kick up years’ worth of dust as you remove the old material. Keeping a clean workspace as you go—instead of making a huge mess then cleaning it all up at the end—will save your future self from one less chore. 

Allowing dirt to build up in between steps only increases the likelihood of sediment getting trapped between the layers of your new floor. Particulates that arise from construction projects also create a thin coat of dust that can stick to both your ceilings and walls—another reason you’ll want to do the floors first and paint later. 

Once the old flooring material is gone and you have a pristine subfloor, you can move on to installing your new floor. If installing flooring seems like a daunting task, you might consider hiring a local flooring contractor to do the work for you.

The Paint Comes Last

While there are reasonable arguments to any debate—like if you paint before installing new flooring, you’ll avoid the hassle of paint drips or spills, ladder scuffs, or other damage to the new floor—there’s an even more important reason for painting after installing flooring. 

Proper painting techniques should always be applied in the last stage of a remodel or renovation before the final clean-up. While, sure, you can do the finishing work before flooring or other aspects of a project, you’ll almost always have to go back and touch up. And why create the need to do something twice when you can just tackle your project in the proper order, to begin with?

The process of installing a floor is fraught with chances to damage the surrounding surfaces. Big remodeling projects like replacing flooring create huge plumes of sticky dust that adhere to every surface. The sanding tools themselves are large pieces of equipment that need to be shuttled in and out of your home, creating the potential for scratches and scrapes. 

The Exception: When to Paint First

While flooring before painting is a good rule of thumb to follow, there’s always an exception to any rule. You'll want to paint before installing flooring if you're working with laminate flooring, which doesn't require sanding, or installing a floor in a room with a lot of finished cabinetry. Always save painting until the last possible step to protect the finished walls.

Paying careful attention to the process of each step that comes after the paint is important. If you’re generating any kind of particulate or moving heavy equipment and have people going in and out of the room, it’s generally smart to install your floor first and paint last. 

If you’re short on time or would like the expert help of a professional, you can hire a local painting contractor to help.

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