Rental Interior Paint

Sep 12, 2016 · 6 min read

When I purchased by first duplex I did some extensive research on pretty much everything. I made my own research notes so I could remember in the future for any other properties that I buy. I was recently asked by a couple of other rental property owners what paint I used. They found this information valuable, so I thought I should maybe share it with you.

There are a few options you can run with. The cheap solution is to buy whatever is the cheapest paint is that is currently on sale while using a coupon. The simple solution would just paint the interior white. These options are not bad and they can save you some money, but I like doing things the hard way. Or maybe I am just inexperienced haven’t learned my lesson yet. Or maybe I want to treat my tenants with respect and give them a benefit of the doubt and treat them the way I would want to be treated. So my option is the quality solution where I care about the details.

If you don’t want to go the all white way or the cheapest way let me share with you what I have learned so far and I will try to explain the reasons along the way, but first let’s talk about the three primary options.



You noticed how I didn’t say anything about color yet. I have seen rooms painted pink because it was on sale. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to sleep is a pink room. It’s nothing against the color itself, but light pink plays tricks on your eyes with other colors in the room. Another component of cheap paint is that you may have to apply additional layers to the walls to give it an even coat. It will also have to be repainted more often. I think this is a solution if you have had a history of having bad tenants which require repainting every time they move out.


Painting everything white is a great way to give your tenants a blank slate to paint the walls whatever they want. The problem with this is that it can encourage them to paint the walls and potentially make a mess of it all. Then when they move out they have to paint it again. Another problem is that every blemish shows up, which includes makeup in the bathrooms, handprints around door frames, and kitchen accidents. A positive side to it being all white is that it will have a clean and calming feeling to it, almost to the point of feeling sterile.


This is the path I recommend. It’s a solution that is a bit more complex. I like to break down the paint by primer, ceiling, trim, and then by rooms. I personally use Sherwin Williams SuperPaint. I enjoy how it lays on the wall and their customer service has always been excellent.

I like to use white on the ceiling, either beige or a light gray on the walls, and white on the trim. The sheen varies from surface to surface and from room to room all depending on how that area is going to be used.

Paint & Location


I enjoy Kilz Premium. I have a gross little story on why you can skip this part if you want to. When I was in my teens I had a neighbor commit suicide by a single gunshot to the head. Somehow I ended up “volunteering” to paint the interior of the house, mostly to cover up the blood splatter. The guy was also a smoker, the wall was gross from that as well. I then somehow talked my cousin Joe into helping me. Anyways, we used Kilz and it worked like a champ. I should also note that when using Kilz make sure the place is well ventilated. Joe and I forgot this step and ended up getting high and almost passing out.


Having it pure white can make a stark contrast, but toning it down a bit will make it blend in with the room a bit more. I use a flat sheen as no one touches the ceiling and it makes it harder to noticed any imperfections in the drywall.

Bedrooms & Common Area

I have two options I go with based if I want a warm color or a cool color. I first determine if there is a lot of natural lighting. If there is I will go with SW 6071 Popular Gray, if not I will go with SW 6078 Realist Beige. From there I make the final decision based off of what color the flooring, doors, cabinets, and other fixed objects that are in the house.

Using the beige or light gray can bring some life into the units. It will hide hand prints and other random things that somehow causes a wall to get dirty of time.


The color should be the same as whatever you are painting the bedrooms and common areas. The only thing that changes is the sheen. This is because of moisture and higher uses. The satin sheen is much easier to wipe clean.


At one point I painted the bathroom the same color and sheen as the kitchen, but the problem I found was lighting. Another problem is when applying makeup. The beige or a light gray can play tricks on the eyes. The makeup will end up looking more natural with a white color as there isn’t any outside influence when applied. Yes, that’s right. I actually think about those little details. In another post, I will talk about lighting as this can also have effects for the same reasons.


I left the trim for last because I think it can be the most important part of the paint job. It’s the most meticulous part of the job that is overlooked. It is also the part the really makes the walls pop. I use high-gloss because of the high traffic with furniture hitting it and shoes scuffing it. It’s much easier to wipe down and maintain.

Other Notes


Every color has a different effect on people and cultures. It’s best to stay in a natural state. Remember we are painting this for tenants that are going to be living there. Don’t try to be an interior decorator and get creative with colors. Keep it simple.


I paint the ceiling first, then paint the walls, then paint the trim. Basically working my way down. If I get ceiling paint on the wall, which will happen, it won’t matter because painting the walls is the next step. The same goes for the trim.

Extra Paint

Storage is important, make sure to keep it indoors to make sure it last. I have used paint that has been left out in the garage for a couple years for touch ups. This has never worked out well for me. I am not sure about this, but I have been told that paint can last up to 15 years if stored correctly. It generally goes bad from temperature and from the paint turning into a solid.


Every unit is going to different. Things such as cost, location, and even natural light can affect how you should paint. Another great way to figure out what color you should use is to ask the property manager of a well-taken care apartment building. The builders have done their own research on what is appropriate for them. Follow their path with color choices and it should also work out for you.

This seems like a lot of extra work and you are absolutely right, it is. Here is the deal, I take great pride of my units and I want my tenants to have the very best experience. It may be a little extra money, a little extra time, and require a little extra storage, but I believe it all pays off at the end of the day. The funny thing is I never expect my tenants to know how much thought I put into this or even noticed that the trim and walls are different colors, let alone different sheens. I just want them to feel safe and comfortable without having to think about it.

Originally published at localhost on September 12, 2016.

Kennedys Garage

Thoughts and lessons learned from Kennedy

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