What paint to use on skirting boards – decorating experts reveal the best and worst type of paint to use

The hits and misses of paint for skirting boards according to decorating pros

A green-painted hallway with framed artworks, a console table and two chairs
(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Wreford)

If you’ve got your technique for painting walls down and are now moving on to your skirting boards, you may have realised they are a whole different animal. Whether you just want to touch them up or paint them a whole new colour, the first thing you need to consider is what paint to use on skirting boards before you even start thinking about how to paint skirting boards.

This narrow floor-level area is prone to a lot of contact and scuffs, which is why choosing a hard-wearing type of paint is crucial. But which of the paints are hard-wearing and which are not? That’s where the help of our decorating pros comes to play to answer all of your burning skirting board questions.

What paint to use on skirting boards?

A white tonal bedroom with patterned cushions

(Image credit: Future PLC/Hasselblad)

When it comes to skirting board paint ideas, experts recommend sticking to oil-based paint. 

‘Oil based paint is best for skirting boards as it is more durable and can stand up to the wear and tear that skirting boards are exposed to,’ says Pat Gilham, painting and decorating expert at MyJobQuote.co.uk, a tradespeople-finding and quote-comparing online tool. ‘These paints are also easy to wipe clean when the skirting boards get scuffed or marked.’

But one often overlooked yet key step, according to tasker Barnaby Griffin from Taskrabbit, is first priming your skirting boards before painting them. ‘It’s easy to want to jump ahead and get stuck into the painting. But another key step is priming the surface to help the application of the paint and ensure that the paint isn’t absorbed too much by the wood.’

Can you use normal paint on skirting boards?

A home office with pink walls and a matching artwork on the wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

The first question you might ask when choosing your skirting board paint is whether you can use the same paint you used for painting your walls. Especially if you’re going for a tonal, monochrome skirting board colour idea rather than the traditional white.

‘When it comes to painting your skirting boards, most paints will actually work – as long as you’ve prepped your woodwork beforehand,’ says Natalie White at tradespeople-finding site Rated People. ‘If you want to paint your skirting boards the same colour as your walls, so they seamlessly blend in together, then you can use the same paint; however, be mindful that you’ll need to prep your skirting boards well to achieve a flawless finish with your paint. You might also find yourself having to touch them up occasionally or give them a refresh every now and then.’

Emma Bestley, co-founder of paint company, YesColours, encourages experimentation with skirting boards. 

'Colourful skirting boards draw your eye to the floor, giving a new perspective on a room and helping it appear taller. Opt for a playful look by painting your skirting in a vibrant pastel tone like lilac for a fun yet visually pleasing aesthetic. The pop of colour will bring new energy into the space and can serve as a good accent for layering other colours and textures.'

Is satin or gloss better for skirting boards?

A hallway with a staircase and a patterned flooring

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Woolley)

The two most expert-recommended paint finishes for painting skirting boards are gloss and satin. Why?

‘Gloss and satin finishes are a good choice for skirting boards as you can clean them with most household products without dulling the surface,’ Pat explains. Both are great for their hard-wearing and long-lasting properties, which will be especially beneficial to busy households, as further advised by Natalie.

A green-painted hallway with framed artworks, a console table and two chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Brown)

But which of the two is better? That depends on your taste and what effect you’re going for.

‘Choosing a gloss finish will give you a high sheen and will reflect a lot of light. A satin finish has a lower sheen but will still reflect some light,’ Pat sums up.

Natalie adds a recommendation though, leaning towards satin over gloss finish. ‘A great finish to use is a satin paint. It’s less reflective than gloss so will show fewer imperfections on your woodwork, and still has those durable qualities. So you’ll be able to keep them clean and tidy with ease. It’s also a little more elegant and subtle than gloss paints, so it helps to keep your skirting boards look a little more modern.’

The bottom line is to opt for an oil-based paint and avoid matte finishes where possible to make your life easier. And prime first! 

News Writer

Sara Hesikova has been Ideal Home’s News Writer since July 2023, bringing the Ideal Home’s readership breaking news stories from the world of home decor and interiors, as well as trend-led pieces, shopping round-ups and more. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors, working with the likes of 91 Magazine and copywriting for luxury bed linen brand Yves Delorme among others. She feels that fashion and interiors are intrinsically connected – if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.