How to Paint Wainscoting

Materials Needed

  1. Lint-free cloth
  2. Acetone, water, or cleaner
  3. Rubber gloves
  4. Masking tape
  5. 4" bristle brush
  6. Scotch Brite Pad (Fine) or 320–400 grit sandpaper
  7. For water-based application: Acrylic-based primer/acrylic latex-based exterior grade paint. We recommend using Sherwin-Williams PrepRite Bonding Primer with compatible acrylic-latex paint for optimal paint adhesion.

Step 1: Surface Preparation

  1. Lightly sand the surface with a Scotch-Brite Pad or fine sandpaper.
  2. Thoroughly wipe the wainscoting with water or an appropriate cleaner such as Sherwin-Williams Pro Clean Professional Prep Wash Concentrated Cleaner to clean any dust or residue from the surface. Acetone will also work well.
  3. Allow wainscoting to dry before applying paint. Do not use hydro-carbon based solvents to clean the wainscoting, as such products may leave a residue.

Step 2: Priming

  1. Apply primer with a 4" brush. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for drying time before applying the first coat of paint.

Step 3: Painting

  1. Allow to completely dry before applying primer to wainscoting.
  2. Apply two coats of enamel paint such as Behr Premium Plus Interior/Exterior Hi-Gloss Enamel or Glidden Evermore Interior & Exterior Latex Enamel High-Gloss.
  3. Before you apply a second coat of paint to wainscoting, follow the manufacturer's instructions for drying time between coats.


  1. When using stains, mineral spirits, paints, or other hazardous materials, always read and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  2. Make sure the working area is well ventilated when working with paints or solvents.
  3. Keep away from heat and flame, as materials may be combustible.
  4. Paints or solvents may cause skin and eye irritation. Avoid contact with skin and eyes.
  5. Keep out of reach of children.

That's it. Enjoy your newly painted wainscoting!

You can find products like Behr paint and Glidden paint at Home Depot. Just enter your zip code and then search for products to find prices at a store near you.