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  • Writer's pictureSara Johnson

Can You Paint Over Vinyl Paneling?

Vinyl Panels in a variety of colors used for accent walls

We’ve been asked about painting vinyl many times over the years. Various professionals have even told us you can’t paint vinyl or other types of plastic. But as a former Girl Scout, I knew something some of these professionals didn’t know.

Can you paint vinyl wainscotting?

The simple answer is, yes, vinyl wainscoting can be painted. However, it is important to use a paint that is specifically formulated for use on vinyl. If you don’t use the correct type of paint or prep the surface correctly, you risk destroying the look of wainscotting, and the paint may become brittle or crack. We’ll discuss the specific guidelines later in the article.

What is vinyl?

In case you didn’t know, vinyl is a type of synthetic plastic material that is commonly used in different applications, including construction and home improvement. It’s is often used for flooring, siding, window frames, wainscoting, trim, and other building materials because it’s valued for its durability, ease of maintenance, and versatility.

Vinyl is a popular choice because it is resistant to moisture, insects, and rot, and it can be manufactured in a wide range of colors and styles. Overall, vinyl an economical alternative to many traditional building materials.

But the downside is of vinyl is, you can’t just paint it like you would a wall.

Is painting vinyl difficult?

Painting vinyl can be a relatively easy project, as long as the proper preparation and materials are used. However, it is important to take the necessary steps to ensure that the paint adheres well to the vinyl.

If you have experience with basic painting projects and are comfortable working with paint, you should be able to paint vinyl successfully. However, if you have any doubts or concerns, it may be best to consult with a professional or to seek advice from a home improvement specialist.

Remember to work in a well-ventilated area. If you can’t work outside, then open all your windows and doors and turn on a fan. Follow the safety precautions, such as wearing gloves and a mask, when working with paint and other chemicals.

Do you have to primer vinyl paneling before painting?

We recommend using primer for most projects, including painting vinyl. Primer helps to prepare the surface for the final coat. It provides a uniform base that the paint can adhere to, as well as blocking any imperfections in the paneling. This can help to improve the overall look and finish of the painted paneling, beadboard, or wainscoting and increase the longevity of the paint.

When selecting a primer, it is important to choose one that is compatible with the type of paint that you plan to use, and to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Besides priming, it is also important to clean the paneling thoroughly and to sand any rough spots or imperfections before applying the primer. This will help to ensure that the primer and paint adhere well to the vinyl and that the ultimate result is smooth and even.

What kind of paint can you use for vinyl?

For painting vinyl, it is best to use a paint that is specifically formulated for use on vinyl surfaces, such as a vinyl-specific paint or a paint made for plastic and vinyl surfaces. They will be specifically labeled for plastic or vinyl surfaces and are usually in their own area of your local big box store. These types of paint adhere well to vinyl without cracking, peeling, or becoming brittle.

· One popular option is a 100% acrylic paint, which is known for its durability.

· Another option is a spray paint specifically made for use on vinyl and plastic surfaces.

As stated earlier in the article, it’s important to work in a well-ventilated area. These paints release dangerous chemicals in the air as they dry. So, it’s important to keep windows and doors open and fans running.

What kind of sandpaper do you use for vinyl?

For scuffing the surface of vinyl before painting, a light-grit sandpaper is recommended. A grit of 220 or 320 is commonly used for this purpose. The goal of scuffing is to create a slightly rough surface that will help the paint adhere better, so it is important not to sand too heavily and go through the vinyl material.

When sanding vinyl, it is important to use a sandpaper that is specifically made for use on plastic or vinyl surfaces. This type of sandpaper is typically softer than traditional sandpaper and will not scratch the vinyl. It is important to work in the grain’s direction and to avoid sanding in circles, as this can cause unevenness in the surface and make it more difficult for the paint to adhere.

How many coats of paint does it take to cover vinyl wainscotting?

The number of coats of paint needed to cover paneling will vary depending on several factors, such as the type of paint, the color and finish of the paneling, and the desired final look. However, two coats of paint suffice for covering paneling.

The first coat of paint applies to provide a base and to allow the paneling to be covered. This coat may require additional thin coats to ensure full coverage and to address any areas that may have been missed. The second coat applies to improve the overall appearance and to achieve the desired final finish.

It may be necessary to apply a third coat of paint to fully hide the original color of the paneling if you are using a lighter color paint to cover a dark paneling. Sometimes, a third coat may also be necessary if the paneling if it is textured, as these features may be more noticeable after the first two coats of paint. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and to allow each coat of paint to dry before applying the next one.

How to paint vinyl wainscoting?

Here are the general steps for painting vinyl wainscoting:

  1. Clean the surface: Clean the vinyl wainscoting with a mixture of soap and water, and then rinse it thoroughly with clean water. Allow the surface to dry completely.

  2. Scuff the surface: Use a light-grit sandpaper to lightly scuff the surface of the vinyl wainscoting. This will help the paint adhere better. Work in the direction of the grain and avoid sanding in circles.

  3. Apply primer: Use a primer that is specifically formulated for use on vinyl or plastic surfaces. Apply the primer evenly and thinly, using a brush or roller. Allow the primer to dry completely.

  4. Paint the surface: Use a paint that is specifically formulated for use on vinyl or plastic surfaces. Apply the paint evenly, using a brush or roller, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the recommended number of coats. Allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next one.

  5. Finish with a clear coat: If desired, you can finish the wainscoting with a clear coat of polyurethane or other protective coating. This will help to protect the paint and to make it more durable over time.

We will say this one last time: it is important to work in a well-ventilated area and to follow the safety precautions, such as wearing gloves and a mask, when working with paint and other chemicals.


Bonus tip: It is recommended to paint a test patch on an inconspicuous area of the wainscoting or paneling to ensure that the paint and primer adhere well and that the final color is what you expect.


Remember these tips don’t just work for wainscotting or paneling. It works for anything vinyl or plastic. When this author was a little girl, she actually took the plastic used to keep soda cans together and turned them into pretty painted flowers. Because of those creative days in Girl Scouts, I’ve helped some professionals know how to paint vinyl. So have some fun, be creative, and paint your plastic. Be sure to share your projects with us on our social media accounts, we’d love to see them.

If you’re needing wainscotting, paneling, or other types of accent trim installed in your home, use our contact form to receive a free quote.

We hope you found our blog beneficial. Sharing is caring (unless it’s an infection) so please subscribe to our blog for future helpful hints and share with your friends. If you have a question or would like us to give you a free estimate for your home improvement project, please contact us, we’d love to hear from you.


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