flooring or paint first Westchester hardwood floors Many of my customers are redoing their floors and painting, and the smart customers ask whether it’s best to do the floors first or paint first.


Many are surprised by the answer…and they are glad they asked.


And, it’s one of the most common mistakes I see. It often causes rework and costs the customer money.


So, to preface this, it somewhat depends on what type of flooring you are doing (as well as demo), what condition your walls are in and who is doing the painting.

Assuming that you are getting the work done professionally, it is usually better to do most of the painting AFTER the flooring and most of the prep work BEFORE the flooring.


Armstrong locking merbau - westchester NYThe ideal is to first do any prep work to the walls – e.g.ripping up wall paper, sanding and patching walls, etc.  The reason for that is that this can damage the floors.


Also, it’s often better to paint the ceilings first, especially given that the ladders will rest on the floors.


From there, you should rip up the floors.  Note: rip up can often result in minor damage to walls and base boards.  If just carpet is being removed, this can scuff of the base boards.  If tile, hardwood or laminate are being removed, this can often result in base boards needing to be removed.  Removing base boards from the walls will usually result in paint chipping (so it would be a shame to do this after you freshly painted the walls). 


Sometimes, the new height of the floor and base boards are different, and this can result in a gap on the walls where there is no paint…hence another reason to paint afterwards.


westchester county hardwood flooring and paintingNext, you install the floors.  If it’s prefinished hardwood, you just nail it in and then take care of the baseboards/quarter round around the perimeter of the room.  If it’s unfinished hardwood, then you have to sand and stain the floors.  This process will usually result in scuffing up the baseboards and some stain on the sides of the base boards.  Hence, the base boards need to be painted afterwards. Occasionally, the sanding process will result in minor scuffing to the walls as the guys maneuver the machines.


westchester hardwood flooringMost of the painters I work with prefer to paint the walls AFTER we have completed the flooring.  They are confident that their guys will cover the floors and do a neat job.  They want the finished product to be perfect and they know this is a better way to achieve this result.  It is also avoids having to come back for a separate trip to paint the base boards.


We have also worked with some painters who prefer to paint first, and then they will come back and touch up afterwards, but I believe the above outlined process is usually the ideal as the work product is the best and it takes less time.


hardwood flooring and painting Westchester NYI worked with many customers that did not realize this is the ideal sequence of events.  Sometimes, they just painted.  It’s too bad, because now they have to either pay the painters to come back again to touch up and repaint base boards, or else they need to do the work themselves.  It’s too bad, since it would have been avoidable if they had asked the contractors.


Now, if the homeowner is the one painting, I will usually advise them to paint first (since they are less confident in their abilities and more likely to damage the floors) and then paint the base boards after we do the floors.  Also, I have seen many variations on this theme (e.g. prime and do first coat of paint, then floors, then last coat of paint and base boards).


Should you paint or sand the floors firstOther helpful resources:


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Is it better to do the floors first or paint first – Westchester NY?

22 Response Comments

  • Jorja Boyle  July 6, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    Hi. I am here for the first time. I found this blog and I find It really useful. It helped me out a lot with my flooring questions. Thanks

  • Gary  June 12, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    I have learned the hard way that you are correct. I am having hardwoods installed right now and the workers managed to nick or scuff all my freshly painted walls. Paint touch-ups show pretty badly so I’m going to give all the walls one final coat after the wall repairs.

    I would advise others to paint your ceiling and just do one coat on the walls BEFORE the flooring. After the flooring is done, repair the inevitable nicks and do your final top coat.

    • TheFlooringGirl  June 14, 2014 at 6:28 pm

      Gary – I’m sorry to hear that. Yes, I so agree with your advice. Hopefully, others will learn before it’s not too late.

  • Ileane  October 19, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Hey Debbie!
    We’re remodeling the house where my daughter lives and we did something similar to what you said here. We had all of the prep work and painting done first (except for the baseboards). The carpet was ripped up and the floors were sanded. Now they are being refinished. The last step will be replacing and painting the baseboards and trim.
    Thanks for the tips!

    • TheFlooringGirl  October 21, 2014 at 6:33 am

      Ileane – It’s so good to hear from you. So glad to hear that and it sounds like your approach has worked. You are in the home stretch now.

  • Linda Mason  April 26, 2015 at 7:07 am

    At which point would you install pre-hung doors and casement? (I’m rebuilding post flood.)

    • TheFlooringGirl  April 26, 2015 at 9:58 am

      Generally you would do this after the hardwood is installed (just as you would do base molding). Otherwise, you’ll need to cut the door casements.

  • Linda Zalec  August 4, 2015 at 4:30 am

    I’m told your boxes of new hardwood need to be in their new location about four days prior to installation to acclimate. Is there a problem with painting the week before installation so far as the paint moisture interfering with the acclimation process?

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 4, 2015 at 7:13 am

      In general, paint does not create a lot of moisture, so this is generally okay. To be safe, you may want to give it an extra day.

  • Troy Hewes  December 17, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    Typically the wood floors would go first. But there are some exceptions -https://woodfloorsbyace.com/goes-first-painter-wood-flooring-contractor/

    • TheFlooringGirl  December 18, 2015 at 7:02 am

      Excellent point, Troy. There are some exceptions. When the walls are being sprayed, it usually makes sense to do those first, then floors, then base boards.

  • Nora  March 14, 2016 at 8:51 am

    Thanks for the info!…we couldn’t decide what to do first, so we removed the wallpaper, prepped the walls and then sanded the floors. Since the sanding of the floors make such a mess, it was easier to then dust all the walls and ceiling before painting. (definitely a must!) we then painted the walls and ceiling and will be doing the hardwoods last!

    • TheFlooringGirl  March 15, 2016 at 1:07 pm

      Nora – So glad that process worked well for you. It makes a big difference.

  • sue  February 17, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Questions: Putting hardwood downstairs and carpet upstairs. which should we do first?

    • TheFlooringGirl  February 19, 2017 at 2:53 pm

      Hi Sue. I’m not sure I completely understand the question, but I’ll try my best. Do hardwood first. Then, I’d probably do carpet, then paint. Alernatively, you could do hardwood, paint, carpet and then touch up the paint on the 2nd floor/steps. There is only minor touch up on paint for baseboards over carpet. But, bear in mind that if they need to bring carpet up to 2nd floor, it may be challenging in step area, especially if your steps turn and they may scuff up the walls in stairwell and hallway.


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