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Is it better to do the flooring or paint first?

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.

Please note that this article may contain affiliate links.  You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.


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.

pick the perfect paint shade


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 flooring and painting

Most 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.


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hardwood flooring and painting Westchester NY

I 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).


DEBBIE GARTNERWAIT! Are you about to sand your floors? Not sure how long to wait before using them? Avoid these common pitfalls that can impact your floor’s durability! DOWNLOAD YOUR FLOOR TIMELINE HERE!


I wanted to share a VERY helpful video from Sherwin Williams, with some quick and super useful DIY painting tips. It’s just 2 minutes and covers types of brushes and painting techniques. Also, towards the end of this article, I share the painting tools and accessories that we use (with links to buy them on Amazon).

Paint Samples

Now, let’s talk about samples…

It’s always best to test the paint colors in you own home and own lighting. The colors do look different pending your lighting and can even look different room to room.


You can definitely go to your local painting store to buy some samples (and a brush…be sure to paint with 2 coats), but I have a MUCH EASIER way for you. Check out SAMPLIZE.


paint sample from sampize


Samplize offers 12” x 12” peel and stick paint samples that are EASIER, AFFORDABLE and more ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY.


Here are a few reasons why I recommend Samplize to my clients:

  • Samples come right to YOUR DOORSTEP in 1-3 business days, pending on location
  • At $5.95, they’re more affordable than the samples/brushes/foam boards than traditional samples…and of course easier and way less messy
  • If you keep the samples on the white paper, you can move them from wall to wall and room to room


They are amazingly accurate as they are made with 2 coats of real paint, so they are color correct.


Visit the SAMPLIZE website HERE.


Sherwin Williams and Pottery Barn Painting tips for DIY homeowners



Helpful resources:





For more info, check out my Ebook – Discover the 6 Secrets to Refinishing Hardwood floors.

6 Secrets of Refinishing hardwood floors ebook


Buy me a coffeeDid you find my tips helpful? If so, feel free to buy me a coffee and support my blog


Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors


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

23 thoughts on “Is it better to do the flooring or paint first?”

  1. 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

    1. We painted the room and then wondered if we should do the baseboards before having the flooring done. So I google the question. Now we will wait to finish and touch up after laminate flooring is done. Thanks for the info!

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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?

  5. 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!

    1. 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.


        i dont agree on this in every situation!if you are doing new kitchen cabs flooring base molding/new drywall,the paint should be completed on walls and ceiling/doors and door trim then flooring will go down then baseboards and molding.then painter can do minor touch ups and basboards paint and touch ups.what if the painter messes up the new flooring or damages the new cabinetry?!also we will be waiting on counter tops/eced..they will most likely scuff the walls a bit as well


          on hard wood flooring were sanding and stain is involved i might agree on this process but not tile or other flooring!

          1. Right – I was mainly talking about when sanding is being done. But even so, with tile and prefinished wood, the base molding needs to be put in afterwards (or shoe molding) and then it needs to be painted.

        2. First, I will agree that there are a variety of situations, and this post is just discussing painting vs flooring (not a whole kitchen remodel). That being said, a good painter will be careful and cover up flooring and cabinets and be confident in their work. I have worked with many painters like this, and in fact, I’m working part time at a highly reputable painting company and that is what we do. And, yes, if counter tops scuff the walls, all the more reason to paint the walls afterwards. But, there are multiple ways to get things done including having the painter come back to touch up walls, etc. There is a cost associated with that though (sometimes stated, sometimes not).

          In general, I think it’s most important to get floor heights correct (so cabinets, appliances, base molding, door trim is properly spaced and cut) and that the base boards are painted after. I have also seen where painters do 1 coat of paint on base boards, then stain floors and then come back for last coat of paint and touch ups.

  6. Hi! We are looking to buy a new home and are debating whether or not to refinish the hardwood floors before we move in, given we will look to do a kitchen renovation in a year or so time which will require quite a bit of floor patching. Would you recommend waiting and doing everything at once to cover any patches or avoid the inconvenience of emptying out the whole house and just patch up when we do the renovations?

    1. Juliana – It’s difficult to give you a definitive answer without seeing your space or knowing what you’re doing with the kitchen and how it impacts rest of area.

      I will tell you that most people that do not refinish before they move in regret it, and that it will be MUCH harder to do after you move in, as you will need to move everything (and pack everything up) and potentially it will take you twice as long to do as you’ll probably need to do it in 2 phases (so you may need to be away for 18 to 21 days…as you will most likely need to do in 2 phases (due to the furniture). So, each phase may take 7 to 10 days (when you include drying time and time to move furniture back). So, you will essentially be doing 3 moves rather than 1.

      If the kitchen can be done separately (which may be as simple as putting a flush saddle at the door (no height change), I would for sure do the kitchen afterwards.

      If you will need to weave in wood into other rooms, then you may want to hold off…or hold off on the kitchen + the room that will get woven into (e.g. leave the kitchen and dining room or kitchen + family room for later). But, many still opt to do the dining room before moving in and then just redo that with the kitchen if weaving in. It’s not that expensive to refinish floors. But, the inconvenience is annoying and costly given what I just explained above. You will probably save money by doing it now (and avoiding furniture move and extra time out of the house) even if you need to redo 1 room.

      I hope that made sense.

      Oh, and recognize that if you are painting, you would need to at a minimum repaint all the base molding afterwards and maybe touch up walls.

      So, my general recommendation would be try to refinish or refinish as much as possible before you move in.

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