The best brand of paint for rental property depends on a couple of things. But you definitely can make your life easier by choosing the right paint, primer, and supplies. Here’s my experience with painting rental property.
I actually care a lot more about the brand of primer and the grade of supplies. Here’s why.
The primer matters more
On interior walls, I always apply one coat of primer, followed by 1-2 coats of paint as necessary. Primer is a necessity when you’re covering old paneling or loud colors. You get much better coverage and better durability.
Yes, I do paint over old paneling and get good results. If the paneling is in reasonably good shape and not dreary, I’ll leave it alone. But if it’s beat up, I prime it, patch it, then paint it. It’s faster and cheaper than replacing it.
I always use either Kilz or Zinnser primer. The latex version is fine; you don’t have to use oil based. Get it tinted to match the top coat as closely as possible. Tinting it is key. When I prime it white, sometimes it still takes two or three coats to cover the primer, which defeats the purpose of using primer.
Cheap primers don’t help me much, so I pay the extra money for the Kilz or Zinnser brand.
On exterior walls, I recommend a special primer for peeling paint. This helps solve existing problems with peeling paint and even helps prevent or at least delay a recurrence.
When you use tinted primer, you can get away with using contractor-grade paint that costs less than $20 per gallon. If it’s Friday night and I need to have a house ready to show by Sunday, I’ll buy a premium paint that promises to cover in one coat. But if I have enough time to go back and apply a second coat and/or touchups, I’ve done fine with inexpensive contractor grade paint. It just depends on how much time I’m willing to dedicate to the project.
The nice thing about painting this way is that in between renters, I can usually come back and paint a room with the same paint and get it done in a single coat, since it’s not a major color change. It helps protect that initial investment.
I do care more about the finish than about the brand. Eggshell finish is more expensive than flat, but more durable. After a year, walls painted with flat paint will be filthy. Dirt from handprints doesn’t stick nearly as well to eggshell paint. A five-year-old paint job with eggshell paint looks better than a one-year-old one with flat paint, so I prefer to pay extra for eggshell and paint less. If you can’t get eggshell, go with semigloss.
For this reason, I don’t really think there’s a single best brand of paint for rental property. Buy the premium primer and high-quality supplies, and then you can use whatever contractor grade paint your nearest store sells cheaply going forward, as long as you get the same color each time. I do have a strong recommendation for color. And I have some tips for keeping paint from drying out, which saves me a fortune. I always have leftover, and sometimes I can get the job done with my leftovers from last time.
Where to cheap out
If you need a basic flat white paint, Lowe’s sells a no-name 5-gallon bucket for around $32. This is your cheapest bet for white trim, doors, and areas where color doesn’t matter much, like garage interiors, utility rooms, and basement stairwells. It even claims to work as exterior paint. Most of the other home improvement chains have a similar product as well.
Expect to have to use two or three coats if you’re not covering white. But if you have a surface that’s already white, but it’s just beat up and needs new paint to freshen it up, this paint will save you a bundle.
I don’t recommend painting the whole house white, as the overall look is a bit sterile. But white trim and white doors let you just patch and paint between tenants, rather than replacing. Cheap white paint helps keep that cost as low as possible. And flat paint hides flaws better than other sheens, though it also shows dirt a lot more readily.
The stores won’t tint this low-grade paint for you. If they did, it would probably be hard for them to sell their more expensive paints.
In the long run, supplies and technique matter more than the brand of paint. I buy five-gallon buckets and a paint grid so I can paint right out of the bucket without messing around with paint trays. This saves a lot of time.
I also buy at least mid-grade roller covers. The cheap roller covers give spottier coverage. Stay away from the economy models or worse yet, the roller covers from dollar stores. I have some tips for making those more expensive rollers or brushes last longer by keeping them from drying out.
Using an edger makes it much easier to paint around the ceilings and the woodwork. It works faster to edge a wall and then follow up with a roller as quickly as possible. If you’re covering a loud color and don’t want strip of it between the wall and the ceiling, get a gallon of white Kilz primer and brush the corner where the ceiling meets the wall and let it dry before you edge.
Typically I can paint the interior of a house this way over the course of a week working a couple of hours a night each evening. That leaves the weekend to do anything else the house needs. As long as a house doesn’t have any major problems, it’s possible to repaint it and turn it around in about a week in between renters.
Painting a basement is a fast and easy way to improve a house’s appeal. The basement is one place where brand does matter. There, the brand does matter to a degree, but the type matters more. Use a waterproofing paint on the walls and a concrete patio paint on the floor.