Can You Paint Apartment Walls?

Can you paint apartment walls - 1

When you move into an apartment, it is not uncommon to feel the need to personalize the space so that it suits your style.  One of the most popular ways that you can add your personal touch to a living space is by painting the walls, but when you live in an apartment, you have no ownership rights, so you have to ensure that you don’t get in trouble with your landlord. Here is what you need to consider if you intend to paint your apartment walls.

Can you paint apartment walls? Whether you can paint your apartment or not will entirely depend on the rules and regulations in your lease agreement. If your lease does not clearly cover painting or you intend to ask for an exception, then reach out to your landlord. Even when your lease allows you to paint your unit, you will still need to find out from your landlord if you are required to have the color you plan to paint the apartment walls pre-approved.

Some landlords and rental agencies don’t have a problem with tenants painting their units, but you are usually required to repaint the walls their initial color when you move out. On the other hand, a good number of landlords don’t allow tenants to paint out of concern of poor paint jobs and spills that are tough to remove.

A fresh coat of paint to your apartment walls is a great way of improving your living space since you get to add your own sense of style to an otherwise dull space. However, before you open that can of paint, here are the various factors to keep in mind.

Considerations before you paint your rental unit

1. Discuss painting with your landlord

While painting is a great way to revamp your décor, you may not be allowed to do so in the first place. Making assumptions and painting your apartment without going through your lease will inevitably get you in trouble with your landlord. Ensure that you check your lease to determine if there are clauses that prevent you from painting your rental unit. Many rental agreements prohibit residents from painting their units in order to avoid having to deal with undesirable paint jobs which may be difficult to undo.

If your lease does not have stipulations regarding painting, talk to your landlord to ask for permission. In most cases, a landlord will only allow painting of the walls if you are willing to use neutral colors. If you opt to go for other colors, you may have to repaint when you move out in order to get your security deposit back.

To avoid potentially encountering issues, make sure that you get your landlord’s permission to paint the unit in writing. You can simply send an email so that your landlord replies with his/her approval. Ensure that you save a copy of the agreement for future references.

2. The costs involved

Paint is quite affordable, but depending on how extensive you intend the paint job to be, costs can add up. Before making up your mind about painting your walls, conduct a quick assessment to help you determine if you can bear with the costs of painting your unit. You can use a paint calculator to help you figure out how many gallons of paint you will need, and don’t forget to include the cost of brushes, rollers, tarps, tape, and other tools that you might need. Additionally, if your landlord requires you to paint back the walls, take into consideration the cost of another paint job or primer.

3. Considering professional help

If there is a lot of wall space that needs painting, or you simply have little experience, painting by yourself may not be the best idea. You may end up with a bad paint job or spill paint all over your belongings. Consider looking online for painters or asking for recommendations from friends, and when you find a few that you like, ask for quotes before making a decision.

4. Is painting worth the effort?

While painting is not the hardest home improvement project, it can definitely take up a good portion of your time, from prepping the area to the actual paint job. There is a lot that you will need to do before you achieve a new wall color.

The process involved in painting your walls

Painting is not as straightforward as you may expect. Here are some guidelines on how you can go about the process.

1. Choosing the right paint and color

There are many variations of paint and finishes, each with its own upsides and downsides. For example, latex paint is quite easy to clean up but is not suitable for use in more humid areas of the apartment such as the bathroom. Oil-based paint works great even in wet areas and is resistant to stains, but you will need turpentine to remove it from your paint brushes and floor. Generally, water-based latex flat paint works well for ceilings, an eggshell finish will you’re your walls, and semi-gloss or eggshell will work well for doors and sills. If there are mildew or water stains on your walls, consider using oil-based stain-killing primer, which you can also use as a primer for patched cracks and holes in your walls. If your walls are stain-free, a water-based primer should be able to seal up patches. The type of finish you choose to use will determine if you will have an easy time removing stains once you are done with painting.

It is disheartening to paint an entire room only to realize that the color you chose doesn’t give you the results you were hoping for. To avoid such frustrations, ensure that you paint a test patch before you get started. A color that looks good on a paint swatch may have an entirely different outcome when it covers your walls. Leave your test patch up for a couple of days so that you can see how it looks in different lighting before you make a decision.

2. Buying paint of good quality

Before you make a purchase, ensure that you read the labels carefully and try to choose a paint that doesn’t have a high concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These chemicals usually result in an unpleasant “paint smell” which you will definitely want to avoid.

3. Gather all your supplies

In addition to paint, you will also need the following supplies:

  • Paintbrushes
  • Roller covers and roller handles
  • A paint pan and tray liner
  • Plastic drop cloths to cover your belongings
  • Spackle and sandpaper if needed
  • Fiberglass mesh tape for covering cracks before applying Spackle
  • Latex primer if your walls need priming
  • Gloves
  • A standing fan
  • A stepladder
  • Masking tape and non-stick blue painters tape
  • Clothes you don’t mind getting dirty

4. Protect your surroundings and prep the room

Once you have gathered everything that you need, ensure that you adequately protect all the items that they don’t get dripped on, or damaged. Move as much furniture as you can out of the room, or if your space is small, move everything to the center of the room. Cover your belongings using plastic drop cloths. Mop your floors to get rid of dust that may float up and ruin your newly painted wall. You can also wash the walls to get rid of dust, oils, and dirt that may have accumulated. Remember to cover any surfaces you don’t want to paint. Use the blue painter’s tape to cover hinges, doorknobs, and floorboards, and protect the floor with old sheets or newspaper.

If there are any holes or cracks on the walls, cover them with fiberglass tape before filling them with Spackle. Once the Spackle dries, sand the patches before applying a coat of latex primer.

5. The actual painting

To kick thing off, put on your painting clothes and gloves. Ensure that your fan is on, and keep your windows open to let out the paint fumes. Start by using your brush, and then use the roller to finish up. Once you are done, remember to clean your tools and shut all the cans of paint tightly.

Alternatives to painting your rental unit

Instead of painting your walls, there are other alternatives you can consider.

1. Adhesive wallpaper

Peel-and-stick wallpaper is a great option when you don’t want to go through the trouble of painting your apartment walls. However, they can be quite expensive when installed in the whole room. Use just one or two rolls to cover a feature wall.

2. Traditional wallpaper

Regular wallpaper is cheaper than the adhesive variety, but just ensure that you hang it in a manner that can be removed. Consider using non-pasted wallpaper, and use liquid starch to hang it.

3. Hanging art

Get creative by hanging affordable canvas paintings. Just be careful to hang any heavy objects on a stud rather than the drywall, and spackle the holes when the time comes for you to move out.

4. Fabric

You can simply stretch your fabric across the wall and then secure it using small nails or thumbtacks, or you can purchase foam boards and cover them with fabric before attaching them to the wall.

Final Thoughts

Painting your walls brings a distinct sense of style into your apartment. Just make sure your lease permits it, or at least seek the permission of your landlord. Once you have the go-ahead, choose a color that best suits your living space, and take the time to adequately prepare. Take your time with the painting process for the best results. If painting is not allowed in your building, worry not since there are other alternatives that you can consider.

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author, and she enjoys traveling, reading, and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC.

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