Although a garage serves a vital function in a house by providing storage for vehicles, yard equipment, tools, and other belongings, it’s typically the last room on the list when thinking about improving a home’s aesthetics. That’s unfortunate because a simple coat of paint can transform a dingy garage into a welcoming work space.
While there are no specialty garage wall paints, some of the best interior paints are well suited for this space. These high-quality paints include paint and primer combos that require only a single coat, cutting in half the expense of painting a room with a lot of wall space. Many of these paints also have features that are ideal for a garage, including mildewcides that prevent mold growth. They are also available in various neutral tones that pair well with this utilitarian space, though more vibrant colors are also an option.
This guide will explore the important factors to consider when choosing interior paint for the garage and then review some of the best paint for garage walls on the market today.
- BEST OVERALL: Glidden Interior Paint + Primer: One Coat, Semi-Gloss
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Montage Signature Interior/Exterior Paint
- BEST FOR MANY SURFACES: Diamond Brite Paint 31200 Oil Base All Purpose Enamel
- BEST COVERAGE: KILZ TRIBUTE Interior Matte Paint and Primer in One
- BEST PAINT & PRIMER COMBO: Prestige Interior Paint and Primer in One
- BEST MOLD-RESISTANT: Rust-Oleum 2774 Zinsser Interior Eggshell
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Paint for Garage Walls
When choosing an interior paint that is best suited for a garage, look carefully at the ingredients to determine if the paint is compatible with the wall type and durable enough for a space that typically isn’t climate controlled. Read on to learn about these characteristics and more to help choose the best paint for garage walls.
There are two options when it comes to wall paint for the garage: oil-based and water-based. However, oil-based wall paint is a thing of the past on the interior walls of most homes. The high VOCs (volatile organic compounds), long dry time, comparatively high price, and difficult cleanup make it an unpopular choice.
For a garage, oil-based paint can still be a viable option since there is plenty of ventilation by opening the garage door, which eliminates the high-VOC issue. Some oil-based paint dries to a hard shell, which allows it to better resist scuffs and scratches. This durability makes it ideal for garage walls that can often take a beating.
Water-based wall paint comes in acrylic and latex finishes and uses water as a solvent instead of oil. The result is a paint that dries much more quickly than oil-based paint, has low VOCs, and cleans easily from brushes.
Short for volatile organic compounds, VOCs are gases emitted into the air from products like paint. Overexposure to VOCs can irritate eyes, nose, and throat, causing headaches, dizziness, skin rashes, and nausea. Prolonged exposure to VOCs can damage organs and the central nervous system. Some VOCs, such as benzene, are even known to cause cancer.
With these dangers in mind, many manufacturers produce low-VOC paint. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies low-VOC paint as containing no more than 250 grams per liter of VOCs for water-based latex paint and below 380 grams per liter for oil-based paint. Paint that is labeled VOC-free can have no more than 5 grams per liter of VOCs.
A paint’s durability is dependent on the quality and type of ingredients in its makeup. Paint consists of a base, a binder, and pigments.
As mentioned above, both oil- and water-based paints have their benefits for garage walls. Water-based paint forms a film through which water vapor can pass, while oil-based paint traps water vapor, which eventually causes the paint to peel and crack. For this reason, water-based paints are ideal for an unfinished space that sees fluctuations in heat and humidity. On the other hand, oil-based paints dry to a harder shell than water-based paints, making them more resistant to physical damage.
A binder holds the paint’s pigments—the solids that give it color—together and determines how well a paint adheres to surfaces and resists fading. Paints that use 100 percent acrylic binders are the most durable.
High-quality paint has a higher percentage of solids than liquid compared to lower-quality paint. A greater amount of solids makes the paint thicker, providing better coverage, scuff resistance, and color retention. High-quality latex paints with a high percentage of solids are some of the most durable paints on the market.
Unlike a home’s interior walls, which might be plaster or drywall, garage walls can have various surfaces ranging from drywall to metal to concrete to cinder block. Different types of paint will naturally adhere to different types of surfaces. While water-based paint is ideal for drywall and concrete, metal typically requires oil-based paint. Most manufacturers list on the can the surfaces to which the paint will best adhere to.
Since garages are typically not climate-controlled spaces, they are subject to a wide range of temperatures and humidity levels. A garage may also house wet vehicles and yard equipment, which can transfer moisture onto the walls. Spaces that are not climate controlled can also be a breeding ground for mold and mildew. All of these factors wreak havoc on certain types of paint. For garages in humid environments, choose a paint with a mildewcide additive that makes it resistant to mold growth.
Since the best paint for garage walls is essentially standard interior paint that is well suited for garage environments, it is available in the five typical finishes: matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and gloss.
A matte finish creates a dull look on garage walls as it has a minimal sheen and it absorbs light instead of reflecting it. While matte paint is susceptible to scuffs and marks, it hides bumps and other flaws in the wall.
Satin and eggshell finishes fall between matte and glossy. These finishes have a silky appearance but are not as durable as semi-gloss or gloss. Though not as adept at hiding scuffs and marks as a matte finish, they don’t reflect light as much as semi-gloss or gloss.
Semi-gloss and gloss finishes are harder and more durable paints that better resist scuffs, marks, and moisture. These qualities make them ideal for a garage; however, they also reflect light, making it easier to see imperfections.
Most manufacturers will indicate the dry time and the cure time of the paint directly on the can. Dry time is the time it takes before the paint is dry to the touch, whereas cure time refers to the time for the paint to reach maximum hardness.
Dry times are relatively short. Most latex paints will dry within an hour or two, while oil-based paints may take up to 24 hours. Cure times can take longer. Oil-based paints typically take about 7 days to cure, while latex paints take about 30 days. Since paint isn’t at its hardest until fully cured, make sure to protect the wall until the paint reaches the full cure time.
Surface Prep and Application
For best results, prepare the surface prior to painting. Check for damage and fill any holes or cracks with filler compatible with the wall material. For drywall, wood, and plaster, use a spackling paste to repair holes and cracks.
If a garage wall has exposed drywall or a porous surface, such as concrete or cinder blocks, paint it with a quality primer before applying the finish coats. For a wall with stains and marks, apply a coat of quality primer to prevent them from reappearing through the paint.
The best way to apply most wall paint is with a roller, which creates a smooth, even finish. Use the roller to coat the majority of the wall and a 2-inch paintbrush to finish off the corners and edges. While some thicker paints and paint and primer combos will achieve sufficient coverage in a single coat, the wall may require two coats for an even finish. Even one-coat paints require touch-ups to ensure the wall is fully covered.
Our Top Picks
These top picks take into account the abovementioned considerations to narrow the field of interior paints to some of the best paint for garage walls. All of these paints feature high-quality ingredients that give them superior coverage and durability, making any of them a worthy choice for a garage.
The average two-car garage is 18 feet wide by 20 feet deep at a minimum, which adds up to a lot of wall space. That’s a big painting job, which is why Glidden Interior Paint + Primer is ideal for this application. This paint provides unparalleled coverage ability that makes it possible to use just one coat (with a round of touch-ups). While pricier than other products, the water-based paint certainly makes up for it with the ability to cover up to 400 square feet of wall space.
The paint is available in three finishes—eggshell, matte, and semi-gloss—and 19 earth tones that are colors well suited for a garage. What’s more, Glidden Interior Paint + Primer is one of the safer paints with which to work, thanks to its low-VOC formula.
Most high-quality paints can also have a high price tag. This water-based paint from Montage is an exception. It’s one of the more affordable yet quality paints suitable for garage walls, especially when purchased in a 5-gallon container. With its thick consistency, this paint can cover up to 400 square feet. It is also scrubbable and easy to clean.
The paint is available in a unique low-sheen finish that is glossier than matte while still hiding imperfections. It is also one of the greener paints on the market, being manufactured from recycled latex paints and producing very low VOCs. This paint is available in 18 garage- appropriate earth tones.
With its ability to cover a broad range of surfaces, this Diamond Brite oil-based paint is ideal for garage walls made with a material other than sheetrock. It is suitable for wood, plaster, masonry, hardboard, concrete, and metal. Designed to protect floors and machinery in industrial settings, this paint dries to a hard shell, giving it excellent resistance to scratches and impacts.
The paint is also a solid option for garages prone to mold, thanks to its scrubbable mildew-resistant finish that resists mold growth and is easier to clean than many other interior paints. It is available in 12 garage-friendly colors like gray and white as well as vibrant tones like red and blue. Since this is an oil-based paint, it does produce higher VOCs than water-based paints and has a longer dry time of about 24 hours.
The superior coverage ability of this Kilz Tribute paint makes it an ideal choice for garage walls that may be riddled with scratches, scuffs, and stains from years of abuse or garage walls receiving their first-ever coat of paint. Kilz mixes its well-known primer with paint to create a product with excellent hiding and coverage, eliminating the need to apply numerous coats. While this is one of the more expensive paints on the market, it requires fewer coats, equating to less paint and less labor.
The water-based, low-VOC paint comes in a matte finish, which helps to mask imperfections. Kilz Tribute is available in 26 neutral earth tones that provide a fresh look to a garage and adhere to drywall, masonry, bare wood, and plaster.
Considering that an average two-car garage has a significant amount of wall surface area, it’s easy to see how buying and applying a separate primer and paint would involve quite a bit of time and cost. This is why a two-in-one product is such a solid option for a garage. This paint and primer combination from Prestige eliminates the need for two (or more) coats.
The excellent coverage makes this paint ideal for covering bare drywall or blocking marks and stains on a painted garage wall. It is available in flat, eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss finishes and comes in 42 color options suitable for a garage. This water-based paint produces low-VOCs, making it safer to work with—and easier to clean up—than oil-based paint.
Garages in humid regions can be prone to mildew and mold. This Rust-Oleum Zinsser interior paint, designed to handle moist bathroom environments, is also well suited for garages. It contains a mildewcide additive, creating a film to protect walls from mold for 5 years. With a scrubbable finish that resists dirt and moisture, the paint is also easy to maintain.
This water-based paint also boasts self-priming characteristics that provide excellent stain blocking ability, making it ideal for bare drywall or stained walls. It is available in tintable white with an eggshell finish.
FAQs About Paint for Garage Walls
Keep reading to learn more about the best kind and color of paint for garage walls and how long you can expect the paint to hold up.
Q. Is interior or exterior paint used for a garage?
Always use interior paint for a garage. Exterior paint is formulated for outdoor use only and releases chemicals that can be harmful if allowed to build up in an indoor space.
Q. What kind of finish should be used for garage wall paint?
The finish is based on preference, but a satin finish is generally the best option for garage walls. It holds up well to scuffs and marks while also hiding inconsistencies.
Q. What is the best paint color for garage walls?
This choice is also a matter of preference, but it’s usually recommended to select a neutral color for a garage, such as beige, tan, or gray. These shades are easier to clean than white but still bright enough that they won’t make the garage feel dark or cave-like.
Q. How long does paint for garage walls last?
Paint on garage walls is susceptible to a significant amount of wear and tear. You’ll likely need to repaint the walls about every 3 to 5 years.
Q. Does paint for garage walls expire?
Paint has a long shelf life. Water-based paints typically last for 10 years, while most oil-based paints will last for 15 years.