Painting the Garage/Shop

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Forum topic by CyBorge posted 05-25-2010 02:30 AM 9778 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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79 posts in 3197 days

05-25-2010 02:30 AM

Topic tags/keywords: paint garage shop

I haven’t got much of a shop per se, but just about all the wood-related stuff I do is done in the two-car garage. The garage is insulated and drywalled, though not completely finished. I am thinking about painting the whole thing, and would like some advice on a few areas.

1) All of the nails are mudded over, but not sanded. All of the seams are taped and mudded, but again, not sanded. An awful lot of the tape (it’s the paper kind) is loose, bubbled, and standing up. Much of that just looks plain bad right now. I can sand over the nails easily enough, but should I rip all that loose tape off, sand down the mud, and retape it first? This would be a no-brainer inside the house, but standards tend to be lower in garage environments.

2) Is it worth texturing the walls, or should I leave them flat?

3) The walls are dirty. Some of it is dust, some is cobweb, some is just general grime. Obviously all the loose stuff will need to be removed first, but how diligent do I need to be about cleaning? Will primer and paint cover the marks and general dinginess adequately?

4) I often see people recommend painting everything white for maximum lighting benefit. I don’t much care for white. Will other colors work as well, or nearly so? I am inclined to go with something neutral, like a really light gray or tan, but am open to options. My current lighting situation is poor (two small windows and two old-fashioned, 60w incandescent bulbs).

5) What sheen is preferred in a garage? For interior projects I usually prefer something like an eggshell; flat is too…”flat”, and semi-gloss is too shiny for my taste. However, glossier paints are easier to clean, which in theory sounds like a good idea for perenially dirty environments like a garage. What would you recommend?

6) I would like to stick with water-based paint and primer for easier cleanup. Is it better to use interior or exterior paint in a garage?

7) Am I correct in thinking the ceiling is particularly important to paint, at least from a lighting aspect? The two light bulbs are totally exposed and have no diffuser of any kind.

Any advice on these topics, or anything else you can think of, would be most appreciated!

-- "How can I be lost if I've got nowhere to go?"

14 replies so far

View Michael Murphy's profile

Michael Murphy

453 posts in 3027 days

#1 posted 05-25-2010 02:46 AM

In a shop type situationyou would be happy with a smooth wall, dust won’t stick as well as it would to a textured wall. Just cut out all the bubbled tape and get rid of all the loose drywall mud. with a FINE brush, don’t damage the sheet rock and if necessary replace any sections of missing tape if more than an inch long. It kind of depends how bad a job the original tapers did, maybe it’s easier to see how much of the original tape can be easily taken off. As I said use a brush and retape, mud under, press the tape in, mud over. Try to make it kinda flat.

Build up some layers of mud over the seams and feather them out. As one is dry immediatley do another until you are satisfied with the coverage and flatness. People use a texture because it is much harder to get a wall nice and flat than it is to put a texture on it. A texture hides alot of sins.

I would try one wall and hone my skills in making it flat. You should be able to do a good size wall in a day or two if the temperature cooperates. Let it dry thouroughly and then prime and paint it. White hides alot of things too, off white is goodas well. I doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s just your shop.

Use semigloss or satin for the paint.

-- Michael Murphy, Woodland, CA.

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3783 days

#2 posted 05-25-2010 02:54 AM

The amount of prep work is a matter of personal choice. However, it is difficult to get enough light in a workshop. For that reason I would recommend white paint for walls and ceiling. I used semi-gloss because it is easier to keep clean.

Another recommendation is to use electronic ballast fluorescent fixtures. They operate at above 20,000 HZ, thus no flicker or hum. I like the T-8 daylight bulbs with a color rendering index of 86. Cheaper bulbs have a lower CRI and will not show true colors as well.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View barryvabeach's profile


159 posts in 3066 days

#3 posted 05-25-2010 02:58 AM

I think you will get a lot of votes for semi gloss white. I did it and noticed a dramatic improvement in lighting over the old flat white. I think gray would be a mistake. I also would not go with textured – it just holds dust. Try to get the wall a smooth as you can and spray it with a semigloss. I even used semi on the ceiling and it helped brighten it up.

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3809 days

#4 posted 05-25-2010 02:58 AM

I’ll throw in my half-penny’s worth:

1. No sense in painting over loose/bubbled paper. Rip it off, mud it right and then sand it.

2. Leave smooth. Texture is added work and leads to a lot more if you ever try to clean all the dust and sawdust off it. Also absorbs more light. Texturing will diffuse the sound some, but is not worth the drawbacks IMHO, especially if you will have tools/cabinets against it anyway.

3. Go over it with a dry stiff brush or broom. Knock off the loose dust, etc. Prime it with Kilz II or the like. It will be cheaper than top coat and will cover the stains/grime. (If there is oil in the wall paint, remove it first with spot application of a citrus-based kitchen cleaner.)

4. White is best for lighting, but a light color that is pleasing to you would be my choice. You are the one working in it! Lots of people work in shops with bare OSB wood siding in them.

5. As for finish gloss, gloss reflects light best, is easiest to clean, but also shows defects easiest. Semi-gloss is also more difficult to apply. I am a big fan of the egg-shell or matte finish, although flat is the most commonly used. The egg-shell/matte (same thing but called different by brand name) goes on easy, but still cleans well.

6. I would use water based (which is why I said Kilz II instead of regular Kilz). The only advantage to exterior paint is UV additives, and you should have no appreciable UV in the garage. Interior paint is usually less expensive.

7. The ceiling is important to reflecting light, but you would be better served putting reflector type fixtures in unless you have spot lighting where you are working. Ceiling White paint is flat, cheap, and covers well, so that is what I would use. However, if it looks okay now, I would spend the money on better light fixtures. A bare bulb is pretty much inadequate for most wood working.

Just opinions based on mine (two car garage/shop). If yours gets like mine, you won’t be seeing too much of the walls anyway, because they will be hidden behind tools, shelf units, cabinets, and lumber!!


-- Go

View cpollock's profile


34 posts in 3436 days

#5 posted 05-25-2010 03:05 AM

I’ve never regretted taking the time to do something right, but often regretted taking a shortcut. If you notice the loose tape now, then you’ll notice it every day you go out there. Take an extra afternoon to fix up the taping, and you’ll thank yourself for the next 15 years.

Same goes for paint prep. I bought really cheap paint for my shop, because after all it was just a shop, but I soon noticed that it didn’t cover very well, and it looked old even when it was brand new. For the time I invested, I would have been better off spending a few more bucks on good paint.

I was really impressed when I visited the Gamble House in Pasadena. It’s one of the famous Greene and Greene houses. Everything in that house was nicely detailed. Even the trim in the garage looked good enough to fit in a living room. That convinced me that one should always shoot for quality and excellence in any work that is going to be here for awhile.

View CyBorge's profile


79 posts in 3197 days

#6 posted 05-25-2010 04:12 AM

Wow, that’s a lot of quick responses!!

I have done a little drywall before, so I should be able to manage the seams reasonably well as long as there aren’t large elevation differences between adjacent pieces of drywall. I’m not looking forward to sanding the existing stuff down to a good starting point, though. :-( But hey, the good news is, I have a random orbital sander now! Last time around I had to sand everything by hand. This should be easier as long as I’m not too aggressive with the machine. I will probably use the mesh tape instead of paper, because I think it’s a little more fool-proof.

The comments about texture echo my gut feeling; it’s nice to get confirmation from others. I will probably go with a bright semi-gloss, though I’m still leaning away from pure white. Now that I think about it, even a light gray would probably give the room a darker feel. Maybe something with a little more color, like a touch of tan or green…

I definitely have plans to hang a couple of lights at some point, but I have a lot of organization to do and storage options to plan/build first. A previous owner actually keyed a ceiling outlet in the corner of the garage to a light switch at his old bench, so I will probably tie into that, though I’m using a different part of the garage for my shop. That old bench is soooo inefficient; it’s going to get ripped out and probably replaced with shelves one of these days.

-- "How can I be lost if I've got nowhere to go?"

View dbhost's profile


5723 posts in 3254 days

#7 posted 05-25-2010 04:45 AM

Wow that is a LOT to chew on there. Let’s try to address the issues systematically shall we?

1) You CAN sand over the nails, and the advantage to that would be smooth walls. Less for dust and junk to get stuck on. So yes, sand them… Doesn’t need to be perfect, but should be smooth.
From your description of the tape, it sounds like it is pretty much falling off the sheet rock anyway. CAREFULLY remove it, sand the mud down and redo the tape. If you don’t have a banjo, Home Depot rents them pretty cheap… Yes standards in garages ARE quite a bit lower than in the house, but you don’t want huge gaps in the walls or anything…

2) Sand it smooth, and do NOT texture it. All that does is gives a ton of little tiny horizontal surfaces for dust and cobwebs to collect on…

3) Clean it, but don’t be OCD about it. Just get the wall clean. Scuff marks and overall dinginess will be well covered by primer. Just don’t use junk primer and you will be fine… I primed my back wall with 1 coat of Kilz2 and completely covered a BUNCH of sharpie markings made by the previous owner….

4) White reflects the most light, any other color will absorb light, that’s just how it is. Your 2 60W bulbs aren’t helping matters any… You really ought to upgrade your lighting to at least a couple of shop light fixtures. They are cheap, and easy….. Choosing a non white color is fine, just realize it will make less light available in the shop… My plan is to go white, and coat the floor in something non white for contrast…

5) I personally prefer a satin finish. Semi Gloss, Gloss is just too much…

6) I don’t think you are going to be exposed to rain, high winds, or tons of direct sunlight in the garage…. Interior is fine.

7) Yes, paint that ceiling. I have non white ceilings in my house, and the rooms that are set up that way are PARTICULARLY dingy compared to the ones with ceiling white paint. I would go with a pure white on the ceiling, and something non white on the walls, or floor… Oh did I mention get those incandescent bulb fixtures out in favor of shop light fixtures? You will have a TON more light and it is cheap and easy to do…

Even as just a garage, and not a woodworking shop, lighting is really important. I want to KNOW if I am going to trip over the rake when I go to get the lawn mower out… I personally think the lighting that garages are built with ought to be against code… It just seems unsafe to me… But then again, I spend a LOT of time in the garage…

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View CyBorge's profile


79 posts in 3197 days

#8 posted 05-26-2010 05:37 AM

Heh, funny you should mention rakes. Just last night I moved three rakes and a shovel from the garage out to the shed. :-)

I took a closer look at the old tape job tonight. A lot of what I thought was bad is actually adhered pretty well, and will probably turn out just fine with a couple layers of mud over the top. But some of it is still awful and warrants replacement. So, it’s a little less daunting on this front. However, the two windows are apparently leaking, so I’m going to need to figure out how/where, fix those, and replace the stained drywall underneath and around. Hopefully there’s no mold to contend with.

At any rate, as much as I’d like to do the entire garage at once, I am probably going to end up doing one wall at a time. There’s just too dang much stuff to contend with out there to do it in one shot. It’s too bad I didn’t take care of this when I bought the house and the garage was empty, but hey, it’s my first house; what did I know?!

-- "How can I be lost if I've got nowhere to go?"

View Chase's profile


448 posts in 3049 days

#9 posted 05-26-2010 02:27 PM

Just give it some flames and racing strips so you go faster. Trust me, that is all you need.

-- Every neighborhood has an eccentric neighbor. I wondered for years "who was ours?" Then I realized it was me.

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3006 days

#10 posted 05-27-2010 05:42 PM

I would go ahead and retape the mud joints. If the paper tape is to difficult to use ,then use the mesh tape. This sticks to the joint like a tape and then mud the joint and smooth out. Nothing worse than get everything done and hung on the walls only to have to patch up a bad tape job later. Leave the walls smooth, textured walls can be a pain when trying to hang things sometimes, and collect dust bad. My first shop I painted the ceiling white with flat white ceiling paint, this helps cut glare in the lighting. I then painted the walls with a flat bright yellow. It helped with the lighting and there was no glare from lighting or the sun shinning in. A little tip with the mudding. When getting ready to sand a fresh joint smooth use a damp sponge instead of sandpaper. No dust and is easy to do. Whatever color you choose keep it light or bright.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3750 days

#11 posted 05-27-2010 07:18 PM

I’m going to weigh in with something that might be controversial. Everyone here is saying that gloss paint will reflact more light than flat paint of the same color. I have to disagree. White paint reflects all colors of the spectrum, regardless of the sheen. The sheen only impacts how the light is scattered. With gloss, it will reflect more like a mirror and with flat, it will be scattered in all directions, but it should be the same amount of light being reflected.

I’ll add a caveat that all paint will absorb SOME light. As such, the scattering effect of flat may cause more light to be reflected off additional surfaces before it makes it to the objects you are illuminating, but I think the difference would be negligible.

I’ll happily be corrected if anyone can point me to a reliable source. I don’t work in the industry so I’m not an expert. I think the thing most people base their assumption on, that gloss is brighter than flat on, is when they see a bright glare from a light reflecting on their walls.

View CyBorge's profile


79 posts in 3197 days

#12 posted 05-27-2010 07:48 PM

Nice one, Chase. I actually did consider pinstripes where the studs are at, but decided I don’t have the talent or vision to pull that off. Oh well!

Greg, thanks for the sponge suggestion. Now that I’m thinking about it, the last time I sanded drywall that stuff carried everywhere. I didn’t use a vacuum then, but even with one (including a HEPA filter behind a Dust Deputy cyclone separator) I’m not sure it can capture and contain everything. Damp/wet sanding might just be the way to go.

I am having second thoughts about semi-gloss paint. I used some of that in my kitchen and the cleanup is great, but the glare it causes is absolutely awful! Do I really want to deal with my headlights bouncing back at me every time I pull into the garage? Maybe leaving the walls flat will alleviate some of that, but maybe I will drop the base down a notch.

-- "How can I be lost if I've got nowhere to go?"

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3809 days

#13 posted 05-28-2010 01:47 AM


I did some looking and feel you are correct on the reflectiveness in gloss vs flat. One site stated that flat reflects 65-75% of light and semi-gloss only 40 – 60%. (no scientific reference. It was in relation to light reflection of walls for growing plants indoors). The main info that can be found is that gloss surfaces do not diffuse the light, but as to total lumens reflected, I could find nothing in my short search.

I agree that diffuse light is better for most general shop applications, due to the minimization of shadows.

The only other item I found is that titanium white pigment appears to be the most reflective, but also the most expensive.

Thank you for making me “think” instead of just accepting “conventional wisdom”


-- Go

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3750 days

#14 posted 05-28-2010 09:27 PM

I REALLY wish I had a light meter. I think this would be a cool thing to test and write-up.

I think it could genuinely affect people’s decision making. As I see it, there are 3 variables

1) light reflectivity
2) ease of cleaning
3) surface blemish hiding

Based on a combo of these, I think most will probably favor an eggshell/matte finish as a good blend of all the properties.

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