How to paint skirting board

Painting newly fitted skirting board can be a difficult and also time-consuming task. This is the case for whether you decide to paint it yourself or get a professional in to paint it for you.  Primed moisture resistant MDF or softwood timber are the most common materials used for interior mouldings, such as skirting and architrave. However, they are lengths apart in terms of how they are prepared for painting. We have put together a step-by-step guide on how to paint skirting board, for both softwood timber and SAM primed moisture resistant (MR) MDF, so that you can choose the solution that works best for your project.

How to paint skirting board

Starting off

If you have decided to paint the skirting board yourself, you will need to have some tools and products to hand. Here’s what you will need for a standard-sized room:

For softwood timber skirting

For SAM primed MR MDF skirting

  • 2” paint brush (£5-£15*)
  • Knotting solution (£10*)
  • Wood filler (£4-£8*)
  • Filling knife (£4-£10*)
  • Sandpaper 180-220 grit (£2-£8*)
  • Wood primer (£15-£20* for 1L)
  • Wood undercoat (£15-£25* for 1L)
  • Oil-based or water-based top coat (£15-£20* for 1L)
  • 2” paint brush (£5-£15*)
  • Sanding paper 280-320 grit (£2-£8*)
  • Undercoat (£15-£25* for 1L)
  • Oil-based or water-based top coat (£15-£20* for 1L)
Total starting cost (based on 1L):
Total starting cost (based on 1L):

You will also need masking tape and floor protection if your walls have already been painted or decorated and if your floors have been laid.


Most softwood timber skirting will need to be treated with a knotting solution to prevent knots from bleeding through the paint coating. The solution should be applied 2-3 times before using a wood primer and will need at least 15 minutes drying time between each coat.

You may also need to fill resin pockets or surface defects with wood filler.  After using the knotting solution and wood filler, the timber will need to be rubbed with sandpaper before priming, approximately 180-220 grit.  A wood primer should then be applied and allowed to dry for 1.5 to 2 hours to prepare the timber for the undercoat or decorative paint coatings.  The timber will need to be sanded again as the fibres will soak up the moisture and rise from the surface.

If you are using SAM moisture resistant MDF skirting, it will have been supplied already primed. However, we would suggest giving it a quick rub with a fine sandpaper (de-nib), approximately 280-320 grit, to create a key for the paint to stick to.

Skirting board


It is good practice to use one application of undercoat before applying the decorative coat. Moreover, we recommend giving both softwood timber skirting or SAM primed MDF skirting a rub with sandpaper between coats.  You may also need to apply an extra coat of decorative paint depending on the colour you have selected.

You can choose between oil-based paint or also water-based paint. The latter is better for the environment. It also means the paint brush can be cleaned with water afterwards rather than white spirit or brush cleaner.  Water-based paint also has a shorter drying time than oil-based paint (approximately 4-6 hours compared to 16-24 hours).

Dip the brush bristles about halfway into the paint and then wipe away the excess to ensure your brush isn’t overloaded.  Start by painting the top of the skirting board first and run the brush from side to side.  Repeat these steps for the bottom of the skirting board, and then the middle, and make sure you allow enough drying time between coats.

Et voila, your freshly painted skirting boards look great!

Moreover, if you would prefer to cut out all the steps above, you can hire a painter to do it for you or you could invest in some SAM Zero fully finished skirting – attach to the wall, fill in the joints and put your feet up – easy peasy!

Fully finished skirting

Please note: the above guidelines are based on using adhesive based fixings.  If nails have been used to fit the skirting, nail holes will need to be filled for both primed MDF skirting and softwood timber skirting.

*Costs taken from major DIY store at the time of writing this article and will vary depending on brand and product quality.

For more information on SAM products, services or stockists, email or call +44 (0)28 9442 8288.