What is the best paint for garage walls?

Painting Garage Walls

The Natural Handyman

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Dear NH,
I am planning on painting the inside of our garage soon. The walls are unpainted drywall and poured concrete. We are debating which type of paint we should use. I think we can use interior wall paint, but my husband thinks he should use exterior paint. What's your opinion?
BB from Fredericksburg, VA

Though your garage may be protected from direct contact with "the elements," it is not protected from the some of their effects, so regular interior wall paint is out! Thus, I vote for using exterior latex paint for a few reasons (with a caveat at the end).

  1. Exterior paints are also designed to accommodate wider temperature ranges than interior paints. Our homes are mini-ecosystems and most of the stuff in them (from paints to building materials to even appliances) is designed to work optimally in a narrow temperature range. It's the same temperature range we are optimally designed to work in!
  2. Exterior paints are heavier and cover surfaces better than most interior paints. Even over unpainted drywall, most exterior paints can stick just fine without a primer! (Since the manufacturers don't consider drywall an exterior product, they don't even mention it in their instructions! Figures, right?) Of course, the surface should be dust and mildew-free.
  3. Exterior paints are more mildew-proof than interior paints, aside from specialty kitchen/bath paints. If the walls are mildewed already, they may need a little cleaning with a bleach solution prior to painting. This is a messy proposition on unpainted drywall because the joint compound can become mushy. I suggest brushing or vacuuming the dust off the walls while they are dry. Then use a hand or garden sprayer to apply a 50% bleach, 50% hot water mix onto the walls, let it dry thoroughly and then paint.

Regarding the concrete portion of your walls, most exterior latex paints will cover clean, dry masonry without any need for a primer.

If you don't want the defects in your walls showing, use a flat paint. Though low luster and glossy paints are more washable, every little blemish will stick out like my sore thumb!

Oh yes, my caveat. Kitchen/bathroom paints share many of the characteristics of good exterior paints. They're washable, mildew resistant and just plain tough! You can consider them as an acceptable alternative to exterior latex, but as of today, there are no truly "flat" kitchen/bath paints. They all have a sheen that might be undesirable for garage walls. They also tend to be quite a bit more expensive!

Reviewed January 2018

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