How Long will your Interior Paint Job Last?

The painters just left your home and everything looks fresh, clean and beautiful. Wouldn’t it be great if you could keep it looking like this for as long as possible? Interior painting is expensive and you could do without the hustle of contractors and interior renovation. How do you protect and prolong the life cycle of your brand new paint?

Do you remember the 25 year warranties from paint manufacturers?

Paint manufacturers advertised “25 years”, even “lifetime” warranties for their paints. There are less companies doing this today but are these warranties worth the label that they are printed on? Colour trends change, people move and rooms change their purpose. I can’t imagine a scenario where a homeowner goes back to the paint store 20 years later, with a purchase receipt in hand, to claim on a paint warranty. Paint stores go out of business and paint companies are constantly bought and sold. Warranties like that are nothing more than a marketing tool or a grading system for different paint lines. A paint with a lifetime warranty is likely better than the one guaranteed for 5 years.

You have a better chance of using the workmanship warranty that your home painter offers you. Reputable contractors that value customer service will always stand behind their work. Even so,  workmanship warranty claims for interior work are very rare. Nothing much happens to interior paint if you don’t abuse it. We have gone back into some homes and they look as good as when we first painted them. The customer just wanted to change the colour. In some other homes you can’t keep the walls clean for a week and there are paint marks everywhere.

Number one reason the paint will not last: people

When a paint job does not last as long as it should, the reason may not be the paint not even the painters. Paint failure happens because people live and enjoy their homes, as they should and paint longevity is not a high priority for most. For example:

  • Growing children have dirty hands and don’t grasp the concept of keeping their hands off the walls.
  • Cats and dogs communicate their intent of going outside by scratching the front doors.
  • Teenagers treat extra long showers like inherent rituals.
  • Moving of furniture in and out of tight spaces damages wall corners and passage casings.
  • Cooking and family gatherings in a busy kitchen is tough on the walls and cabinets.

When a customer asks how long an interior painting will last, I answer with the following scenario: “If we paint a room with good paint, close the door and go back five years later, it will look as good as new”.

Smoke and water damage

When people smoke in their home, a thin layer of nicotine covers all interior surfaces (the same layer coating the lungs). Nicotine is not easy to clean and most paints will not cover that ugly “yellowness” without the use of a solvent based primer. The good news is that most people today don’t smoke and the ones that do are considerate and smoke outside.

If a furnace is not functioning properly or the filters are not replaced, over a long period of time, the walls and ceilings get stained with a thin black film. Before repainting the walls, this black layer needs to be cleaned and primed over. Before going through the hassle and cost of painting, it’s a good idea to address the source of the problem.

Water damage from a leaky pipe or a leaky roof will damage the ceiling drywall and create a brown, rust looking stain. After fixing the leak at the source, replace the affected drywall and seal the stain with a specialty primer before painting.

Mildew. It is mostly present in bathrooms because mildew thrives in moist dark and humid environments. For the same reasons look for mildew in your basement, and consider painting your basement with mildew resistant acrylic paint.     

To prevent mildew from happening, you need very good ventilation from a fan or a window that you can open. This is especially necessary after a hot and steamy shower. Mildew does not do well in bright rooms, so try keeping the room bright by leaving the drapes open. If the condition is not very serious, surface mildew can be cleaned with a bleach and water mixture (3 parts water – 1 part bleach). After cleaning it, the bathroom should be painted with a kitchen and bath specialty paint. These paints contain among other things mildewcide agents. Here is some information about painting and mildew. Always use good ventilation while painting the bathroom.

Builder's flat paint will not last long

Why doesn’t the builder’s paint job last?

If you buy a new home, you will eventually have to deal with nail pops and cracks. Even using the best quality paint will not help with that. There are three major reasons that this happens:

Drastic change of temperature. In climates with cold winters and hot summers, the big variance of temperature causes materials to expand and contract. Because different materials expand and contract at different rates they eventually separate.
Drying of wood framing. Builders build homes in a hurry and homeowners are eager to move in. When the wood framing is not given enough time to dry internally, it continues drying even after the home is built. During the drying process the drywall screws will push outwards and “pop”.
Settling. A home is a heavy structure and it “settles” on the ground and on the wood within it. This cracking manifests itself on the foundation walls, door frames, windows and the drywall joints.

New homeowners and builders have come to accept these issues as part of the building process and plan to address them later. Reputable builders offer a warranty and will come back within a month or two to perform the repairs. Unfortunately the builder’s repairs are not permanent, as most homes keep settling and drying long after the repair visit.
If you are buying a new home don’t buy the paint upgrade, you will waste your money. You are better off to wait for a year or two and then splurge on an amazing job with a reputable painting contractor.

How to keep the walls and surfaces looking great for a long time

Using good paints from major manufacturers. Saving a few dollars on paint is false economy. The biggest expense of painting is by far the labour expense. Expensive paints are of better quality and will save you money in the long run.

Put some thought into using paint with washable sheen in busy areas. A bathroom and kitchen should be painted with a satin or pearl sheen. Use a washable eggshell in busy areas such as hallways and children’s rooms.

Use the matte/flat paints for adult rooms and ceilings. If you absolutely must use flat, go for the newer washable flats such as Benjamin Moore’s Aura.

Consider painting the occasional wall or some rooms between major paint jobs. It will keep your home looking fresh and clean for a few more years.

Hiring a reputable painting contractor to paint you home. Do your homework, look at the painter’s information carefully, ask for references, practice due diligence. Good painters are in this business for the long term and want to keep you happy (we think you should call Ecopainting)

4 thoughts on “How Long Will My Paint Job Last?”

  1. Our paint has been on the ceiling for twenty years. I think it is disintegrating and turning to dust. Is this possible. We have hot water heat so there is no air movement to cause a dust problem

    • Hi Tom, I have heard of this before. It usually happens more with old alkyd paints but I am not sure what paint is on your ceilings. Painters were still using alkyd flat on ceilings 10-15 years ago (in Toronto Ontario). You may want to run your hand over the surface to see if anything comes off on your hand. If you need to repaint your ceiling remove any loose material and prime first before applying the new ceiling paint.

  2. I recently purchased a new build that was painted with builders grade paint. We have been in the house for about a year now and we are seeing a lot of scuffs. Typically how long will builders grade paint hold up, before I have to repaint

    • Hi Dennis. Most people paint within the first year or two. Typically most settling down happened by this time and cracks and nail pops appear. The builder’s paint itself is likely not a top quality paint and homeowners had a chance to decide what to do with decorating. Enjoy the process and hire a good contractor now and insist on them using top quality paint.


Leave a Comment