Why Are Garages Not Painted?

You may have noticed walking around or driving through a nice residential neighborhood that no matter how beautiful the homes look, there is a high chance that their garages are not painted. You may think that it is crazy to give sometimes half a million dollars for a new house, but save a few hundred dollars for painting the garage. So, why are garages not painted?

Builders do not initially paint garages because they want to save money, and they are only required to provide a level 2 drywall finish. Afterward, homeowners don’t want to paint to save money and because they don’t think the walls will stay clean in the garage. Also, walls end up covered with shelves and closets, making painting them unnecessary.

We recently moved to our new house in Lewes, Delaware, and noticed that our neighborhood’s garages have white lines and patches on the wall.

My first reaction was like, why are builders so cheap? Why can’t they just paint the walls in the garages? It turns out that there are logical reasons for it.

Let’s go over why garages have those white streaks on the walls and the reasons why garages are not painted.

If your garage doesn’t have drywall, you may want to read this related article, Should I put drywall in my garage?

White Streaks are the Result of Level 2 Drywall Finish

Level 2 drywall finish example

Garages have to meet building code requirements. That means that walls have to be fire-protected. This mostly applies to attached garages and walls connected to living areas.

To meet these requirements, you will frequently see a level 2 drywall finish on garage walls.The picture of my garage above shows a level 2 drywall finish, which is what I got from the builder.

To have a level 2 drywall finish, you have to apply a thin coat joint compound to cover the drywall joint tape and screw holes. This is enough to meet the International Residential Code (IRC) requirements, which calls for no air gaps in walls.

Level 2 is adequate for garages where appearance is not a primary concern, but it needs to have a level 4 drywall finish if you want to paint it or install wallpaper.

The video below demonstrates the 5 levels of drywall finish. The experience required to apply these drywall finish levels correctly is surprising.

But before you rush to paint or install wallpaper in your garage, let’s go over the reasons why you typically don’t see garages painted.

Main Reasons Why Garages Are Not Painted

Not having your garage walls painted can seem weird, but there are valid reasons for that.

Builders Want to Save Money Where They Can

Why isn’t your garage painted to begin with? Builders want to keep costs down and will do whatever they can get away with to save money. The garage is the perfect target.

They are only required to provide you with a level 2 drywall finish, and that’s what you get. The same goes for basements. When you get one in your home, it is likely to be a partially finished basement.

They don’t even hide the annoying cord in the pull down attic stair.

Sure, you can get it all sometimes finished by the builder, but you have to pay more money.

Finally your builder gives you your house keys, and now it is your chance to paint your garage. But you will find valid reasons not to do it.

You Want to Save Money

Some people may simply decide not to spend their time, effort, and most importantly, money to paint a part of the house used only to park the car. It is a matter of priorities. There is always something better you can do with that money than painting the garage.

And that is perfectly fine. You may not see it as expensive, but homeowners living on a tight budget may not be able to afford it.

There is quite a lot of prep work before you can paint the garage. And the cost will depend on how ready your garage is for the paint job. According to Porch.com, “a typical 300 sq ft finished project costs $543.23, with a range of $350.29 to $736.18.”

You May Have to Paint Often

Having the wall painted looks very nice at the beginning, but it can also get dirty fast.

You drive your cars everywhere, and mud and dirt inevitably get in the garage, including the walls.

Gasses coming out of the exhaust system can leave stains on walls too.

If you are a DIY enthusiast, you probably use your garage as a workshop for DIY projects. Lawnmowers, bicycles, children’s toys, and similar items are often stored inside, and with those, you bring in dirt and dust.

All that activity will be reflected in the walls, especially if you choose a light color, like white.

The walls inside your home can look as good as new for a long time if you are careful. But the walls in the garage can look awful after just a few months.

Owners decide not to paint them simply because they do not want to re-paint them all the time to keep them looking good.

And because no one will spend a lot of time in a garage, except for the above mentioned DIY enthusiasts, they don’t want to create extra work for themselves.

Walls Are Already Covered With Shelves or Closets

Many homeowners use their garages as storage spaces.

They frequently mount large and high shelves or closets on the walls. They use them to store various items for projects, tools, and other trinkets. You know, those things that you want to keep but are not using anymore.

The shelves and closets can cover most of the wall surface, and homeowners see no point in painting the covered walls.

Besides, it would be a hassle to remove those shelves every time you want to re-paint the walls.

How to Take Care of Unpainted Garage Walls

Ok, you are over the whole painting thing, but you should at least take care of the walls.

Unfinished garage walls retain dust, dirt, and contaminants. Often, there are humidity problems too. Even if you don’t plan to paint or finish these walls, you should take care of them.

Regularly check for moisture, water stains, and pests. All of these can cause extensive damage, even structural.

Clean the walls from dust and dirt by using a dry broom. Remove everything you can from the walls. If there are stains, you can use a damp cloth with just a little dish soap to wash it.

The same goes for garage floors. Don’t ignore them; clean them once in a while to remove dirt and mud. Otherwise, all this detritus will collect in corners, and soon, it will be challenging to clean.

The garage does not have to be as clean as a kitchen, but don’t forget it is also part of your home.

Video Summary

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2 thoughts on “Why Are Garages Not Painted?”

  1. Excellent! I have been asking this question forever. Now, its up to me to decide if I want to pay for painting the walls.
    I really like your site. Very informative.


    • Hi, Linda,

      Yes, that’s something we have to think about too. After all the expenses of moving in and furnishing our new house, we’re sticking with the streaks for now…. At least we now know why they’re there. Glad you like the site!



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