Help deciding on interior paint for 20 unit apartment complex

19 Replies

I'm getting close to having the first 8 units of my 20 unit rehab ready for paint! I really would like some input from fellow BP'rs on this subject. Here are my thoughts.... Initially I was going satin or eggshell on walls but a former apartment maintenance guy, told me to forget about the need for washable paint! He said go with flat because it hides imperfections better and apartment walls don't get cleaned upon turns, they get painted and touch ups are easier with flat. I'm wanting to go with an off white like antique white, navajo white or something similar...ceilings are flat white and doors and trim semi-gloss white, so I want a bit of contrast for the walls. I was hoping to find pre mixed 5 gallons of something other than basic white, but so far haven't had any luck. Also not sure about brands and how important quality is? anyway I would love to hear from everyone on this! Thanks!
@Bjorn Ahlblad Ok thanks for the Valspar suggestion! I've heard good things about valspar and have used it before on sf rentals. So what's your opinion about sheen and color? Thx!

Tab I am usually not allowed to make color choices around here so please understand my excitement!

Generally I dislike shiny paint, so semi gloss for trim and satin for walls. Neutral colors but you will have to pick them for your application. Go with someting that will not become a pain to match and maintain going forward. Remember we are talking ‘rentals’ here and not your place!

@Bjorn Ahlblad Lol! Don't worry, not looking for specific color names, etc.. Just hoping to get some advice on someone with experience in the multifamily space. I appreciate your feedback! Thx

I use a color called “squaw valley” in Conco 200 in satin from Menards on walls and Conco 300 bright white semi gloss for trim. It’s economical, holds up pretty well and matches awesome every time...good luck

@Brian Pfaehler Thanks Brian! Wish we had a menards around here, I've been in a few in illinois and kentucky before. All we have in Oklahoma (where my apartments are) and Florida (where I live) is Home Depot and Lowe's. Trying to decide if it's worth it to see about opening an account with Sherwin Williams, but I'm afraid that even with a volume discount it will still be more expensive than big box stores. Have you had any issues with spot repairs on the satin your using?


We manage about 500 units.   We use a satin or a semi gloss on all the walls.   It tends to cover some of the imperfections.   It is also easier to wipe down and we have better luck with the magic eraser with these finishes.   As far as spot touch ups we never do it.   The light fades the paint even after a short period of time.   We "touch up" a wall at a time.  Have found it is it much less work to just roll the entire wall and not worry if the spot touch matches.   Many times we only have to roll one wall in a room.   If the the color is just slightly darker or lighter from the original paint you really do not notice at the break on the corner.  I have moved away from depot and lowes paint because the quality and coverage has not been as good as the Sherwin Williams product.   If you get an account and get contractor prices it is very comparable to the big box stores.  We use the Promar 400 for interior and I have used it for 15 years.   Very durable and usually covers one coat no problem.   We have recently switched to a grey color from the beige we used for years.   Try Agreeable Grey.  Pure White Semi Gloss on all trim.   Same color every unit!

I wish I had known about paint fade when I touched up my apartment. Not only is the color different, but the finish also degrades over time. Never thought about painting the entire wall idea!

High gloss and semi gloss paints spotlight imperfections. Paint the walls and the ceilings the same color to avoid the trim work and taping when it is time to repaint. 

Flat is a great choice. Buying good paint means only applying one coat instead of two when it is time to paint. So do you want to save $10.00 a gallon or $25.00 an hour?

We always buy our paint at the Home Depot. They give us 20% off of the shelf price on all paints and stains. Call me and I will tell you how to do this.

Paint with a chalk or grey tint lasts a longer. Other tints tend to yellow quicker and need repainting more often.

It is a rental property nothing wrong with painting the walls and ceilings with ceiling white. You can offer the future residents an accent wall in the living room as long as it is easily covered for the resident after them.

Unless you are going for high rents the paint color really doesn't matter. What matters is keeping your costs down.

Once you choose a color ask the paint desk at The Home Depot to print an extra sticker for future reference. Take that sticker and put it on an index car. Write the property address and date on the card as well. When it is time to repaint take the card into the paint counter and they can reproduce it exactly.

I disagree with all. Been in property management since 2001. I use eggshell on the walls. Color is through & through. Super easy to paint a spot in the middle of the wall & you can not tell it when it dries. Just as easy to wash the walls without taking away from the color. I use flat white on ceilings. Don’t use flat where it can be touched. It leaves had prints bad. I use semi gloss on trim. Really makes your wall color pop & pretty durable. Promar 200 Sherwin Williams is what I use. It’s expensive but covers in one coat & is durable.

Bad thing is my units are in c or below areas so you end up total repaint in 8 out of 10 units anyway. The better the area the better paint you should use. I use the same colors in all units so the ones I can touch up i always have the paint on hand without stocking several colors. Also seems to me Sherwin Williams does a more consistent color match than others.

I use whit on trim & ceiling & a funky color on walls. Actually was a mistake on a match I tried once. Ended up liking it after it dried & get a good response on the odd color from 90% of the people that look. I don’t know how to post a picture on here to show it.

@Tracy Streich 's advice is spot on!  We ended up doing Antique White paint from Sherwin Williams for close to 10 years after reviewing a list of their top selling colors.  The list changes a bit each year and from a quick glance obviously grays are in right now.  About a year ago we shifted all of our new paint jobs to Mindful Gray.

Regardless of the exact color, I'd say go with something popular and be consistent.  This is a decision that should be made once every decade or less.

We've tried various sheens, but have never successfully touched up paint.  So as Tracy suggested, just plan on doing a whole wall at a time when needed and nobody will ever notice.

Avoid lead based paint ;) 

Other than that Nugget.. I like Sherwin Williams when they have a 40% off sale the best, and then it becomes a quality vs cost issue that I typically lean towards quality on.. and end up with something like Valspar..  semi gloss for kitchen and bath.. easier to clean and more moisture resistant..  satin for most everything else.. 

@Tab Teehee Here is a hack that costs a little upfront but will save you in the long run. I put 3“ chair rail trim in almost every room of the house. 95% the area that needs to be repainted is is at chair rail height and below. With the chair rail as a break point in the wall I only have to paint that area down on turnovers. I have taken to painting that lower section in a darker complimentary color because is hides scuffs and kids fingerprints better. Go with a better grade paint like SW Superpaint in satin for the easy washability. Call your local store and ask to speak with an outside salesman who can give you much better pricing than the Counter guy based on your volume.

I'll throw my vote in for semi- gloss paint and here's why. I can go in at turnover, fill the holes and touch up the paint in 2 hours in a 900 square foot house. A few tricks to get it to match perfectly everytime. 1. Use a good quality of paint around $25 - 30 / gallon.
2. Use the same color in ALL of your rentals so you don't have to figure out which color it was. You always have leftover paint this way.
I have been using a custom color of "rental beige" on my rentals. I just tried "Zehn Grey" from Ace Hardware utilizing the Royal brand. Not sure if I will continue on it or not. Will see what the renters think.
To get the paint to match, just put a small amount of paint on your brush and whisk it over about a 6" round area. When it dries you won't see it. I just turned a house that I painted 7 years ago. I thought I was going to have to repaint the entire house. 2 hours later it still looked new.
I use white satin trim paint and flat white ceiling paint.

@BOB CRANEY I do what Bob does for units where it suites the style and there is a tougher type tenant profile. I can repaint the bottom 40” of a living room & bedrooms for $50 including labour. One hour.
I'd love to add the chair rail! I think that makes perfect sense and gives a bit of a look of luxury to a boring space, I also think my contractor will shoot me if I make another change to their scope of work, lol! Ironically, I'm staying at a hotel now, (in town checking on the progress) and the walls in my room are painted light grey and it looks really nice. White ceiling and trim with espresso cabinets and a darker grey accent wall, looks very stylish. I'm headed to Lowe's to look at some grey samples. I'll probably end up with some eggshell Valspar. Anyway...keep the feedback coming, I love hearing everyone's different perspectives! I'll report back with what I ended up with.

This thread is so full of wisdom, and love hearing the differing opinions.  What I'm gathering from all of the multi-year experts in here, is that there are many ways to skin this cat.  

From a purely stylistic/modern perspective, I like greys in my units.  I have some beige but prefer the grey.  Although that also kind of depends what flooring I have in there... Don't want it to clash.