How long does it take to paint a room? 5 questions answered

Women rollering wall
(Image credit: Getty Images)

'How long does it take to paint a room?' is a question every DIY decorator will need to consider before picking up their paint brush or roller. And the answer will depend on several factors.  

For instance, if the room you are painting is already empty and requires little preparation, you can potentially finish the first coat in less than an hour, especially if it is a specific area you are painting like a ceiling. But if you are preparing and painting walls plus all the woodwork in a room, you could be looking at at least two days' work. This is in part due to drying times as it's important to let paint dry properly before you recoat.

Here we give you the lowdown on the factors to consider when assessing how long it will take you to complete your decorating job, including looking at how long different paints take to dry and whether a room can successfully be painting within one day. We also look at how much it would cost to get a professional to do it instead. 

How long does it take to paint a room? A quick breakdown 

Painting a room is more than just slapping on a coat of paint. Here we give you a realistic breakdown for how long an average room should take.

Preparation: 1-2 hours
This does depend on the current state of your paint work. But, assuming it is in reasonable condition you will need to do a quick rub down of woodwork and prepare walls for painting. Before this, you will also need to move any furniture, lay down dust sheets and put any painters tape on edges that need it.

Painting woodwork: 1-2 hours for each coat
Painting skirting boards, doors and windows should take around 1-2 hours for each coat. A door takes around 30-45 minutes, a window 30-40 minutes and skirting board around 15-30 minutes. Typically, recoat times will take longer than the time it takes to paint. So you will need to factor this in when painting a room and look at the drying times of the paint you are using. For instance, some gloss paints can need 12 hours between coats, or sometimes longer (check the advice on your paint tin). Water-based paints meanwhile can be much quicker and be ready for a second coat in 1-2 hours. Again, check the tin.

Painting walls and ceiling: 2-3 hours
When painting a room, painting a ceiling is the area you paint first, before painting one wall at a time. You will need to do the edges first to create an outline before rollering the ceiling. This should take around 30 minutes. Then it's the same process for each wall.

Clean Up: 1 hour
Once you have finished your paint project. It is a matter of making sure all paint is touch dry. How long does paint take to dry? Typically around an hour for water based paint and a little longer for oil based paints, but check the tin.

If you pick up a dust sheet before the paint is dry (paint puddles take much longer to fully dry) it can stick to the paint and spoil your finish. Once you've checked, pick up and shake your dust sheets, remove any painters tape — if you haven’t already — and vacuum. Finally, replace any furniture. 

Can a room be painted in one day? 

Yes, a room can be painted in one day, but it will depend on what type of paint you are using. You will also need to think about what order you paint the room for maximum efficiency. As you may end up waiting around for paint to dry, before you can continue.

Water based paints dry much quicker than oil based paints, so you can recoat much quicker. So to finish a room in a day. Start with one coat on the ceiling, one coat on woodwork and one coat on walls.

By the time you have finished painting the last wall, the ceiling and woodwork will be ready for a second coat. Once done, start on the wall with no woodwork. Then paint the wall where you painted the woodwork first. For example, if you painted a door frame first when painting the woodwork, paint this wall as this would have had the longest drying time. That said, never attempt to apply a second coat to a surface that hasn't properly dried as you'll ruin the paintwork and have to sand back and start again.

Blue paintbrush painting door frame white

When painting a room start by doing the woodwork first (Image credit: Getty Images)

Do you paint walls or trim first? 

The first part of the room you paint is the ceiling. Once this is complete, you want to be looking at painting windows, doors, skirting boards and any trim next. 

The final coat is typically a toss-up between satin v gloss. These are easier to wipe off any stray emulsion and in my opinion it is easier to cut in walls than the other way round. 

What is the fastest way to paint a room? 

There are a few tricks you can use when painting a room to speed up the process. One is to paint in the right order so you are constantly on the move and not waiting around for paint to dry.

You can also use different tools to speed up the process. For example instead of using the standard 9-inch roller you can use a larger roller like the ProDec Advance 12 inch trade roller. But you will also need to get a roller frame like the ProDec 12 inch Cast Aluminium Heavy Duty Double Arm Paint Roller Frame to accommodate the roller sleeve. This should help apply paint faster as it is larger. An extension pole like the ProDec Super Lock Elite Heavy Duty Fibreglass & Aluminium Extension Pole will fit the frame and sleeve so you don’t need to get up ladders, which speeds up the process again. 

It is worth investing in the gear if you do a lot of painting. But if not consider something more standard like the Harris Seriously Good Walls & Ceilings Twin Sleeve Roller set. 

How many times can you repaint a wall? 

In reality as many times as you like. If the paint has been applied properly previously and is in good condition you can paint as often as you like. It is important that you are preparing walls for painting properly. If there is a build up in paint simply sand down. If there’s flaking, remove with a paint scraper and sand to blend in the edges. 

How much does a painter charge per hour? 

A painter and decorator will charge around £20-25 per hour. You can find cheaper, but this is what you can typically expect to pay outside London. Day rates are around £200+ and expect to pay at least £400 for a room. This would typically be two days work and include woodwork, ceilings and walls.

Steve Jenkins

Steve is Homebuilding & Renovating's DIY content editor, and has been a writer and editor for two decades. He is an avid DIYer with over 20 years of experience in transforming and renovating homes. He specialises in painting and decorating, but has strong all-round building skills, having previously worked in the industry for 10 years.