How to Paint Vinyl-Panel Walls in Manufactured Mobile Homes

House Painting
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Overview
  • Working Time: 6 hrs
  • Total Time: 24 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $50 to $100

By far the most popular of all home improvement projects is painting the walls. A new paint color can instantly change the entire look of your home, and just about anyone can successfully paint walls. But while painting is a very easy project with standard "stick-built" home construction, where the walls are finished with standard gypsum wallboard, it is a little trickier if you live in a mobile home or manufactured modular home, where the walls are made from a much different material.

Manufactured homes usually use VOG (vinyl-on-gypsum) wall panels rather than standard drywall. These vinyl-coated walls have a shiny finish, and there is often a printed design layer that is applied over the gypsum and under the shiny vinyl topcoat. Manufacturers favor VOG panels because they are lightweight and easy to install in factory settings. Instead of using tape to cover the seams, as is done with drywall, the joints are covered with batten strips during assembly. Although the way VOG panels are manufactured and installed does complicate the job, it doesn't mean you can't paint the walls when you want to update the look.

Before you begin painting the walls in your manufactured home, you will need to decide if you want to leave the battens up or remove them. Taking them down and filling in the seams is a cumbersome job, but the finished job will look great—much more like the standard walls in stick-built homes. If you can live with the battens, you can simply paint over them, which makes for an easier painting project.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Drywall knives (4-inch, 6-inch)
  • Sponge or rags
  • Bucket
  • Drop cloths
  • Spackle knife
  • Angled trim brush
  • Paint roller and roller covers

Materials

  • Drywall joint tape
  • Drywall taping compound
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Cleaning detergent or TSP
  • Painter's tape
  • Spackle
  • Acrylic-based painting primer
  • Acrylic wall paint

Instructions

  1. Remove the Battens and Finish the Seams (Optional)

    If you choose to remove the battens, you will need to tape and mud your walls with drywall joint compound. VOG panels do not have the tapered edges found on drywall panels, so it's a bit harder to get a seamless finish, but it is still possible. Taping is the best option if you are texturing your manufactured home walls or if you insist on a smooth finish. 

    Start by prying out the battens that cover each seam between the VOG panels.

    Prepare the taping compound as directed by the manufacturer. With premixed joint compound, this may involve stirring the compound. Apply a thick layer of compound over the seams between panels, using a 6-inch drywall knife.

    Cover the wet compound with strips of joint tape and press it into place with a 4-inch drywall knife. Immediately cover over the tape with another layer of joint compound, applied with the 6-inch knife. Let the taping compound fully dry.

    Lightly sand the joint to smooth it. Be very careful not to tear the vinyl coating on the panels as you sand.

  2. Prepare the Walls

    Preparation is the most important part of any painting project. The surface you are going to paint must be clean to ensure a good bond with the paint.

    Start by covering the floors and furniture with drop cloths. Then, clean the walls with a mild detergent or TSP solution and rag. Go over each surface twice, then finish by wiping down with a fresh cloth dampened with clear water.

    Once the walls have dried, use painter's tape to mask the edges along the trim, ceiling, and floor. 

    If the walls have any kind of damage or holes from nails or screws, fill them with spackle, then sand smooth, following manufacturers' directions. Again, make sure not to damage the vinyl coating on the wall panels when sanding.

    ready to paint
    carlofranco / Getty Images
  3. Prime the Walls

    The vinyl surface of VOG panels will accept paint better if you first coat them with a good quality acrylic primer. With the shiny surface of VOG panels, all-in-one paint/primer products do not work as well as separate coats of primer and paint.

    Applying primer is done like any painting job: First, use an angled trim brush to cut in primer along the edges of the wall, then apply primer to the broad areas using a roller.

    Two light coats are best. Make sure the primer dries fully between coats.

    Priming the wall white
    art at its best! / Getty Images
  4. Paint the Walls

    After the primer is fully dry, apply one or two coats of a high-quality acrylic latex paint. Low sheen or flat paint bonds better than high-gloss and is less likely to show imperfections in the walls, but high-gloss paint is often recommended for bathrooms and kitchens, where the walls will need to be washed frequently.

    Again, use an angled trim brush first to cut in the edges, then use a roller to paint the large expanses. If two coats are necessary, make sure the first coat dries fully before applying the second coat.

    Finish up by removing painter's tape and folding up drop cloths.

    Close-Up Of Color Container With Sponge
    Alyssa Stasiukonis / EyeEm / Getty Images

Tips

When painting VOG panels, high-quality primers and paints are recommended since you need maximum adhesion and flexibility. The primer and paint need to bond to the wall, and generic bargain paint simply doesn't have the same adhesion found with premium paints.  

A common preparation step when painting walls is to lightly sand the entire surface. DO NOT do this with VOG panels, since sanding can easily damage the surfaces and ruin the paint job.