When to Paint First and When to Install Carpet First?

Painting and carpeting go hand in hand. You cannot finish a room without a carpet but when should you install it?

The problem with painting after installing carpets is that you risk destroying carpets with paint splatter.

Carpets may also absorb paint odors and what’s normally called ‘volatile compounds. This leads to your room smelling like chemicals for a long time.

On the other hand, does it make sense to remove carpets to repaint a room or the house? Let’s found out which to go for first between painting and carpeting in specific situations.

When to paint first

Painting is always recommended before installing carpets. You risk damaging the carpets with painting tools or dropping paint splatter on the carpets otherwise. Painting over carpets isn’t safe, especially when you use ladders which might slip easily.

You paint first when you buy expensive carpets

Let’s face it, nobody cares about old carpets. It might take some time, but you know you’re eventually going to replace old carpets.

This leads to the idea that you should paint whenever you buy new carpets. You want your new luxury carpets to look in mint condition and paint over them like gambling.

You should not paint over soft carpets or thick carpets

Carpet thickness levels vary from one carpet to another. Soft carpets might get squashed by heavy buckets of paint or by heavy professional paint sprayers.

Even more, thick carpets might make your trip. All of these types of carpets might not be the ideal foundation for walking on all day with paint and paint tools in your hands.

Whenever you don’t use low-VOC paint

Low-VOC paint is known for its reduced level of volatile compounds. Paint that isn’t low-VOC tends to need a longer drying time.

Here’s the risk of painting with high-VOC paint over carpets. You finish the job and remove the materials protecting the carpets. Volatile paint compounds on walls aren’t yet fully dry and they might even get absorbed into the carpets.

This leads to a longer presence of volatile compounds in the carpet and a prolonged chemical-like smell in your house.

When you aren’t a professional

Some professional decorators and painters are very good at their job with or without carpets. This might not be your case.

Let’s see this example. You open the bucket of paint holding a can lid with dripping paint without thinking about where you’re going to lay it down. What do you do with it? Is the dripping paint going to make it to the carpet through the old sheets you’ve laid on top?

This is an example situation that the average person isn’t put in and which only professionals can foresee.

When you need to use a ladder

Ladders are a very bad idea on carpets. Even if most ladders come with anti-slip legs, it’s still not safe to put up a ladder for a paint job around the house.

As a result, it’s best to completely remove the carpets or to consider paint first if you need to use a ladder to reach the ceiling or the higher sections of the walls.

When the time of essence – it’s faster to paint first

It’s faster to paint first and then install carpets on a floor with a few paint splatters. It takes longer to clean the floor after you’ve painted over carpets as you might need to deal with minor problems such as stains on carpets.

When to install carpet first

Installing carpets first isn’t new, even to painters. Let’s say there’s a very good deal on carpets or that you want to repaint and you don’t want to spend money on removing the old carpets.

Here’s when it makes sense to paint before installing carpets.

In all fairness, we want to spend as little as possible on carpets and paint and have the house of our dreams. This might be difficult to achieve.

To the experience of many people who’ve already been through this, it’s still advisable to paint first and then install carpets. Those who’ve had few to no issues with their carpets are those with thin carpets.

When you have thin old carpets already installed

Thin carpets or old flattened carpets are easy to walk on. Dragging a large bucket of paint is also easy on thin carpets, a task that’s almost impossible on thick velvety carpets.

Thin carpets are also safer for ladders, given they’re installed properly and given they don’t move around.

All carpets should be properly secured if you decide to install them first and then cover them before painting.

Installing carpets first is possible whenever you install thin carpets.  You need to lay protective layers on top such as canvas drop cloths which still allow easy movement.

How long should you wait to install the carpet after painting?

The perfect painting job is always made in good chronological order.

You should wait up to 3 days to install carpets after painting. It takes a few days for the paint to dry and for the volatile compounds to dissipate if your home has good ventilation. Installing carpets sooner might lead to the absorption of the volatile compounds in the carpet.

I’ve already installed carpets – what now?

You have 3 good options for protecting your carpets if they’re already installed before painting. All of these protective measures are recommended for a specific type of carpet.

Use protective plastic sheeting

Protective plastic sheeting is the standard solution for floors and carpets for painting. Thicker plastic sheeting is more expensive but not as prone to tears as thin plastic. Furthermore, thick plastic sheeting is less likely to rise above the ground with air currents.

Use plastic sheeting to protect:

  • Thin carpets
  • Old carpets
  • Small secured carpets
  • Wooden surfaces
  • Tile floors

Invest in inexpensive sheets

Sheets are used to protecting floors when painting. This is a viable solution against dust and marks that come from walking with your shoes on over carpets.

Sheets don’t offer protection against liquid spills. Large paint spills go through sheets to the carpets. Paint thinner or acetone also damages carpets as they go through sheets.

Add temporary canvas drop cloths

A canvas drop sheets roll covers up to 300 square feet. These types of sheets are heavier and thicker than your regular sheets on the bed.

You can use these types of sheets on some floors, including carpets. Still, you need to mix paint in another area as a large paint quantity may still go through these cloths. Tiny paint splatter from paint rollers doesn’t go through canvas drop cloths.


  • You should always try to paint first and then install carpets
  • Painting first allows for proper paint drying time
  • There’s no risk of volatile compounds being absorbed into the carpet
  • There’s no risk of damaging the carpet with paint or painting equipment
  • It’s not safe to use a ladder on carpets
  • You may install carpets first when the carpets are thin, properly secured, and accordingly covered for protection
  • Plastic sheeting, classic sheets, and canvas drop cloths are recommended to protect carpets


Best Practices Guide Selecting & Installing Indoor Carpeting & Carpet Padding