Ask a Mobile Home Expert about Painting Vinyl Mobile Home Walls

This week’s Ask a Mobile Home Expert article continues to tackle the issues that home owners face when painting vinyl mobile home walls.

Let’s face it, the popular vinyl-coated wallboards used in manufactured homes is a pain to update. Paint doesn’t like to stick to the vinyl coating very well and the battens. Oh, those battens!

Luckily, many homeowners have had great results using a few specific tips for painting vinyl mobile home walls and they’ve shared them with us:

Removing Wallpaper from Vinyl Mobile Home Walls

I’m purchasing a manufactured home, it has been lived in before and the previous owners painted over the vinyl wallpaper. The strips are still on the walls, I’m wanting to remove those and possibly texture over everything. Can this be done? If so what’s the best way to go about this? Without adding extra sheetrock?

 

Absolutely, and the paint applied by the previous owners may even help you in the long run.

Removing Battens and Painting Vinyl Mobile Home Walls

Here’s what we recommend for removing the battens and painting vinyl mobile home walls:

Step 1: Clean the entire wall with a cleaning agent that will remove grease and oil.

Step 2: Carefully remove the battens without damaging the coating on the wallboard.

Step 3: Prime the wall with Kilz, or similar product, and make sure the primer is applied into the gaps between the wallboard.

Step 4: After the primer is dry, apply an acrylic caulk or drywall mud halfway into the seam. Let it dry and then add another layer of primer.

Step 5: After the primer is dry add the caulk or mud so that the gap is filled and there is ample product on the sides of the gap so that you can smooth the seams out. Special tools will make this job easier.

Step 6: Texture over it with orange-peel texture or another texturing agent (this makes the job a lot easier since you won’t have to get the seam so perfect).

If you don’t want to use texture on your walls, you will need to work the mud or caulk out so it blends well with the wall. This may require a bit of sanding. Practicing first is also a good idea.

Step 7: Let the texture dry and paint the entire wall or hang wallpaper. Two or three light coats are always better than one thick coat.

 

Painting Vinyl Mobile Home Walls - clear caulk that is paintable
Clear, waterproof, and paintable caulk. Image: Make It – Love It

Related: Lowe’s Caulk Buying Guide

Video: How to Add Texture to Walls

Here is a video from Zillow about texturing walls. There are a few different looks and a few different ways to achieve those looks.

Related: The Texture Master website is a great resource on textured walls. 

Wallpapering Vinyl-Coated Walls

I would like to wallpaper over my gypsum walls in my mobile home but I’m not sure how to proceed and don’t want the paper to fall off! Can you please tell me what I should do for prep work prior to applying the paper, sanding, cleaning or primer with paint? Do I need to fill the batten seams and what would work best? Drywall mud or caulking? Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.

You have a couple of choices here. You can remove the battens and fill the gaps in with caulk or mud, remove the battens and leave the gaps alone, or leave the battens up. If you don’t fill in the gaps it will probably be obvious after you add the wallpaper, especially if it’s a thinner paper. Leave the battens up will be fairly obvious, too. If you don’t think you will ever want to revert back tot he original vinyl walls it’s probably best to go ahead and caulk them.

If you don’t fill in the gaps it will probably be obvious after you add the wallpaper, especially if it’s a thinner paper. Leaving the battens up will be fairly obvious, too. If you won’t be reverting back to the original vinyl walls it’s probably best to go ahead and fill them.

How to Wallpaper Vinyl Walls in Mobile Homes

Step 1: Clean the walls really well with a good cleaning agent. This is the secret to success – the wallpaper adhesive needs to create a strong bond to the wall and it can’t do that with dirty walls.

Step 2: (If you choose to remove the battens.) Carefully remove the battens with a small pry bar. Go slow and easy so you don’t damage the wall, the vinyl coating on the wall, or the battens.

If you will be leaving the battens up, skip this step.

Step 3: (If you remove the battens.) Fill the seams between the wallboards with caulk. Some people like to fill the gap up halfway with the caulk and let that dry before adding another layer. Clear caulking is a good idea if wallpaper may not be a permanent choice. Be careful to keep the caulk in the seams and not on the wall.

worker hangs wallpaper on wall - papering and painting vinyl mobile home walls
Hangin wallpaper.

Best Primer for Painting Vinyl Mobile Home Walls

Which type of primer sticks better to the wall? Latex, water-based, or oil?

I’m a big fan of Kilz and they have a product line for just about every need. Lowe’s has the following recommendations on their primer buying guide:

Drywall

Use a latex primer. Don’t use an oil-based primer unless you’re putting up wallpaper or covering a stain. Oil-based primers raise the grain of the drywall and make the finish look uneven.

Stains

Crayons, water, smoke, and grease can bleed through the topcoat. Prime these areas with a stain-blocking or stain-killing primer. Oil-based stain killers work the best on water stains and for spot priming. Latex stain-blocking primers work better on large areas and hold up better on exterior surfaces. Pigmented shellac primer works well to block smoke and soot damage as well as to block animal urine smells.

Shiny Surfaces

Bonding primers will stick to glass, tile, Formica and previously painted surfaces. Use bonding primers for interior surfaces only. They tend to crack when exposed to the elements.

removing battens from vinyl-coated wallboards in mobile homes - ask a mobile home expert series (Kilz adhesion)
Kilz is a very popular primer.

Related: How to Choose a Primer (Sherwin Williams)

Cleaning Up Past Mistakes

Just purchased a used mobile home with vinyl walls. The previous owners painted two of the bedrooms. One room still has battens over seams, one room does not. Looks as if they tried to tape and mud the seams and paint in the one room that battens are removed.  However, they didn’t do so well.  My question is how do I fix the unsightly mud job?

You’ll probably have to sand the mud down and start over but at least you’ll have a head start! Be careful not to rip that top layer of vinyl ‘paper’ off the wallboard. Next, use a good primer like Kilz and several light coats of mud,  sanding between each layer as needed.

Sometimes, you just can’t get the seam to blend well with the wall. If that’s the case, a light texture (like orange peel) can be applied on the entire wall and that will blend everything together. You can paint it after it’s dry. Geneva, at Our Heart’s Song, did that to her walls in her single wide and it looks great. Click here to read about it.

 

Painting Vinyl Mobile Home Walls - Geneva's master bedroom Geneva, at My Heart’s Song, had an orange peel texture added to her single wide’s walls.

Repairing Holes and Painting Vinyl Mobile Home Walls

I own a 1992 modular with, it appears, the vinyl wallpaper on the walls. The previous owner(s) painted the walls, which was fine, but there are screw holes everywhere and I want to cover them.
My problem – I used my putty knife to “flatten” or pick off/smooth a hole and the paint AND the vinyl wallpaper sheered off! Now there is a good sized portion of bare wall – looks like sheet rock but with a brown paper covering? I think I’ve screwed up major here! I have joint compound, should I just lather that on over the bare wall? Or can I use an oil based or latex primer right over the wall? Also, for future reference what’s the best way to repair holes without the whole sheet of wallpaper/paint combo peeling off?

What you are dealing with is the typical VOG mobile home walls. It’s a sandwich of vinyl coating, pattern paper, and a little bit of gypsum (the clay like stuff) in the middle.

Vinyl mobile home walls are easy to damage and to put it bluntly, a real pain in the neck to repair. You may be able to push the paper and gypsum into the wall and then use a drywall mud or caulk to patch the hole. If you do that with a patterned wall you will have to paint or wallpaper the entire wall to cover the patch. If your wall is a single color you can just paint the patch. See above for more detailed steps on painting vinyl mobile home walls.

Manufactured home builders love vinyl-on-gypsum panels because they are lightweight and offer a bit of waterproofing. Thankfully sheet rock is becoming the norm nowadays. Read the manufactured Housing Gypsum Construction Guide here. 

Do you have any tips on painting vinyl mobile home walls? 

We hope you have enjoyed reading and learning about texturing, papering, and painting vinyl mobile home walls. Be sure to check out our original article about updating vinyl-coated drywall in mobile homes.

Thanks for reading Mobile Home Living!

Disclosure: Any answers to questions posed and any recommendations or information provided herein should not be used as a substitute of an expert or any relevant professional that has inspected the issues in person. 

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