The most asked question we get from mobile home owners is how to update or paint the walls in a mobile home.
Practically every manufactured home uses a faux wood paneling or a vinyl on gypsum (VOG) wall. Colors and patterns vary drastically for VOG panels but most have some type of coated paper facing that repeals water. This coated paper makes painting difficult.
If you’re fortunate enough to have the faux wood paneling that was popular before the 1980’s you’ll have a much easier time updating your walls. That ‘wood’ paneling usually doesn’t have a water repellent paper facing so binding paint to it isn’t as difficult.
In this article, we’ll cover the most popular options to update and paint your mobile home walls with an emphasis on painting VOG walls with glossy paper facing.
What are VOG wall panels and why are they used so much in mobile homes?
VOG stands for Vinyl on Gypsum (or vinyl over gypsum). Gypsum is calcium sulfate dihydrate, a soft and lightweight white or gray mineral. It is used to make plaster of Paris, fertilizers, wall panels, and other building materials (source).
The Vinyl is best described as the glossy coated paper that binds the gypsum together to create a complete wall panel. The panels are are typically 5/16″thickness in mobile homes. Weight and water resistance are the two biggest reason builders use VOG panels but they are also easy install, clean, and maintain.
Here’s a typical low-gloss flower-pattern VOG panel that is so often used in a older mobile home bathroom or kitchen:
Fortunately, modern manufactured homes are beginning to use different wall materials. It may still be made with gypsum but the top coating doesn’t have the gloss or the quickly outdated patterns so the homeowner can paint the walls effortlessly.
Painting your Mobile Home Walls
Painting is the easiest and cheapest method to cover patterned mobile home walls. You won’t have to deal with the battens or strips that cover the panel seams, you’ll simply paint right over them.
A single color, as opposed to an outdated pattern, can update a room quickly and easily. Here’s the same bathroom above with the flowered VOG walls after the room was painted a solid color:
Guide to Painting Vinyl Coated Walls in a Mobile Home
Painting the vinyl coated walls in a mobile home is the most affordable option you can choose. Many mobile homeowners have painted their walls with great success when they follow the process below:
1. The first and most important step is to properly clean your walls.
Paint and primer will not stick to dirty walls.
Smoke from cooking, dander from pets, and various airborne particles from the furnace and air conditioner naturally stick to walls so you need a detergent or non-abrasive cleaner to get the walls as clean as possible.
Every inch of the wall should be wiped with the cleaning agent and then allowed to dry. Repeat if necessary. You want the primer and paint to bond to every part of the wall.
2. Purchase high quality primer and paint.
Buy the highest quality paint you can. The paint industry continuously improves their recipes so chances are you will find a great primer and paint (or combination primer+paint) if you stick to the better-known brands. Ask your local home improvement store for the latest recommendation.
Unfortunately, better paint technology means higher prices so expect to spend at least $25.00 for a gallon of primer and paint.
3. Use high quality brushes and rollers to apply the paint.
Using high quality brushes and rollers is another popular recommendation from homeowners that have painted their mobile home walls successfully.
High quality brushes and rollers transfer the paint to the walls better and give a more uniform finish which is exactly what you need.
4. Several light coats are better than thick, heavy coats.
It’s always better to paint in several light coats instead of one or two heavy coats. The paint will dry faster and the finish will be more uniform and smooth.
Above is an image of two light coats of Kilz Primer done by Geneva at MyHeartsSong.com.
Which paint and primer do you use on mobile home walls?
Choosing which primer and paint (or combination product) to use on your mobile home walls is probably the trickiest part of the whole job. Go to 3 different paint stores and you will hear 3 different opinions.
Knowing which company manufactured your home’s VOG panels will help you determine their recommended paint and primer. Unfortunately, not all homeowners have access to that information so a little guessing is required.
CDS, a large vinyl over gypsum drywall manufacturer, recommends an oil primer with two coats of alkyd or latex semi-gloss enamel paint:
- Two coats of alkyd or latex semi-gloss enamel.
- Oil primer with finish coat of oil paint or flat latex.
- Two coats of flat oil paint.
Other gypsum board manufacturers recommendations:
- Lower sheen paints bond better than gloss or semi-gloss paints.
- An acrylic based primer should work well in most mobile homes.
- Using a good quality primer helps minimize color and surface variations and provides a more uniform profile for any surface covering (source).
- Apply a high quality latex primer/sealer compatible with the finish product prior to decoration (source).
- A good quality, white, latex drywall primer formulated with higher binder solids, applied undiluted, is typically specified for new gypsum board surfaces prior to the application of texture materials and latex wall paints. An alkali and moisture-resistant primer and a tinted enamel undercoat may be required under enamel paints. Consult with the finish paint manufacturer for specific recommendations (source).
Below is a list of products that have worked well on mobile home walls (they are listed in no particular order) based on bloggers and readers:
Best Primers to Use on Mobile Home Walls:
- Kilz Primer
- Zinnser 123
- Gliddin Gripper
- Xium Uma
- Valspar Bonding Primer
Best Paint Brands for Mobile Home Walls:
- Behr Premium Plus Ultra
- Glidden Performance Edge Fill + Prime + Paint
- Sherwin Williams
Add Texture to the Walls
Adding a texture to your mobile home walls is a great method if you want to remove the battens or strips that cover the seams or just make the battens blend in better with the wall.
Drywall compound is used most often to add texture because it’s affordable, easy to get, easy to work with, and easy to clean. You’ll still want to use a primer on your walls before you apply the texture to get the proper bond. Once the primer is dry you can begin adding your texture to the wall.
The following websites provide great step-by-step instructions for 3D wall texturing and stenciling with compound:
Adding an Orange Peel Texture to your Mobile Home Walls
One of our favorite websites, My Hearts Song, shares a step-by-step article about how they removed the strips and added an orange peel texture to their single wide mobile home walls.
If removing the strips is your main priority and you want to texture your walls lightly, then you’ll definitely want to check it out. Geneva, the owner, has a great question and answer section, too.
Covering Mobile Home Walls with Wallpaper
You can give your mobile home walls a whole new look by removing the strips (battens) and hanging wallpaper.
If using wallpaper, you will want to make sure the paper is thick enough for your needs. Paintable wallpaper is easy to hang but it needs to be thick enough to withstand the wet paint and keep the paper from showing the gap made from removing the battens. Of course, you can always fill the seam in with caulk or drywall compound (see below).
MyMobileHomeMakeover.com shares their experience wallpapering their double wide’s walls. You can read the article here. The article mentions one issue they encountered when wallpapering their bathroom:
In a bathroom we redid, we used only the wall repair wallpaper and painted it when we were done. This worked fairly well, but in some spots you can still tell there is an empty strip below the paper.
It is not easy to hang wallpaper with intricate patterns so try to find a solid or simple pattern that can be matched easily.
This Old House has a great tutorial for hanging wallpaper here.
Removing the Battens from Mobile Home Walls
Battens are the strips that covers the seam where two VOG panels meet.
VOG panels are used because they are so lightweight and easy to install. Unlike drywall or sheetrock, VOG panels do not require taping and mudding so the edges of the panels are not tapered and the installation process is much faster. This is ideal in a fast-paced manufactured home factory. This is not ideal for homeowners that want a seamless wall.
You can remove the strips, or battens, in your mobile home. Once the battens are removed you can paint, texture or wallpaper over the walls. Here’s our two favorite methods of removing the battens and dealing with the seam:
Using Caulk to Fill in the Seams
Use an acrylic caulk to fill in the gap or crack between your VOG wall panels. Remember, the panels do not have tapered seams like a sheet of drywall or sheetrock so filling in the gap smoothly and evenly can be difficult. Here’s the process we recommend:
Step 1: Carefully remove the batten from the wall without damaging it just in case you need it later.
Step 2: Prime the wall and ensure an even coat has been applied in the gap that the batten used to cover. Let dry. Repeat if necessary.
Step 3: Choose the caulk most suitable for your walls. Use the charts below to chose the best caulk.
Step 4: Place an even bead of caulk in the gap to fill in the crack (you’ll need to work quickly at this point).
Step 5: Using a wet finger, or smooth caulking tool, run along the gap to create an even bridge of caulk between the two VOG panels.
Step 6: Use a straight edged tool such as a credit card to smooth the caulk so that it creates an even surface across the wall. This process may require a few attempts to get enough caulk into the gap. Carefully remove any excess caulk from the wall with a wet rag.
Step 7: Allow to dry and ensure there is no shrinkage (choosing the correct caulk is important to keep the caulk from shrinking). Paint, texturize, or cover the wall with wallpaper, fabric, bead-board, shiplap – just about anything can be used to update mobile home walls as long as the framing can handle the weight.
Choosing the Right Caulk
The two main types of caulk is silicone and latex but there are some caulks that are a combination of both.
The Home Depot has a handy rundown of each type of caulk below:
Use latex caulk for:
- Use to fill in gaps between crown moulding and baseboards.
- Use to seal a door frame in place and seal the subfloor at the bottom of a door frame.
- For the inside of both doors and windows, use latex painter’s caulk.
- Repeated exposure to water can speed up the breakdown of latex caulk over time, rendering it weak, brittle and ineffective.
Use silicon caulk for:
- Around sinks, tubs and showers. The silicone acts as a water and moisture repellant.
- When installing bath fixtures to seal gaps between shower tiles, between sinks and counters, and around the base of the toilet.
- Outdoors in areas exposed to direct sunlight or rain as the silicone helps the caulk last longer.
- If you have an older home, sealing around the foundation to prevent air from entering where siding overlaps the foundation. You should also fill and seal all exterior areas where different materials meet, such as around windows and doors.
- Normally used around the full perimeter of windows to help seal the window to the header, sill, jack stud and jamb.
- Paintable silicone caulk can be used around the outside of window units to properly seal the window and the siding edge, or around the entire door unit.
Using Drywall Tape and Compound
You can also use drywall compound instead of caulk, or if you want to take it even further, you can tape and mud the gap between the two panels.
Admittedly, it is difficult to get the tape even and it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to get the seam perfect since your VOG panels do not have tapered edges like drywall or Sheetrock. Still, if you’re more comfortable with drywall compound and tape it can be used to fill in the gaps.
You’ll still want to primer the wall and the seam between the VOG panels. Tape and mud as you would sheet rock.
Lastly, you will need to lightly sand the compound to create an even surface. Paint, texturize, or wallpaper for a finished look.
Conclusion – You CAN Update Mobile Home Walls!
Many people have painted, textured, and papered their mobile home’s VOG walls, and you can, too!
The trick is to get the best bond possible and that’s made possible by cleaning the walls well and using a good primer. If removing the battens that cover the seams in your walls is your top mission,
If you have any questions add them to the comments and we’ll do our best to get you pointed in the right direction.