Painting vinyl walls in a mobile home is time-consuming and frustrating because of the shiny surface and those blasted battens covering the seams.
Older mobile homes usually have faux wood paneling, so they aren’t as frustrating to paint. But manufactured homes built after the early eighties tend to have walls made from panels of pressed gypsum with a glossy surface on one side. The glossy surface is usually made from paper or vinyl.
Vinyl on gypsum (VOG) panels are used in mobile homes because it repels water, are affordable, and are super easy to install. This coating, however, makes painting vinyl walls in mobile homes difficult.
In this article, we’ll cover the most popular options to update and paint vinyl walls in mobile homes. If your mobile home has wood paneling, you’ll want to read our guide to wood paneling in mobile homes.
What are VOG wall panels and why are they used 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 chalk-like mineral.
Vinyl on gypsum panels is typically 5/16″ thick with a glossy paper coating. They do not have tapered edges, so installers use battens, or strips, to cover the seams where two panels meet. These battens are notorious within the mobile home world – most homeowners dislike them immensely.
VOG panels are used because they are lightweight, water resistant, easy to install, clean, and maintain.
Below you can see low-gloss vinyl wallboards used in a manufactured home bathroom:
Fortunately, modern manufactured home builders are beginning to use different wall materials. It may still be made with gypsum, but the top coating doesn’t have the high gloss coating or the quickly outdated patterns.
The Most Important Step Before you paint vinyl walls in a mobile home
Painting is the easiest and cheapest method to update mobile home walls. A single color, as opposed to an outdated pattern, can update a room quickly.
Painting is especially easy if you leave the battens, or strips, that cover the seams alone and paint over them.
Here’s the same bathroom shown above after the room was painted a solid color:
Guide to Painting Vinyl Walls in a Mobile Home
Painting the vinyl-coated walls in a mobile home is a bit more difficult than most realize. The glossy paper coating on the walls requires more preparation than a standard sheetrock wall.
Fortunately, many mobile homeowners have painted their walls with great success and we’ve collected helpful advice and tips from them. Here’s the process they recommended:
Step 1: Wash the Walls
Paint and primer will not stick to dirty walls.
Smoke from cooking, dander from pets, and 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, allowed to dry, and then wiped again. Repeat if necessary.
You want the primer and paint to bond to every part of the wall.
Step 2: Use High-Quality Primer and Paint
The suggestion we received most was to buy the highest quality paint and primer you can afford.
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 per gallon.
See the section below for top brand suggestions.
Step 3: Use High-Quality Brushes and Rollers
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.
Step 4: Use Several Light Coats
All painting professionals will tell you that it’s better to paint walls in several light coats instead of one or two heavy coats. This allows the paint to 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.
Additional Information that Can Help
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 VOG 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 a finish coat of oil paint or flat latex.
- Two coats of flat oil paint.
Other gypsum board manufacturers have released their own recommendations and tips:
- 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 finished 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).
Top Paint and Primer Recommendations for Vinyl Walls in Mobile Homes
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.
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 that have had great results when painting vinyl walls in mobile homes:
Best Primers to Use on Mobile Home Walls:
- Kilz Primer
- Zinnser 123
- Gliddin Gripper
- Xium Uma
- Valspar Bonding Primer
Best Paint Brands for Vinyl Walls in Mobile Homes
- Behr Premium Plus Ultra
- Glidden Performance Edge Fill + Prime + Paint
- Sherwin Williams
Paint, Wainscoting, and New Trim
The owners from the image above painted the walls, added wainscoting on the lower third of the wall, and replaced the factory-installed battens with 1″ trim. This gives the space a whole new look without the hassle of removing the battens.
Removing Mobile Home Wall Battens
Battens are used to cover the seam where two VOG wall panels meet. By installing battens the factory is able to build homes faster and cheaper.
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 battens in your mobile home. Once the battens are removed you can paint, texture, or wallpaper over the walls.
Removing the battens is the easy part, filling in the gaps that the battens were covering, and then making the entire wall look cohesive is the difficult part.
Related: Removing Walls in a Mobile Home
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 for using caulk to fill in the seams of vinyl walls in mobile homes:
Removing the Battens from Vinyl Walls in Mobile Homes
You’ll want to be careful when you remove the battens or strips that cover the seams between two VOG panels. A small thin pry bar that will fit under the strip
Here is a video that shows a man removing the strips that cover the seams of two modern VOG panels used in a manufactured home:
Prime the Wall
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.
Fill in the Gap with Caulk and Smooth
Choose the caulk most suitable for your walls. Use the charts below to choose the best caulk.
Place an even bead of caulk in the gap to fill in the crack (you’ll need to work quickly at this point).
Using a wet finger, or smooth caulking tool, run along the gap to create an even bridge of caulk between the two VOG panels.
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.
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.
David Jordan removed the battens and taped and mudded his mobile home walls and the results are fantastic:
How to Choose the Right Caulk
The two main types of caulk are silicon 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 molding 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 to Remove the Battens from Vinyl Walls in Mobile Homes
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 sheetrock.
Lastly, you will need to lightly sand the compound to create an even surface. Paint, texturize, or wallpaper for a finished look.
Check out this video for more tips on how to paint those vinyl walls in your mobile home:
Adding a Texture to Vinyl Walls in Mobile Homes
Adding texture to your mobile home walls is a great method of updating your mobile home walls.
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.
You can go with simple textures such as the ‘stucco’ look, the sand or orange peel, or complex textures. You can even use stencils to create raised textures:
Adding 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 vinyl 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.
Related: 11 Cheap DIY Wall Decor Ideas
Covering Vinyl Walls in Mobile Homes 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 by removing the battens. Of course, you can always fill the seam in with caulk or drywall compound (see below).
“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.”
Wood Paneling in Mobile Homes
My 1978 mobile home had faux wood paneling throughout the home but it was super easy to paint thankfully.
Two coats and I was done. However, I kept the paneling original with the lines or grooves. You don’t have to keep those, though. You can fill them in with spackle and then paint over them. Rachel Ray had a segment on her show that shows you how:
It is not easy to hang wallpaper with intricate patterns, especially on vinyl walls in mobile homes, 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.
Many people have painted, textured, and papered their vinyl walls in mobile homes 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.
As always, thank you so much for reading Mobile Home Living!