How to Paint Outlet Covers So They Don’t Chip

I’m really proud of the direction we’ve gone in this house. While some of our walls are a warm white (Benjamin Moore “Ballet White”), we still have plenty of color around here. Mostly, we have used different shades of blue and green that really add so much warmth and personality to this home. But when you paint your walls a darker color, you’ll soon find that your bright white outlet covers stand out like sore thumbs…How to choose the best rug for your space

See those outlet covers next to our blue walls? Yeah, I kinda wish they would just disappear. Chipped outlet covers in Rory's room

In Rory’s nursery, I ended up painting the outlet covers because they were driving me bonkers next to her dark green walls. Well, all I did was slop on a coat of paint with a brush and I called it a day. Over time, the paint started to chip and scratch off.Chipped outlet covers

Here is the cover after I popped it off the wall. I was trying to get a picture of it and Rory decided to sneak up on me to try and grab it. Her little hand…so sweet.

Every time I would put Rory to bed, I would see that dang scratched outlet cover and vow that I would figure out the right way to paint outlet covers and then paint every one in our house. Well, that day has finally come and I’m here to report back!

The Outlet Covers We UseOutlet covers

Before we get to the tutorial, I want to share the outlet covers we use around here. I like these from Legrand because they’re screwless. They come with a backplate that you screw into the outlet and then the cover just pops right on without any screws. I think it looks really nice and streamlined. That’s why we chose them for every room in our home, and you can also check out this post to learn all about the smart dimmers we use around here.

How to Properly Paint Outlet CoversHow to properly paint outlet covers

So I knew the wrong way to paint outlet covers  – just paint them like you would paint a wall –  but how could I get a finish that would actually last? I did a lot of research on this one. I read blogs; I watched videos, and I noticed other techniques that worked and didn’t work for people. In the end, I learned that it’s all about the primer…

Choose the Right PrimerFinding the perfect primer to paint outlets

I ended up getting this oil-based primer for this project. Primer is always a good idea when you want to prevent flaking and scraping. (Yep, def what I needed here!) It creates a smooth, uniform surface that is ideal for painting. I used oil-based because it works best for plastic and non-porous surfaces, like these outlet covers. The primer I used to paint our outlet covers

Jan spray painting our outlet coversBecause I’m pregnant, I had my mom do the spray painting for me. (Thanks, Jan!). She put on gloves and applied two very light coats of primer on the tops and sides of all of the covers. My best tips to spray paint outlet covers

This stuff can come out thick, so do your best to spray evenly and stay about ten inches away. You want them to be light coats. This primer dries fast, so a few light coats are better than one thick one!

Sand In Between CoatsSand your outlet covers

Another tip I learned is that it’s a good idea to sand in between every coat. So I sanded the covers in between the two coats of primer and then in between the two coats of paint. I just used an old sanding sponge with a 220-grit. You can lightly sand just to get rid of any bubbles or imperfections with the paint.

Painting Tips

Use a roller when you're painting outlet covers

When it came to the actual painting, here are my best tips…Mix up your paint really well

  • Mix up your paint really, really well! Chances are your paint has been sitting for a while, so give that can a good shake and really take your time mixing it up with a stir stick. Color and sheens can separate, so you want to make sure it’s all blended before pouring it out.Use a 1/4 inch nap roller when you're painting outlet covers
  • Use a 1/4 inch nap roller. I just used the mini ones and a small paint tray for each of my colors. The 1/4 inch nap is best for smooth surfaces as it won’t give you a textured finish. First coat of paint
  • Apply light coats. It’s okay if it doesn’t cover completely on the first pass.
  • Use a brush to get the inside edges.  sand in between coats
  • Sand in between! I know I already mentioned this, but I had some bubbles and thicker spots here and there and it made such a difference to lightly sand each cover in between coats.

Be Gentle for Awhile

I ended up painting about a dozen outlet covers around the house and I felt so giddy putting them back up in each room. But I do want to mention that you’ll need to be careful for a week or two. Paint takes a long time to cure and the last thing you want is to ruin your gorgeous paint job. So, just be gentle and don’t scratch those covers!

Our New Painted Outlet Covers

Here they are in our first-floor bathroomOur first floor bathroomPaint Color: Sherwin Williams HGTV Home “Clary Sage” My best tips to paint outlet coversMy best tips to paint outlet covers

Now, onto our main bedroomPainting the outlet covers in our bedroom

Paint Color: Benjamin Moore “Boothbay Gray”Our new painted outlet coversMy best tips to paint wall outlet covers

And finally, where it all started…Rory’s nursery!How to paint outlet covers

Paint Color: Custom color (you can find the formula in this blog post)

How to paint outlet covers so they don't chip

And I know someone will ask, so I want to address it. Why didn’t I paint the outlets or light switches too? I read lots of information on this and it looks like in some areas this is against code. Eek, that’s not good.  My best tips to paint outlet coversNot to mention, I’m not sure how you could possibly get a perfect lasting finish on those areas that will constantly be touched, poked, and prodded. For me, just upgrading the outlet covers was a welcome change!My best tips to paint outlet covers in your home so they won't chip or peel

So there you have it…how to paint outlet covers so they won’t chip or peel. I’ll report back if I have any issues, but as of now, they all still look fantastic! I can now put Rory to bed, turn off the lights, and smile knowing that this annoying task is off my list.


P.S. Looking for more painting tips? This blog post goes into all of my dos and don’ts for painting a room…


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.

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