Of all the “tools” in a renter’s “toolbox,” paint is a favorite. Not only is it relatively inexpensive and usually reversible, but it is truly one of the most effective ways to change the look and feel of any space. However, painting walls are not always allowed or necessarily the right decision. Before you crack open a can of fresh paint, consider these questions to determine if painting your rental is right for you.

Are You Allowed?

Before you even consider painting your rental, check with your landlord or read your lease to determine if it’s allowed. Although paint is almost-always reversible and many landlords and rental agencies allow it, some don’t out of concerns of spills, poor paint jobs, and being left with unsightly colors after the tenant moves out. If you’re given the okay to paint, make sure you understand the terms. In most cases, you will be required to paint the walls back to their original color (or at the very least, prime them) before getting your security deposit back. In these instances, be sure to factor in the amount of paint and time required for both rounds of painting. Also, some places may have requirements on the colors, sheen or type of paint used which may influence your decision. The landlord says no? Here are 5 paint-free ways to color the walls in your rental!

Can You Afford It?

In the grand scheme of home improvements, paint is relatively inexpensive. But it’s certainly not free; and depending on how big of paint job you’re considering, it can run you a few hundred dollars. Before committing, do a quick assessment to see if you can afford the job. Use a paint calculator to determine how many gallons you will need, and be sure to add in the cost of tarps, brushes, rollers, tape, and other tools. Also, if you are required to paint back your walls, factor in the cost of the second round of paint or primer.

Is It Worth the Effort?

Painting a room (or several rooms) isn’t the hardest or most time to consume of home improvement projects, but it definitely works and can require a good bit of time. From basic preparations (which can include moving furniture, protecting floors, taping off the trim, filling holes, and/or removing switch and outlet covers) to actually painting the walls (which almost always takes 2 coats, even when the can promises it won’t!), there is a lot to do before you can step back and enjoy a new wall color. As such, you need to assess if the hassle of actually painting a room is worth the new color.

Here are some things to consider:

How much of a disruption will it really be? Is your rental empty or do you have to move a lot of furniture? Can you knock it out in a day or will the project require several days of mess and labor? How difficult of a paint job is it? Do you have mostly flat, square walls? Or do you have lots of trim, odd angles, or windows? How bad is the current paint color? Is the current wall color significantly hampering your ability to feel at peace and at home in your rental? Or are you just craving a change or a project? How long will you live there? Does the length of your lease justify the effort and cost of painting?

Is Paint Your Only Option?

Paint is the most common (and usually cost-effective) way to change the look of walls, but it’s not your only option. If you really want a different look on your walls but your landlord says no or you’re just not up for the mess of paint, consider renter-friendly alternatives. Peel-and-stick wallpaper, wall decals, fabric and even wrapping paper can all be applied to your walls and easily removed before you move out. Although these solutions might require more time and money than paint, there are situations when they might be a better solution. There is no strict formula for determining if painting your rental is the right decision. You may loathe the mess but hate the current wall color more, so painting is an obvious solution. Or, you may crave a new color but there just isn’t room in the budget, so you need to consider other alternatives. The questions outlined here can inform your choice whether to paint or not, but it is ultimately your specific rental and your unique circumstances that will determine if it’s the right solution for you!

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