This just in: The latest supply chain problem is a paint shortage. More specifically, house paint. Interior, exterior, latex, and oil. All colors. All brands. Primer is in short supply, too.
Like other supply chain disruptions, the paint shortage has stemmed from an array of factors around the globe. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused labor shortfalls at paint plants and trucking companies, slowing production and delivery. Power outages caused by the epic February 2021 freeze in Texas slowed petroleum production and destroyed the existing supply of resins, key ingredients in paint. Then Hurricane Ida shut down petroleum production in Louisiana in summer 2021. Throw in a fire at a paint polymer plant in Germany in March 2021, and you've got a paint shortage.
At the same time, demand for paint has soared. Most of us decided we needed to improve or repair our homes once we started working from them because of COVID. Sales at paint and wallpaper stores hit all-time highs in 2021. With demand up and supply down, you’re going to have trouble finding paint for your remodeling project, and when you find it, you'll pay more.
“We’ve seen a 25% increase in paint prices in the last year,” says Travis Nolan, owner of Old Crow Painting in Tampa, Fla. He's had a hard time finding paint, too, he adds. It took seven months to track down the 80 gallons of primer he needed to cover the exterior of a house he was hired to paint. “It’s been tough to manage the paint shortages and price increases.”
The paint shortage isn’t likely to improve any time soon. Sherwin Williams, the largest paint manufacturer in the U.S., says it’s uncertain when paint production will be back to normal.
You’re wondering, “So, how am I going to get rid of these outdated red walls in my kitchen?!” We asked some painting pros for tips on handling the shortage. Here’s what they said.
#1 Buy paint in bulk and buy early.
If you are DIY-ing it, order your paint four to six weeks before you start your project, Nolan says. And buy enough to do the entire job. “You don’t want to run out of paint mid-project,” he says. If you’re hiring a professional painting company, call them now. That gives them time to get you on their schedule and order your paint, he adds. The painting pros we talked to report they’re running two to six months out on painting jobs, so plan ahead. There’s no room for spontaneous painting during a paint shortage.
#2 Paint only the problem areas.
Sometimes you don’t need to repaint an entire room to make it look better. You just need to touch up the problem areas, and it's easier to find a small supply of paint. “If your paint has dodgy patches, address those,” says Katie Mills, an interior designer and editor at Poshh, an online seller of luxury home items. Interior walls get the most wear around doors. If you have pets and children, the lower third of the walls take a beating. If you kept your leftover paint, good for you! Use it to cover the scuffs and worn areas. If you didn’t, scrape a chip of paint off an inconspicuous area and take it to a paint store so they can color match with their spectrophotometer.
#3 Clean your walls, baseboards, and trim.
You can sometimes freshen a room’s appearance just by giving the painted surfaces a good scrub, no repainting needed. “You can make your room look better until you can source paint,” says Mills of Poshh.
#4 Paint an accent wall.
Does the paint shortage have you worried about how to cover all four walls of your room? Paint one wall a bright color that complements the other three walls. You’ll freshen the room’s appearance with less than a gallon of paint.
#5 Be flexible when choosing a paint brand.
“You may love a brand of paint, but it just may not be available,” says Geoff Sharp, president of Columbus, Ohio-based Sharper Impressions Painting. “Try a new store, brand, or a different line of paint.” If you absolutely must have Sherwin Williams 2022 paint color of the year, Evergreen Fog, but you can't get it, most paint stores can match other companies' paint colors. Take them a swatch and let them work their computer-driven magic.
#6 Stick with same brand for the whole job if possible.
Use the same brand of paint for your entire job or the colors might not match, says Matt Kunz, president of Five Star Painting, a Waco, Texas, company with 231 locations in North America. To get a precise match, it’s best to buy paint that came from the same run and at the same store, Nolan says. But if you need the paint pronto and can tolerate possible color variation, you can be more flexible.
#7 Hire a professional painter to leverage their buying power.
If you have a big job, a painting contractor has the buying power to track down the paint you need. Otherwise, you'll likely have to drive all over town looking for paint or Google “latex paint near me” till the wee hours. A pro has a supplier network and a national buying account. “We place orders well in advance of our need, so we haven’t been as affected by the shortage as the average DIYer,” says Five Star Painting’s Kunz.
#8 Use recycled paint.
“Recycled paint is a little-known alternative to new paint,” says “says Ezra Laniado, owner of Landmark Construction & Development in Los Angeles. It’s made by reprocessing and remixing leftover latex paint. There aren’t as many color choices in recycled paint, and it can't be custom tinted, he explains. But it’s just as durable as virgin paint, good for the environment, and available. Recolor is one of the best-known brands of recycled paint, and you can buy it in interior and exterior formulas.
#9 Consider wallpaper instead of paint.
Wallpaper has come a long way from Great-Aunt Mabel's cabbage rose-covered bedroom walls. It's easier to hang and remove quickly without harming the walls, and it's better for the environment. It's also hot right now, available in all kinds of patterns and colors, according to interior design pros. That's good news for paint-shortage plagued homeowners. You can transform a room by decking out a wall with a punchy print. Wallpaper the whole room or do an accent wall. Don’t want to commit to permanent wallpaper? Go with the peel-and-stick stuff that’s easy to remove when you’re ready for a change.
#10 Power wash your home’s exterior before you paint.
As with the interior, a good cleaning of your home's exterior may be enough to freshen the appearance until you can repaint. “You can make your home look better, fast,” says Kunz of Five Star Painting.
#11 Paint just the front of your house.
Nolan suggests painting just the front of your house because that’s what shows. “You’ll make your house look nice, and you can follow up and do the rest of the house later,” he says. This is a good solution if you’re about to sell your house and need to boost your curb appeal.
#12 Put a clear topcoat over your exterior paint.
Freshen up your home’s exterior by putting a clear topcoat over the paint. “It will make the paint color more vibrant and protect it from the elements until you can repaint,” Nolan says. The paint shortage hasn't affected clear topcoats, he adds. And when you’re ready to repaint, you can put the fresh coats of paint on top of the topcoat.
The upshot: You can still paint your house during this supply chain mayhem. You’ll just have to plan ahead, pay higher paint prices, and be flexible in your choices.