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How to Paint Retaining Walls

Erica Tambien

Large retaining walls serve an important purpose but also can be unattractive. With paint, homeowners can add new luster or a decorative flair to retaining walls surrounding their properties. Painting concrete surfaces, however, is more time-consuming than painting plaster walls.

Paint retaining walls to complement your landscape.

Before picking up a paintbrush, clean and prepare the wall, which requires a little extra time and special equipment. When done correctly, a coat of paint can lend new life to supporting enclosures.


  1. Power wash retaining walls to remove dirt and debris. If you don’t have access to a power washer, a scraper and wire brush can get the job done but will take more time and effort.

  2. Repair any wall defects. Purchase concrete patches at a hardware or home improvement store and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to patch cracks or other imperfections in the wall.

  3. Position the dropcloth to protect grass, walkways and landscaping features from the chemicals and paint.

  4. Seal and prime the area to be painted. You can buy sealer and primer at any paint or home improvement store. Follow instructions printed on the product’s packaging to get a good finish. Some sealers require you to cover the area with one or two coats of sealer with a paintbrush or roller, then follow up with one or two coats of a separate primer. Some products combine sealer and primer together. It depends on the specific brand you choose to purchase. Allow the wall to dry completely before continuing on to the next section.


  1. Prepare the paint by stirring thoroughly. If you are using multiple cans, mix the contents together to ensure the final color on the wall will be uniform. Pour the paint you need for each section into a paint tin for easy access.

  2. Completely cover the wall with a thin layer of paint. Use a roller to cover larger areas. A roller with a deep nap may be useful if your wall is textured. A roller extension can be used to reach the tops of walls.

  3. Use a paintbrush to touch up the wall and paint hard-to-reach areas. Brushes are more suitable than rollers for covering the bottom of the wall where it meets the ground.

  4. Allow the paint to dry completely and add two or three additional coats. Let each coat dry before applying the next to help the layers bond together and form a harder surface. A single thick coat of paint may cover the wall but also end up leaving a soft or gummy finish.