Using wood outdoors can be great, but sometimes it needs a bit of coverage to really look best and last longer. Untreated wood doesn’t last long at all in the outdoors and using exterior paint can really increase its outdoor life. I thought it would be a great idea to put together a detailed guide of the best exterior paints for wood, so here we are.
I have also made an article about treating untreated wood, waxing outdoor wood furniture, and the best teak sealers. I want to make sure I answer all your questions about exterior wood and the best ways to seal them up!
Now let’s get into this detailed guide where I answer all the important questions about exterior paints for wood.
What Should You Do Before Painting Exterior Wood?
Pressure Wash It
Natural wood is susceptible to fungal decay, rot, degradation, mold, insect infestation, and water damage, especially if it goes untreated. But for a new exterior paint application to succeed, the siding will need to be extremely clean. Luckily, this is a job that can be done pretty easily, so long as you have a reliable pressure washer.
Pressure washers offer a quick and easy way to ensure that every inch of the house gets properly cleaned beforehand. Hand scrubbing is another alternative, but it’s far more difficult and time consuming and generally not advised if you’re planning on painting the entire exterior of the house.
However, it’s also important to be aware that if the water pressure is too high, then you can easily damage the siding of the house, or even cause damage to the sheathing and wall cavities beneath. So, just don’t rush the job, and you should be fine.
Another vital task that must be completed before painting over exterior wood is scraping off all loose, cracking, chipping, or peeling paint. Old paint can chip, flake, or peel, which will leave behind cracks, and small holes. Unfortunately, this can’t just be painted over without causing future problems.
So, you’ll need to use a paint scraper, wire brush, or sandpaper to remove any loose debris, and ensure that your next coat properly adheres, and lasts for years to come.
Let it Completely Dry
This one is absolutely essential, as painting over wet wood can be an extremely risky maneuver for anyone bold enough to try. Simply put, moisture levels in lumber must stabilize prior to painting for the paint to successfully adhere to the wood.
If you choose to ignore this, then there’s no guarantee that your paint is going to last or perform in the long-term. Construction-grade lumber has a relatively high moisture level, but excess moisture will have to evaporate completely to give the paint its best chance of providing long-lasting performance.
Apply Caulking if Needed
Believe it or not, but caulk is important for an exterior surface to survive, and also helps to protect and insulate your home. Outside of this, caulking should be applied before you begin painting because it will help to prevent water from entering the home at joints or around windows.
Also, it will help to protect insects from entering the home, as well as excess water and moisture, which ultimately helps to prevent condensation build up. Plus, applying caulking before you paint will also help to insulate your home from wind, as well as extreme cold or heat, and improve the final appearance of the paint job (no visible holes or cracks).
Applying Primer Outdoors – Is it Required?
The answer to this question is somewhat situational and subjective, but it is widely recommended to use primer before you paint regardless of your circumstances. While you can certainly get away without using it, it is absolutely necessary if; you’re changing the exterior colour of the home, you’re covering over bare wood, you’re covering stains or you’re painting over slick surfaces.
Primers can help to smooth the transition process if there’s a drastic hop between colours, and carry enough coverage and blocking power to ensure that your wood won’t get stained again. It’s also required if you’ve got bare wood because it provides a crucial, receptive base for the topcoat to properly grip onto, and makes bonding with high-gloss finishes a walk in the park. So, it’s not exactly required, but it is highly recommended for numerous reasons. Use one of these from our 10 best primers for old wood, they will keep your paint holding on strong!
When Painting Exterior Wood is Oil-based or Water-based Better?
This is another very common question, as both carry certain advantages and disadvantages. Water-based applications typically dry quicker than oil-based, are low-odor, non-yellowing, carry lower VOC’s, and the brushes will be relatively easy to clean afterward in water. Whereas oil-based applications tend to have a higher level of sheen, offer increased durability, and harden much quicker than water-based formulas.
The issue is that oil-based applications take longer to dry, carry higher levels of VOCs, and typically come with a relatively unpleasant odor. With that being said, oil-based paints are generally advised when you’re painting exterior woods because they are typically more durable, and offer higher levels of sheen.
10 Best Exterior Paints for Wood
1. KILZ Exterior Paints
KILZ is a world-renowned paint brand that carries a variety of exceptional exterior paint options to choose from, which we will go into more detail below.
KILZ Siding, Fence, & Barn paint
KILZ Exterior Siding, Fence, and Barn Paint is a remarkable exterior paint that offers protection against the elements, while still adding a beautiful finish to help drive the value of the structure. It features a unique water/oil-based formula for reliable adhesion, versatility, and longevity, and acts as an all-purpose application that helps to prevent cracking, peeling, and blistering.
Plus, KILZ’ Exterior Siding, Fence, and Barn Paint dries within 2-3 hours, and can cover anywhere from 200 square feet per gallon to 500 square feet per gallon, depending on porosity. All in all, this is an extremely reliable option for anyone who’s looking to protect weathered exterior surfaces such as plywood, fences, shingles, and laminates.
KILZ Porch & Patio Latex Floor Paint
Another extremely popular alternative is KILZ’ Porch and Patio Latex Floor Paint, which is incredibly durable, easy to clean, and resistant to scuffing, fading, cracking, and peeling. Not only does this acrylic paint offer a low-luster enamel surface that’s specifically designed to protect outdoor surfaces from a variety of weather conditions.
But it also features a mildew-resistant film, and thanks to its low-luster finish, it fully dries in just 1 hour. With only 1 gallon of KILZ Porch and Patio Floor Paint, you can easily cover 200-300 square feet on rough surfaces, and up to 400 square feet on smoother surfaces.
KILZ Over Armor Smooth Wood Coating
KILZ also offers an innovative solid color coating that’s specifically designed to help conceal splinters, and cracks up to 1/4-inch, forming a smooth, and slip-resistant finish.
Thanks to its advanced 100% acrylic resin formula, even just 1-gallon of KILZ Over Armor Smooth Wood Coating can masterfully hide imperfections, and cover up to 75 square feet. It’s the optimal solution for bringing old, weathered wood, or even concrete, back to life.
At the end of the day, KILZ has been making premium primers and paints for over 40 years, and was even named the Paint Brand of the Year in 2015 at the Harris Poll EquiTrend Rankings. So, regardless of which exterior paint you need, KILZ likely has you covered with one of the three presented options.
2. Sherwin Williams Resilience Exterior Acrylic Latex
Sherwin Williams is another staple in the paint industry, and their Resilience Exterior Acrylic Latex application is one of the best exterior paints for wood available. Not only is it made with MoistureGuard Technology, allowing for world-class moisture resistance, but it’s also specifically engineered to protect aluminum, vinyl, and wood siding.
This extraordinary design also features a durable mildew-resistant coating, as well as outstanding hide, coverage, and dirt resistance. Sherwin Williams also offers more than 100 color options to choose from, including a limited selection of darker tones that are formulated to resist warping or buckling over time. As well as a renowned history of exceptional customer service, backed by their reliable Lifetime Limited Warranty.
Latitude Exterior Acrylic Latex (new option)
Another incredibly well-respected paint, with great new reviews, excels with exterior paints, particularly when you take a closer look at the Latitude Exterior Acrylic Latex application. With one of the most innovative formulas on the market, Sherwin Williams has gone above and beyond with this tremendously smooth, yet durable application. This moisture-resistant paint is specifically formulated with ClimateFlex Technology, which helps to form a smooth finish that’s able to withstand even the most extreme of weather conditions.
More specifically, this product is able to develop resistance to rain and dew in as little as one hour, and comes with a wide range of bases, finishes, and VinylSafe colors. A truly remarkable alternative if you want a reliable exterior paint that can withstand extreme temperatures, for a reasonable price.
3. Romabio Classico Limewash Exterior Paint (Best for Brick)
Romabio offers a particularly unique alternative with their Classico Limewash Exterior Paint, which is primarily used for brick or stone surfaces. Limewash is slightly different from paint, in that it will calcify to the masonry while still allowing it to breathe. Meaning that all the moisture that masonry naturally absorbs will be evaporated. While still maintaining the temperature of your stone or brick, without having to fully commit to painting over it. It’s an authentic slaked-lime paint that requires little to no maintenance and can be used for both indoor or outdoor purposes.
Hand-crafted in Italy, Dolomite lime uses 2000-year-old techniques combined with modern technology, to create a truly revolutionary product. Romabio products are designed with intelligence and care, and greatly inspired by their name; “Roma” for Rome, Italy, and “”Bio” for organic and natural. Plus, there’s no stress when it comes down to deciding on a colour, as it’s completely removable within the first 5 days of application.
4. Behr Exterior Paint
Behr is a massive name in the paint market, and one of the top sellers in most major American retailers. Thankfully, Behr offers many products for customers to choose from, and exterior wood paints are hands-down one of their best products. So, here are some of their top exterior paints;
Behr Premium Plus
Behr Premium Plus is one of the best exterior paint and primers on the market, offering a 100% acrylic, low VOC formula that’s specifically designed to create a long-lasting finish. More importantly, it’s guaranteed to prevent moisture, fading, and stains, and provides mildew and corrosion-resistant features. This option also carries exceptional adhesion properties, and is ideal for wood, vinyl, and fiber cement sidings (stucco, brick, masonry, and fences). Plus, if you opt to go with the Satin Enamel sheen, then you’ll be setting yourself up perfectly to have a soft, pearl-like aesthetic to your exterior space.
The Behr Ultra Paint and Primer is best-used as a primer for repaired or uncoated surfaces, such as woods that contain tannins and heavily stained areas. Not only will this paint help to guard against damage from sunlight, moisture, stains, and dirt. But depending on the sheen that you choose, your extra-protective shell will maintain it’s long-lasting freshly painted look with minimal maintenance. Also, Behr Ultra Paint and Primer contains low VOC, is 100% acrylic based, and is backed with a Lifetime Limited Warranty.
Behr Marquee Exterior
Behr Marquee Exterior Paint is the ultimate solution to enhance the overall durability and sheer beauty of just about any exterior surface. This luxurious application features the most advanced dirt and fade technology, and creates a gorgeous, pearl-life appearance that’s resistant to dirt, as well as the natural elements. More specifically, Behr Marquee offers advanced UV protection, and exceptional gloss retention for extended use. It’s the best way to treat your home’s siding, as well as doors, windows, trim, and outdoor furniture. But beyond this, it’s also great for some of those trickier areas, like shutters, railings, and wrought iron. All in all, a premium solution, for a premium price.
All three of the aforementioned options can be found on Home Depot’s site by clicking here.
All three of the presented options from Behr are also going to come with different sheens, and sizes to choose from. Typically, you will have the option to choose between flat/matte, satin, or semi-gloss for the sheens, and quart, gallon, and 5 gallons for the sizes. The size will generally depend on how many areas you need to cover, but the sheen is more important when it comes down to durability and aesthetic. Satin is widely regarded as the best option for outdoor surfaces because it is the most durable, and creates a gorgeous, pearl-like finish. Whereas semi-gloss sheens will create more of a radiant sleek look, while flat/matte sheens will offer more of a low-lustre appearance. Know the difference, and choose accordingly.
5. Valspar 1500 Porch and Floor
Valspar’s 1500 Porch and Floor application is another remarkable option due to it’s fast-drying (just 1 hour), and multipurpose functionality. It produces a wear-resistant satin finish that cleans up super easy with just soap and water, and is incredibly durable. It’s a satin sheen coating that gives floors tough, long-lasting protection, and is made with premium quality, 100% acrylic latex formula that makes it ideal for both indoor and outdoor use. All in all, the Valspar 1500 Porch and Floor application is without question one of the best exterior paints for wood.
6. Dulux Weatherguard
The Dulux Weatherguard is a premium quality 100% acrylic latex exterior paint that’s specially formulated to provide unbeatable weather resistance, easy application, and a quick curing time. Not only is this application incredibly long-lasting, but it also beautifully forms a breathable film that allows moisture to pass through, preventing the wood from blistering or peeling over time.
Plus, you’ll have the option to choose from any one of their matt, satin, semi-gloss or gloss finishes, as well as one of their four bases; medium, pre-mix color, ultra-deep, and white. So, you will have more than enough color variations to mix and match with. All things considered, Dulux’s Weatherguard paint offers excellent adhesion, water resistance, and gloss/color retention, making it one of the best exterior paints for wood on the market.
7. Benjamin Moore Exterior Paint
Benjamin Moore paints are another popular paint on the market. When it comes to exterior paints they provide a number of options too choose from, all being great quality paints. You can see the list of their exterior paints by clicking here. Their most popular and best option is called Aura Exterior Paint, and this product is made exclusively for outdoor use. It has color lock technology to make sure the paint does not fade from weathering and repeated washes.
It is available in 4 different finishes for a different sheen, from lowest to shiny is their flat finish, low lustre, satin, and semi-gloss. If you know the more paint is shiny, often it is more washable. Whether you choose flat or semi-gloss this paint is exceptionally durable, so no need to worry. Furthermore, this paint has great coverage no matter the color you use!
You can apply this paint in as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees celsius), that’s 10 degrees Fahrenheit less than the average! This is great for painting in the winter months when things get cold.
Other great exterior paints by BM are REGAL Select Exterior High Build, ben Exterior Paint, and Coronado Rust Scat polyurethane enamels. Check them all out here.
8. ALLFLOR California Paints Porch, Patio, Floor Paint
California Paints also carries a wonderful alternative with their ALLFLOR Porch, Patio, and Floor paint, a durable, water-based floor and trim finish that’s designed for maximum performance. Not only is this paint exceptional at retaining color over time, but it’s also incredibly breathable, thanks to its 100% acrylic formula, while still offering amazing adhesion and blister resistance.
It’s a truly unique finish that’s become the standard for quality with exterior floors, patios, porches, steps, decks, or anything made out of wood that needs to withstand the elements.
9. Modern Masters Front Door Paint
Another lesser-known exterior paint that’s impressively durable, long-lasting, and quick to dry, is Modern Masters Front Door Paint application. It’s a premium quality finish that’s formulated with never-fade technology, and is entirely water-based, which makes it eco-friendly, fast-drying (up to 1 hour), and incredibly long-lasting.
Modern Masters exterior paint also provides up to 100 square feet of coverage, as well as an easy to maintain, smooth satin finish that’s sure to last for years to come. All in all, an absolute no-brainer for our list of the best exterior paints for wood.
10. Rust-Oleum Zinsser PermaWhite Exterior Satin
Rounding out our list of the top ten best exterior paints for wood, we’ve got the Rust-Oleum Zinsser PermaWhite Exterior Satin application. This amazingly durable finish is 100% acrylic, fade-resistant, dirt-resistant, moisture-resistant, and tintable to any off-white, pastel or medium earth tone colour.
This is also a water-based paint, meaning that it is low odor by design, and emits very few VOCs into the environment. You will have to wait at least two hours for it to fully dry, but once applied, this application is built to last for years to come. Plus, Rust-Oleum’s Zinsser PermaWhite Exterior Satin finish is even backed with a reliable 5-year mildew-proof warranty.
When to Hire a Professional Painter?
As previously mentioned, painting the exterior of your home, or any part of your home for that matter, is a tedious, time-consuming, and incredibly detailed task. But it’s also a heck of a lot cheaper to just do it yourself, rather than have to hire a professional. So, how do you know when it’s time to call in the ‘big guns’? Well, you’ll first need to consider the height and overall size of the house, your skill levels, and your experience painting.
A one-story house is going to be much easier to paint, as you won’t need any tall ladders or scafolding set up to complete the job. But if you’ve got a two-story house (or more), then a professional painter may be better equipped to handle the task. Not only will they already have the right ladders and equipment, but you’ll have peace of mind knowing that they’re professionals at what they do.
Exterior Wood Paint FAQs
Do you need to prime exterior wood siding before painting?
While maybe not entirely necessary, it is strongly recommended to prime your siding before you paint it. Primer can help the paint better adhere to your home’s exterior, as most high-bonding exterior primers grab and hold bare wood siding much stronger than any typical exterior paint.
Plus, most quality primers help to provide a solid base coat for aluminum or vinyl siding, regardless of whether or not it’s been previously painted over. The combination of good paint and primer is the best way to ensure proper adhesion and to prevent moisture from penetrating the wood trim, causing the siding to peel, crack, or blister over time.
How to seal knots in wood for outdoor use?
You can absolutely seal knots found in outdoor wood using exterior paint, and the best way to do so is by using a shellac-based primer. Shellac has wonderful blocking properties, as it helps to block silicone contamination, odors, and residual wax, among other things.
Most notably, shellac also blocks the resin from pine knots and very oily exotic woods, which can slow down the drying process tremendously. In fact, shellac typically has far better-blocking properties than any other type of finish, especially when it comes down to sealing knots in the wood. And without a doubt, the best shellac-based primer for sealing wood knots is Zinsser’s Bin Shellac Based Primer.
What is the best paint for outdoor wood furniture?
When it comes down to outdoor wood furniture, you’re going to want a paint that is long-lasting, reliable, and easy to apply. Luckily, Wolman Outdoor Furniture Paint by Rustoleum checks off all these boxes. It’s perfect for refinishing and protecting exterior woods, and its water-based formula is 4x thicker than other outdoor furniture paint. Enhancing the deep colors without diminishing the quality.
Plus, it dries to the touch in 2-4 hours, is incredibly affordable, and is specifically designed to withstand even the harshest environments. Quite literally everything that you could want in exterior paint for wood furniture.
Can You Use a Paint Sprayer for Exterior Paint?
Absolutely! Using a paint sprayer for your home’s exterior simply means that you’ll be covering more areas faster, so long as the necessary prep work is done beforehand. Sprayers are ideal because they can help to extend your reach by another couple feet in order to reach some of those trickier areas. Just keep in mind that if you want to use a paint sprayer, then you’ll need to cover everything, from wires, pipes, and gas meters.
To architectural details, plants, driveways, sidewalks, and anything else that you don’t want painted. Once you have everything protected, then spray away! So long as you take the proper precautions, using a paint sprayer is far more efficient than using a brush.
Should You Paint Exterior Trim or Walls First?
Most professional painters would tell you that it’s best to paint your walls before you paint your trim, for a few notable reasons. First, as with most labor jobs, time is money, and the quicker you can get the job done the better. The truth of the matter is that painting the trim is going to take a whole lot longer than painting the walls, as it’s done entirely by hand and will require far more attention to detail, and more difficult angles.
Plus, there’s a good chance that after you go over the walls with a brush and roller, more paint will end up on the trim anyway. Since you’ll be using way more paint on the walls than the trim, and it’s not exactly a ‘clean’ job. So, by painting the walls first, you can avoid the stress of potentially having to redo the trim, and save you time in the process.
How Many Coats of Exterior Wood Paint do You Need?
The truth of the matter is that the success or failure of your exterior painting journey is largely determined before you even open up a paint can. The process to properly prep the wood involves intensive patching, sanding, and cleaning to ensure that the paint adheres well, and is strong enough to endure extreme weather conditions.
In order to further guarantee that your wooden structure has good coverage, and protection, applying the correct number of coats is essential. Typically, two coats is all that you need to ensure solid longevity, but if you’re painting a lighter color onto a darker wood, then you may need anywhere from two to four coats.
Read our related exterior paint articles:
- 10 Best Waterproof Paints for Exterior Walls
- How to Clean Mildew from Exterior Painted Wood in 6 Steps
- 10 Best Exterior Wood Stains for Outdoor Use
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.