how to paint exterior wood

A Complete Guide on How to Paint Exterior Wood the Right Way

Last Updated on January 18, 2023

So, you have seen that exterior wood and feel that it needs to be spruced up, and who could blame you for wanting to do that? Old wood with peeling paint is hardly pleasant on the eye.

But then, how do you deal with that flaking paint, and what are the steps you need to follow to get that exterior wood looking pristine once again?

Well, that’s what we are about to explore; here’s how to paint exterior wood – it is easier than you think.

Preparation for Your Paint Job Project

To prepare for the paint job, you need to have all the correct equipment. You will need something to remove the old paint, equipment to fill any cracks or holes in the wood, and the correct paint to put on the wood itself.

So, we would recommend tools along the following lines:

Of course, we are going to look into the paints themselves in more detail later.


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Check Weather

There’s one other thing that you cannot ignore, and that’s the weather. It clearly cannot be raining, and it shouldn’t be too cold. If it’s too cold, it will extend the drying time of the paint, and you don’t want that to happen.

So, check the forecast, and if you see it’s a clear day, then go for it. You are trying to protect your wood from moisture, so don’t be out in your garden trying to repaint something in the conditions you are hoping to avoid.

Getting the Correct Paint

Let’s deal with helping you get the correct type of paint.

Clearly, you need to make sure you get outdoor paint, as it’s made differently due to what it will then have to endure when placed in an outdoor environment. Also, check if the paint you have bought is meant for wood rather than metal surfaces. Once again, the consistency and how it performs will be affected by this.

There are various types of exterior paint out there specifically designed for exterior woodwork.

The Primer or Undercoat

You may wish to get a primer, or it may be referred to as an undercoat. This will help seal the wood and provide a better surface for top coats to cling onto effectively.

Wood can be a thirsty material when it comes to using paint, which applies to both new and old exterior wood. Without a primer, your first coat is going to vanish into the wood as if you haven’t painted anything.

So, invest in a good primer to make life easier, as priming the wood is very important.

Oil Based Or Water Based

For the paint that will form the top coat, you may wonder what’s best between oil-based and water-based paint. Well, both have their advantages.

The paint with an oil base will be far more durable and give a better finish. For exterior wood, that may be a deciding factor, as it will last for longer and deal with the poor weather.

But paint with an oil base is manufactured from harsh chemicals. Also, it gives off a stronger smell, and that may be an influential factor. However, as you will be painting outdoors, it does mean that the smell won’t be as toxic.

On the other side, paint that has a water base doesn’t take as long to cure. You will be able to do another coat of paint in next to no time. It’s also often easier to apply to wood surfaces but may require more coats. You won’t get a fantastic finish with only one coat of this type of paint, especially on older wood.

So, it will come down to durability and how you feel about those chemicals as to which one you choose.

Getting Started with the Painting Exterior Wood

You now have all your materials. You are pleased with the paint colours, and you are looking forward to the finished result, so how do you begin?

First, you need to prepare the surface. Your wood paint must go down onto bare wood to help it to adhere better. If you have exterior wood that has already been painted, then you should do the following.

Step 1: Strip the Old Flaking Paint

Remove that old paint on the woodwork before you do anything else. Use a paint stripper or a paint scraper to get it off the wood and remove any dirt. Once you get the majority of it off, you need to move on to the next step of the preparation, and that’s sanding the surface.

Step 2: Sanding the Old Surface

You generally want things to be as smooth as possible, which means getting out of a sand block and getting to work. Now, you could use an electric sander to speed things up, but we are only talking about removing that old paint before you go ahead and put another coat on.

So, get out medium grade sandpaper, and give it a rough going over. Then, remove any dust created by giving it a light dry brush.

Step 3: Checking the Wood

Check over the wood and check for any splits or cracks. If they exist, then get wood filler to sort them out. Of course, timber tends to split, so this is nothing unusual. However, you don’t want your surface to have any additional problems where the conditions can damage the wood.

Step 4: The Primer

Once the wood is prepared, you need to start painting the primer. This gives that strong base to bare wood that makes it easier to finish the woodwork with the top coat.

This should be quick-drying to allow you to get to work on the rest. It will often stain the wood to a certain extent, and check the colour you use. You should use a light coloured primer if you plan on using a lighter top coat.

Step 5: The Next Layer

So, the primer has been completed, and everything is dry, so now you are onto the next layer. Now, whether you need 2 coats or one coat will depend on the paint. It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with windows or doors. It’s all about the paint.

Don’t be shy when painting. Put enough paint onto the woodwork to really cover it. Don’t stress too much with the first coat, but avoid leaving blobs of paint or too many streaks, as that makes the next layer harder to deal with.

Step 6: Let it Dry, Then a Light Sand

Once this layer has dried and the time will vary, you should give it a light sanding before putting it on the next coat. This applies whether it’s normal outdoor paint or gloss.

Step 7: The Final Layer

Finally, add that top layer. If dealing with exterior gloss, then take some time to lay down the paint. Use long, smooth brush strokes to get a better finish, or you may leave marks.

A Fresh Lick of Paint

By the end of these steps, you will know how to paint exterior wood properly. Use only quality paint, but check if it’s for garden furniture, masonry, metal, or anything else.

The range of colours that are out there will blow your mind. But the level of protection paint can give to that exposed wood will mean you can protect that wood for years to come.

Are you planning on repainting? Tell us what you want to do below.

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