Choosing the best paint for exterior wood can give you a lot to think about. Not only do you need to consider the finish you’d like (satin, gloss, or eggshell), but there is also the longevity of the paint (how long will it last), and how well the paint will protect the timber underneath.
I’m a Painter and Decorator of over 21 years, and I’m a little bit of a product geek. I thought I’d put together a little blog on the best paint for exterior wood for each of the available finishes. Feel free to skip ahead; if you know you’re looking for an eggshell finish, then scroll down to that section.
As a rule, it is false economy to buy cheap retail paint for exterior wood, simply because of its lifespan. You might save a few quid on a project, but then instead of it lasting 5 or 6 years, the paint starts losing its colour after 12 months, and needs repainting after two years.
An exterior wood paint needs to have UV protection. It also needs to be flexible so it can cope with the ever expanding and contracting timber. Oh, and it needs to be microporous, so it doesn’t trap moisture, as well as offering protection to stop moisture from penetrating the wood. That’s a lot to ask.
High Gloss for Exterior Wood
Let’s start with the highest sheen-level and work our way down. Gloss has become less popular inside peoples’ homes, but still looks brilliant outside. It stands loud and proud, which is great for front doors, windows, soffits, and fascia boards.
I’m going to recommend two products on this section: one oil-based, and one water-based. There are arguments for both when it comes to gloss, so at least if I explain each product you can make an informed decision.
Dulux Trade Weathershield Gloss
My first product on this blog is Dulux Trade Weathershield Gloss, which in my opinion, is the best oil-based gloss for exterior wood. Although, I do think Sandtex X-Tra is a close second.
You can buy Dulux Weathershield Gloss in thousands of different shades, and the sheen level is phenomenal, particularly in dark colours. Moreover, it stays looking like new for years! You will need to use Weathershield Undercoat before you apply a gloss, but you’ll find both products relatively easy to apply.
I have used Dulux Weathershield gloss for years, and although I have tried the other products available, I keep coming back to this one. I just love the way it looks on the exterior of a house.
Dulux Weathershield Quick Dry Gloss
You guessed it, this is the water-based gloss I recommend. Now, water-based technology has come a long way over the past decade, and this is probably the best on the market. Water-based is better for the environment, quicker and easier to apply, and easier to clean up. However, don’t expect to achieve the same sheen level as you would with its oil-based counterpart.
I can’t speak for the longevity of Dulux Weathershield Quick Dry Gloss, simply because it’s a new product. But I’ve been using it for around a year, and it is a good paint for exterior wood.
Opacity of the undercoat is good, and the overall finish of undercoat and gloss combo is spot on. It’s one of the only water-based gloss products I’ve used outside that doesn’t leave stringy brush marks.
The other advantage Dulux Weathershield Quick Dry Gloss has over other water-based alternatives is its durability once cured. This is important for any exterior wood, but windows and doors in particular.
The Best Satinwood for Exterior Wood
Satinwood has a lower sheen level than gloss, and can look great on the right property. There are two products I think you should consider when looking for an exterior satinwood. To be fair, they’re pretty similar to each other.
This is a multi-surface paint, meaning you can use it on almost much anything, including metal, some plastic, masonry, and exterior wood. You can buy this product in either water- or oil-based. There isn’t much of a difference in performance between the two bases, so opt for the water-based unless you’re painting in challenging weather conditions, or there is a chance of stains bleeding through your wood.
Zinsser AllCoat is easy to apply, looks fantastic, will last for years, and has great adhesion without the need for an undercoat. Opacity is great in colours, and fairly good in white (use an undercoat if you are using white and going for a colour change.
The oil-based version can drag a little bit, so dilute it slightly with white spirit when painting large flat surfaces. You can apply multiple coats of the water-based version in a day, but just be conscious that if you rush the recoat time then the curing time is extended, which can be an issue when painting exterior doors and windows. Zinsser AllCoat is the brand leader amongst Decorators.
This is a paint I love to use when painting exterior wood. It’s a water-based paint that absolutely flies on and looks fantastic. Superdec was around before AllCoat, and I used to go through loads of it (I still use it often now). This is such an easy paint to use, and the performance is spot on. No undercoat needed in most cases and multiple coats can be applied in a day.
I’ve used it a lot on garden furniture, picnic benches and planters, but it’s a great paint for doors and windows too.
The Best Eggshell for Exterior Wood
Strangely, the product I think is the best eggshell for exterior wood is oil-based. Sandtex X-Tra Eggshell may be slow drying, but it really does look good, and the finish lasts for years. You should apply one coat of X-Tra Primer, followed by at least one coat of the eggshell.
Drying times are a pain, so exterior doors and windows need to be painted in a morning so you can close them in an evening. You should also allow plenty of time between coats.
You can speed things up a little bit by adding a few drops of turpentine dryers or diluting your paint with white spirit.
Other than the drying time, you can’t fault this paint if used on exterior wood. It gives you a soft “traditional” look that is absolutely timeless. And the longevity is unreal! I’ve been back to jobs 10 years after using this paint and the wood still looks good.
I can’t write a blog on the best paint for exterior wood without including a little section on Barn Paint. The name is a bit confusing because you can use it on any exterior wood, not just barns. The paint itself is designed to be cheap and very easy to apply. The idea is you would perhaps apply a “maintenance coat” of paint every couple of years to maintain the look and protection of your exterior wood.
Barn paint has been around for decades, but until recently it was solely used on farms and other commercial buildings as part of the maintenance. It’s only really over the past 5 or 6 years that it has become popular amongst decorators and homeowners for use on domestic homes.
A lot of people use barn paint on sheds and fences, simply because it’s cheap and you can achieve a solid colour with it. The best and most popular barn paint is Bedec.
The Best Paint for a Shed or Fence
I thought I’d include a little section on the best paint for a shed or fence. You can use some of the products already mentioned in this guide. Bedec Barn Paint is perfect. Superdec or Zinsser AllCoat are even better, but they are more expensive and probably overkill for this type of work.
The other product worth mentioning is Cuprinol Shades, which is quite an interesting paint. It is cheap (which is what you need for a shed or fence). It’s thin too, which means it absorbs quite far into the wood to protect it.
It’s also hydrophobic, meaning it repels moisture, rather than just being waterproof. This is great for protecting exterior wood, but it can make applying additional coats quite difficult. Do not wait longer than 24 hours before applying extra coats because otherwise it won’t bond. You will need 2 or 3 coats to achieve a solid colour too.
I hope this blog has given you all the information you need to choose the best paint for your exterior wood. Think about the finish you want, then go with one of my recommendations.
The other advice I can give you for painting exterior wood is to make sure it is protected by repainting as soon as you see the paint start to fail. This way you will avoid any hefty repair costs further down the line.
Oh, epoxy resin wood fillers help too. I have switched to Oxera Resin Repair products, which act as both a filler and an adhesive. The benefit of this type of product is it will expand and contract with the wood, which means it will last. In fact, it tends to last even longer than the timber around it.
Best Paint for Exterior Wood – by Mike Gregory
What do Other Decorators Use?
I’m liking Sadolin Superdec at the moment. I had always used oil-based paints, but the Sadolin has taken over now because it’s quality
I’ve always used the Dulux Weathershield system on exterior wood. I’ve tried others but for oil-based paints I feel most comfortable using Dulux.
Recently we did a job using Little Greene Exterior paints. They were great. They needed 4 coats, but they were good to use and looked brilliant.
1 coat of Tikkurila Valtti Opaque to a tired fishing hut 2 years ago. It looks as good today as when I painted it, which is impressive for a water-based paint.
I barely do any exterior decorating, but Zinser AllCoat is a great paint. Only in colours though, because the white is awful.
Sadolin Superdec is the best paint for exterior wood. I believe its durability is up with the best, BUT due to long recoat times, I sometimes move to Zinsser AllCoat as it’s a great all round product.
Sadolin Superdec is probably the best for any timber. It’s self-priming and super flexible.
Sadolin Superdec!! Maybe not the best opacity but it’s easily the most flexible and literally breathes with the wood. It rarely cracks or peels and can mixed in hundreds or colours. It’s also, a decent multi-surface paint.
Dulux Opaque is cracking. Apply the clear primer on bare wood and two topcoats. It lasts years and take sticks to stain or varnish without issue. Dulux Weathershield Gloss system is good for redecoration work and has a great shine.
Sadolin Superdec is the best for me. It is self-priming, tintable flexible etc. The only downside is they don’t do a matt finish, which is when I’d turn to Zinsser AllCoat as they do a matt finish. Both are really good on exterior timber.
Dulux ultimate opaque solvent or Sandtex X-Tra Eggshell, both have great coverage. More importantly, they both have a lot of flex in them, which is perfect for exterior wood in the UK.
I’ve always found Dulux Weathershield a great paint for exterior wood.👍🏻