Exterior Painting in Winter

By Mike Cupit



As a professional decorator, I have set months when I’m happy to carry out exterior painting jobs. Normally I’d book this type of job in from the end of March until mid-October. That said, if you bear a few things in mind, you can carry out exterior painting in the colder months. You will need to pick and choose your days due to the weather, use appropriate materials, only apply products at certain times of the day and keep an eye on the amount of water in certain substrates. I’ll explain.


Working Around the Weather


If you are going to do some exterior painting during the winter months, then the first thing you’ve got to do is make a judgment on the weather. Firstly, it needs to be dry, otherwise, it doesn’t matter what paint systems you go for, they will fail.


The outside temperature needs to be above 5 degrees and stay above 5 degrees until your coat of paint has fully dried. This may mean you can’t start painting at first light and you can’t finish painting just before it goes dark. You can’t force exterior painting in winter, or you’ll have issues further down the line. The best advice I can give you is don’t try and paint anything when conditions aren’t right.


What Paints to use in Winter


Decorating in adverse weather conditions calls for a rethink in product choice. Go for “oil-based” and leave water-based products alone until spring. That goes for everything from primers, undercoats, finishes, stains and masonry. In fact, oil-based (or pliolite) masonry paint fairs very well during the winter months. Shower-proof in 30 minutes, it can be used on cold surfaces and hardly ever fails. Dulux call theirs’ “all seasons” and it is an awesome (but expensive) product which you can have absolute faith in. Saying that, all the big paint brands have their own version of oil-based masonry paint. Crown have Sandtex, Johnstone’s have Stormshield and there are plenty of others. Always use trade paint over retail (this is true at any time of the year, but especially when you’re asking a lot of the product). Thin coats of paint dry faster, so dilute slightly with white spirit.


Another tip for your trim paint (gloss or satin on your woodwork for example), is to use a product called liquid dryers. This does as the name suggests and speeds up the drying process your paint. Only use as few drops because messing around with the paint chemistry too much can, you guessed it, lead to more problems.


One more tip before I move onto the next section, keep your paint warm. I don’t mean put it on a radiator (you could end up with an exploding paint tin if you do that). Cold oil-based paint feels thick and hard to work with, so keep it indoors the night before you’re planning to use it outside.


Moisture content


So we’ve done weather, we’ve done paint, but now I’m going to throw another obstacle at you!! If you paint something which holds too much moisture, the paint will not adhere properly and fail over time. This is a particular problem when painting timber in winter as the wood could well be saturated. Potentially, all you’re doing by painting it is locking the moisture in, meaning the timber will carry on rotting through the winter, then the paint will flake off in the coming months anyway.


Moisture can also be a problem when applying masonry paint to stonework. If the stonework is wet, regardless of which paint product you use, the product is not likely to stick to the substrate. Maybe you fill the stonework using water-based filler which then doesn’t dry off properly and you lock more moisture into the substrate. You just need to remain conscious and try to avoid painting something unless it is completely dry.


Conclusion – Painting in Winter, Yes or No?


Yes, you can carry out exterior painting in winter, but bear in mind it isn’t ideal and you will have to adapt to the conditions. I hope this has helped you


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What do Other Decorators Think About Exterior Paining in Winter?

Personally, I don’t do outsides at all. I think you can do it in winter if the weather is mild. Definitely use oil-based paint though.

Pete Wilkinson

I now avoid totally come mid-October till march, as have lost so much money doing exteriors in the past due to weather

Jason Gibbons - exterior decorating in winter

In the 70s we used to dig holes in the snow to put the ladders up 😄

John Blane

Thought I’d see a lot of these responses. Of course you can paint in the winter… It’s just about knowing what product to use. I did an external (just brick masonry) a few years back between 0°c and 4°c. I used Sandtex 365. I made sure that the moisture content of the wall was right and went to it. Same with Wood windows and the like. As long as the moisture content is way low then you can get product on them which is weather resistant in around 20 mins.

Anything pliolite based will be workable down to -10°c ish. Its breathable too (apparently ) and weather resistant in 20mins or so. As for the wood, as long as you manage to remove and replace any dry or wet rot and repair (I use Repair Care bioflex cool if I have a winter repair) then an all coat is pretty good gear to get on over the top of that

Mike Sherring-Lucas - exterior painting in winter

I sell a few solvent borne masonry coatings that people use all year round. People have made good money off it for decades. Just needs to be the right product for the situation. For example, I have a smooth masonry coating that is typically shower proof in 30 minutes. Even if the temperature is near to freezing. Ideal for year round application. Here is an example.

Jon Mears

I have some clients that have asked me to do some external works painting window frames, I have been doing the works but I do it around other works with no set working days. I will only work when there is no chance of rain and the temperature is right. I also quoted double money because when the suns out I push back other work and get it done while I can

David Reed

I try to avoid it altogether, if asked I have the chat about how much moisture is in the air and how an overnight frost will damage the paint curing, they usually agree to leave it until April. 😁

John Sweeney

I love exteriors and would do them all year round

Only problem is if you’re on a price job and it goes on too long you could lose out.

The last one I did was amazing but towards the end I was hopping between that and an interior so I didn’t get behind and it made it quite stressful which was a shame      

Beck Schleck - exterior painting in winter

Won’t touch any domestic outsides till spring. I did a shop front in all coat this month on a dry day but they just needed it doing asap and knew the craic

Terry Fleming

Use to work on a maintenance team, it can be done. As long as it’s not freezing temps where it effects the paint ie frozen paint! The other issue with that time of year is moisture so unless you’re willing to dry everything off every morning. It’s more a question urgency I think.

Jordan Smart

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