Exterior Painting in Winter, Can it be Done?

Updated Jan 18, 2024 | Posted Nov 21, 2020 | Professional insight, Product Advice | 4 comments

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 winter.

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 each substrate. I’ll explain.

 

Working Around the Weather in Winter

 

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 call 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 Should You Use in When Painting Outside in Winter?

 

Decorating in adverse weather conditions calls for a rethink in product choice. Go for oil-based paint, 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.

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Dulux used to call theirs’ “all seasons” for this reason (however this product has been discontinued). Saying that, all the big paint brands have their own version of oil-based masonry paint. Crown have Sandtex, Johnstone’s have Stormshield, Wethertex have PP77, and there are plenty of others. Click here to see latest prices.

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. However, liquid driers is not expensive and can make all the difference.

Terebine Driers paint conditioner to speed up the drying process of oil-based paint

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. I tend to warm mine up in the foot well of my van on the way to a job!

 

Can You Paint a Wet Surface?

 

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.

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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. Some products remain breathable, so are less likely to trap moisture. I’d recommend looking at Wethertex PP77 if moisture is a concern. Available online here.

 

Conclusion

 

If you can, leave the painting until the weather warms up. But if not, or you feel you need to protect some surfaces from the elements, crack on with caution. Follow the advice in this blog and you won’t have any issues.

FAQs

 

What temperature is it too cold to paint outside?

It depends on the paint product, but most oil-based paints can be used in temperatures as low as 5 degrees. However, you should consider drying time, and whether the temperature will drop further before your paint has dried.

Remember to warm your paint beforehand. This will make it a lot easier to apply. Keep tins of paint inside, and only bring them out when you’re painting.

 

How long does it take for paint to dry in cold weather?

Drying times are extended massively during cold weather. Often, water-based paints don’t dry at all because they rely on evaporation. Try and stick to oil-based paints in winter and allow extra time for it to cure.

 

When should you not paint outside?

Avoid painting in very cold or wet weather and avoid painting late on in the day. Your paint needs to dry before the temperature drops.

 

What happens if paint freezes before it dries?

If water-based paint freezes before it dries, the polymer will separate, and it will destroy the molecular integrity of the paint.

If the temperature drops below freezing before oil-based has dried, the paint will become cloudy and textured.

Exterior Painting in Winter – by Mike Cupit

 

 

What do Other Decorators Think About Exterior Painting 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 exterior work totally come mid-October till march, as have lost so much money doing exteriors in the past due to weather.

Jason Gibbons

In the 70s we used to dig holes in the snow to put the ladders up 😄 It’s safe to say I’ll do outside work all year round.

John Blane

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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

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.

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

We all know exterior decorating in winter isn’t ideal, but it can be done. I’ve done a few jobs myself in January. Just use oil-based paints like Dulux Weathershield and choose your days. The biggest difficulty for a decorator is booking your time. We don’t get paid to sit in the van and delays have a knock-on effect with upcoming work.

But for a homeowner, I can’t see an issue. If its warm and dry, get to work. Just don’t try and fight the weather.

Mike Jones

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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

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. Even that wasn’t ideal.

Terry Fleming

As a decorator, I really don’t see the point in exterior painting in winter. It’s impossible to guarantee the work for a start.

If I paint a timber window that contains moisture, then all I’m doing is trapping that moisture into the window. It’s just going to rot over window, so I would have caused more harm than good. My exterior painting season is April to September. October to March is a no no.

Joe Jones

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 - Exterior Painting in Winter, Can it be Done?

I’ve done it several times. You need to choose your days carefully and use oil-based paints. Don’t paint if it’s going to freeze that night, or the surface is wet. Providing you’re sensible, it’s easy to paint in winter. I’ve painted the outside of houses in January before.

Ron Francies

What is the point in painting an outside in winter? The weather might allow you to work the odd day here and there. You can’t start before 10, you can’t paint pasted 2, and then your paint might fail anyway. Just wait till April.

Sam Houghton

Updated Jan 18, 2024 | Posted Nov 21, 2020 | 4 comments

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4 Comments

  1. Sally Pillay

    Restrictive conditions on application of Decorative Paints are two. First is that the surface should not be wet at the time of application and at least 10 to 12 hours after painting

    Reply
  2. Mr Guy Alexander Bell

    We work throughout winter time using Wethertex exterior masonry wall coatings, with great success. The product is good to apply down to minus 5 temperature. Always applied by spray. I also agree with the point above to never ever use water based paints during winter. Water, as you can expect, freezes, so not a good option.

    Reply
  3. Jacob Smith

    I didn’t realize how lucky we are to be a painting contractor in Southern Georgia in the U.S. I had no idea that people successfully painted in such cold temperatures or that there were products made for that type of weather!
    I’ll certainly have to share some of this commentary with my contacts up in the northern states.
    Thanks for the great info and interesting read!

    Reply
  4. Brighton PM

    This is great advice and good to know exterior repair and decorating can be done in the winter however it’s nigh on impossible to find decorators willing to do the job….. any takers in Brighton to do a 4 story Victorian terrace front and back ASAP?

    Reply

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