How to Pick and Use the Best Deck Paint


Wood is widely used in construction as it has a number of pros. Yet there are some major cons to consider as well like inability to repel water. Wood soaked in moisture rots in no time, being a perfect environment for vermin. Higher relative moisture in wood leads to its swelling and getting bigger in size, while frosting and defrosting of wet wooden constructions make decorative finish unattractive. That being said, high quality deck paint for exterior works is the best you can do for protecting your gorgeous deck.

You will learn some basic types of paint in this article as well as discover the secret of proper applying deck paint on wooden constructions outside your house.

  • The Difference Between Interior and Exterior Paint

Interior paint should meet numerous environmental requirements, while it’s possible for deck paint to contain coloring agents emitting harmful chemical compounds. Due to such kind of rules relaxation manufacturers have an opportunity to produce the best deck paint with better performance characteristics.

One more point here is plasticity. Wooden constructions used outside of your house are exposed to cyclic freezing/defrosting, making their linear dimensions vary greatly. The best deck paint should compensate these factors by expressing outstanding plasticity.

Durability as one of the most crucial properties directly depends both on paint physical characteristics and recommended application process compliance.

  • Types of Durable Deck Paint

Today both standard and innovation-based paint is used for covering wooden constructions. Its physical characteristics are changed in terms of material, chemical composition, and special additive agents.

  • Oil-Based Paint

This is traditional paint which has been widely used for several decades already. It’s usually made of natural or artificial oil (petrochemicals). This paint is not expensive, so don’t expect it to be extremely durable. However when applied according to recommended application process requirements such paint coating can serve you up to ten years.

The main con of this paint is in difficulty of removing old finishes before applying fresh coating.

  • Polyurethane Paint

According to website this paint takes leading positions in terms of durability and perfect resistance to outdoor elements like low temperatures, ultraviolet rays etc. It is typically considered to be multi-purpose paint, its average durability being above 10 years.

  • Alkyd Paint

This paint comes with many color options and is known for its resistance to negative outdoor factors and moisture.

The major and most unpleasant con of this paint is strong smell, which remains on the covered item for quite a long period of time. Hence this paint is used for exterior works only because it contains toxic chemicals.

  • Acrylic Paint

This kind of multi-purpose paint is often used by professional builders as it perfectly meets all the necessary requirements modern innovative paint usually does. The price is reasonable, even a little bit lower than that of polyurethane paint, yet the former displays poorer performance characteristics.

Most manufacturers produce deep penetration deck paint. It has higher adhesion coefficient with wooden surfaces. Some brands even add rot-resistant agents into paint.

Considering all said above, if you’re looking for a better option to treat your deck, first thing you should consider when picking paint is its characteristics.

  • Tools to Work With

The quality of covering directly depends on the right choice of tools you’re going to use. So, let’s figure out the ones you might need for applying paint.

  1. Roller. This one is the worst choice for you, because the roller can’t rub paint deeply into wood, smearing it all around instead. Rollers made of polyurethane foam are a waste of money and effort, they leave big airy bubbles on the surface so you’ll have to remove the coating in the end. Thus we strongly recommend you to forget about these ones for applying paint and ask the masters you hire to avoid them as well. Of course the whole process goes faster with rollers, yet the quality of covering will suffer greatly.
  2. Spray gun. We recommend using these ones for painting large areas with complex surface geometry. Yet not all paints are equally good for this type of applying, so make sure to read the manufacturer’s instruction first. It’s not always possible to thin the paint, hence study the best way paint can be applied before you set to work.
  3. Paint brush. This old school and the most comfortable tool is a must have for those who are planning to make a gorgeous deck. It allows thorough rubbing paint into the wooden surface. The process goes rather slow, yet it can be of benefit to you, as you can spot the imperfections and fix them at once. Brushes make applying paint a hard and slow process, but in the end you will be very pleased with a great result.

One more important thing here. Try to buy high quality brushes only, and check how well the bristle is attached to the handle. Before setting to work, dip the brush in paint and make some pressing strokes on the surface. This will make loose hair stick to the wood preventing them from spoiling the whole process afterwards.

  • Picking and Preparing Paint for Applying

Though certain recommendations are usually given by the manufacturer, yet there are some general issues concerning material you need to consider as well.

  1. Mind the expiry date. In case the date is less than 6 month to expire, that product is not good for use. In fact, manufacturer specifies the maximum possible storing date supposing paint is properly stored with all the temperature factors requirements met. Unfortunately, most retailers ignore the instructions, especially dealing with paint. Such violation of temperature conditions reduces the storage life by somewhere about six month.
  2. Check the package wholeness. If you see big dents on the metal can or fresh paint spots on top of it, better put that one aside.
  3. Stir the paint thoroughly after you open the can. This is very important. After a long period of storing coloring agents settle on the bottom. If you fail to stir paint in a proper way, the color will be quite different. This is particularly significant for situations, when you need more than one can of paint to be applied on a single wooden surface. Unfortunately, paint in each of the cans may be of a different hue and you may end up getting a messy finishing with spots.
  4. Never add paint thinner before checking it first. Checking won’t hurt even if the thinner characteristics meet all the necessary requirements given by the manufacturer. Fill a small container with thinner and add some drops of paint to it. If the paint solidifies, never use the thinner with it.  

Never ignore these simple rules of paint preparation, because unskillful and inexpert actions will lead to frustrating results.

  • How to Apply Deck Paint

So, we’ve already discussed some picking criteria for deck paint and tools. Now it’s time to move on to the practical part.

  • Step 1. Picking durable paint and antiseptic

If painting wooden steps of the front porch is on your mind, the most expensive and durable paint is a better choice. You don’t have to worry about the high price, as it will really pay for itself, and you will enjoy quality finishing, which will last for years. Besides, such paint is amazing in terms of designing characteristics.

Saturate wooden surface with antiseptic before applying paint.

  • Step 2. Surface pretreatment

Wood needs to be cleaned off dirt and sanded. Large flat areas can be sanded with a sanding machine, in all the other cases it should be treated manually.

First, use coarse-grained sand-paper, and then work with a fine-grained one. Dust can be cleaned off with a vacuum cleaner or compressor. Keep in mind that dust is invisible for you and is hard to remove, but failing to do this will surely cause unevenness in the top coat of paint when it dries out. So remove any residues unless you want your deck look imperfect.

Whenever you find flaws after applying paint, it would be rather tricky to disguise them, as you will need either to remove the coating or sand the rough areas and then apply a new coat of paint again. On the whole, leaving surface uneven won’t do, this especially concerns floor or steps. Even the most durable exterior paint will not cope with such kind of stress, let alone heavy foot traffic doesn’t make it easier.

If wooden elements should further be assembled in a single construction, for instance, balusters and raining, then first paint the places of the elements joining before moving on to covering them from all sides. Antiseptic will do as well. You need to do this because rain gets into small grooves in wood and leads to further rotting over time. Paint can help you avoid this.

Keep in mind that paint should be applied on dry surfaces only, so you should wait for at least three days after rain to let the wood dry completely.

  • Step 3. Preparing paint and tools

Start applying paint from the farthest part of the deck moving towards the entrance of the house. Work with both thick and thin brushes, and keep watching you don’t miss any areas uncovered. Remember that paint should be rubbed into wood, not smeared.

  • Step 4. Timely applying the second coating of paint

Experienced professionals usually apply the second coating before the paint dries out completely, because it improves cohesion between coatings. Touch the painted surface with your fingers, if you feel them slide with a squeak, then it’s time to move on to the top coat application.

We don’t recommend you to paint when it’s windy. Small particles of dust may damage the painted surface.

You need to be careful when applying paint, yet be even more attentive while working outdoors. We’ve already discussed that the key factors of a perfect covering are paint physical characteristics together with a specialist’s conscientious work.

  • Useful tips
  • If you need to have a break from your work, close the can tightly with a lid. To make the transition less visible, simply smear the remains of the paint with a semi dry brush. The thickness of the layer here should be advisable twice as thin as the finishing.
  • Always follow the safety rules. Keep in mind that deck paint may contain toxic chemicals, which are typically used by manufacturers for increasing paint performance characteristics. Yet you can get intoxicated even working outdoors, so make sure to protect your respiratory organs. This is particularly vital for those with poor immune system, chronic diseases, and strong allergies.
  • Keep out of flames. Deck paint easily burns; the only exception is specially produced fire-resistant one. However it’s used for completely different purposes and will never do for final decorative covering.
  • For the first paint application dip only half of the brush bristle in the paint. It should have enough paint on it to ensure perfect deep wood treatment. Otherwise the second coating will not penetrate into the surface, cohesion reduced.
  • If working with light colors is your choice, use light colored treatment agents as well. Otherwise strokes of dark agents will be quite visible, making the whole coating unattractive.
  • Keep an eye on the body of paint. It should be fine enough to get easily absorbed by wood, while the thickness of the finishing coat should provide great surface leveling. If you fail to do this, bristle smears will be visible, and you will have to remove them, which is extra time and effort. Besides the thickness of the second coating will be different, which leads to reducing paint performance characteristics.
  • Make sure to hide flaws in wood like cracks or grooves, otherwise water will get into them and cause rotting. Don’t hope that paint would do miracles and remove all those imperfections. When it is still wet, the cracks may seem pretty filled, but as soon as it gets dry, they will show up alright. Use special exterior grade wood putty to fill them.
  • Fresh paint coating should be applied only after all the imperfections are taken away. If you feel that the old finish peels off, remove it with a paint scraper or sand it. Keep in mind that tiny cracks would be perfectly visible under a new coating. This happens because fresh paint softens and slightly compresses the old one, making the edges of the paint stick out from under a fresh finishing.
  • Conclusion

Unfortunately, some people advise in their articles to pick durable deck paint according to the type of the wood you’re going to work with. But this doesn’t work that way. There is no paint specifically for pine, birch or oak. As for deck paint picking criteria that really matter, you can find them listed above.

And finally, one more thing. How long your durable paint will serve you depends on the territory cleanness around your house as well. If sand and dirt are frequent guests at your front porch, they will damage the painted surface and cause imperfections for sure. After all sand is a very solid material compared to paint, so make sure to protect your amazing deck from extra stress.