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Buying Guide

Best Exterior Paint for Your Home

Things To Consider
The exterior of a yellow house.

Climate 

Paint in the right weather. In temperatures colder than 50-degrees Fahrenheit, most paint won’t dry completely, but cold-weather paints are available for cooler climates. In warm temperatures or direct sunlight, paint may dry too fast, causing lap marks. Wind, rain and humidity can also affect the drying time and final appearance. Extreme cold or hot climates may require a special paint formula. Check your paint label for recommendations on temperature ranges before starting. 


Timing 

Water-based paint will dry faster than oil-based paint, so if you are in a time crunch you may opt for water-based.  


Color choice  

Purchase a small sample of the new color so you can try it before applying a larger amount to the entire area. Wait a day or two to let the color settle. Seeing the dry paint at different times of day will help you determine if the new color is right for you.  


Toxins
Low-VOC paints (low volatile organic compound paints) have low fumes and fewer toxins, making them generally safe to use in enclosed or low-ventilation areas. Water-based or acrylic paints tend to have a lower-VOC by nature.  


Paint finish 

When choosing a paint finish, you can opt for an understated matte look or a glossy shine. Some paint finishes are more popular for different types of exterior surfaces and different parts of your home. Front doors, for example, often use a gloss finish paint to add brightening curb appeal.  


Paint quality 

No matter what area of your home you are painting, it’s important to know whether you are choosing a high-quality paint. Judge a paint’s quality by the following features:


  • Hiding power: the ability of a paint to fully cover the surface  
  • Chalking resistance: the paint’s ability to resist the white chalky powder that occurs over time when the binder begins to break down 
  • Color retention: the paint’s ability to retain its pigment 
  • Blister resistance: the paint’s ability to keep moisture from breaking through its surface 
Types of Exterior Paint
Exterior Paint
Exterior Paint
primers
Description Water-based exterior paint. Also called latex paint or acrylic paint. Oil-based exterior paint. Paint primer.
Feature/Benefits Naturally breathable and expands and contracts with house siding, making it very durable. Won’t trap moisture. Less likely than oil-based paint to crack or peel. Dries quickly, usually within 1- to 6-hours. Naturally low-VOC and low-odor. Can be cleaned with soap and water. For the best weather protection, look for a water-based paint with an all-acrylic binder rather than a vinyl-acrylic binder. Known for its gloss finishes, adhesion and stain-blocking. Penetrates the surface of the material you’re painting. Dries slowly, usually within 8- to 24-hours. Not naturally low-VOC, so must be applied only in areas with good ventilation. Do not use in enclosed spaces. Remove using mineral spirits or other solvent. Long-lasting and dirt-resistant. May crack or peel over time. A base coat for paint. Smooths surfaces and helps with paint adhesions. Can be oil-based or water-based. Look for primers specifically created for wood, concrete or metals.
Recommended For The best outdoor paint for vinyl siding, masonry (stucco, brick, stone) and roofs. The best exterior paint for chalky or stained surfaces, bleeding woods, metals that can rust and surfaces that are frequently touched such as doors and railings. Oil-based primers can be used with both oil- and water-based paint. Oil-based primers are best for stained wood, bleeding wood, metals that rust and surfaces that would normally need oil-based paint without a primer. Water-based primers are recommended for most applications but should only be used with water-based paint.
Paint Finishes
A front door painted yellow with a high-gloss finish.

The finish refers to how much light the paint reflects when dry. There four most popular paint finishes are flat, semi-gloss, high-gloss and satin.  


Flat or matte finish 

  • Hides imperfections better than a glossier finish  
  • Not as easy to clean as glossier finishes   
  • Generally used for house siding 


Semi-gloss finish

  • Less shine that a gloss paint but durable and easy to clean 
  • Semi-gloss works well on trim and window casings  


High-gloss finish 

  • Creates a hard, shiny, durable finish that is easy to clean 
  • Brings out details, making it popular for trim and doors 
  • Can bring out imperfections, so it is not popularly used for siding or walls 


Satin finish 

  • A satin finish has a slight gloss and is easier to clean than flat paint  
  • Hides imperfections well 


Tip: The less sheen (or gloss) a paint has, the less stain-resistant it will be.  

Specialty Exterior Paint
A woman and child painting a fence white.

The best exterior paint must withstand harsh weather, sunlight, varying temperatures and more. For this reason, some formulas are designed for use on specific parts of your home. The types of exterior paint you choose will depend on which areas and surfaces of your home you will be painting.


Gutter paint

  • Both oil- and water-based available 
  • Oil-based paint is best for tin gutters 
  • Adheres well to galvanized steel and aluminum 
  • A galvanized metal primer must be applied before painting 


Porch and patio paint

  • Both oil- and water-based available 
  • Provides weather-resistant coverage for garages, porches and concrete surfaces 


Front door paint

  • Both oil- and water-based available 
  • Semi-gloss or high-gloss finishes are ideal for doors and trim because they can withstand nicks and everyday use, plus they add shine and highlight details  
  • Primer should be applied before painting 


House/siding paint 

  • Both oil- and water-based available 
  • Will withstand wear and exposure to severe weather conditions 
  • Manufacturers offer specific types of exterior paint for extreme climates 


Masonry or brick paint

  • Usually water-based paint 
  • Ideal for brick, stucco, concrete, cement and shingles 
  • Most require a special pretreatment or bonding primer 
  • Apply with a paint sprayer rather than a roller to fill masonry’s natural nooks and crannies with even coats of paint 


Deck paint

  • Both water-based and oil-based available
  • Can be used for other exterior wood structures such as fences
  • Typically waterproofing and mildew-resistant


Pool and marine paint

  • Look for a polymerized cement-based product for concrete and gunite pools 
  • Look for paints that provide stain- and abrasion-resistance 
  • Check for compatibility with your surface (pool, concrete deck or spa) 


Roof paint

  • Water-based paint 
  • Most are mildew- and algae-proof 
  • Should not be used for waterproofing or to repair roof leaks 
  • Can be tinted to match roof color 
Surface Preparation

If you don’t prepare the surface before painting, even the best exterior paint won’t look professional or last long.

    

  • Remove things like address numbers and shutters prior to painting.  
  • Pressure wash before the big paint job starts so you can notice any cracks that need to be sanded, any paint that is flaking and any other imperfections.  
  • If the surface has been painted before, check for peeling paint and scrape it off prior to applying a new coat. 
  • Cover plants, sidewalks and driveways with a tarp to prevent them from getting stained from the paint. 
  • Clean, scrape and fill holes in the surface prior to paint application. 
  • Sand any unpainted wood that is gray or weathered. 
  • Sleek surfaces may require light sanding to improve adhesion with primer or paint. 
  • Prime all bare wood, including bare spots and nails on previously painted surfaces. 


Tip: Water-based paint can be applied over oil-based paint, but oil-based paint shouldn’t be applied over water-based paint. On surfaces with four or more coats of oil-based paint, stick with oil, since a water-based paint may cause the oil-based paint to pull away and crack. 

Maintaining Your Exterior Paint
A man pressure washing the exterior of a home.

To keep your paint job looking fresh, be sure to clean your home’s exterior a couple times a year by hosing off dirt, leaves and rainwater that accumulates over time. It’s also helpful to pressure wash your home’s exterior about once every five years to keep mildew at bay.  


How long will exterior paint last?
A good paint job with high-quality exterior paint can last up to 10-years, depending on your home’s siding material and the climate you live in. While wood surfaces will need to be painted as early as 5-years, paint on stucco homes will last longer. 

When searching for the best outdoor paint for your home, consider the parts of your house’s exterior you plan to paint, your area’s climate and your painting schedule. These factors will help you narrow down which types of exterior paint will be the easiest to work with as you improve your home’s curb appeal. Once you’ve found the right paint, know exactly how much you'll need with our project calculators.