We spent 60 hours over a three week period researching and testing many different types and brands of exterior paint and found that durability, cost, and coverage were the most important factors for consumers who were shopping for exterior paint. KILZ Exterior Siding, Fence, and Barn Paint scored high marks in all categories and is our overall top pick. Kilz is a well-known brand name in paint and primers, known for its stain blocking quality and coverage. This exterior, all-purpose paint will resist peeling, cracking, blistering, and more. The water and oil based formula provides longevity in a variety of conditions as well as superb coverage.
Exterior Paint Buying Guide
Before you start shopping for exterior paint there are a few things you should consider and take care of. The following information will help you get prepared for the actual browsing and shopping part of this journey to finding the best exterior paint you can find.
Don’t skimp on price – There are cheap exterior paints on the market but if you choose paint because it is cheap you are going to get cheap results. Cheap paint is usually too thin, leaves streaks and uneven spots and is an all-around disaster to use. Premium quality exterior paint will cover beautifully with fewer coats, they will need repainting less often, and they will look terrific. This doesn’t mean you have to choose the most expensive paint on the market but in general you can expect higher quality paint to cost more. Many come with guarantees as well which can give you even more peace of mind.
Match the existing paint – When we say this we are not referring to color we are talking about the type of paint it is. Latex acrylic paint is preferred over oil paints but you need to match the kind of paint that is currently on the surface you are painting for the best results. Putting two different types of paints on top of each other can result in the paint peeling off in sheets; not something you want happening right after taking the time and money to paint in the first place.
Consider wool stain if you’re staining – If you are painting your deck and you decide you want to stain it you will want to choose a clear stain that will show off the grain of the wood. Unfortunately, clear stain is the most fragile since they penetrate more than other types do. Solid stains hide the grain of the wood but they are by far the most durable of all stains. There are also semi-clear stains that offer the best from both types.
Proper preparation makes a difference – It doesn’t matter how good paint is or what brand it comes from if you do not prep your surfaces properly the paint is going to peel off. The surfaces you are painting should be clean, dry, and scraped of any remaining old paint. Make sure to fix anything that needs fixing before you try to paint it.
Features of an excellent exterior paint
There are many features you want to look for when you start shopping for an exterior paint. We have listed these features below.
Excellent Coverage – Premium paint has the consistency to cover the surfaces well without having to put on tons of coats and without any hassle. Many of the top rated home paints are also self-priming which means you can paint without having to apply primer first. Priming the surface first is crucial for a good outcome. Some of the 2-in-1 paints that have primer built right in take two good coats to offer a finish you will be proud of.
Fast Drying – With some exterior paints you will find that they dry unevenly even if it is applied properly. Look for exterior paint that dries quickly leaving a rich finish that is smooth and that doesn’t have drips.
Mildew and Dirt Resistant – If you live in a very humid, damp area you will want to find an exterior paint that is resistant to mildew, mold, and dirt too, especially if you live in the city. These features will keep the paint looking fresher longer and can just be pressure-washed to remain clean and crisp.
Low VOCs – VOCs are harmful chemicals that are found in many products like cleaners, thinners, and paint too. The FDA is lowering the allowable amounts of these harmful chemicals now and companies are creating products with much lower VOCs. Looking for exterior paint that has low VOCs will help improve your safety when you’re painting.
Applies Evenly – Consistency is very important for exterior paint. If it is made too thin it will run leaving run marks and streaks behind. Paint that is too thick can clump and sag when dry. The best exterior paint will be able to be applied evenly and smoothly without leaving brush marks and other imperfections.
Types of Exterior Paint
There are two different kinds of exterior paint that you can choose from.
Oil-Based (also called solvent-based) – Oil-based paint takes longer to dry than latex. It will need as long as 24 hours to cure once it is applied. You will need paint thinner of some kind to clean up after using oil-based paint. If the surface you are repainting has previously been painted with oil paint, you will need to choose an oil-based paint. If you use latex paint over oil based paint it will peel.
Water-based Latex – This type of paint is probably the most popular to use due to the fact that it dries quickly and cleans up super easily with soap and water. Another plus to using water-based paint is that it is very durable and adjusts to different temperatures.
Types of Paint Finishes
The sheen paint has pertains to the amount of light reflection it offers. The less sheen paint has the less it will resist stains. There are a few common names for these finishes which are shared below.
Flat – Flat exterior paint will hide imperfection fairly well and is a good choice for siding made of aluminum or vinyl that has been scratched or dented.
Satin or Eggshell – This paint offers moderate sheen and is very easy to clean. It works well on siding that is in good condition and leaves a nice smooth-looking finish with a slight sheen to it.
Semi-gloss – Semi-gloss paints have quite a bit of shine to them but they are not the glossiest paints available. Semi-gloss works well on casings and trim. It is easy to clean and very durable if you choose a quality brand.
Gloss or High Gloss – High gloss paint is scuff resistant so it is an excellent choice for casings and door jambs. Gloss paint is also a good choice for trim and shutters and provides a good contrast to regular siding. High gloss paint will show imperfections more than other types of paints so keep that in mind when you are using it. High gloss paint cleans very easily as well.
What to look for in a Quality Exterior Paint
There are several characteristics you want your exterior paint to possess to ensure you have chosen a good one. Look for the features below once you start shopping around.
Blister-resistant – This feature will protect your exterior from moisture damage that can cause blistering and peeling.
Color Retention – This feature only applies to tinted paint. It will maintain the original color regardless of weather exposure.
Hiding Power – This ability to cover and conceal the surfaces where it has been applied. The ability to hide imperfections will depend on the consistency or the paint as well as the finish you choose.
Chalking Resistance – This characteristic keeps white, chalky residue from forming on the surface of the exterior which will lighten the color of the paint. Chalking can happen over time as the binder in the paint degrades. Streaking of paint is one sign that chalking is going on. This is one thing that can happen when you do not use a paint that is not resistant to chalking. It can negatively affect the appearance of whatever you have painted.
Types of Exterior Stains
Stain is a great choice when you want to allow the natural features of the wood shine through while still offering protection from the weather. Wood like redwood and cedar do really well with stains.
It does not protect as much as paint does since sunlight can still get through the stain and cause the wood to become discolored and aged but it is better than nothing at all.
Stains are available in oil-based and latex varieties. Do not mix types unless the previous stain has weathered and aged to the point where the new stain will stick with no problem.
There are three different kinds of stains to choose from.
Clear – This clear, translucent stain does not affect the color of the natural wood. It will need to be applied every two to three years. Keep in mind that using a clear stain will not prevent the wood from becoming discolored. If your goal is to prevent that aged look you should choose one of the other styles.
Semi- Transparent – These bulkier stains offer more in the way of protection than the clear stains. This is due to the fact that they contain a small degree of pigmentation. Color choices are not as great as latex paint offers but there is a selection for you to choose from. Semi-transparent stains should be reapplied every five to seven years.
Opaque – These stains are a lot like paint. They offer plenty of protection against the elements and hide the wood look of the exterior. They do allow the texture to show through. Opaque stains last 10 or more years so choose your color wisely and carefully. If you decide to change it down the road the exterior will have to be completely resurfaced. There is a good range of opaque stains to choose from.
It is wise to pay attention to the brand when you are ready to choose an exterior paint. Cheap paint will give you cheap results so you don’t want to look for the least expensive paint on the market for the outside of your home. There are many different brands to choose from but the well-known brands are tried and true and have their good reputations for a reason.
Choosing the right exterior paint is one of the most important decisions you can make for your home. Choosing the wrong kind of paint can result in blistering, peeling and the outside of your home looking worn and aged. With all of the different choices on the market, if you do not know what to look for you could be lost.
Fortunately, the information in this guide is designed to help you take all this information and use it to sort through all of the different choices so you can find the perfect exterior paint for your needs. The three top-rated exterior paint selections are from well-known and respected brands in the paint industry and can be trusted to provide high quality paint that will give you the finish you desire.
We have included the three top-rated exterior paint selections for your benefit to see if one of these choices will work for your needs. All three of them come from excellent companies that are known for quality and performance so if you choose one of these choices you will be happy with the outcome. If not, that is okay too.
Take the information and reviews we have provided here and determine what your needs are first and foremost. If you do not know the kind of paint already on your home and do not really have a clear idea of your goals you will never be able to decide on the right paint. Once you have determined what you need you will be able to take all of this valuable knowledge and find the best exterior paint for your painting projects.