Best Deck Paint: If You Must Paint It, Go All Out (Thank Me Later)

There is an ocean of paint on the shelves of paint stores, so it can be very confusing to determine what is the best deck paint.
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Here I present simple logic on why you should buy the very best deck paint on the market, which will save you time and money.

Of course you want a long lasting, quality deck treatment. The decision is not so much about money as it is the labor involved over the years, plus the look you want.

Your painted deck will look great but after a while… you know what happens. If you skimp on quality, you’ll be out there every other year! You definitively will need a very good paint primer and a high-quality deck paint. And you need to prep well (read our post on that).

Where you need primer, use the best shown here use the best shown here, and for the top-coat, get a quality deck paint at a great price.

KILZ Interior/Exterior Enamel Porch & Patio Latex Floor Paint, Low-Lustre, Slate Gray, 1 gallon

Freeze! Slowly back away from that paintbrush!

If you have already decided what you want a painted deck,  skip to the main section just below, but first, let this painter talk you out of painting your new deck.

We have a MUCH better idea. Do you like scraping off paint and repainting every 5-7 years? No? We don’t either. Years ago, I stopped taking jobs involving scraping! It just sucks.

The elements will break down your paint and stains with solids and you’ll have to do it over and over. So what to do?

What does a professional painter of 35 years do with his deck? My friend, kick the tires on a once-in-a-lifetime deck stain and sealer.

ONCE IN A LIFETIME, easy to apply and low-cost. I took a chance with it and I love it. This is what Parks Canada uses and my paint store manager highly recommended it. 

We understand that you may be dead set on painting all your exterior wood, but once again, we would strongly suggest a semi-transparent stain. We have an entire post all about the best deck stains and yet another post on how to stain your deck.

Ok, let’s paint that deck.

First Step: Fresh Start, a quality wood primer and big key point

Primers fill the small grooves and seal the wood from absorbing your topcoat paint. They also provide the bonding that is necessary for the deck paint to last.

This is the best deck primer, : in the long run, it costs less and requires less work.

For wood ‘knots’, use a shellac based primer just for spots that bleed through the main primer. If you do not do this step, you will see the knot bleed through every coat of finish paint you apply. In some rare cases, two coats of ‘spot-priming’ may be necessary, but generally not with a quality primer, such as this one available online. (Have some rubbing alcohol handy as that is your solvent for this.)

Best Deck Paint for Wood: use the same paint for walking surfaces and railings etc.

Painted deck with the best deck paint
Painted deck with the best deck paint

Save money by getting quality deck paint. It lasts so much longer than the low-end stuff that you save money in the long run. You need 2 types.

Finishes and Colors
Sometimes these are limited in even good deck paints. We generally are asked to apply a low-luster (satin) or semi-gloss. Flat finishes will become dirty faster in our experience. Kilz has a de selection.

Wet walking surfaces can be dangerous

Even the best deck paint for walking surfaces can be slippery when wet, which is especially dangerous on stairs. So the remedy for this is to use a textured paint made for decks.

Also you can simply add silica, not beach sand (it’s too rough), to your paint as you apply it and you brush it in. Silica really works and it does not shorten the life of the paint job and you feel safe on it. You could just filter beach sand with a fine screen.

We also have installed anti-slip tread tape.

If a Hippie asks you, “What’s your sign, maaaaaan?” Say, “Slippery When Wet”.

Oil or latex?

If your old deck paint was oil-based, I’m sorry to say that you have to sand it prior to painting. There are some primers that will bond to non-sanded (non-porous) surfaces, but I would never trust any advertising or product statement to such an important decision. What if it peels in one year?

UV rays from the sun are not well blocked by oil-based paints and this means you need to keep re-coating: not so good. Acrylic latex paint with careful preperation is what we recommend.

How long will my deck coating last?

Maybe 5 years in a moderate climate. We recommend annual upkeep.

Simply select a warm dry day and have your scrapers and sanders together. We’ve listed these tools in another post (look under deck preparation). Go around all the areas of your deck and every crack that you see, just pry it open with your scraper, feather sand the edges (we use a very rough grit followed by a finer grit), and spot prime (see primers, above).  When the primer is dry, hit it with maybe one coat, but usually, two coats of your finish paint and you’re done.

Yes, it will be a bright spot for a while.

The drawback here is that the color of older paints will have faded a little each year, even with good quality paints for decks. So at some point, you’ll be re-painting, but you won’t have the horror of scraping the entire thing.

If you like, let electricity do your annual scraping. This is the tool we use. You need the variable-speed rotation so as not to melt the paint.

Summary: If you cannot afford what we recommend using the best deck paint you can afford.

Even the best deck paint won’t impress these guys


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