Best Deck Paint (Don’t Do It Over and Over and Over)

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.

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.

We all want a long lasting, quality deck treatment. The decision is not so much about money as it is the labor involved and the look you want.

Your painted deck will look great but in a few years….you know what happens. You definitively will need a very good paint primer and a high-quality deck paint.

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.

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. I wrote a complete post on truly low-maintenance deck treatment and I urge you to read and share it.

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. But if you want to paint, use the best deck wood paint from the top paint brand: Benjamin Moore.

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.

We like Benjamin Moore deck paints more than any other paint and for your primer, you won’t go wrong with Fresh Start Exterior Primer.  The “094” will kill stains that the “100” will not. You don’t want to buy online as the shipping is too much.

  • Pro: great adhesion and durability
  • Con: oil based so clean up requires paint thinner

Again, this is the best deck primer, so 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 at this one available online. (Have some rubbing alcohol handy as that is your solvent for this.)

Best Deck Wood Paint: one type for walking surfaces and one for the rest

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

The reason we recommend Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams (we have no income from them for saying this) is that the chemistry of all their stains and paints is far beyond their competition. The additional cost pays for itself.

Save money by getting the very best, and often the most expensive exterior deck paint on the market. It lasts so much longer than the low-end stuff that you save money in the long run.

Finishes and Colors
In exterior paints, they make flat or glossy finishes and there is a spectrum of finishes in between. If you are painting a house, we recommend satin for siding and semi-gloss for trim. Not all stores sell all kinds.

For the best deck paint job, we recommend one type for flooring (that gets walked on) and one for the rest of the decking.

Walking surfaces

The best deck paint for surfaces is a specially designed floor exterior paint made by Benjamin Moore. Whether you choose Low Sheen or High Gloss, the deck can be slippery when wet, especially dangerous on stairs. So the excellent remedy for this is to add texture. It is also the best wood deck paint.

You 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.

We also like anti-slip tread tape. 

Railings, etc

My customers were always happy with Aura Low Luster (#634) for the house paint (body of the house) and Aura Semi-Gloss (632) for the trim. These cost a lot, I won’t sugar coat it, but you might like to read about the intense testing of Benjamin Moore exterior paints. You will see they are simply the best and this is why they save money: less labor costs.

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 is what we recommend.

How long will my deck coating last?

STOLEN: On average, decks need to be repainted every few years. A quality deck paint job will last longer than deck staining. But there is a way to paint your deck and never need to repaint it again: annual maintenance.

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.

The drawback here is that the color of older paints will have faded a little each year, even with Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams. 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 low-speed rotation so as not to melt the paint.

If you cannot afford what we recommend using the highest quality deck paint you can afford.

Even the best deck paint won’t impress these guys


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