From 30+ years as a painter, I recommend buying the very best deck paint on the market, which will save you time and money. If you get a few more years out of the paint job, it was worth it.
The quick list: my favorite deck paint choices, all available online:
Best non-slip floor paint
I use and recommend what I have found to be the top deck paint Benjamin Moore’s INSL-X Floor and Patio: (Check for online price) not just for the floor. It goes on thick, but not too thick. I do often spray this product, but when I do, I hold a 3 or 4-inch brush in one hand and mechanically push the paint into the grooves of the wood. This is key for both the primer if you need one and for the first coat. For the second coat, I just spray without brushing. On this site, just search for articles about spraying, masking for spray, etc.
Five colors are a lot for a deck paint: usually, it’s usually either gray or a different gray. It can be used indoors (it’s a very bad idea to use exterior-only paint indoors) and works with concrete and brick too. See the spec sheet on this excellent paint: Ben Moore website).
Why spend this much? Go low-budget paint and 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 few years!
It costs less to use very good paint primer and high-quality deck paint. And you need to prep well (read our post on that). Spending more upfront costs less in the end.
When you need a primer, use the best: Cover Stain.
For the topcoat, get a quality non-slip deck paint, again Ben Moore is the go-to man. This excellent deck paint is discussed further below.
I do spray deck paint and if you do spray, please wear a respirator. People seem to prefer the big dog of full-face respirators. Awesome. I wear the half-mask with filters that are interchangeable for toxins and/or dust. Read my post on this: I recommend the basic half-mask (the 6100, 6200, and 6300 which is small, med, and large) along with the kit that has the inner and outer filters with the retaining clip. The paper makes the cartridge last a very long time. Then later, you just replace what you need. Not expensive at all.
I chose reasonably priced deck supplies: they are all gathered here.
Deck paint? Ok, but before you decide, please check out this stain:
Ok, if you have already decided what you want a painted deck, skip to how to paint your deck just below, but let this painter try to talk you into a once-in-a-lifetime stain.
Do you like scraping off paint and repainting? No? No kidding. Nobody does.
I stopped taking deck re-painting jobs because of it!
All decks move and deck paint might flex, but not as much as decks do. So this is why you really should consider stain instead of paint.
Read about the best deck stain and staining a deck.
We’ll get back to paint in a second. But what do I, a professional painter of 35+ years, do with my deck?
Step right up and kick the tires on a once-in-a-lifetime deck stain and sealer, easy to apply and low-cost. I took a chance with it and I love it. This is what Parks Canada uses on many structures and my paint store manager highly recommended it.
I understand that you may be dead set on painting all your exterior wood, but once again, I strongly suggest you have a look at this or any semi-transparent stain. We have an entire post all about the best deck stains and yet another post on how to stain your deck.
How to paint a deck
First Step: a quality wood primer
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. I’ve learned the difference between brushing and just spraying. You have to push the primer into the wood grain to protect it. That way it lasts a lot longer.
I contacted Benjamin Moore, and while they agree with me about painting decks, they recommend Aqua Lock Plus, a water-based sealer, and primer which is unbelievably low-priced on Amazon…how do that? But in any case, this is an interior and exterior primer sealer used in many situations.
Another great primer is oil-based Cover Stain primer is the best by far the best deck primer. It costs a bit more now, but in the long run, you pay less and work less. Bonding is key.
Key point of priming
Wood ‘knots’, can bleed through your primer and your topcoats. So use a shellac-based primer just for spots that might 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 you can use a regular primer, such as BIN is available online. (Have some rubbing alcohol handy as that is your solvent for this.)
Even for a large deck, you probably only need a quart of BIN to spot-prime. You just have to do the ‘knots’ and any other stains. Buy a budget brush, cut off the handle and leave it in the can for next time. Yes, I know: gunky, but a primer brush does not have to have straight bristles: you just need a brush that doesn’t shed bristles.
Best Deck Paint for Wood
I don’t use the same paint for walking surfaces as I do on railings etc. The floor takes a much harder beating.
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.
Paint for railings etc.
Sometimes these are limited in even the top quality deck paints. My go-to paint is Tough Shield.
They come in, and I am generally asked to apply a low-luster (satin) or semi-gloss. Flat finishes will become dirty faster in my experience. In addition to Ben Moore Tough Shield linked at the top, Kilz has a good selection.
Paint for walking surfaces
Wet walking decks can be dangerous. Even deck paint formulated for walking surfaces can be slippery when wet, which is especially dangerous on stairs. So the remedy for this is to use textured paint made for walking surfaces of decks. It comes in most of the same 5 colors as the Ben Moore Tough Shield shown at the top of this page. So this for the walking surfaces and that for railings, etc. would be an excellent solution.
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. The biggest name in DIY online says to use beach sand, but sorry Bob, that results in tearing from normal use. The large grains stick up. Let’s do this right.
How to make fine sand for texturing:
What you can do is use a window screen/strainer and filter out the big grains of beach sand: fine. Silica really works and it does not shorten the life of the paint job and you feel safe on it. Here is my video showing you how. Look Ma, I’m on the internets!
We also have installed anti-slip tread tape for stairs. Let the paint cure, then clean very well and it will not come off.
A lady in a bar asked me: “What’s your sign, man?” I said, “Slippery When Wet”. We ended it there.
Oil or latex for my deck?
If your old deck paint now has oil-based paint, I’m sorry to say that you have to sand it (well) prior to painting either latex or oil-based paint. 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!
What we do: Acrylic latex paint with careful preparation is what we recommend.
How long does deck paint last?
Maybe 5 years in a moderate climate. I always recommend annual deck upkeep:
Simply select a warm dry day and have your scrapers and sanders together. We’ve listed these tools here. 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). Keep your scraper sharp:
My video on how to sharpen a scraper is at the bottom.
A variety of sandpaper (this page has different choices). If you’re doing a lot, you’ll love having your palm sander (shown). Very decent price. I’m buying one for my brother this Xmas… Hope you don’t read this bro. The unit does not require specialty paper. Who thought up sanders that need special paper? Daft.
This sander uses any “hook and loop” circular paper. This box is a decent deal with 100 pieces and almost perfect reviews.
Spot prime bare wood (including new wood) with a quality primer. I really prefer Prime Lock linked above. When the primer is dry, hit it with maybe one coat, but usually, two coats of your good quality finish paint and you’re done ’till maintenance time…maybe 3-4 years.
Future touch-ups will be a brighter 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 totally, but you won’t have the horror of scraping the entire thing. These good porch paints discussed above should hold up for many years more than the others you can get: this is the main reason to only use the best deck paint. They hold color longer too even in the sun.
If you like, let electricity do your deck scraping. Stripping paint from metal and wood is straightforward with a drill attachment or what I use: a variable speed grinder (shown) with the awesome 3M Sandblaster pads (also shown). Here is a video of how it’s done. The pads for 4½ to 5-inch grinders are easy to find, and most grinders come with assorted washers for a tight fit.
Key point: don’t get high speed! That melts paint. Get variable speed (linked just above).
Depending on the fittings of your grinder, you may need an adapter to connect the pad.
Be sure to have all the painter tools that you could ever need
I have a page with all the deck products including prep and so on.
The Best Deck Treatment: Part Two–What a Professional Painter Uses on His Deck: Spray Wood Stain – Zero-Maintenance Deck Stain Treatment
A post just about sprayers: cool.
One last try to talk you out of painting your deck: The elements will break down even the best deck paint and stains with solids and you’ll have to do it over and over. So what to do?