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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The simple logic (and best value) is that you should buy the very best deck paint on the market, which will save you time and money.

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).

When you need a primer, use the best shown here, and for the top-coat, get a quality non-slip deck paint with great reviews: this is what I used in my basement—(35+ years as a painter).

INSL-X Floor paint Sure Step Acrylic Anti-Slip Coating Paint, 1 Gallon, Light Gray
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

If you have to spray, please wear a respirator. We simplified the complex world they live in with a top pick, but people seem to prefer the big dog of full face respirators. Awesome.

But first please wait! We have a better way:

Ok, if you have already decided what you want a painted deck,  skip to the main section 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? We don’t either. I stopped taking deck jobs because of it!

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, easy to apply and low-cost. I took a chance with it and I love 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, Karate Kid, paint the deck.

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

Deck at sunsetPrimers 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 by far the best deck primer. It costs a bit more now, but in the long run, it costs less and requires less work. The bonding is key.

For wood ‘knots’, 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 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 good 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).

A variety of sandpaper, and if you’re doing a lot, you’ll love having your palm sander. 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. Whoever 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.

DEWALT DWE6421K Random Orbit Sander Kit, 5"
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

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 scraping.

Bosch GWS13-50VSP High-Performance Angle Grinder Variable Speed with Paddle Switch, 5"
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
Stripping paint from metal and wood is straightforward with a drill attachment or a variable speed grinder with the awesome 3M Sandblaster pads. Here is a video of how it’s done.  The grinder can also use this cutting wheel that uses diamond and cuts stone and metal. The pads for 4½ grinders are easy to find, and most grinders come with assorted washers for a tight fit.

3M SandBlaster Grinder discs grinding 9681 4-1/2-Inch Coarse Clean-N-Strip Disc
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Summary: If you cannot afford not to use the best deck paint you can afford!

Even the best deck paint won’t impress these guys

Related:

One last try to talk you out of painting deck: 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 love my deck.

This is what Parks Canada (website) uses, and my paint store manager highly recommended it to me.

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18 thoughts on “Best Deck Paint: If You Must Paint It, Go All Out (Thank Me Later)”

  1. Our surface is just plywood but completely covered By a roof over the patio. So I guess my question is can that paint the put on plywood?

  2. Hi Brad,

    I read your article on painting a deck. I tried the Behr Deck cover which peeled on the flooring after one year. I have removed 99.9% of the covering and will heat gun the small area. I would stain but the pressure lumber is old so painting was my option to cover the decking.

    I am moving to new home and want to provide a good painted deck for the next owner.

    I live in eastern Pennsylvania which in winter is cold and snowy. My question is Kiltz the best deck Paint cover for an old deck and do I need a primer and can I spray the paint?

    Does Kiltz offer colors for this product such as a brown because I could not find color selections?

    I read reviews and some people did not care for this product because of pealing which I do not need to have happen because I have 2 decks which are 15’ X 12’ in area.

    I would appreciate your expert pro advice.

    • I have a plan for you… but not having seen your decks, I’m somewhat blind, like Ray Charles himself.

      Make sure it’s bone dry… I guess you’re getting some April showers. Then, give a sanding to any loose Behr product, (I assume it is ‘deck restore’ or whatever they call it… it has a terrible reputation by the way)

      See above… for a primer: oil-based Kilz, (it says “This is the best by far the best deck primer. ”

      …and top it off with any one of the deck paint products I point to in this post. This will be a long-lasting combination.

      Read on my tool post the brush and roller/bucket you want to use there.

      Decks that size will go fast if you roll for application and then brush in for quality.
      You can tell your buyers that the deck was done correctly…a selling point!

      We do buy low-cost brushes for oil and toss them…sorry to admit it, but for latex, which will be your top coats, get a good brush and clean it well: it’s easy.
      Rollers easy to clean too.

  3. You start off recommending against painting and link to a “once-in-a-lifetime deck stain and sealer” on Amazon, but your links on the best deck stain do not mention it at all? Any insight on this stuff? It’s hard to make an informed decision on a product that speaks in esoteric language and doesn’t explicitly state what it is made out of. It’s some kind of dry mineral substance you mix in water, and it’s supposed to protect the wood for a lifetime? Sounds too perfect to be true.

    • Yes, I know what you mean. I did some reading before I sprayed it on my deck. Too good to be true usually is, but this has some kind of minerals bugs and water hate. The rep for the product and I corresponded. He’s great. He said ‘lifetime’ is true, but to be very safe, you can re-apply very 5 years or whatever. I will. Follow the link to the product itself, they have some info there. Seems good to me. My deck is doing well and was neglected for 20 years before we bought the house. Good luck. Let me know if you have any other thoughts. –Brad

  4. My deck is pressure-treated lumber, approx 20 years old. When it was new I applied a semi-transparent stain. That lasted about 7 years. I power washed the deck, then applied a solid deck paint. Now, 12 years later areas of the deck in high traffic have worn off. I need to hire the work done, but want to chose the paint myself. I’m looking for high quality paint in a walnut color (current paint has too much red in it). Do I need to go strong, like Kilz, or regular deck paint product like SherwinWilliams?

    • Hi. 7 years is good: I think I can assume you do not live in a very wet place, but even in Colorado, a treatement would not go more than 10.
      Since you are not ‘eligible’ for the lifetime treatment I talk so much about (just search this site for ‘zero’ as in zero maintenance), and you want a specific color, you should probably go with SW or Ben Moore as they can tint to any color you want. If you know the original color, good, but also take a faded (current) chip if you want a true match.
      Pick an experieinced painter, not a young one, and as you interview painters ask the same questions of each one. Also, will the painter sub-contract the work? Big no no for me. Get the clear instrucitons from the paint store on how to do the prep: yes pressure wash, then sand, then wash again to remove the dust. WHich painter said the same thing?

      Washing twice is more trips to the job for the painter and more money, but it will last longer. Know that some deck paint for walking surfaces may not be able to be matched to deck paint for railings (not for walking). So ask about that too. If you are unsure, ask to speak to the district rep about the SW or BM products and prep. They HAVE to know. Most paint store folks will however also know a lot. Good luck and let us know!

  5. Hi,
    I painted my deck a few years ago with Cabot deck paint from Lowes. Now it looks horrible. It chipped and peeled and I’m planning to repaint with some shade of brown. I have replaced all the boards and pickets that needed to be updated. I’m wondering now if it needs to be primed first before I paint or if there is an all in one you would recommend that has good coverage. I was looking at the Rustoleum 2X from Lowes or Olympic Rescue from Home Depot. I did read earlier that you recommended the KILZ for decks that had never been painted but was unsure if that was suitable for this situation.

    • Hi. These deck restore and resurfacing products… just extremely thick paint really… are in all kinds of lawsuits. It’s just advertising. Good advertising. I wrote about them.

      Yes, a primer for all new wood and where old paint has chipped off. Scrape and sand first, wash, then prime. I would use the exterior OIL based primer shown on this page. Find this paragraph above: it contains both products of what I’d probably use….
      “When you need a primer, use the best shown here, and for the top-coat, get a quality non-slip deck paint with great reviews: this is what I used in my basement—(35+ years as a painter).”

      I feel the all in one products are a sham designed to make you think it’s easy. It’s not hard, but it will only hold up to the elements with a tight bonding product and prep is key.

      I hope this was clear…let us know how it comes out!

  6. Hi Brad,

    This isn’t a “deck” question, but I am working on a project where I am using plywood to build an indoor platform that will be heavily trafficked and looking for some insight. It is more like an art project and the idea is to have a colorful floor mural painted on it. My research brought me here and wondering if you have any recommendations as to what primer, paint, and sealer I should use? Because it will be a heavily trafficked area, I want to make sure it is non-slip and durable. Similarly, I don’t want to be limited by color choices, which is why I am looking at both primers and top-coat sealers to sandwich in the mural paint.

    Thanks

    • Hi. Sounds like fun: a stage? From the top of my head I’d say any interior paint. The primer should be the Kilz Original: just search this post for ‘plywood’ we have a post on painting it. Because you will go over it with a clear top-coat, you can use anything really as it will never touch feet…right? Do be careful as it might be slippery if you walk on it. Not sure any product exists to be non-slip and clear. But if you want, just use an interior deck/floor paint (we have posts on floor painting) and add silica, sand. The art sand at art stores comes in colors if you want. Don’t use beach sand: too course, but you could run thru a strainer.

      Any deck paint will hold up, but will need touching up as years go by.
      Send us a pic when done? Thanks, and good luck!

  7. Hi Brad,

    I purchased my home roughly 4 years ago. The existing deck had a dark brown solid stain/paint which has been chipping away and looks terrible. I decided to strip it using Wolman’s and Cabot wood strippers which I was promised would lift anything on deck and it now looks even worse. I have power washed, sanded (hand sander) and scrubbed. There is still a lot of stain/paint left on the deck. After reading many reviews about these 6x thicker than paint deck overs, and have decided against using this product. I think my only option is sanding the rest of the deck so the paint isn’t chipping and re-staining with a solid stain. I know you mentioned using a high-quality stain, would you lean more towards Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore?

    • Wow, so sad to hear this. You are making a wise decison on the 10x or whatever: these companies are in law-suits as the stuff does not work! So, after your misery is over, (the scraping), yes, either SW or BM. If you have local stores (if you don’t live in Montana ha ha, sorry Montana, but you don’t deserve 2 senators!), ask a local store manager what they offer. Stick with SW, BM or another brand you know is quality: stay away from PPG , Behr, etc. No offense, but they are in it to make money only. I have some scrapers listed on this site: get a good pull scraper and a file and keep it sharp and your labor will really drop. Sand only after you accept what paint will get to stay. If it’s still well-bonded, just feather sand the edges, prime and paint. Easy, Right? ha ha. Best of luck! –Brad

  8. Hello, My name is Vince, I live in MAINE, just finished restoring a 130 year old Victorian ( 3 years Top to Bottom). Finally restoring the Front and Side porches total 400 sq. ft’. Supports underneath are good and reinforced where necessary. The decking is 20 yr old P.T. and was Never given any love..No Paint..No Stain..No Sealer. Last year I rescrewed all the boards, luckily very little rot which I fixed. I filled any of the wider cracks w Liquid Nails ‘Fuse-It’ and ‘Loctite PL 8X Fast Grab’ both which are paintable. Hardware store ran out of 1st product so bought the other. I did this to Mitigate any further damage from water getting in then Freezing n Expanding the cracks in the winter. Cleaned deck w Super Deck Stain/Sealer Remover n Revive. What Primer n Paint will LAST..PEELING is my MAINE concern…thx… Vince

    • Hi Vince. You are the perfect candidate for what I used. I had 20 yr deck, harsh winters, but it was green pressure treated. I wrote story in this post. The product there is what I want you to consider. If you want to paint, sure, the products above in this post (on this page) are fine. But you know, it will peel some day. If you love painting decks, scraping, sanding etc, use paint…but I quit taking deck painting jobs long before I retired: too much bleeping work. So consider the ECO Wood Treatment…Watch the video and read all i wrote. We are seeing many readers buy it based on that post. LEt me know how it goes. PS, you can have one of 4 ‘stain’ colors, but it’s once for life and not really deep colors. I will be adding more photos of the 4 colors this summer. Not expensive either, and no, I don’t get paid from them in anyway. Good luck,
      Brad

  9. hey there brad.
    good article by the way. very informative.
    i recently purchased a house with a pressure treated deck.. that.. was painted. damn!
    anyways; it looked as good as new last year and now the paint is flaking off in the wind.
    defiantly not prepped proper. it looks like it is plain old paint slapped onto wood with no primer.
    anyhow. luckily i think the paint will remove easily since its basically blowing off in the wind.
    its an old weathered deck that is showing signs of cracking but is still solid.
    just a few questions.
    is it ok to pressure wash when the wood is beginning to split/ weathered? followed by a good sanding/scraping. just wondering how long of a dry time would be needed after pressure washing?
    also once i remove all the pain in the.. i mean paint.. would a previously painted deck be eligible for the eco treatment? or would i have to go back to painting it.
    thanks, adam.

    • Hi Adam. First, I’ll copy this off to Bob Dylan and see if he wants to write a song about paint chips blowin’ in the wind. My guess is he will if it pays.
      Sorry to hear about your ‘curbside’ appeal job. The last owners hired, or did themselves just what you think to make it look good from the curbside to sell it.

      Yes, the washing is first and it sounds to me like you will have 90-95% of your prep done with water pressure. Buy the 2000psi if you don’t have one already. No worries about the old wood standing up, unless it’s rotten, then you want to blast out the rot anyway.
      Paint chips will be blowin in the rain, so spread cloth, not plastic all around and keep an eye on where they land. Then, when dry somewhat, start your scraping. See the tools on this site: just search for ‘scrapers’ and also get a file and keep the edge sharp: you’ll go very fast and it’s sort of enjoyable at first. Like dentistry: you’ll see what I mean. Searh this site for “SUN” or Sun Joe,… I pointed to the best on the market: they never die, and you can wash your car, house, etc.
      If you want to kick it into 5th gear, get an electric (low speed) grinder and lots of pads. This rips paint off without melting and gumming up the pads. High speed not so. Then, if any paint held on, just hand sand the edges: “feather sand” them. Finally, let it become BONE dry before painting.
      Part of the problem could have been that it was painted when wet, not necessarily a quick cheap job like most bad deck jobs.
      I hope this helps. Good luck.
      Oh, ps, yes if you get all the paint off, even if it’s ‘pressure treated’ wood, you can use the ECO wood treatment: you will nver have to go thru this again, so it’s worth trying to get all the paint off.
      Bob Dylan’s lawyer just called: he’s into it.
      –Brad

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