The Best Deck Paints for DIYers
Do right by your deck by painting it pronto with the long-wearing paint that’s ideal for its age and condition.
Serving to extend your home’s living area for personal downtime and festive gatherings, the deck sees a ton of traffic and takes a beating from the elements even when not in use. So if you’re noticing aged wood or peeling paint, it’s probably time for a fresh finish—the sooner the better! The longer you wait to paint your deck, the more flaws it will develop, and the harder your job of maintenance will become.
Deck paint provides protection, hides flaws, and being available in a wide range of colors, it can be used to make your deck stand out or blend in by contrasting or matching your home’s siding. Most important is to choose one that can stand up to harsh outdoor conditions—blowing dirt, wind, rain and temperature extremes. Keep reading to learn how to judge the best deck paint and what makes these our top picks.
- BEST OVERALL: KILZ Interior/Exterior Enamel Porch and Patio Latex Floor Paint
- BEST ECO PICK: Montage Signature Interior/Exterior Eco-Friendly Paint
- BEST WEATHER PROTECTION: Rust-Oleum Marine Coatings Topside Paint
Choosing the Right Deck Paint
Oil-based vs. Water-based Deck Paints
Deck paint comes in two main types, oil-based and water-based, and each one has a few pros and cons. While oil-based paints were once ruled the market, water-based products are in greater demand today, due to improved durability and ease of use.
Oil-based deck paint…
- offers a tough, durable finish. It’s been around for decades and many pros still swear by it.
- lasts five to 10 years, depending on the condition of wood when painted.
- offers optimal moisture protection.
- is high in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can create fumes that can make your eyes water or lead to a sore throat or other respiratory issues if inhaled.
- requires the use of a solvent, such as paint thinner or turpentine, to clean up from brushes, rollers, and spray guns.
- can take up to 24 hours to dry sufficiently to recoat, although some oil-based paints now contain quick-drying additives that allow recoating in six to eight hours.
- is available in a range of colors.
Water-based deck paint…
- is low in VOCs.
- lasts from four to eight years, depending on wood condition and paint quality. Typically, the more expensive water-based paints contain the highest amount of acrylic—the ingredient that makes the paint last longer.
- offers the best protection against fading.
- sees less cracking and peeling, due to the flexibility of acrylic ingredients.
- cleans up easily with just soap and water.
- dries quickly—ready to recoat in four to six hours.
- is available in a wide range of colors.
When it comes to standing up to the elements, the paint you choose must be labeled as either deck paint or exterior paint, both of which are suitable for painting the railing and flooring on a deck. Steer clear of interior paints, which do not have adequate weather- and fade-resistant qualities.
Deck paint is available in different surface finishes, depending on the percentage of gloss ingredients in the formula.
- Eggshell: Eggshell deck paint has a slight sheen, about 10 percent, and it provides a nice soft finish, and the low level of shine helps hide flaws in the wood. But dirt tends to collect on an eggshell surface, making it a good option for enclosed decks not subjected to blowing dust.
- Satin: Also called “low luster,” it’s a popular choice for outdoor decks because it offers a muted sheen (about 30 percent) yet still hides many flaws and allows for easy dirt and dust removal by simply sweeping.
- Semi-gloss: Easy to sweep clean and wipe spills away, semi-gloss (also known as enamel) provides about 70 percent sheen. This is the finish most commonly used for exterior trim work, doors, and shutters, so choose semi-gloss if you want an exact match to your trim.
- High gloss: Very easy to keep clean—dust and dirt blow right off and spills are easy to wipe up. However, high gloss, with about 85 percent shine, will highlight flaws in woodwork. Every nail hole and chunk of missing wood will show, so it’s a better choice for newer built decks.
Because they’re intended for exterior use, most deck paints contain additives to protect the deck from mold and mildew, harsh UV rays, and from temperature extremes. While you can choose paints with one or two of these additives, it’s often a good idea to opt for a product with all three additives for the best protection and longest-lasting color.
Our Top Picks
Packing a protective punch against UV rays, mold, mildew, and water damage, KILZ’s Enamel Porch and Patio Paint is a good choice for most situations. It comes in an attractive silver-gray color and a slightly darker, slate-gray shade and dries to a durable, low-luster finish that withstands high traffic and frequent sweeping. This water-based paint stands out not only for its looks and durability, but also for its easy application. The paint can be applied by brush, roller, or spray gun, dries to the touch in one hour, and a second coat can be applied in four to six hours.
For an environmentally responsible paint that still offers mold-, mildew-, and UV-resistance, consider Montage Signature Interior/Exterior Eco-Friendly Paint. It’s available in either semi-gloss or low-luster sheens, and it comes in 20 pleasing gray and earth tones. This water-based, low-VOC paint is free of toxic fumes, and it can be applied with a brush, roller, or sprayer. Cleanup calls for nothing more than soap and water.
BEST WEATHER PROTECTION: Rust-Oleum Marine Coatings Topside Paint
Decks in rainy regions or those in the direct path of a sprinkler system benefit from the extra water-resistance of a marine paint. Designed to protect against mold, mildew, and UV rays—and also against direct water exposure—Rust-Oleum Marine Topside Paint is commonly used on boats but works equally well in the backyard. Available in a gloss or semi-gloss sheen, this paint comes in a wide range of colors and can be applied by brush, roller, or sprayer. Only note that because this is an oil-based paint, cleanup requires the use of a solvent (e.g., mineral spirits).