If the right house paint is used, the results can look fresh for a decade on a stucco surface and as long as 7 years on siding. The best exterior paint forms a durable bond on exterior surfaces and offers protection from the elements while giving a fresh, new look.
Since outdoor surfaces are subject to extreme weather conditions, including harsh UV rays, temperature fluctuations, and storms, choosing the right protective paint for the intended surface matters. Keep reading to learn what makes an excellent exterior house paint and why the following formulas made the list for use in outdoor projects.
- BEST OVERALL: Sherwin-Williams Duration Exterior Acrylic Latex Paint
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Rust-Oleum Zinsser Perma-White Exterior Paint
- BEST FOR BRICK OR STUCCO: Valspar Duramax Masonry, Stucco & Brick Paint
- BEST FOR WOOD SIDING: Sherwin-Williams Emerald Exterior Acrylic Latex Paint
- BEST FOR PORCH FLOORS: Behr Premium Low-Lustre Porch & Patio Floor Paint
How We Chose the Best Exterior Paints
In our search for the best exterior paint, we only considered options from the top paint brands. Certain factors, including durability, longevity, and weather resistance, determined which paints stood out above the rest. Each top pick covers at least 130 square feet per gallon and will last for years.
With a variety of exterior surfaces in mind, we chose paints that can be applied to siding, trim, deck flooring, and more. Some options are also resistant to mold and mildew, moisture, stains, dirt, and UV rays. The featured list includes low-VOC formulas for users looking to minimize chemical smells. Most of the latex and acrylic latex formulas are either tintable or come in numerous colors.
Our Top Picks
There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing an exterior paint for a home. To make the search easier, we assembled the following list of some of the best options based on category. All of these paints are high quality and can help deliver a long-lasting finish to help with curb appeal goals.
Made with advanced acrylic copolymers for lasting durability, Sherwin-Williams Duration paint is the Best Overall option for many exterior painting projects. The paint contains a high amount of acrylic solids and is self-priming, so DIYers need only apply a single coat to prepainted wood and two coats for covering bare wood. One of the manufacturer’s top paint lines, Duration is designed to resist cracking, blistering, and peeling.
As a bonus, Sherwin-Williams’ Duration paint is a low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) option, so it’s less likely to create objectionable fumes than some other exterior paints. Available in more than 100 color options, Duration can be applied in temperatures as low as 35 degrees Fahrenheit, making it versatile as well as long lasting. One gallon covers up to 300 square feet.
- Type: Acrylic latex
- Coverage: Up to 300 square feet per gallon
- Colorways: 100
- Low-VOC formula provides fewer chemicals than some comparable options
- Resists cracking and peeling for long-term durability against weather
- Self-priming formula is easier to apply than other paints
- Can be applied in temperatures down to 35 degrees Fahrenheit
- Some users have reported poor blocking and coverage on wood surfaces
Get the Sherwin-Williams Duration exterior paint at Sherwin-Williams.
Protect and update the look of siding, sheds, and outdoor furniture with Rust-Oleum Zinsser Perma-White Exterior Paint. Zinsser, from Rust-Oleum’s professional line of paint and coating products, is a pure-white latex paint that’s well suited for painting numerous exterior surfaces, such as siding, Adirondack chairs, and picket fences. The paint is self-priming, so only one coat is needed on previously painted materials and two on bare wood.
Zinsser has mold- and mildew-inhibiting ingredients to protect exterior wood, as long as the surface is clear from any existing mold or mildew before painting. The paint offers good coverage and, like many Rust-Oleum products, blocks stains from bleeding through. It comes in a tintable semi-gloss sheen that repels dirt and moisture. One gallon covers up to 100 square feet.
- Type: Acrylic latex
- Coverage: Up to 100 square feet per gallon
- Colorways: 50
- Resists mold and mildew for long-term durability against weather
- Semi-gloss paint formula blocks stains, dirt, and moisture; will not tarnish or wear
- Self-priming formula is easier to apply than some comparable options
- Contains VOCs; may have too many chemicals for some people’s preferences
Get the Rust-Oleum exterior paint at Amazon or Rust-Oleum.
Latex-based Valspar Duramax Flat Masonry, Stucco, and Paint dries to an ultraflat finish to make surface imperfections on brick virtually unnoticeable. The paint contains elastomers to help resist cracking and peeling. It’s available in a 5-gallon bucket (enough to cover up to 650 square feet) and can be applied by brush, roller, or sprayer.
Duramax contains FlexShield365 technology that’s designed to increase its resistance to weather extremes, such as high winds and driving rain, while offering a measure of mold and mildew resistance. This house paint is a 100 percent acrylic latex formulation, so it effectively covers hairline cracks in existing paint for a smooth surface look. It comes in a 1-gallon tintable can of exterior white. A single gallon can cover up to 130 square feet.
- Type: Acrylic latex
- Coverage: Up to 130 square feet per gallon
- Colorways: Tintable
- Tintable acrylic latex-based paint formula allows users to customize their own paint color
- Highly weather-resistant formula; resists cracking and peeling for long-term use and durability
- Ultraflat finish hides imperfections; perfect for homes in areas with a lot of inclement weather
- Contains VOCs; may not be ideal for some users’ preferences
Get the Valspar exterior paint at Lowe’s or Valspar.
Available from Sherwin-Williams, Emerald Exterior Acrylic Latex Paint resists blistering and peeling and provides a high-hiding flat finish to conceal imperfections on the siding of a home. The low-VOC house paint contains mildew-resistant additives and mildewcide, so it is well suited for use in humid areas.
Sherwin-Williams’ Emerald Exterior is a self-priming paint that produces a smooth, flat coat and does not require a separate primer application. One gallon can cover up to 300 square feet and provide a strong, resilient surface that discourages dirt. The paint is easy to apply by brush, roller, or sprayer.
- Type: Acrylic latex
- Coverage: Up to 300 square feet per gallon
- Colorways: 1,000+
- Low-VOC formula; perfect for users who prefer a product without a lot of chemicals
- Flat finish hides imperfections; perfect for long-term use
- Mildew-resistant formula withstands frequent exposure to the elements
- Self-priming formula is easier to apply than some comparable paints
- Materials and grime may get stuck to the paint, causing imperfections
Get the Sherwin-Williams exterior paint at Sherwin-Williams.
Porch and patio floors see a lot of traffic and need tough color retention to stand up to it. Behr Premium Low-Lustre Porch & Patio Floor Paint fills the bill without scuffing, cracking, peeling, or wearing down underfoot. Behr porch and patio floor paint contains a mildewcide to help keep mold and mildew from forming and is suitable for use on concrete and wood surfaces. The house paint is also UV- and fade-resistant.
This premium porch paint provides a strong, low-luster finish, ideal for most home porch applications. One gallon can cover up to 400 square feet, and the paint comes in 82 traditional paint colors. Behr Premium dries to the touch within 1 hour in temperate weather, and a second coat can be applied after 4 to 6 hours.
- Type: Acrylic latex
- Coverage: Up to 400 square feet per gallon
- Colorways: 82
- Tough, low-luster finish resists mold and mildew for long-term use and durability
- UV- and fade-resistant; perfect for homes that get a lot of sun
- Quick-drying formula provides ample versatility and convenience; available in 82 colors
- Contains VOCs; may not be suitable for those who prefer low-chemical formulas
Get the Behr exterior paint at The Home Depot or Behr.
What to Consider When Choosing an Exterior Paint
A home’s exterior is the foundation for creating pleasant curb appeal, which makes choosing the right exterior paint essential. The best exterior paints stand up to all types of weather conditions, resist moisture, and protect wood surfaces while providing a low-maintenance finish. No matter the outdoor project, consider the following factors before purchasing paint.
Top-of-the-line latex and acrylic paints usually contain higher-quality ingredients, such as more acrylic solids and pigments. They’re often thicker and more viscous (sticky) than lower-quality paints. This does not hold true, however, for oil-based paints, which are typically thinner and runnier. In general, oil-based paints are more durable than either acrylic or latex paints, but they tend to yellow more quickly. Also, due to their high VOC levels (see the Low VOCs section below), they’re becoming less popular. The quality of both acrylic and latex paints has dramatically improved in the past couple of decades.
Durability also relates to the number of coats applied, with more coats rendering a more durable surface. Well-mixed paint also affects durability, since ingredients can settle to the bottom of the can over time. If it’s been a while since the paint was purchased, stir it thoroughly before use. Also, applying paint with a paint roller or brush instead of a sprayer can leave a thicker, more durable coating on a surface.
Sheen also is an indicator of durability. The higher the gloss, the more washable and durable. Paint finishes range from a low-sheen, eggshell finish to a high-gloss enamel for trim or exterior furniture. Be aware, however, that high-gloss sheens or finishes will show flaws in the surface, such as any rough patches, whereas flat or matte sheens can help camouflage minor imperfections.
Chemicals and solvents found in paint products can emit toxic fumes known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Carbon-containing substances create noxious fumes during the painting process. These compounds have long been added to oil-based paints to improve their hardness and increase drying time. Many acrylic and latex paints also contain VOCs to a lesser degree, although the trend is toward reducing or eliminating the compounds to offer a healthier painting experience.
These malodorous fumes can cause headaches and nausea if inhaled. While these fumes are less likely to bother users when they’re painting outdoors, they may still wish to choose a paint labeled as “Low-VOC” or “Zero-VOC.” Of the two types of exterior paints—oil and latex—oil paint is higher in VOCs. The amount of allowable VOCs varies by state, but in general, a “Low-VOC” label indicates the paint contains fewer than 50 grams of VOCs per liter. Those seeking minimal fumes will want to look for no-VOC or zero-VOC paint, which contains fewer than 5 grams of VOCs per liter.
Different paints have different dry times, and waiting until the first coat is dry before applying a second coat is key to achieving a quality finish. Most latex paints dry to the touch within a couple of hours, and a second coat can be applied in 4 to 6 hours. Oil paint, however, dries to the touch in 6 to 8 hours and may require up to 24 hours before a second coat can be applied. Dry times are usually listed on the paint can.
While paint may feel dry to the touch in a few hours and even be ready for a second coat, it may not be cured. When the paint’s liquid ingredients have evaporated, the paint is completely cured. Cure time varies by paint, with latex and acrylic taking a couple of weeks and oil-based paint taking up to a month to cure. Cure time can be slower in humid and cold conditions and faster when the temperature is above 50 degrees and the humidity level is low. Until the paint is cured, care should be taken not to brush against the painted surface.
Low-quality paints can contain cheap pigments, such as talc, clay, and silica, that tend to fade over time, especially if the painted surface has a southern exposure and receives direct sun.
Keep in mind, too, that dark colors are more likely to fade than light hues on the exterior. If a dark or bright shade is chosen for trim or shutters, look for “titanium dioxide” on the ingredient list. This pricey but long-lasting pigment is usually found only in premium paint lines. Those looking to create faux textures, such as painting to look like wood, will want to try exterior paints that contain UV protectants to keep the painted-on effects from fading.
Good paint should be able to handle whatever Mother Nature throws its way. Oil paints are very good at withstanding rain and are easy to clean. Until the development of acrylic-based latex paint, oil was the standard exterior paint for many years.
Acrylic is a binder that allows latex to flex slightly, making it less likely to become brittle and crack and, therefore, able to better repel rain. The highest quality latex paint labels feature the words “all acrylic” or “100 percent acrylic.” While cheaper paints will often contain a small amount of acrylic, they usually don’t contain enough for the paint to be truly weather-resistant.
Paint needs vary by region, and a paint that’s suitable for the high desert region of New Mexico may not be the best choice for a humid area, such as Louisiana. Paint additives can make the difference between a paint job that lasts more than a decade and one that lasts only a couple of years.
For paint jobs in humid or rainy areas, paint labeled as “mildew-resistant” may be preferred. If the sun shines most of the time, paint that is labeled “UV-resistant” can be helpful.
While there are exceptions, the general rule is to use the same type of paint that’s already on the surface. For example, if siding was already painted with latex, choose latex. Conversely, if it was painted with oil, choose oil. Putting oil paint over latex often causes bubbling and peeling, as the solvents in oil paint may melt the latex.
The success of the paint will also be affected by whether the paint is compatible with the material that’s being painted. Paint designed to cover wood siding may not adhere as well to aluminum or vinyl siding. Compatibility is usually listed on the paint can and in the product’s online description.
- For siding: Today’s composite and fiber-cement siding hold exterior paint very well if first coated with an acrylic masonry primer followed by one or two coats of exterior latex or acrylic paint. When purchasing pre-primed siding, the primer step can be skipped.
- For wood: Wood is porous, and as such, it tends to absorb moisture, which can cause many types of paint to release and peel off a surface. When painting exterior wood, oil-based paint offers the best protection and longest-lasting results. Next in line are high-quality exterior acrylic paints, which have been improved and are less likely to crack and peel than latex paint.
- For brick: Painting brick, concrete, stucco, or any type of exterior masonry first requires applying a masonry primer that will help the paint adhere. Users will want to follow up with good-quality masonry paint containing elastomeric ingredients that will flex slightly if the brick expands or contracts, rather than becoming brittle and cracking. Using an exterior paint brush can make application easier, too.
- For porches and patios: Exterior walking surfaces, such as patios and decks, see a lot of traffic and require durable paint. Shoppers will want to look for paint designed specifically for decks; it will offer added protection for horizontal porch and deck surfaces where water can pool. High-quality deck paints are available in both oil-based and water-based options, and while oil-based will last longer, water-based will not fade as quickly.
Prep and Application
Adequate prepping is essential for a long-lasting exterior paint job. For the best adherence, the surface must be clean of all dirt and grease. It should also be dry, as paint does not adhere well to damp surfaces. In addition, any loose or peeling paint should be scraped away. Smaller projects, such as patio furniture, can be prepped using a paint stripper to remove existing paint.
As for any painting project, proper precautions keep paint from accidentally getting on trim or other items where it’s not wanted. Draping nearby objects with drop cloths keeps them protected from splatters, and using painter’s tape can help create a clean, crisp paint edge. Exterior paint is easy to apply with exterior paint brushes, which are well suited for working the paint into seams and wood grain.
For narrow siding strips, use small paint rollers that are relatively the same size as the strip. The quickest application method involves a paint sprayer, but it’s also the riskiest in terms of accidental overspray. To ensure the paint adheres well, a combination of techniques can be used, such as spraying or rolling on a coat of paint followed by brushing in a process known as “back brushing.”
Now that you know more about the characteristics that can differentiate exterior paints, there may be new or lingering questions. The following answers to some of the most popular questions about exterior paint may help.
Q. What kind of paint is good for outside?
Any paint designed for use outdoors should be labeled as “Exterior Paint.” Paints used exclusively indoors do not contain the ingredients necessary to resist damage from rain, snow, and temperature fluctuations. However, gloss paint and high-gloss paint should always be used for exterior jobs. These paint types resist scuffs and clean easily, which is perfect for areas that are exposed to the elements.
Q. What is the longest-lasting exterior paint?
Oil-based paints have the longest useful life, but tinted water-based paints are less likely to fade. Acrylic paints are also a viable option since this type of paint is capable of resisting extreme weather while never losing its pigment.
Q. Do you need a primer for exterior paint?
Primer fills in any gaps or imperfections before paint application. Therefore, on bare wood or porous materials, a primer is usually required. However, paint-and-primer combination products do not require a separate primer.
Q. Can you paint over old exterior paint?
Painting over an old painted exterior is a good way to seal any existing hairline cracks in the material and add to its weather resistance. The general rule, however, is to apply oil paint over old oil paint and acrylic or latex paint over old acrylic or latex. If you want to paint over old exterior paint with a different type of paint, some new types of primers are available to help the transition between the different types of paint.
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