The Best Exterior Paints for Any Outdoor Surface

Caroline Gilbert
Written by Caroline Gilbert
Updated August 9, 2021
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Learn the best exterior paints for any surface, from front doors to vinyl siding

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An exterior paint job heavily impacts a home’s overall style. With the right paint color, you can boost your home’s appearance and curb appeal. Whether you’re repainting your front door or your entire house, it can be tough to know what paint to choose. Don’t worry—we’re here to help! 

We’ve hand-picked the best exterior paints for different surfaces. These paints will help protect against the sun, mildew, mold, and other natural factors. Their durability will also help your house look excellent for years to come. If you need help with your exterior paint project, consider hiring an exterior painter. Are you ready to get started? Let’s get painting.

The Best Exterior Paints

The surface you’re working with will determine the type of paint you should use. For instance, vinyl siding, masonry, and stucco all require different types of paint. Depending on your home’s construction, you may need a few different types of paint. Below are our top picks for different exterior surfaces based on functionality, durability, and aesthetic.

Best for Vinyl Siding

Benjamin Moore Ultra Spec EXT Satin (448): Benjamin Moore Ultra Spec EXT Satin paint adheres strongly to vinyl siding. It also flexes well with the expansion and contraction of the siding, which often occurs in humid areas.

Best for Wood Siding

BEHR Premium Plus Exterior Semi-Gloss Enamel: This exterior semi-gloss enamel paint from BEHR doesn’t need priming, significantly reducing painting time. It’s also a more affordable option, especially if you’re painting wood siding, which will need replacing or touch-ups more often than vinyl siding.

Best for Stucco

KILZ Masonry, Stucco, and Brick Flat Paint: Stucco houses are typically found in hot and dry climates that get plenty of sunshine. This means you’ll need an acrylic latex paint that’s flexible and won’t break down under ultraviolet rays. The KILZ Masonry, Stucco and Brick Flat Paint is perfect for stucco due to its quick dry time and non-gloss finish.

Best for Brick

KILZ Basement & Masonry Waterproofer: Paint needs to be water and mildew-resistant to protect the brick, especially in high-humidity environments. KILZ Basement & Masonry Waterproofer is perfect for brick houses due to its up to 12 PSI water-resistant finish. Meaning, the paint can withstand 12 pounds per square inch of water pressure from hoses or pressure washers.

Best for Pools

INSL-X Waterborne Swimming Pool Paint - Semi-Gloss: For pools, you need to use a very specific type of paint. The two main types are waterborne and rubber-based paints. We chose INSL-X’s Waterborne Swimming Semi-Gloss Pool Paint because of its versatility and long-lasting durability.

Best for Porches and Patios

KILZ Low-Lustre Enamel Porch and Patio Latex Floor Paint: KILZ’s low-lustre enamel works well for porches and patios due to its mildew resistance and quick-drying capabilities. Another benefit is that you can apply this paint to previously painted or primed surfaces.

Best for Front Doors

BEHR Ultra Stain-Blocking Paint & Primer: BEHR’s Ultra Stain-Block Paint & Primer works well because it comes in a plethora of colors and three different sheens. It’s also highly durable and dirt-resistant, which works well for front doors.

What to Consider When Picking Exterior Paints

hardware store employee assists customer in paint department
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Your house’s exterior is the first thing you notice when you arrive home and should be something that makes you proud. It’s important to choose an exterior paint that not only looks good, but can stand up to various weather conditions, protect your home against mold and mildew, and will be low-maintenance. Keep the following factors in mind when selecting exterior paint.

Cost

A gallon of lower-quality, flat finish paint typically costs around $15, while high-end paints can cost between $30 and $40. However, the highest quality paints can cost over $100 per gallon

Less-expensive exterior paints tend to be lower in quality too. Compared to more expensive and higher-quality paints, they often peel faster and allow for moisture to seep in. This could increase the chances of water damage to the material under the paint.

DIY or Hire a Painter

If you have the time and energy, a DIY paint job might be in the cards for you. DIY paint jobs are best for smaller projects such as touch-ups, painting a front door, or updating a modest wood porch. Consider hiring a local professional exterior painter if you’re stripping old lead-based paint, using a specialty finish, or taking on an extensive project, such as painting your entire house.

Dry Time

Oil-based paint typically takes six to eight hours to dry and is ready to recoat in 24 hours. Latex paint is dry to the touch after one hour or so, and you can often recoat after four hours. 

Weather and Temperature

A good rule of thumb is to apply oil-based paint when the outside temperature is between 40 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. You should apply latex paint in temperatures between 50 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit

Regardless of paint type, humidity should be relatively low, between 40% and 50%. For optimal results, avoid painting when the humidity is 85% or more and if it’s raining or snowing outside.

How Long Paint Will Last

How long before you need to reapply another coat of paint depends on the surface and surrounding environment. The drier and less humid an environment, the longer paint will adhere and sustain its color. The darker the paint, the more sunlight and heat it will absorb, which will cause it to deteriorate quicker. 

Here’s a breakdown of how long paint will last based on the surface:

  • Stucco: Paint on stucco will last 7–10 years since stucco is typically found in dryer climates and doesn’t expand as much as other materials.

  • Vinyl siding: Paint on vinyl siding will last 5–10 years. If you live in extreme conditions that experience heavy humidity, snow, or lots of direct sunlight, it will be closer to three to five years.

  • Wood: Paint on wood will last about 5–7 years. Depending on the quality of wood, the wood might deteriorate before the paint does.

  • Brick: Paint on brick will last 3–5 years. Brick that is deteriorating, molding, or chipping isn’t a good candidate for painting since the paint will trap moisture in the brick and speed up its decay.

Top Paints for Different Surfaces + Design Inspiration

Beautiful house with blue exterior paint and red door
Photo: Artazum / Shutterstock

Exterior paint must be compatible with the surface and material you’re going to paint. For example, paint designed to cover vinyl siding won’t adhere to or protect a different surface, such as brick or wood. Here are the best paints for different types of exterior surfaces.

For Vinyl Siding

Benjamin Moore’s Ultra Spec EXT Satin (448) is our top choice for painting vinyl siding. Its satin finish stands up well against sunlight and it flexes with the expansion and contraction of the siding. Plus, all the paint colors are in the light-to-medium range, so they won’t swallow heat and cause warping. It's also a premium paint that’s mildew resistant and has low-VOC properties. 

Other factors to consider when painting vinyl siding:

  • The paint must contain acrylic and urethane resins, which help accommodate the expansion and contraction of vinyl.

  • Before painting, power wash or roughly scrub the vinyl siding to remove mildew, chalk buildup, and debris. Allow the siding to thoroughly dry before painting. 

For Wood Siding

When choosing paint for wood, you want something that will protect the wood against insects, mildew, and water. To do that, go with BEHR Premium Plus Exterior Semi-Gloss Enamel or something similar. The semi-gloss paint sheen creates a hard, durable finish. Plus, this formula resists mildew, moisture, cracking, and color loss. 

Other factors to consider when painting wood siding:

  • Use vinyl wood exterior spackling to fill any holes or gaps. If any of the wood siding planks become cracked or damaged, be sure to replace them before painting.

  • Before applying primer and paint, lightly sand these patched areas with fine-grit sandpaper to eliminate any bumps.

exterior wood paint ideas infographic
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For Stucco

When painting stucco, you want a paint that will last—stucco’s cement-based surface is susceptible to stains and fading over time. KILZ Masonry, Stucco and Brick Flat Paint is our top stucco paint choice. 

It’s an acrylic latex paint that’s self-priming and excellent at hiding imperfections. This paint also has superb adhesion and water-repellent qualities while still allowing for the stucco to breathe. It’s also alkali-resistant up to pH 12.0.

Other factors to consider when painting stucco:

  • Remove dirt and dust from the stucco by brushing it with a stiff-bristled broom before priming. Consider using a pressure washer if the stucco is deeply textured.

  • Any hairline cracks will need caulking and you should fill them with a dry stucco repair product.

  • Give the stucco repair 7–10 days to cure before painting.

For Brick and Masonry

For painting exterior brick, our top choice is KILZ Basement & Masonry Waterproofer. When painting brick, especially in more humid areas, you want to keep water out. KILZ Basement & Masonry Waterproofer paint forms a strong barrier that will last for a long time on the brick, which helps to prevent water from seeping in. 

Its alkali-resistant coating provides a long-lasting and durable finish. We recommend applying two coats for a smooth and glossy finish.

Other factors to consider when painting brick and masonry:

  • Recently laid brick needs a full year to dry and acclimate to the weather before painting can occur.

  • If you live in a high-humidity area with year-round rain, consider paint that has a “Severe Weather (SW)” rating or all-weather protection.

  • If the paint that you’re using isn’t a two-in-one paint and primer, prime the masonry or brick first with a roller.

brick painting ideas moodboard infographic
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Pool and Marine Paint

Painting your swimming pool is a hefty job, so you’ll want to choose a paint that will last. We recommend using the INSL-X Waterborne Swimming Pool Paint: Semi-Gloss. This paint comes in many colors, including royal blue, aquamarine, ocean blue, white, and black. 

INSL-X’s popular waterborne paint works with salt, freshwater, and chlorinated pools. You can apply this paint on top of most properly prepared existing pool paints, including rubber-based paints. Unlike other pool paints, you can apply it to damp or moist surfaces and it dries extremely quickly.

Other factors to consider when painting a pool:

  • Research the type of paint your pool currently contains. The safest bet is to go with waterborne paint. If you have a rubber-based paint on top of a waterborne paint, it will lift the finish off.

  • If you own an older pool and it’s not made of vinyl, then consider doing acid etching. Make sure you use the correct PPE equipment and ratios. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, hire a pool remodeler in your area.

For Porches and Patios

For porches and patios, there are a lot of options available. We believe the best porch and patio paint is KILZ Low-Lustre Enamel Porch and Patio Latex Floor Paint. This paint is budget-friendly at $30–$40 per gallon, depending on the retailer. It’s easy to apply to both concrete and wood structures and is nearly drip-proof. This paint comes in several hues of white and gray.

Other factors to consider when painting a porch or patio:

  • If old paint covers your wood porch, use an orbital sander and paint scrapers to remove it. Make sure to wear a respirator to protect your lungs.

  • If you have a concrete porch, you’ll want to etch it with a muriatic acid and water solution before painting. Consider hiring a local concrete finishing professional since this process requires PPE gear and can cause severe chemical burns.

  • Prime both wood and concrete patio surfaces before painting. We recommend two coats of exterior primer for wood porches and one coat for concrete patios.

patio and porch paint ideas moodboard infographic
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For Front Doors

The paint job and color of your front door are important—this is a guest’s first impression of your home, after all. Our top choice for front door paint is the BEHR Ultra Stain-Blocking Paint & Primer. This paint has excellent durability and is both dirt- and water-resistant. You can apply this paint to both wood and metal doors and in cold climates as low as 35 degrees Fahrenheit. This paint leaves a clean and even finish for years to come. 

Other factors to consider when painting a front door:

  • The best time to paint your front door is during the spring and fall when it’s cool and dry. First, you want the paint to properly dry as it sits outside or in the garage. And second, since you won’t have a front door for several hours, you don’t want rain, snow, or extreme heat entering your home.

  • Paint the door one section at a time. We recommend painting the bevels (the lower insert parts) with a handheld brush, then painting the insert panels, center, and outer flat surfaces with a roller. Paint the final coat by hand to give your door a fresh “hand-painted” appearance.

front door paint ideas moodboard infographic
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How to Maintain Your Exterior Paint

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Help your newly repainted surface last by properly caring for it. The following tips will help your recently painted surface maintain its color, shine, and durability for years to come.

Wash the Surface

Whether you’re painting a porch, vinyl siding, or brick exterior, plan to wash the surface at least twice a year. Washing the paint will help remove built-up dirt, pollen, mildew, and bird droppings. 

You can wash most exterior surfaces by brushing them with a long-handled scrub brush and using a mild solution of soap and water. Or, you can pressure wash the surface. Just make sure you’re using the correct PSI on the pressure washer so you don’t risk peeling the paint or damaging the surface.

Touch-Up the Paint

Your paint will deteriorate, but you can slow this down by touching up the exterior surface every year or two. Touching up exterior paint is definitely a DIY job as it only takes a few hours and can significantly add life to your entire paint job.

Reduce Water on Paint

Keeping your house dry will help with the longevity of your exterior paint job. When your porch or house is wet, it encourages the growth of mildew and mold, along with wood rot.

First, make sure sprinklers aren’t getting your painted surfaces wet. Second, trim bushes so there’s plenty of airflow and sunlight around the entire painted surface. If you live in a high-humidity area, you’ll want to be extra proactive and follow the above tips.

A new coat of exterior paint will freshen your house and help protect it against the elements. We hope you feel confident to go out and choose your next exterior paint. Do you still feel a bit overwhelmed? Don’t be afraid to consult and hire a professional painter.

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