How to Paint a Barn for Wow-Worthy Results

Painting a barn is a big undertaking, but the results can be extraordinary

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated July 7, 2022
Red Barn
Photo: Joanna McCarthy / The Image Bank / Getty Images


Consider skipping the DIY.

Time to complete

336 hours

This project can take a few weeks to complete, depending on the extent of repairs and the number of coats. You’ll spend most of that time waiting for the paint to dry.



You’ll spend a lot on supplies, but you may still save money by DIYing.

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What you'll need:


  • Paint brushes
  • Hand scraper
  • Rollers
  • Paint trays
  • Power washer (optional)
  • Sprayer (optional)


  • Exterior latex paint
  • Caulk
  • Wood plugs (optional)
  • New boards (optional)
  • Nails (optional)

Although a weathered barn with its faded red siding and flaking trim looks breathtakingly charming, you'll be amazed at how great it looks with a fresh coat of paint. When you know how to paint a barn properly, you'll add at least 10 years to its lifespan, all while protecting it from weather damage, sun damage, and rot. Painting a barn involves more than just slapping a fresh coat of paint over the old one, however—it's a big undertaking. If you're confident in your DIY capabilities and you've decided to paint your barn yourself, here's how to do it right.

  1. Evaluate the Barn’s Condition

    While it's tempting to just paint over problem areas, doing so is akin to sweeping dirt under the rug: many problems will continue to deteriorate even though you can't see them. Plus painting over problems such as rot significantly reduces the lifespan of the paint from 10 years to as little as one.

    So, before you touch that paintbrush, evaluate the condition of the barn. Look for signs of wet or dry rot on old boards; check window sashes, the bottoms of doors, and door hinges for signs of rodent damage, rot, or insect infestation; keep an eye out for missing nails, warped boards, damaged vents, a leaky roof, and other signs of damage. Make a note of everything that needs to be fixed to restore the barn to its former glory.

  2. Have Significant Structural and Foundational Repairs Fixed

    If your barn has significant damage, like structural or foundational damage, it's best to leave this portion to a local barn repair professional—even if you want to do the paint job yourself. Pay special attention to any areas where the paint has fallen away completely, as these exposed sections are more at risk of insect or weather damage. 

    Smaller areas of rot can be removed and replaced by wood plugs, which you can probably tackle yourself if they're easily accessible. More extensive damage may require whole sections of new wood siding. Warped planks also need replacing before painting can begin.

  3. Make Minor Repairs

    To cut down on costs, you can make other minor repairs yourself, such as replacing missing nails and caulking around windows, doors, corners, and other exposed joints. Caulking is an important but often overlooked task. It protects the wood by preventing water from seeping into vulnerable areas like the window trim.

  4. Clean the Exterior

    Trail to the Barn
    Photo: iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

    Once you're confident that the barn is in good shape, it's time to prep the surface for painting by giving it a thorough cleaning. Assuming the barn isn't too old, the wood is of good quality, and the majority of the previous paint is still there, power washing is a great option, as it lets you clean large areas quickly and will remove stubborn debris buildup. 

    If, on the other hand, you have an older barn that's at risk of damage from a pressure washer, you should wash it by hand with hot water and a stiff brush.

  5. Remove Loose Paint

    No matter the option you choose, the cleaning process will also likely remove or flake up some of the old paint. This is a good thing: to properly prepare the surface for the new coat, you need to scrape and sand away as much old, loose paint as possible using a hand scraper. Sanding also roughens up the surface for better adhesion of the new paint coat.

    Important: Paint pre-1978 most likely contains lead, which is extremely dangerous if inhaled or touched, so take precautions and dispose of it properly. Even if the upper coat of paint is newer and lead-free, there could still be one or many layers of lead paint beneath that will flake off as you work. 

    Follow basic lead safety guidelines to protect yourself and your family. It may be smart to hire a reputable contractor, as they have the right equipment and training to keep your family safe from lead poisoning, and they'll adhere to the federal guidance around lead containment and disposal, dubbed the Lead Paint Law.

  6. Apply Primer

    After washing and cleaning, the barn needs a couple of days to fully dry before you can apply a coat of primer to the exterior. This step is worth the extra time and effort—even if you want to get the job done ASAP. A primer undercoat stops stains from occurring, improves topcoat adhesion, and gives a smoother, longer-lasting finish that resists flaking and bubbling. 

    If your barn has previously been treated with linseed oil, use a paintbrush, roller, or sprayer to apply two coats of oil-based primer to your barn. Allow 24 hours to pass between each application. The first coat will soak into the wood and recondition it as plain linseed oil would, and the second coat serves as a standard primer coat. For newer barns not previously conditioned with linseed oil, you can use a single coat of latex primer.

  7. Paint the Barn

    After you let the primer dry for a full 24 hours, it's time to finally paint and restore your barn to its original beauty. Latex paint is a popular paint for barns, as it's flexible, resilient, fade-resistant, and has a long lifespan. On average, a gallon of latex exterior wood paint covers between 350 and 400 feet. However, the coverage depends on how thick you apply the paint and how many coats the barn needs, so it's smart to overestimate and have some left over for retouches. 

    A sprayer can speed up the time it takes to paint your barn, but for smaller details, like around your windows and doors, you’ll want to use a hand brush to paint the barn. A good rule of thumb is to apply two coats to ensure even coverage.

DIY Painting a Barn vs. Hiring a Pro

If you've done all the prep work right and you choose a good quality paint, your hard work should pay off with a beautiful exterior paint that lasts around 10 years on average before it needs another repaint. 

Hiring a Painter

If all of this sounds like too big of an undertaking, you can always hire a local exterior painting specialist and free up some of your time. Search Angi for highly rated exterior painting companies with experience painting barns. Once you've narrowed down your list, call at least three contractors for an on-site estimate

Expect to pay anywhere from $0.50 and $3.50 per square foot extra when you hire a professional painter to do the job. Professional exterior painting contractors offer free estimates and often won't request any money down. Speak directly to at least three of their references and find out if the contractor kept the site clean and whether there was any overspray on the windows or other objects.

What to Watch Out For

Be extremely wary of anyone who shows up at your door offering to paint your barn. Door-to-door scam artists often target farms and homes with barns. These disreputable operators may ask for payment up front and disappear. If they do the job, they'll use watered-down whitewash paint that doesn't last or do the job as quickly as possible, and they’ll overspray windows, bushes, trees, and grass.

Additional Questions

What kind of paint should I use to paint my barn?

The best kind of paint for barns is latex paint because it’s less likely to fade, lasts for a decade, and is flexible. You can also use latex exterior paint mixed with linseed oil in your primer to make it extra durable. 

What is the best way to paint a barn?

Renting a sprayer is the easiest way to paint a barn, but for detailed areas, you’ll want to use a hand brush to get the job done. If you don’t wish to rent a sprayer, you can also use a roller to hand-paint your barn, but this will add time to your project.

How much does it cost to repaint a barn?

The cost to paint a barn is $3,000 on average, though you might pay as little as $600 or as much as $6,000 to have the barn of your dreams, depending on the size of your barn, the paint you choose, and whether or not you DIY the job or hire a professional.

Do you need a primer for barn paint?

Some exterior paints for barns don’t need a primer because they are self-priming. In this case, you’ll need to apply at least two coats of paint.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.