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How to Paint Exterior Wood

Painting exterior wood requires a different process and paint than that required indoors.
Eagle house in garden. Summer house image by L. Shat from Fotolia.com

Exterior wood takes a heavy beating from rain, wind and other elements throughout the year. Painted exterior wood requires special care to prevent peeling and fading color. Unfortunately, even with the best care it will need reapplication at some point—which is a rather large project. Choosing the right paint for exterior wood is almost as important as the correct preparation of the wood. Painting properly with the correct materials will ensure the job lasts for several years.

Things You'll Need:

  • Undercoat Paint
  • Paint Brush
  • Dust Mask
  • Sandpaper, 80 To 120 Grit
  • Goggles
  • Paint Scraper
  • Topcoat Paint
  • Sealant

Remove and replace any wood that is damaged or rotting.

Remove flaking paint using a putty knife and sandpaper. The Forest Products Laboratory recommends using chemical strippers on the paint to remove it completely.

Sand the wood to remove chips and smooth out the surface. If paint stripper is not used, use an 80 grit sandpaper to remove thick paint. Use 100 to 120 grit sandpaper to remove any fine remnants of paint. Remove any dust from the wood before painting.

Apply a sealant to the wood to protect it from the elements. A clear varnish will work. Add a layer of primer over the sealant to completely protect the wood.

Brush a layer of undercoat onto the building to prepare it for the topcoat color. This prevents color bleeding. Allow the undercoat to dry, then add another application if the wood underneath is still visible.

Paint the undercoat with your topcoat color. Make another application if the color is not bright enough, or does not completely cover the undercoat.


Contact your local waste management facilities to determine the best disposal methods for your unused paint.


  • Do not paint on windy days or when rain is forecast. Try to paint when there are dry conditions persisting for 48 hours.
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