Types of Outdoor Wood Finishes


If left unfinished, exterior wood will eventually appear gray and weathered. Exposed outdoor wood is susceptible to warping, rot and mildew, fungal and mold infestations. You can protect exterior wood surfaces and enhance their overall appearance by applying one of an assortment of available exterior finish coats.

Acrylic latex paint

  • This is the appropriate type of paint for exterior wood surfaces. Unlike interior latex paint, acrylic latex provides increased elasticity, allowing it to expand and contract along with the underlying wood surfaces in varying weather conditions. A base coat of acrylic latex primer is necessary for bare wood surfaces. No primer is necessary for previously painted surfaces.

Oil-based enamel

  • This type of coating is suitable for wood surfaces that must endure a large amount of duress. Oil-based enamel provides extra durability. Bare wood should be coated with an oil-based primer prior to enamel application.

Oil-based stain

  • Oil based stain provides a natural look to outdoor wood surfaces. This type of finish should be applied with a brush manufactured for use with oil paints. Although it isn't absolutely necessary, many homeowners opt to coat their stained wood with varnish to provide an attractive sheen and an extra degree or durability. Exterior wood surfaces should be washed with a pressure washer prior to application. Use a low-pressure tip to prevent unintentional damage.

Latex stain

  • Latex stain provides more of a milky, clouded finish to exterior wood surfaces. It requires no primer and is available in a wide variety of colors. It is less messy and easier to apply than oil-based stain, however, it does not look as natural. Wood surfaces should be wiped down with a tack cloth prior to application. Exterior wood surfaces should be washed with a pressure washer, prior to application. Use a low-pressure tip to prevent unintentional damage.

Epoxy paint

  • Epoxy paint is a durable, two-part coating ideal for wood surfaces that are exposed to a large amount of duress. Although it is usually applied to concrete, epoxy is also suitable for wood flooring and decks. An acrylic latex primer should be applied to bare wood prior to application.

Base coats

  • Bare wood is ill-suited for paint adhesion and requires a base coat prior to application. Unfinished exterior surfaces must be coated with a primer prior to painting, or the painted finish will eventually fail. Oil-based finishes should be paired with oil-based primers, while acrylic latex finishes should be paired with water-based acrylic latex primer.

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