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Whether you’re building a deck from scratch or sprucing up your existing one, the paint you use is an important consideration. Because your deck is horizontal, it is exposed to the elements—sunshine, rain, and snow—more than any other point on your house, even the roof. You’ll need to plan on repainting it at least every three years and when you do, you’ll want to use a quality paint or stain.
When evaluating options for deck paint, be sure to consider the type of wood you're painting, along with the appearance you want your deck to have. The paint you pick will determine the opacity, sheen, and texture of the finished project. You'll also need to decide if you'd rather use water-based or oil-based paint, which impacts project clean-up along with long-term durability.
Read on for our top picks.
Best Overall: Behr Premium Advanced Deckover
Size: 5 gallons | Coverage Area: 375 square feet | Color: Redwood | Finish: Smooth | Transparency: Solid
Provides protection against splinters
Easy soap and water clean-up
4 hour dry time between coats
Very thick paint formula
Prep your deck by sanding and cleaning it, then allowing it ample time to dry before painting and you’ll be thrilled with the results of this Behr Premium Advanced Deckover Paint.
This thick paint fills cracks up to 0.25 inches (prefill them before painting) and also makes your wood splinter-proof. It comes in more than 50 colors ranging from natural redwood and cedar hues to more contemporary colors including forest green and colony blue. The acrylic resin formula is easy to clean and offers a mildew-resistant finish. The paint works on wood, composite wood, and concrete, including older stamped concrete. It's not suitable for driveways, however.
Best Budget: Kilz Interior/Exterior Enamel Porch & Patio Latex Floor Paint
Size: 1 gallon | Coverage Area: 200-400 square feet | Color: Gray | Finish: Smooth | Transparency: Solid
Can be applied with brush, roller, or sprayer
Provides mildew-resistant finish
Requires up to 6 hours before second coat
This highly-rated deck paint isn’t only budget-friendly, it’s user-friendly, too. It claims to go on smoothly even on previously painted surfaces, dries fast, and is virtually drip-proof.
For best results, use a 0.37 to 0.5-inch nap roller or airless sprayer. Once it’s fully dry (in less than 24 hours), the paint is resistant to scuffing, fading, cracking, and peeling even in high-traffic areas. The skid-resistant paint has a mildew-resistant film and can also be used on trim, siding, and trellises. The slate gray color is the perfect shade—it’s dark enough to hide dirt (which is easy to clean off with soap and water) but not so dark it will make your outdoor space look like a battleship.
Best One-Coat Coverage: Rust-Oleum RockSolid 4 Gal. Gray Exterior 20X Deck Resurfacer
Size: 4 gallons | Coverage Area: 160 square feet | Color: Gray | Finish: Textured | Transparency: Solid
Save time with single-coat application
Provides non-slip finish
Too thick for sprayer application
Must be applied with RockSolid 20X roller cover
Make even heavily worn, decades-old decks look like new with just one coat of this paint. 20 times thicker than regular paint, Rust-Oleum's RockSolid paint can cover cracks up to 0.25 inches, nail holes, and other wood defects. It works on composite wood and concrete, too—just remember to prime prior to painting to ensure smooth application.
Available in 60 different colors, this paint has a waterproof, flat anti-skid surface that’s also UV resistant. For the best results, paint your deck on a day that’s slightly overcast, not too hot, and not too cold.
Best for Old Wood: Sherwin Williams SuperDeck Exterior Deck and Dock Coating
Size: 1 gallon | Coverage Area: Not listed | Color: White | Finish: Textured | Transparency: Solid
Elastomeric formula provides excellent weather-resistance
Can be applied over existing paint or stain
White color may show stains
Must be applied heavily
Even decades-old decks and docks can get a refresh with this Sherwin Williams paint. Designed to smooth rough and damaged surfaces, it soaks into cracks of all shapes and sizes to make your deck look and feel like new. The water-repelling paint can be applied directly over any existing stain or paint and works on concrete, too. Because it's a high-build paint, which means you'll need at least two coats to get the job done. We recommend buying more than you think you’ll need for the best, full coverage.
Best for Pool Deck: Valspar Light Gray Satin Interior/Exterior Anti-Skid Porch and Floor Paint
Size: 1 gallon | Coverage Area: 75-100 square feet | Color: Gray | Finish: Textured | Transparency: Solid
Provides excellent non-slip finish
Can be used on wood or concrete
High sheen may show shoeprints
When you’re painting a high-traffic area that often gets wet, aka your pool deck, you need skid-resistant paint like this one so your friends and family won’t slip after a dip. This Valspar anti-skid paint has a textured coating that increases traction but still feels comfortable on bare feet. The weather-resistant paint can be used on wood or concrete and primed metal such as stairs or guardrails. When painting a deck, start with the highest part first so you don’t drip on your freshly painted floorboards. The 100 percent acrylic formula leaves behind a colorfast sheen that is easy to clean with soap and water.
Best Color Selection: Benjamin Moore ARBORCOAT Exterior Stain
Size: 1 gallon | Coverage Area: 300-400 square feet | Color: Varies | Finish: Not listed | Transparency: Solid
Dry to the touch in 1 hour
Can be applied in temperatures as low as 40F
Looking to match your deck to your living room? Benjamin Moore's ARBORCOAT Exterior Stain is a great option. This formula can be tinted to any of the thousands of existing Benjamin Moore colors from classic sandalwood to Flamingo Orange or any other color of the rainbow. The finish is resistant to blistering peeling, staining, and scuffing and protects against mildew and UV damage.
For best results, apply a second coat at least four hours after the first. It works on both new and older wood, including decks that have already been painted or stained.
Best Stain: Sikkens ProLuxe Cetol SRD RE Transparent Matte Natural Oil-Based
Size: 1 gallon | Coverage Area: 150-400 square feet | Color: Clear | Finish: Smooth | Transparency: Transparent
One coat application
Highlights natural wood grain
Requires mineral spirits for clean-up
An oil-based stain has the advantage of penetrating deeper into the wood to better protect it from the elements. This option from Sikkens has a transparent finish that allows the natural beauty of your wood deck, railings, or furniture to shine through. You’ll get gorgeous results with a single coat, though it’s very important to use a high-quality brush (such as a natural China bristle one) for the best results. Remember to paint with a back and forth motion to better keep your brush wet.
The best overall deck paint is Behr Premium Advanced Deckover (view at Home Depot). It makes your wood splinter proof, is easy to clean, and comes in 50 colors. If you prefer a budget-friendly option, KILZ Interior/Exterior Patio Latex Floor Paint (view at Amazon) is long-lasting, mildew-resistant, and user friendly.
What to Look for in a Deck Paint
Type of wood
Start by considering what type of wood your deck is made from. Hardwood and softwood varieties have different needs when it comes to deck paint. Softwoods, like pine, will readily absorb deck paint; you can choose either an acrylic or alkyd (oil) deck paint. If you have a hardwood deck, made from a tropical wood like ipe, you should choose an oil-based deck stain. The alkyd formula will provide better penetration while the transparent formula will highlight the natural beauty of the wood.
Deck paint is either water-based or oil-based. Water-based formulas are most common and offer the advantage of being easy to clean up with soap and water. Oil-based deck paint is more commonly seen with transparent deck stains and requires mineral spirits or paint thinner for cleaning brushes, sprayers, and tools.
You can use oil-based paint over a surface that has previously been treated with a water-based formula, but you cannot typically use water-based paint over a surface painted with oil-based paint.
The opacity of deck paint will determine how much or how little of the wood grain and appearance is visible once treated. Solid deck paint is the most common option since it better hides the effects that weather and aging have had on your deck. However, if you have new deck boards, then a transparent deck stain will allow the natural beauty of the wood to shine through. Semi-transparent deck paint is another option, best suited for decks that are only a few years old and show minimal signs of aging or splintering.
The durability of deck paint will be put to the test by foot traffic, UV exposure, and weather conditions. Acrylic deck paints are often formulated for horizontal application, with the understanding that this means the surface will be exposed to feet, furniture, and the elements. One of the biggest factors that will improve a deck paint’s durability is proper surface preparation before the paint is applied. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for cleaning and preparation exactly to enjoy the longest-lasting results.
Texture and sheen
Texture and sheen are two important aspects of deck paint finish. Deck paint can be smooth, textured, or extra textured. Smooth is most similar to paint used for vertical surfaces, while textured and extra textured deck paints have an additive to provide traction for walking. This is important if your deck, porch, or patio will be exposed to rain. The painted surface can easily become slippery and a deck paint with texture can help to avoid accidental falls.
Sheen refers to the appearance of the deck paint’s finish. Some deck paint formulas are matte, while others offer a glossy finish. Some deck paints with a high-sheen formula will show marks easily, including footprints or pawprints. However, not everyone prefers the flat appearance of matte deck paint.
How do you prep a deck for painting?
To prepare a deck for painting you should first use a deck cleaner, either a store-bought or homemade formula. The purpose of the deck cleaner is to remove accumulated dirt, debris, mildew, or algae that would prevent a smooth, long-lasting bond between the paint and boards. Once you’ve applied the deck cleaner (ideally with a garden sprayer and hose), allow time for the formula to penetrate the surface; the length of time varies by product but is usually 10 to 15 minutes.
The next step is to thoroughly rinse the deck. The most common method is to use a pressure washer, but be sure that you don’t use it on high pressure too close to the wood’s surface, or else you may risk damaging the boards. Once the deck has been thoroughly rinsed, allow the wood to dry completely. This step takes at least 48 hours in most cases but will vary based on temperature and weather conditions.
The final step is to prime the deck. If you skip this step, you hinder the durability and longevity of the deck paint. Use a quality wood primer and use a brush to thoroughly coat the sides of each board and the spaces in between. You can then use a roller or sprayer to apply the primer down the length of each deck board. Allow time for the primer to dry—the manufacturer’s instructions will indicate how long of a drying period is required before you can move on to painting the deck.
How long does deck paint last?
Deck paint needs to be periodically reapplied, but how long it lasts depends on several factors—including foot traffic, weather exposure, and the condition of the wood. In addition, proper surface preparation will often determine the success or failure of a deck painting job. Deck paint can last 5 to 10 years but may need to be repeated as often as every 2 or 3 years in harsh conditions.
What tools do you need for painting a deck?
To paint a deck, you should have the following tools and products ready before you start.
- Deck cleaner formula
- Garden hose with water supply
- Pump sprayer
- Paintbrush, sprayer, or roller with cover for application (will likely need a brush for detail work and between boards)
- Clean 5-gallon bucket or paint tray
- Mineral spirits or paint thinner (only necessary for clean-up of oil-based paint)
- Deck paint
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Anne Fritz, a freelance home writer with over 20 years of experience. Previously, she was an editor and her work has appeared on several top publications. To make this list, she considered the formula, finish, and price point of each option.