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Exterior Paint Buying Guide


Reading time: 7 minutes

What kinds of exterior paint are there?

Here we’re going to take a look at the different kinds of paints you can use on your exterior walls, fencing and more.

Along with paint for outdoor use, such as masonry paints and metal paints, we’re also going to cover other types of coatings. This includes wood paints, stains and varnishes, and metal paints.


What’s special about masonry paint?

Masonry paint gives a decorative finish to brickwork and concrete. Although masonry paint implies it’s exclusively for use with bricks and blocks, it’s more versatile than that. Some masonry paints can be used with other surfaces such as pebbledash and render, exterior plaster, and even metalwork.

Aside from providing an attractive tone to exterior walls, masonry paint also has the job of protecting surfaces from the elements – a common feature of external coatings, paints and sealants. There’s also a variety of masonry paint types for you to choose from, ranging from traditional styles to more modern types.

  • What is Limewash?
  • What is Mineral Paint?
  • Why use Acrylic Masonry Paints?

Do I need to use a primer before using masonry paint?

Some masonry paints such as limewash work best by being painted directly onto surfaces such as brickwork; with others, you may need some form of primer. Acrylic masonry paint usually needs a primer first. This can also be true of most outdoor paints, so always check the manufacturer’s instructions for guidance as this can change depending on product and purpose.


Wood paint, varnish and stain

For wood, there are a lot of choices you can make about how to treat and protect wood outside including sheds, fencing and decking. The three main different types include wood paint, wood stain and varnish. While they are all made to work with wood, not all products are for every use. For example, fencing paint and decking paint are different, and can’t be used interchangeably.

Why use wood paint?

Outdoor wood paints tend to fall into two separate categories: paints for sheds and fences and decking paint. The main difference is that paint on decking has to withstand being regularly stepped on, or take the weight of furniture. However, always follow the manufacturer's instructions and ensure the right paint is used for the right job.

Aside from this, the main similarity between these types of paints is the variety of colour. Unlike wood stains and other treatments, choosing paint from a range of tones can really create a bold and fresh look for your garden or patio.

It’s a good idea to use primer with wood, especially untreated wood, as this will help to fill the grain for a smoother finish. Un-primed wood may flake off over time, resulting in a rougher tatty look. But there’s more to it than aesthetics, as wood paint will also actively protect fencing, decking and sheds from the UK weather.


Should I use wood stain or varnish?

Both wood stains and wood varnish are designed to protect outdoor wood and timber from the elements - they just do it in different ways. Wood stain soaks into the wood, bonding it, so that it strengthens under the surface. If you have treated fence panels for example, you might need to check that further staining won’t negatively affect the treatment already in the wood.

Outdoor wood varnish works differently. Varnish doesn’t soak into the wood, but lays on the surface, providing a protective coating. It’s fairly tough too, so a layer of varnish is often used to prevent rot and infestation – as is wood paint and stain – and will only need occasional topping up if applied thoroughly.


What is the best paint for exterior metal?

How the metalwork is used might make a difference to the type of paint you choose. For example, a handrail for steps might be used all the time, so paint is more likely to chip and wear off. Alternatively, metal railing that’s more out of the way might only need occasional repainting.
The two main choices for exterior metal paints are oil-based and latex-based paint. 

  • Oil-Based Metal Paint
  • Using Latex Metal Paint

If this has helped you to find the right paint for your garden or landscaping project, you can find further ideas and advice to inspire you. Check back for more updates on home improvements and decorating, such as finding the right interior paint for the home.


Disclaimer: The information contained on this page is intended as an overall introduction and is not intended as specific advice from a qualified professional. Travis Perkins aims to avoid, but accepts no liability, in the case that any information stated is out of date.