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Best exterior wood paint 2023: Refresh and revitalise your weather-worn woodwork with these top timber treatments

Get the best out of your garden this summer by treating all wood surfaces to a coat or two of rejuvenating and protective paint

With a smattering of sunny days expected to hit the UK at some point during the summer, there has never been a more opportune time to tackle all of your home’s exterior woodwork – a broad term that includes exterior doors, window frames, window sills, fences, sheds, decking, planters, garden furniture and possibly more besides. If the combined destructive forces of rain, UV light and general wear and tear have taken their toll on your outdoor timber, then it’s time to break out the paintbrush, the roller or whatever your DIY weapon of choice happens to be, and get busy in the garden with the very best protective paints and stains to nourish and rejuvenate all your neglected wood.

As ever, there is a wide range of options available on the market, each with specific attributes that suit particular painting jobs, plus rules on preparation that need to be followed in order to achieve the finest finish possible. What’s to know? Head this way…

Best Exterior Wood Paint: At a glance

Best for doors and windows: Dulux Weathershield Exterior High Gloss

Best for all garden furnishings: Johnstone’s Woodcare Garden Colours

Best for upcycling old furniture: Rust-Oleum Chalky Finish

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How to choose the best exterior wood paint for you

What do I need to know about exterior wood paint?

Well, for a start, “paint” is a kind of loose, catch-all term for general weatherproofing, wood-enhancing treatments for timber, the connection being that you “paint” it on. So we’re talking both paints and stains here, but that umbrella term could also include oils and others; essentially, different formulations but the same application process using a paintbrush, roller, paint pad or spray gun.

While many of these paints can be directly applied without the need for primers or undercoats, some jobs will require more preparation than others, depending on the general state of disrepair of the item you’re attempting to revive. So, always ensure you pay full attention to the paint manufacturer’s instructions and follow them to the letter. Otherwise, you may find you end wasting hours creating even more of a mess than you started with.

Also, the amount of paint required will vary on the type and condition of the wood – smooth wood will require less, rough sawn wood will absorb more – which is something to bear in mind when deciding how much to buy.

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What preparation is needed?

If you’re treating old wood to a new lease of life, quite a bit. But if we’re talking about new timber, first you’ll want to test it for pre-treatment: get it wet, and if the water rolls off, it’s been pre-treated. In this case, the experts recommend you leave your new wood exposed to the elements for six months to allow it to acclimatise naturally prior to being painted.

If, however, your woodwork is older and well weathered, you’ll need to get it clean and clear. Start by removing any dirt, cobwebs, splinters and suchlike and wash it down. Now assess the condition of the wood: does old paint need sanding off? Are there any patches of grease that need removing? Is there any mould? In the case of the latter, use a decent fungicidal treatment and remove with a scraper.

Give all surfaces a good going over with a stiff brush to remove any loose paint or varnish and, if necessary, sand down smooth.

Now you should have a decent blank canvas to work with.

Any other tips?

Even with water-based paints, use the usual PPE precautions: mask/google/gloves, be wary of nearby surfaces that will need covering to keep free from stray paint, always – ALWAYS – stir paint well both before and during use, ensure you’ve planned for a warm, dry day to work, and adhere to stated drying times.

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The best exterior wood paint to buy in 2023

1. Johnstone’s Woodcare Garden Colours: Best exterior wood paint for garden furnishings

Price: £16 | Buy now from Amazon

Available in a whopping 19 colourful but subdued hues, Johnstone’s Woodcare Garden Colours is a great all-round paint for sheds, fences, trellis, tables, chairs – in fact, any and all wooden garden furnishings that have faded in the summer sun and need some sprucing up.

As ever, make sure that whatever you’re painting is free from dirt, dust, grease and flaky paint, then, after a vigorous stirring, get your brush (recommended over spray) and work the paint deeply into the timber, following the grain, until you have an evenly coated finish. One coat may suffice, but if a second is required, leave two to four hours for the first to dry.

Fade-resistant and weatherproof for up to four years, Johnstone’s Woodcare leaves whatever you care to paint with a fine opaque matt finish that allows the wood underlying natural beauty to show through, refreshing and revitalising all garden furnishings with minimal effort.

Key specs – Finish: Opaque matt; Volume: 2.5 litres; Drying time: 2-4 hours; Coverage: 12m² per litre; Coats required: 2; Weather protection: 4 years; Available colours: 19

2. Dulux Weathershield Exterior High Gloss: Best exterior wood paint for doors and windows

Price: £25 | Buy now from Amazon

Breaking out the exterior wood protection big guns, Dulux’s Weathershield Exterior High Gloss is the perfect paint for taking care of your home’s exterior facing doors, window frames and sills.

Guaranteeing a full 10 years’ weather-, staining-, mould- and cracking-resistance, this high gloss finish paint comes in brilliant white and five other bold colours to really make a statement with your home’s alfresco woodwork.

After cleaning and sanding down surfaces to remove any former sheen, apply a primer and undercoat and allow to dry fully before using a brush to lather on one or two coats of Weathershield, leaving four hours’ drying time between them, making sure to cover any area underneath that may be affected by drippage and, as it’s a solvent-based paint, to keep pets at bay.

With a total full drying time of 16 hours (climate-dependent), always ensure that all painted areas of doors or windows are bone-dry before closing, or you may struggle to open them again afterwards.

Key specs – Finish: High gloss; Volume: 750ml; Drying time: 16 hours; Coverage: 18m² per litre; Coats required: 2; Weather protection: 10 years; Available colours: 6

3. Rust-Oleum Chalky Finish Garden Furniture Spray Paint: Best exterior wood paint for upcycling old furniture

Price: £11 | Buy now from Homebase

When garden furniture finally looks have given up the ghost, the temptation may be to simply replace it, but the savvy up-cycler knows that scruffy old furniture can be made beautiful once more with a simple spray of Rust-Oleum’s Chalky Finish Garden Furniture Paint.

A quick scrub down with a stiff brush can remove flaky old paint from furniture and leave you with the opportunity to wipe it clean ready to paint.

Available in eight different charmingly shabby chic shades, cover other nearby surfaces to protect from stray paint (not forgetting the floor), then after shaking the can thoroughly before use (and often during), spray your furniture in smooth, overlapping strokes at a distance of roughly 30cm away until fully coated – it’s that simple! Touch dry in one hour, with two coats recommended for a perfect finish. With a full dry time of 16 hours, that’s your garden furniture restored.

Key specs – Finish: Matt; Volume: 400ml; Drying time: 16 hours; Coverage: 2m² per can; Coats required: 2; Available colours: 8

Buy now from Homebase

4. Cuprinol Anti-Slip Decking: Best exterior wood paint for decking

Price: £22 | Buy now from Amazon

Decking can make a huge difference to your outdoor space, providing solid support for garden furniture while also making a design statement – if it’s looked after. Enter Cuprinol Anti-Slip Decking Stain, a colourful range of wood paints designed specifically for use on decking by being far more durable than standard wood treatments and featuring anti-slip microbeads.

Good to go on any kind of timber decking and delivering up to 10 years of protection from rain, sun, algae and mould, this water-based treatment is safe to use around plants and pets and can be applied using either a paintbrush or paint pad.

Drying time will depend on weather conditions, but it should be touch-dry within two to six hours after the initial coat. Cuprinol recommends a two-coat minimum, but the final number required will be dictated by your own satisfaction with the finish.

Key specs – Finish: Opaque matt; Volume: 2.5 litres; Drying time: 24 hours; Coverage: 8m² per litre; Coats required: 2-3; Weather protection: Up to 10 years; Available colours: 13

5. Cuprinol Garden Shades: Best exterior wood paint for a more vibrant garden

Price: £16 | Buy now from Amazon

While Johnstone’s Woodcare Garden Colours offers a palette of colourful but muted options, for those seeking a more lively look for their garden woodwork, Cuprinol Garden Shades answer the call with a broad range of protective paints in Reds & Pinks, Oranges & Yellows, Greens & Limes, and Blues & Violets (also several neutrals) with the ‘mute’ firmly off.

Providing an opaque matt finish and some six years of resistance to the elements, Garden Shades can be applied using either a paintbrush or spray gun, the latter cutting down painting time considerably.

Ideal for fences, furniture, planters or even sheds if the idea of having a ‘Dazzling Yellow’ shed in your garden works for you, the trick we would suggest here is that less is more, using the Garden Shades to bring sudden splashes of colour to your garden wood to achieve maximum impact.

Touch-dry in as little as one hour, up to three coats may be required to get the desired finish, each needing to be applied within eight hours of the original.

Key specs – Finish: Opaque matt; Volume: 2.5 litres; Drying time: 1 hour; Coverage: 3-5m2; Coats required: 2-3; Weather protection: 6 years; Available colours: 23

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