What Kind of Paint to Use on Wood Decks for Great, Long-Lasting Results

Eddie Shekari
May 3, 2022

Spring is here, and summer is around the corner! That means we’ll be spending a lot more time outside enjoying barbeques, pool parties, and other outdoor activities. During this time, you may want to update your deck so it can keep up with the foot traffic and have a new fun-in-the-sun look. 

Painting a deck is a project that you can do yourself, but there are a lot of factors and details to consider. All of the information on what kind of paint to use on wood decks can be found below thanks to the Pro Painters team gathering all their handy advice into one, easy-to-follow guide.. 

Staining vs Painting A Deck

The first question you should ask yourself is if you want to stain your deck or paint it. If you want a more natural look, a deck stain shows off the natural grain of the wood and protects boards from the elements while providing a less slippery surface for foot traffic. However, it doesn’t fill in cracks like deck paint would, and you will also have to reapply a deck stain more frequently since it doesn’t last long. 

Painting a deck, on the other hand, hides imperfections in the wood; there are types of paints that have a subtle, non-slip texture, making them ideal for high foot traffic areas. To further protect your wooden deck, acrylic paint is also mildew resistant.

wood stained deck

Should I Use a Solid Stain on My Deck?

If you do decide to stain your deck, you need to choose between a solid or transparent stain. They are made of similar ingredients and have similar pigments, but a transparent stain is much thinner, meaning it is made to soak into the wood. It offers a more natural finish while providing protection from UV rays and weather damage. It also won’t make a deck too slippery. However, it doesn’t hide imperfections and often comes in limited colors. 

A solid stain, on the other hand, sits on the surface of the wood deck and has a thin film for protection against UV rays and moisture resistance. Along with being easier to clean, a solid stain will also mask more imperfections, and it can sometimes even be applied over paint. However, it will be hard to revert back to a transparent stain once applied; it also cracks, peels, and blisters over time.

Oil based paint can take up to 24 hours to dry

The Difference Between Oil- and Water-Based Paint

To find a high-quality paint for your deck, you will need to choose a water or oil base. Both types of paint have their advantages and disadvantages, and while oil used to be the king of the market, water-based paint has risen in popularity.

Oil based paint has a durable finish that can last five to ten years, depending on the condition of your wood desk and the quality of the paint. Coats of paint can provide moisture protection against mold and mildew, but an oil base also contains high volumes of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can negatively affect your health if you inhale the fumes. Oil based paint also requires the use of a solvent-like paint thinner for cleaning your painting tools. Most take 24 hours or more to dry, but there are types of paints that contain quick-drying additives to reduce the time between recoating by six to eight hours. 

Water-based formulas include latex and acrylic paints and have a variety of benefits. Unlike oil, a water base contains a lower amount of VOCs, and dries quickly, so it is ready for more coats of paint in four to six hours. Water based paints are also great for the long term since they are more flexible; this means they will hide imperfections like cracks and peeling, and they don’t fade as quickly as other types of paint. Plus, water-based paint is easily cleaned up with just soap and water

when painting your deck consider your climate

Factors to Consider for Your Deck Paint 

There are many more factors to take into account when choosing your paint. Choosing the wrong types of paint can lead to damage to your deck or dissatisfaction over the end result. 

VOC Content

We love less toxic products that don’t negatively affect the environment and our health, and thankfully, paint manufacturers are evolving. A Low-VOC paint should have less than 50 grams per liter for a flat finish and no more than 110 grams per liter for a gloss or semi-gloss finish. A Zero-VOC paint will have minimal or no VOCs, less than five grams per liter. The “No-VOC” is perfect for people who are sensitive to fumes. 


You want your deck paint to be long-lasting to avoid frequent repainting. The paint should have an exterior paint label to ensure it’s made to use outdoors, and it should also have a solid binding agent and longer-lasting pigments like titanium dioxide. High quality paint will also be thicker, allowing you to leave durable coats of paint on a deck. However,they are usually more expensive. 

Additional information to be aware of on paint can labels are drying oils; linseed or modified oil will go on evenly and dry to a hard finish to protect your deck. UV blockers will protect colors from fading and deck damage from intense UV rays. 

get help with flat paint cleaning and more


What your deck is made of is another factor to consider when you want to paint your outdoor space. Redwood and cedar are expensive materials, but they have a natural resistance to moisture damage, rot, and insect infestation. 

Most decks are made from treated lumber, which means the wood is infused under pressure with alkaline copper quaternary to resist the natural elements. If you have a new deck made from this material, experts say you should wait around six months before painting your deck since the paint may end up cracking and peeling.


Your deck paint should be prepared to handle all the weather conditions you typically experience year round. If your climate is usually wet and rainy, you should paint all sides of the deck boards to make it hard for moisture to seep into the wood.  Most exterior paint has additives to protect from mold and mildew, UV rays, and extreme temperatures. Some have one or two of these protective elements, but we encourage you to purchase one with all three to ensure your deck will have a fresh, long-lasting appearance. 

natural colored deck

Tips on Picking the Right Color

Water and oil based paints for decks should have a resistance to fading, but here’s a quick tip: light hues and earthy tones are less likely to fade than deep colors and bright tones. Consider the availability of shade on your deck too; a deck with no shade will fade quicker than one with lots of deep shade, despite the UV protection in deck paints.

Some of the most popular colors are dark gray, green, dark blue, black, and chocolate brown. Darker colors are great for heavy foot traffic since they will cover up dirt. Sage green will give your home a soft appearance while darker forest greens will be great for a traditional style. If you have a beachside cottage or Cape-Cod style home, the dark blue will be fun while working with classic palettes. You can easily find websites to explore colors and preview them in different spaces. 

Trust Pro Painters for All Your Painting Projects

As you can see, there are many different factors to consider when choosing the best paint for your deck, and we didn’t even discuss the prep and application process! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, let Pro Painters decide what kind of paint to use on your wood deck to give it a long-lasting and beautiful appearance. Contact us today and get a free consultation with an estimate! 

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Eddie Shekari

Eddie founded Pro Painters in 1995 to meet the growing need for high-quality residential and commercial painting needs in Houston. In nearly 20 years, Pro Painters has exponentially grown our client base, serving residents across the greater Houston area. Our core principles have helped us achieve the highest standard of workmanship and customer satisfaction. Our years of experience have allowed us to become an extension to our customers as the all-in-one solution for home makeovers.