How To Paint Anything Outside

Painting Wood Siding and Trim

Paint flaking wood.

Whether it’s lap siding, board and battens, or porch railings, if you want a successful paint job, it all starts with preparation. As is often the case with wood surfaces that have to deal with Mother Nature, the old paint begins to flake, exposing raw wood. Before you pick up your paintbrush, you need to remove as much of the old, flaking paint as possible with a paint scraper.

If you have a large area in need of scraping, you’re best bet is to use a drill motor or cordless drill with an attachment specifically designed for stripping paint. A synthetic fiber wheel does a great job and lasts much longer than the old sandpaper wheels that are often used.

For very stubborn spots, you could also apply a chemical paint stripper. This, however, will mean that the job is going to take you longer to complete because the surface needs to be completely dry before moving on to the next step. Once the loose paint is removed, prime the raw wood with a good quality primer before applying a finished coat of paint.

Further Information


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46 Comments on “How To Paint Anything Outside”

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  • carol black Says:
    April 23rd, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    i have a concrete eagle standing on a rock what colour can i paint it it is outside in my garden

  • mike krecklau Says:
    October 31st, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    I’m spray paining my snowmobile suspension to get rid of rust. I started with rust encapsulator. Now I need to put on the top coat of paint. Now it states that I need to apply that in 70 degree weather. What would happen if I painted while it is only mid fifties? Would it just take longer? Of would I not get the adhesion I[ need?

  • Dennis Closser Says:
    June 21st, 2013 at 12:06 am

    I’m getting ready to paint a 104 year old train car..A Pullman, with a lot of oxidation, and some rust..I’m guessing its just iron, possibly old lead paint..But any and all tips would be greatly appreciated..Thanks so much

  • Kathleen Saavedra Says:
    January 21st, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    The wood siding outside of our home is old and was not maintained. I would like to paint it an off white. I believe I will need to prime then paint. The wood is dry. Do I need to oil it first and then give it time to cure before painting?

  • Bonnie Wylin Says:
    July 15th, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Painting natitive set for out doors. Thank you , on the right road with your help . Will let you no what they look like 🙂

  • Bernadette Says:
    April 25th, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    I have 6 different garden gnomes, all plastic and expensive. Weather has taken it’s toll on them and I am looking to hand paint them. Any suggestions on what paints I should use to refresh the gnomes and keep them looking that way for a few more years?

  • Mary Velegol Says:
    December 8th, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    I have a white baby jesus from a 4 foot nativity. Someone stole my original one the day after I put it out and I was able to get it but not in color. How can I paint it and what type of paint should I buy. i have someone that is willing to paint it but I need the right type of paint so it will hold up in the weather as it is for the yard. Can you please tell me what I can buy for them to paint it and what color would you suggest for the eyes as they are shut as he is asleep. Thank you for your suggestions.


  • Lisa Pope Says:
    November 28th, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    I have an old plastic santa that has faided over the years and I would like to give it a freash coat of paint. is there any brush on paint I could use? I’m just thinking spraying it might difficult because it is detailed with many different colors.

  • Estelle Says:
    November 1st, 2011 at 5:57 am

    I have wood trim on our house that is just awful. I would like to paint certain areas to make it look like wrought iron, without the rust. I know there is a spray paint Rustoleum makes, but the areas are rather large. Is there any paint that comes in a bucket I can use for exterior wood trim to give the appearance of unrusted wrought iron? Thanks for your help.

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    April 17th, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Hi Melody,
    Since painter’s tape doesn’t stick well to bricks, I would either paint carefully when using a brush, or use a paint shield for spraying. You can buy a large metal paint shield for spraying at painting stores, or make your own from a piece of sheet metal or cardboard, as we did in our video on How to Make a Homemade Paint Shield. For painting with a brush, I prefer to just be careful, or you can use a drywall knife as a paint shield. Check out our video on How to Use a Drywall Knife as a Paint Shield to find out more. Good luck with your project!

  • melody delozier Says:
    April 17th, 2011 at 6:10 am

    Hello I bet you get this alot but how would you tape the bricks or would you to paint with a portable sprayer (a wagner) to keep paint off the bricks.Would you have to use paper that would hong over the bricks or plastiic. Ive never done this before so just thought I would ask we have a nice but for a few things to fix about it

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    February 28th, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    Hi Fran,
    The maximum temperature will vary a bit depending on the brand and type of paint, and it should be given on the can of paint. That said, it’s usually around 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit. You can find more info on our site in the Ask Danny article on Temperature Range for Painting Your House.

  • Fran Says:
    February 27th, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    What should the outside temp be when painting outside?

  • Debra Rotkis Says:
    February 4th, 2011 at 10:37 am

    I have a window in my living room. When looking out you see a fence. I would like to paint a scenic picture on it.Can I do this? If so, what do i use. Thanks, Deb.

  • Greg Says:
    November 3rd, 2010 at 8:17 am

    In regards to all the Nativity questions about paint. You can repaint them. Use 3M Easy Stripper to take remaining paint off, mask area’s off for painting using green automotive tape and you can use the spray paints for plastic such as Krylon Fusion. Check out for a complete write-up on there. It has a complete how-to on repainting your blowmolded plastic Nativity items.

  • BethKoenig Says:
    September 27th, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    as many of us on this site asked how do I paint an out door plastic nativity scene, alot of us would love to know thank you

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    June 14th, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Hi Lori,
    I use plastic sheeting to keep spray paint off nearby objects, but avoid laying plastic on grass or shrubs, since the heat from the sun can kill it. Old sheets or blankets also work well. Good luck with your project!

  • lori Says:
    June 11th, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    I am spray painting a wrought iron fense that I can’t remove. I do not want to get paint all over the house. What do you suggest I put around it to keep the paint only on the fense?

  • Christy Says:
    February 1st, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    I have the same question as others… And also I would like to add one thing, for the Nativity scenes, what material would I use to repair wholes in areas (like the nose of the wise man). I don’t care if it is spray paint unlike the others who asked before.
    October 2nd, 2009 at 3:33 pm
    10-2-09, Hello! I would like to paint an outdoor plastic Nativity figure. It is the kind of Nativity Set where each figure is lighted with a light bulb inside. What type of paint would you recommend ? I’d like to brush the paint on and not spray it. Thanks so much! Sandy Smith
    January 2nd, 2010 at 8:39 pm
    I too have an outdoor plastic nativity scene that needs touch up. Each piece is lighted from within, with a light bulb. What type of paint, other than spray paint, would you reccomend, I would like it to be durable, translucent and not melt because of the heat of the bulbs. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  • Patrick Says:
    January 2nd, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    I too have an outdoor plastic nativity scene that needs touch up. Each piece is lighted from within, with a light bulb. What type of paint, other than spray paint, would you reccomend, I would like it to be durable, translucent and not melt because of the heat of the bulbs. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  • Del Says:
    December 10th, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    I too have a nativity scene with life-size plastic figures that need touch-up. What kind of paint should be used? It needs to be somewhat translucent so that the light can shine through. They appear to be made of the same plastic as milk jugs. Also, what kind of clear-coat would you recommend to keep the existing paint from chipping every time one of the figures falls over?


  • Deb Says:
    December 7th, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    I have an outdoor plastic nativity scene that needs touch up. Each peace is lighted from within. Please advise on the type of paint to use. Thank you.

  • Ron Says:
    November 21st, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    I would like to know the answer to the questions being asked about the outdoor lighted Navitivity figures and what type of paint to paint them!
    Thank you

  • Charlene Says:
    October 25th, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    I too would like to know what paints to use on a plastic Nativity Set where each one is lighted. They are very faded.

  • sandy smith Says:
    October 2nd, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    10-2-09, Hello! I would like to paint an outdoor plastic Nativity figure. It is the kind of Nativity Set where each figure is lighted with a light bulb inside. What type of paint would you recommend ? I’d like to brush the paint on and not spray it. Thanks so much! Sandy Smith

  • steve harris Says:
    September 26th, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    have purchased a dragon that is concrete will be paint what primer an what paint

  • Diana Says:
    July 5th, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    How do I paint steel garage doors? There is some water damage(RUST)the doors.

  • Betty Says:
    June 30th, 2009 at 8:07 am

    What other paint can I use on plastic. I have lots of large plastic pots which would take more paint. I have a spray gun and would like to use it and will be able to cover more with the gun.

  • Tom Says:
    May 6th, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    To Whom it may concern,
    I am in the process of trying to strip a metal roof in preparation to repaint it.
    The porch roof has several layers of old roof paint which has flaked off in sections, and areas which are still solid. I do not want to just paint over the old, because of the uneven holes which will make the roof uneven.
    I have tried several strippers combined with scraping such as “clean strip” the task is daunting and I have already committed many hours. I seem to be getting no where.
    I have tried a grinder with a sanding attachment, a paint stripping hand tool, to little effect.
    I really want to prep this roof properly and make the surface even when painted.
    Any tricks or guidance?,
    Thank You in advance,
    Frustrated in New Castle,

  • Robert Mack Says:
    April 24th, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Hi Danny:

    Concerning painting metal roof vents: Is it better to paint over bare galvanized metal as above or paint over one of the manufacturers colors to achieve your specific color?

    For instance: Paint terra cotta color over dark brown O’Hagin composistion roof vent.

  • Thomas Miller Says:
    April 1st, 2009 at 9:46 am

    I am working on my BSA Eagle project. I need to get a old steel street lamp post ready to paint then paint. I would appreciate any information I can use on this project.
    Thomas Miller
    p.o. Box 163
    Tonganoxie, KS 66086

  • Nancy Says:
    March 22nd, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    We want to paint a logo on the outside wall of a cinder-block concession stand. What kind of paint would we need? Thanks

  • Kathy Says:
    January 28th, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    We would like to repaint our concrete porch, it has been painted and the paint chipped, then outdoor carpet glued on it and we eventually pulled it up. I would like to make it look like it has flat rocks with grout in between, how would I start and what products would I need.

  • maria Says:
    November 17th, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    We would like to paint the outside wood fascia board of our house at the end of November when my brother comes to help me. Can we paint when the weather is between 40 to 60 degrees?? I have been told that the paint will flake if it is applied when it’s too cold.

  • dusty Says:
    November 8th, 2008 at 6:10 am

    what kind of paint would you suggest i use.

  • dusty Says:
    November 7th, 2008 at 6:57 am

    I have a mobile home that needs painting.what kind of paint should I use should I prime first should I roll it on or spray if I spray paint it paint goes everywhere.

  • John C Says:
    November 3rd, 2008 at 12:46 am

    I have an old nativity set that is lacking some color. What kind of paint can I use, that is not necessarly in a spray can.

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    November 7th, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    J. Wargacki,
    Be sure to remove any mildew first using a bleach and water solution. If the mildew/mold has gotten underneath the painted surface, you have a bigger problem on your hands, and you might have to replace it.

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    November 7th, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    It is best to paint over primer within 30 days of application. After that it might begin to chaulk and the top coat will not adhere to it as well. Perhaps you could prime and paint part of the house before winter rather than priming it all.

  • J. Wargacki Says:
    October 28th, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    What is the best way to prep masonite for repainting? The original white paint is now shows dark areas possible mildew.

    Awaiting your reply.

  • paul Says:
    October 13th, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    I am hiring a contractor to install a custom wrought iron metal fence at my house in Minneapolis. We want to paint it black.

    I am hearing different stories about whether to galvanize the iron before painting.

    Any advise out there on whether to galvanize?


  • Jacqui Says:
    October 11th, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    We are almost done with the prep work for painting the outside of our home. My question is, what if the weather turns bad and we can only get the primer on. We live in north Idaho. Will we need have to put primer on again in the Spring? Our home was built in 1920 and has never had any of the paint removed, just layer after layer of paint. Thanks for any help you can give me.

  • Official Comment:

    Nicholas Roussos Says:
    September 17th, 2007 at 11:52 am


    Ben, our web editor, made a comment about painting decks not too long ago. It didn’t sound like that great of an idea to me.

  • Donna Says:
    September 16th, 2007 at 10:09 am

    Can you paint a wooden deck with semi-gloss paint? or with any other type of paint?? Or do you have to stain it, because it is a deck?

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How To Paint Anything Outside