Choosing the Right Paint: A Guide to Exterior Finishes

Share Article

A fresh coat of paint can revitalize the exterior of any property, but choosing the right paint is more complex than simply picking a color you like. Exterior paints come in various finishes and formulations, and the right choice depends on the material you're painting, the climate you live in, and the level of durability and maintenance you require. This guide will explore the different types of exterior paints and finishes, helping you to select the best option for your particular needs.

Understanding Paint Finishes

Exterior paint finishes determine the final look and functionality of your paint job. The most common finishes are matte, satin, semi-gloss, and gloss; each has its own set of properties.

Matte Finish: Matte, or flat, paints have a non-reflective finish that's good for hiding surface imperfections. They are often used on siding where a softer appearance is desired. However, they can be more prone to staining and are generally harder to clean.

Satin Finish: Satin paints have a slight sheen and are more durable than matte finishes. They are easier to clean and are a good choice for siding, doors, and trim, offering a balanced level of durability and aesthetic appeal.

Semi-Gloss Finish: Semi-gloss paints offer a higher level of shine and are very durable. This finish is easy to clean and resistant to moisture, making it an excellent choice for windowsills, trim, and other surfaces that endure more wear and tear.

Gloss Finish: Gloss paints have the highest level of sheen and durability. They are very easy to clean but will show more surface imperfections. Often used for doors and shutters, gloss paint can make these features stand out.

Types of Exterior Paints and Their Properties

Exterior paints are formulated to withstand the rigors of the outdoor environment, from ultraviolet (UV) light to extreme temperatures and moisture. Let’s discuss different types and their preferred use cases:

Acrylic Latex Paint

Best For: Most exterior surfaces, including wood, brick, and stucco.

Properties: Acrylic latex paints are popular due to their ease of application and quick drying time. They’re flexible, which means they won’t crack or blister easily, and they resist fading and mildew.

Oil-Based Paint

Best For: Surfaces that are prone to heavy wear or that have existing oil-based paint.

Properties: Oil-based paints take longer to dry and require solvents for cleanup but are known for their durability and smooth application. They can be ideal for surfaces that need a tougher finish.

Elastomeric Paints

Best For: Masonry, concrete, stucco, and surfaces with cracks.

Properties: This type of paint creates a waterproof and durable coating that can bridge small cracks and gaps. It's extremely thick and requires special application techniques.

Choosing Paint for Different Materials

Wood: Look for a paint that's flexible enough to move with the wood as it expands and contracts with temperature changes. Acrylic latex is usually the preferred choice for wooden surfaces due to its durability and ease of maintenance.

Vinyl: Vinyl-safe paints are formulated to stick to vinyl and come in a variety of finishes. Make sure the color you choose is recommended for vinyl, as darker colors can absorb heat and cause warping.

Brick: Choose a paint that's breathable, like masonry paint or mineral paint, to allow moisture to escape from the bricks. Avoid using non-breathable paints, as trapped moisture can cause the paint to peel.

Stucco: Elastomeric and acrylic paints work well with stucco because of their flexibility and ability to fill in cracks.

Tips for Durability & Weather Resistance

A successful exterior paint job relies on choosing a paint that can withstand your local weather conditions.

Climate Considerations: If you live in an area with extreme temperatures, look for a paint that's designed to withstand these conditions, whether it's heat resistance or flexibility in cold weather.

UV Resistance: To prevent fading, choose paint that's formulated to resist UV radiation, particularly if you live in a sunny area.

Mold and Mildew Resistance: For homes in humid climates, mold and mildew resistance is important. Many exterior paints include additives to inhibit the growth of these fungi.


Choosing the right paint for your property's exterior ensures not only an aesthetically pleasing result but also protection for your home. An informed choice, based on the material of your home and local climate, coupled with the desired finish, will help your paint job last longer and look better. Always start with a good quality primer specific to your surface and follow the manufacturer's instructions for the best results. Remember, the right preparation and proper application are just as crucial as the paint you choose.