For a durable, attractive finish to an outdoor shed or playhouse, choosing the right paint or stain should be your No. 1 priority. Using the wrong paint, or improperly applying it, will result in peeling and cracking in one year or less, requiring repainting. Save yourself the extra hassle of doing the job twice by doing it the right way the first time.
Use Only Fresh Paint or Stain
Never use old paint or paint from questionable sources. Odds are good that this paint sat in an unheated area over the winter, and it has frozen and then thawed. Paint that has frozen is rendered ineffective and will peel in less than one year.
Choose Exterior Grade
Use only paint that is clearly labelled "Exterior Grade." These paints have been formulated to take the weather. If you use an interior-grade paint, it will wash completely off in the first rain.
According to Bob Vila of "This Old House" fame, prep work is an all-important step. Scrape off loose flakes of old paint, and thoroughly wash all surfaces to remove accumulated dirt and grime. Wear a respirator during the scraping process in case you generate a lot of dust.
Primer and Paint
After scraping and washing, apply an exterior primer to the surface. The purpose of the primer is to seal the wood, because it penetrates deep into the pores. Allow the primer to dry, then apply paint. If you paint without first applying primer, the paint will flake off in the course of a single summer.
For bare, unfinished wood, exterior stains are a good alternative. Unlike paint, stains penetrate deep into the pores, sealing the wood from the effects of rain. Stains also allow the natural wood grain to show, which can be an attractive look for a log-cabin-type of outbuilding or playhouse.
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