How to Paint a Porch for Upgraded Outdoor Living

Revive your wood porch with a fresh coat of paint using our step-by-step tutorial on how to deep clean and prep the wood for a perfectly smooth finish.

porch with red front door
Photo: Annie Schlechter
Project Overview
  • Total Time: 3 days
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Paint not only adds instant curb appeal to your porch, but it also provides a layer of protection, too, safeguarding wood from foot traffic, spills, and storms. Whether your porch was previously painted or you’re working with bare wood, the prep work is much the same. The key in both cases is taking the necessary steps before you paint.

“Be sure to take the time to prep,” says Brittany Griffith, assistant product manager of concrete coatings for Valspar. “Most coating failure comes from lack of proper prep.” Indeed, preparation is the bulk of the work, and the more thorough you can be, the better. However, the steps below are not entirely prescriptive—the condition of your porch will determine how much cleaning and repair need to be done before painting.

The type of paint you choose will also influence how you apply it. It’s important to read the manufacturer’s instructions for all primers, paints, and cleaners used—before and during the process—to make sure you prep surfaces and apply paint to your porch in the best way. To paint a concrete porch floor, check out these easy-to-follow steps. Otherwise, follow our step-by-step tutorial, below, for instructions on painting a wood porch in a weekend.

Before You Begin: If it’s possible your porch was last painted around 1978 or earlier, it may be lead-based paint. To take proper precautions, you should have it tested before beginning any work.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 3 Drop cloths
  • Broom
  • Vacuum
  • Power washer (optional)
  • Paint scraper
  • Wire brush
  • Sandpaper
  • 2 Rubber gloves
  • Protective eyewear
  • Painters tape
  • Polyester paint brush
  • Paint roller
  • Paint roller extension pole


  • TSP cleaner
  • Wood filler
  • Caulk
  • Latex exterior primer
  • Latex porch floor paint


  1. Choose the right paint and primer for your porch

    Paired with proper preparation, the right porch paint will ensure a long-lasting finish. "For the best results, we recommend a primer prior to coating, even when the surface has been previously coated," Griffith says. "This is the key to longevity and creating the best environment for adhesion of the new coat of paint."

    For porch railings and posts, Griffith recommends an exterior door and trim paint on top of an exterior latex primer. For floors and stairs, look for paints designated for porch or patio floors. A water-based latex paint is easy to clean, durable, and resists fading. You can also look for latex paints with enhancements, like heat resistance (perfect for sun-drenched porches!) or non-skid additives. Some paints do include a primer, though, so check the can to confirm before you decide to prime.

    When choosing paint for your porch, think about how you use your outdoor space, too. Lighter colors reflect heat and will feel cooler than dark colors, while a non-glossy shine might have more grip when the surface is wet.

  2. Check the weather

    Most paints have a recommended temperature and humidity for application. Plan to paint your porch when there are a few anticipated days of dry weather in the recommended range suggested on your paint can. Between cleaning, priming, and painting (and depending on the size of the porch), you might need to spread the project out over a few days. Allowing everything to dry completely is one of the biggest factors in success, so be patient!

  3. Clean the porch

    Remove furniture, plants, and decor from the porch. If you have plants nearby, consider covering them with a drop cloth to help protect them during cleaning and painting.

    For best results, you need a surface that's clean and lacks peeling paint, splinters, and rough patches. Begin by clearing away surface dirt and debris with a broom, vacuum, or power washer. If powerwashing your porch, be sure to start with a low-pressure setting; a spray that's too powerful can damage the wood. Even if you're just painting a porch floor, cleaning around the bottom of the railings and the home's exterior will give you the clean surface needed for applying painters tape.

    Many paints recommend washing the intended surface with a TSP solution to remove grease and stains as part of the preparation. Follow manufacturer's instructions for cleaning with TSP, including wearing protective eyewear and gloves.

  4. Prep the porch for paint

    If your porch was previously painted, scrape away remaining loose and peeling paint with a paint scraper or wire brush, being sure to get between any gaps and cracks in the floorboards. Note that you are not trying to remove all the paint, just what's already coming off the surface.

    For porches with a lot of existing paint in good condition, sanding will help take off the finish and allow the surface to better receive paint. Use protective eyewear when removing paint and sanding.

    For bare and painted wood, remove splinters and take care of loose nails. Fill gouges and cracks with filler, then sand to prep it for paint. For separations between porch rails, spindles, and flooring, fill the gap with caulk. This filling will give the paint coating more evenness and consistency when complete.

    Griffith also recommends sanding down any rough edges. When you're done, it's a good idea to vacuum or wipe the surface down again to remove any debris left from sanding. Let dry before priming your porch.

  5. Apply painters tape

    When you're ready to paint, apply painters tape as needed to porch edges, corners, and along the house exterior. If you're painting railings, a drop cloth underfoot will save the floor from drips.

  6. Prime and paint the porch

    It's best to work top-down when painting a porch, so if you're going to be painting railings, do those before the porch floor. Check out these tips for getting the best finish on railings.

    Apply primer and paint per manufacturer's instructions. Use a premium polyester paint brush for the railing, around the perimeter, between floorboards, the stairs, and for any spots that need a little extra attention.

    For the rest of the porch floor, use a roller brush on an extension pole. Valspar recommends a roller with 1/4- or 3/8-inch nap for porches, but the texture of the floor might influence your choice (the smoother the surface, the smaller the nap needed).

    Griffith recommends a second coat for best results. Allow adequate time to dry between coats, and again before moving furniture and decor back onto the porch.

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