How to Paint Outdoor Wood Furniture

Looking to refresh your outdoor furniture? Get a step-by-step tutorial to find out how to paint outdoor wood furniture so it will last.

painted wooden bench outside patio furniture

When I shared how to paint outdoor metal furniture, I was pleasantly surprised by two things: 1) how many of you needed the tutorial! and 2) how many of you were ready for its companion post on how to paint outdoor wood furniture. Fortunately, I’m ready today with my tutorial for painting wooden patio furniture, just in time for summer to begin.

Wooden outdoor furniture can be hard to maintain, but the good news is that painting wood furniture is easy! I’ll show you step by step how to do so as soon as I answer a few FAQs.

Painting Wood Furniture FAQs

What is the best paint for outdoor wood furniture?

The most common question I received when sharing this project on Instagram was what kind of paint to use on outdoor furniture. For outdoor metal furniture, I always recommend oil-based paint, but for outdoor wood furniture, I think that high-quality exterior latex paint is acceptable, as well.

I actually chose to use the leftover trim paint from our exterior makeover so that the pieces I painted would coordinate perfectly with our home. Whatever type of paint you choose, be sure it is an exterior paint. And remember that generally the shinier/glossier the finish, the more durable it will be, so satin, semi gloss, or gloss is probably best.

black painted bench on patio

Do I need to prime?

Generally speaking, primer is important for furniture that will be outside. Remember, you are not just painting for looks, but also for weather protection. Primer can help seal the wood and protect it from taking on moisture, which is the enemy when it comes to patio furniture’s longevity.

Can I spray paint my outdoor furniture?

Yes! And no. I have often spray painted outdoor furniture (get my step-by-step tutorial here), but I will be the first to admit that a spray paint job simply doesn’t hold up as long as a high-quality hand painted job. Spray painted furniture is better for covered porches and lower-traffic outdoor furniture.

Can I paint something that wasn’t painted previously?

Absolutely. For painting unfinished bare wood, you will want to be sure to use a high-quality primer that is for raw wood. For painting something that was previously oiled (like that brown acacia finish that is so often used for outdoor furniture), you’ll want to make sure the entire piece gets a light sanding to even things out and a high-quality primer that will adhere to the old finish. If there is any build-up of the old oil finish, you might even want to clean the piece with mineral spirits before priming.

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How to Paint Wood Outdoor Furniture

For this project, I painted two little wooden benches that had been painted previously and were very badly chipped. I also painted some old directors’ chairs that had that brown wood finish (though it was very badly worn). Both were probably 15 years old and had sat outside in the rain and sun for most of that time.

chipped old white painted outdoor furniture
old wooden outdoor director's chairs

And now they look good as new!

black and gray outdoor director's chairs by pool | Maison de Pax

Here are the materials you’ll need to repaint your wooden outside furniture:

Looking to refresh your outdoor furniture? Follow these simple steps for a beautiful, quality finish!

  1. Sand

    Give the entire piece a light sanding with a palm sander. Be sure to remove any flaking paint or mildew-y build up, and smooth the old finish to receive the new one.

    Note: if your piece is particularly muddy, moldy, or gross, you may want to add an extra cleaning step BEFORE sanding. You will still need to clean again after sanding. You’re welcome. 😉sanding chipping paint in preparation for painting outdoor furniture

  2. Clean

    Remove all sanding dust. You can pressure wash, wipe with an old rag, use a cleaner, whatever you like… Just make sure that in the end, there is no dirt, no mildew, no sanding dust, and the piece is DRY before you start priming and painting.

  3. Prime

    Tip: First, turn the piece upside down. Always prime and paint the underside first.

    Using a brush or trim roller, apply a coat of high-quality exterior primer. Kilz 2 or Zinsser 1-2-3 are good latex primer options, but Original Kilz or Zinsser BIN primer, both of which are oil based, will cover up imperfections in the previous finish better. In short, you can prime with any exterior primer, but use an oil based one if your piece’s previous finish was in particularly bad shape.priming wood furniture for outdoor use

  4. Paint

    My favorite way to paint small furniture pieces is with a trim roller. You will also need a brush to get narrow spaces and seams. As with primer, start by painting the underside of the piece, then flip it over to paint the top. You will need two coats of paint, but be sure to follow the drying times on the back of the paint can between your base coat and top coat.

All paint, even latex paint, takes several days to a couple of weeks to fully cure. If rain is in the forecast, keep the paint inside if you can. Once the paint is fully cured, put the pieces outside and enjoy!

black painted bench outside on deck
Black painted bench on patio


And be sure to pin this for later!

how to paint outdoor furniture so it will last | Maison de Pax

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  1. Wow!! Your house looks like a fancy resort!! Thanks for the painting tips!! I need to do a little painting myself!!

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