Choosing the right exterior paint for your garden can be complicated, as there are a range of surfaces requiring different finishes, including render, woodwork, metal, brick and stucco. On many older homes, you will find a combination of these materials.
Fortunately, there is an exterior paint for every type of surface, and most paints are suitable for more than one application. Make your outdoor area as visually inspiring and colourful as indoors by treating furniture and garden buildings with these exterior paints and varnishes.
Tips on using paint in your garden
- Use garden and outdoor surfaces as an additional way to add colour to the garden. This is especially useful to create interest when the garden is bare.
- Choose your colours carefully and stick to your colour theme for the best effect. Then use the plants as highlights to lift the effect and introduce contrast.
- Before you start painting or treating any surface make sure it is clean and properly prepared. Spend time on preparation or you will end up redoing your efforts sooner than you think.
- Don’t leave damaged paintwork unrepaired. Sand it lightly and apply an overcoat to prevent moisture getting in and affecting a larger area or rotting the timber beneath.
- Check the eco credentials of any product you intend to use in your garden. Children, plants, pets and wildlife need to be safe, so check the labels and be sure you know what you are using.
- Paints and varnishes sit on the surface of the wood and create a protective layer. When it’s time to reapply you need to sand them back before you recoat. Oils and wood stains penetrate the timber giving additional protection and offer greater resistance to damage or flaking. When you need to reapply you can just clean the surface and add an extra layer.
One of the most beautiful finishes for external walls is limewash, which is made from lime and water, in a range of mostly pastel shades. It is ideal for porous surfaces such as brick, stone, lime plaster or roughcast and needs renewing about every five years. You will find it readily available at retailers such as Mike Wye, which also runs training courses in the use of natural paints.
Masonry paint is ideal for refreshing greying render and is available in a broad, sophisticated palette. Opt for a texture if you need to disguise fine surface cracks. It is best not to paint brickwork, which if already painted can be carefully stripped to reveal the original surface underneath.
The downside to masonry paint is that it is not breathable in the same way that limewash is, although paint companies have reduced the levels of VOCs contained in it, making it a more environmentally friendly option.
There is a wide range of paint available for exterior woodwork, with most manufacturers producing a wood gloss or eggshell suitable for exterior use, which can be used for applications ranging from painting a timber conservatory to a summerhouse or outdoor furniture. Make sure you prepare the wood properly with an appropriate primer, to prevent the wood from absorbing the paint and to ensure an even finish.
Metal paint needs to be very robust, for protecting railings, gates, guttering and furniture. Exterior eggshells are often suitable, but sometimes the higher sheen level of a gloss adds a sense of grandeur. Metal usually requires priming before painting, but some brands, such as Hammerite can be applied directly on to metal.
Historically, exterior joinery was usually painted, with front doors particularly singled out for special treatment. Porches, barge-boards, fascias and soffits were also often painted, with popular colours including dark reds, greens, browns, ochres, black, white, and cream. Brighter blues, greens and yellows were also used in the Victorian and Edwardian eras
For versatility choose Mylands of London Wood & Metal Paint, it can be used indoors or out and is available in three finishes (matt, eggshell and gloss) and a choice of 120 colours. 1-litre costs £26 and covers around 14 m²
Give your shed or potting shed the royal treatment with a coat of Protek Royal Exterior, available in 58 colours. Price £62.99 for 5-litres. Covers 8 m² per litre per coat
Transform you garden furniture, pots, walls and fences with one coat of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. It’s suitable for all metal and wooden furniture and accessories (except teak). There are 33 colours. Price £18.95 for 1-litre, covers 13 m²
For raised beds, toys, around plants and even for beehives, choose the truly eco AURO 160 Woodstain. Price £12.98 for 375-mls, covers approx 5m² and requires 2-3 coats for maximum protection outdoors
Paint your garden surfaces with Sadolin Garden Colours to create a colour theme to suit your garden style. Available in 8 colours. Price from £28.99 for 2.5 litres, covers 15m² per litre
A gloss finish is ideal for garden furniture. This Sandtex 10 Year Exterior Gloss comes in 13 colours, price £17.64 for 750ml, covers 11m² per litre
Cuprinol’s Garden Shades come in 54 colours, price £14.27 per litre, covers up to 12 m² on smooth planed wood
Nourish your untreated garden timber and keep it looking good all year round with the extensive range of oils and stains from Ronseal. Its Ultimate Protection Hardwood Garden Furniture Oil costs £13.99 for 1-litre and covers 6m² with 3 coats
Smarten up your garden decking with a wax enriched decking stain. Johnstone’s Decking Stain protects the wood from mould and resists fading, peeling and cracking. Available in three shades, price £23.36 for 2.5-litres, covers up to 12m²
Give exterior spaces a new lease of life with one of the 132 timeless colour shades from Farrow & Ball. Available in three eco-friendly paint finishes suitable for exteriors