Common Paint and Wood Finishes

A paint brush applying primer.

Nearly all paint and wood finishes used for exterior projects can be divided into water-based or solvents. Generally, water-based products are easier to use and more friendly to the environment. Solvent types are thought to be more durable, but are more difficult to use and clean up after. While it is best to always follow a manufacturer’s instructions, the following article discusses where, how and why to use the listed paints and finishes.

Primer is used to seal bare surfaces - masonry especially. An ideal sealer, it is only to be used on bare surfaces. Many also double as preservers. Primer should be applied to a surface with a brush.

Primer undercoat is simply a primer and an undercoat all in one. Used on bare wood, it provides a base for your topcoat. Essentially a water-based product, primer undercoat can be applied with a brush, roller and even airless sprayer.

Undercoat is usually a dull or neutral finish that provides the base for the topcoat. It can be applied to any primed surface with a brush or a roller. It is more time-consuming than simply using the primer undercoat, but it may be more durable.

Masonry paint is available in both smooth and textured varieties. Smooth masonry paint can be purchased as flat or semigloss and should be used on a smooth masonry surface. It has great coverage potential, although it may reveal imperfections that textured finishes can hide. Apply with a brush, roller or airless sprayer.

Textured masonry paint has a gritty quality that can be applied to nearly any masonry surface. It does not have great coverage potential, but it will hide imperfections of your surface. A textured finished coat is a thick paint that can be applied to any masonry surface that is very durable and capable of hiding cracks or other surface imperfections.

Glossy paint can be applied to nearly any surface that has an undercoat. It conveys both polish and shine. Apply it with a brush or roller for a hardwearing surface that will be easy to clean.

Metal finishing paint can be applied to most any metal surface (not aluminum). It can be applied with a brush, roller or aerosol spray.

Varnish can be applied to both bare wood and wood stained surfaces. Available in gloss, semigloss and matte finishes, varnish is clear finish that will completely seal a surface. Apply with a brush.

Stain comes in many sheens and hues to convey a natural wood finish. It is applied to bare surfaces with a brush. Once applied, it is difficult to change colors so choose carefully.

Oil is a natural wood finish that penetrates deeply into the surface for rich preservation. Apply with a brush or cloth to bare wood.

Wood preservative can be applied to bare or previously preserved surfaces to help ward off decay. Use a brush or airless sprayer to apply, and apply on a regular basis.

Knowing these common finishes should allow you to pick the best products to suit your outdoor paint needs. Again, read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to insure proper usage.

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