How To Paint A Wood Deck Or Front Porch (We Did Subtle Stripes)

At this point you’ve probably all seen the big front porch makeover that we recently completed for the 48-Hour Challenge with Better Homes & Gardens and Home Depot. And now we’re back with a super simple tutorial for anyone looking to spruce up an old timeworn wood deck or breathe new life into a seen-better-days front porch. Back when we decided to pull the paint trigger on our front porch, we actually opted to go with some subtle tan and cream stripes. Here’s how it all went down.


Step 1: Pick A Color… Or In Our Case, Colors. We took home a bunch of paint swatches and laid them out on the porch floor so we could look at them in the same natural light that the front of our house gets every day. Looking at a number of tan and cream swatches in place helped us to decide that Behr’s Harvest Brown (tan) and Ralph Lauren’s Greenwich (cream) were the perfect combination, so we had them both color matched to a gallon each of Behr Porch & Floor Paint (which is meant to handle foot traffic and exterior conditions). We were given the choice of a glossy paint finish or a flat one and we opted for the flat finish since we reasoned that it would be less slick in wet conditions so that’s definitely something to consider for your project as well (we’ve since marched around the deck in the rain and we’re happy to report that it’s the same texture as unpainted wood).

Step 2: Hose Things Down. You want your deck to be nice and clean before applying the paint, so you may want to scrub things down with a wood cleaner (available at Home Depot or Lowe’s) before you get down to the business of painting (especially if you have severe mildew or grease and oil stains anywhere on your deck or porch). Our deck was already pretty clean, so we just sprayed each plank down at close range with a hose and a nozzle that was set on “full spray” which blasted any pollen, old acorn pieces and other debris off of the deck for a nice clean slate. We also used a flat head screw driver to knock out any rocks or leaves from between the wood planks before we cracked open the paint. Here’s our porch right before we hosed her down:


Step 3: Protect The House. You’ll definitely want to use blue painter’s tape to tape off the side of the house that meets the deck or porch so you have no worries about getting any of your floor paint on the siding, stucco or brick facade of your home. This will give you a nice clean line when you remove the tape, and it’ll also make it a lot easier to paint each plank of wood without worrying about staying in the lines. At this point you can get out a good quality angled brush (it’s much better than a roller since it’ll get in the cracks between the wood) and your paint because it’s go time… as long as the deck is thoroughly dry from your hosing off session (the last thing you want to do is attempt to paint moist wood).

Step 4: Start Painting. In our case we had two colors of paint, so we opened them both and used two different brushes to apply each stripe of color (being especially careful not to mix up the brush and the correlating can of paint). Whenever you’re painting a floor you have to strategically start painting at a point that makes it easy to paint yourself out of the area, and in this case we started at one end of the deck and worked our way to the center where the stairs are:


Step 5: Keep Painting. I’m not gonna lie. The striped effect took a substantial amount of time, so just keep at it and paint each plank and listen to your iPod and get into a rhythm so you’re not constantly thinking “two down, fifty nine to go”- which can really kill the excitement factor.


Step 6: Plan Your Escape. I decided early on that in the case of our front porch, the best approach would be to paint myself to the front steps and then stop and restart from the opposite corner of the deck so I could finish by painting myself down the front steps and enter the house from the back door while the front dried. Due to the striped effect it meant one thing. It was IMPERATIVE that I correctly calculated which planks would be tan and which planks would be cream so I could accurately restart painting at the opposite end of the deck without messing up my pattern (I counted “tan, cream, tan, cream” down each plank three times just to be sure before I grabbed my brushes and went to town).


Step 7: Be Edgy. After I painted myself off the front porch, you can see in the picture above that I still had to paint the side of the wood planks all around the porch for a finished look. I opted to stick to tan on the sides of each plank instead of alternating so that only the top of the planks boasted alternating colors while the side/front of the decking was all tan for a crisp look (which was a lot easier to apply than alternating colors would have been).

Step 8: Dance it out. You’re Done! Once you paint the edge of your wood planks all around the perimeter of your porch or deck, you’re finished. Well, assuming one coat does the trick like it did with ours. We actually liked the subtly weathered look of one coat, but for a super solid and opaque effect you might want to apply a second coat 24+ hours later when it’s safe to walk on the deck or porch again.


Oh and you may have noticed two photos up that we’d previously painted the front of our steps and the wide plank of wood around the deck in the same tan tone that we used for our stripes. This is an excellent way to accent a front porch and break up a whole lotta wood, so if anyone’s on the fence about painting their entire porch or deck, painting just the fronts of the steps and the trim around it can be a super simple way to add a bit of crispness to your entryway. Here’s the before picture of the front steps totally bare last fall:


To keep the paint from getting on the actual planks of the stairs, you can tape things off or even use a piece of cardboard to block any drips or accidental swipes like we did below:


Here’s a picture of the front of the steps after we painted them tan along with the wood “front” that encircles the porch. It took less than an hour and we didn’t even have to use porch and floor paint since it didn’t need to withstand foot traffic (we just grabbed some leftover trim paint from the railings and went to town without spending a dime). The lesson? Whether you’re interested in adding a little bit of zing with some painted porch “trim”…


…or a whole lotta polish and personality with a painted (and maybe even a striped) porch floor, there’s really nothing hard about either process. If you can paint a wall, you can definitely paint a deck or a porch floor… and you’ll be doing the happy dance in no time.


Wanna learn more about floor painting? Check out two old tutorials to learn how to stain a concrete floor or even paint one for a more polished and finished effect.


  1. says

    It really does look so much lighter and airy with the newly painted front porch. We have to work on our front porch this summer and back deck as well. The spindles on our porch are blue and the back deck is a shade of light blue. The previous owners really loved blue as nearly every room in the house is a shade of blue as well, which is also on our to paint list.

  2. JM says

    Great tip with the painter’s tape. The homeowners before us painted their front, back and side steps without using a tape barrier and now we have splotches or gray paint all over our siding around those doors. It’s not so attractive and welcoming to guests :)

    Great tutorial! I just wish I had a front porch to use it on.

  3. says

    For the best results you should have cleaned the deck with an actual deck/wood cleaner rather than just water before painting. I noticed you still had mildew on the steps after you sprayed it down with just water. One of my neighbors painted their porch and had stains seep through since they didn’t fully prepare the surface first. Preparation is the most important part of painting anything – whether it is a door, wall or deck. :)

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Heather S- Great point! The mildew you saw on the deck stairs was actually something that we worried about seeping through the paint, but last fall when we painted the front of our steps and the trim around the deck we waited and waited for the mildew that we painted over to show through. And it didn’t. Using porch and floor paint gave us even more insurance that any mildew spots were a thing of the past (it’s a stronger formula built to stand up to wear and tear so it’s tougher than the normal exterior trim paint that we used last fall on the front of the steps). True to our suspicions, nothing has ever come through. But of course it never hurts to be extra thorough, so anyone with oil stains or severe mildew might want to scrub down their deck with wood cleaner before taking this project on!

      Rev- Also a good point about the cream color holding up without looking dirty. We definitely had the same worry in the beginning of the project, but we reasoned that concrete is a light tan, gray or beige color (the floor of our garage is a pale taupe concrete) and it actually stands up pretty well to foot traffic and dirt. We also reasoned that people would just be walking up our slate walkway so it’s not like they’d be jumping in mud puddles on their way to the front door. We’ve actually had a pretty rainy spring and the front porch still looks flawless (no mud marks or foot prints) except for the thin coat of yellow pollen that’s covering everything (yuck!) which can easily be hosed off at the end of pollen season. Whew.


  4. Rev says

    Great tutorial. Love the look, but I wonder if the cream is such a good idea fo r outside. It’s gonna be interesting seeing how that cream paint holds up under foot traffic – I think its going to look dirty very quickly! Either that, or your gonna constantly be cleaning it.

  5. Rowan says

    For peace of mind for keeping track of which plank is which colour when painting from each end, I would make a small letter mark using chalk to indicate if it were to be T or C before beginning painting.

    Now if only I had a porch to paint!

  6. SSM says

    Looks great.

    JM-You can get graffiti cleaner type stuff at any home improvement store to help clean up paint spills. We have the same issue and I just bought some. I haven’t used it yet, but hopefully it’ll do the trick.

  7. Noelle says

    Looks awesome. I paint a lot, and I’m a huge fan of the roller. Could you have, first, rollered every other plank, (without caring about getting it on the opposite planks). Then after those dried, could you have slid newspaper or something down each side of the plank, creased it so it lays flat, and then rollered away again? Then moved the paper over to the next one. The crease would protect the first set of painted planks, and hopefully, not fall through the crack. I’m a laaazy girl, so just a thought.

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Noelle,

      Your theory sounds totally doable except for one small detail. Our planks aren’t actually pressed together extremely tightly, so it was important for us to use a brush to actually get into the cracks between each board so when you stood up and surveyed the porch you wouldn’t see strips of unpainted wood peeking through each crack. By getting in there with a brush it really made the whole thing look expertly painted and polished (even from afar- there were no slivers of wood peeking through anymore). You certainly could have painted in between each beam with a brush first and then tried your rolling method once the areas between the beams had dried. I wouldn’t recommend newspaper though, since ink can rub off on you and your new paint job, but we love using cardboard to protect things from paint (as we did when we painted the front of the stairs last fall). Hope it helps! We’re laaaazy too sometimes so we totally understand!


  8. KK says

    Question for my über fabulous friend: what type of paint do I use on my cement front porch? And do you have any tips on how to up the ante on style if there are no slats to work with?

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hi KK!

      Good question! We painted our cement sunroom a while back so hopefully this old tutorial will help when it comes to selecting paint and materials. As for how to up the style ante, I love the idea of using a stencil for some seriously stunning results (check out the amazing stenciled cement patio in this house that we crashed a while back). Hope it helps! The last step of the project is sending us the before and after pics of course!


  9. says

    Painted floors rock! Wayyyy better than the unpainted version, great job. I would say that aesthetics need to take a back seat to functionality therefore two coats of paint is recommended not only for serviceablity but for continuity. I also recommend a primer coat to guarantee excellent adhesion. It’s been proven that the best combination for longevity is an oil based primer followed by two top coats of latex finish paint. My house has a painted kitchen floor and even though it is as busy as Grand Central Station, it has stood up like iron.

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey BeverlyDesigner,

      That’s so funny because our foolproof method when it comes to painting furniture and even kitchen cabinets is always oil-based primer followed by two coats of latex paint, but when it comes to flooring we definitely have experienced increased durability with a specially formulated “Porch & Floor” concoction (which we’ve used both outside on the porch and also on our concrete sunroom floor a while back- it’s held up gorgeously in a deep chocolate brown).

      The perk of a specifically formulated Porch & Floor product is that it can hold up indoors or outdoors which really adds to the toughness and it sticks better, lasts longer, and goes on thicker (hence our departure from the prime, paint, paint method that we use for every other project we’ve ever done)! I would never have thought that regular latex paint on the floor would hold up at all (especially outside), even if it’s primed correctly and applied in two coats. I guess there’s more than one way to skin a cat- or paint a porch for that matter!


  10. says

    LOVE that you went with subtle stripes!! so fun, but not overwhelming either… and just in time for some summertime front porch sittin! My teensy patio is the next project on my list!

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