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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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”…

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…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.

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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.

Comments

  1. Donna Rose says

    So! you can use porch paint on treated deck wood? will this hold up in the North East,with our winters in New York State?

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Donna,

      If your deck is so treated that water beads on it you might have to powerwash it (or use a chemical wood cleaner/stripper) before painting it to create a less glossy surface for the paint to adhere to. As for how it will hold up to the harsh winters up north, I imagine it won’t be quite as durable if it’s taking a real beating, but deck and porch paint is made to withstand lots of foot traffic and outdoor conditions (hot, cold, rain, etc) so I’d imagine today’s formulas are great. Bottom line: you might have to touch things up every five years or so but I’d imagine you’d be happy with the result. Hope it helps!

      xo,
      Sherry

  2. Kirk says

    Hello,

    you mentioned that the paint used was Behr and was formulated to allow for foot traffic? I have a massive deck to paint and I must paint it as it was already painted by the previous owners. It was impossible to strip off all the old paint, but we did the best we could an its now ready… I was told by the person at the Sherwin Williams store not to Kilz prime the bare wood ares as the paint wasnt formulated to have foot traffic..so my question is does the behr paint have primer in it…

    If so Ill be looking for it at Home Depot

    nice job

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Kirk,

      What you need is oil-based porch and floor paint which is meant for foot traffic and is strong enough to serve as it’s own primer all in one application since it’s meant to stand up to bad weather and lots of walking. Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

  3. Nancy says

    I wonder if you have any ideaas about painting between the cracks. I have an enormous deck that I just changed from gray to the same color as my Brasilia Trex. I used a 7″ sponge brush on the end of a broom handle and it worked perfectly, but the thought of being on my knees to go back and paint all the cracks by hand is overwhelming. They must make something that would go between cracks and allow you to stand up at same time. Nancy

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Nancy,

      We painted our desk sitting on our bottoms and scooting around so we don’t really have any experience with getting between the cracks while standing. I’d ask the paint professional at Home Depot or Lowe’s though because I’m sure there’s some pole contraption with an attachment that might just do the trick. Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

  4. Laurie says

    Looks great!! I have a question my patio is much bigger can i roll it?? and there in no cover so would i use a oil base also
    or would i use deck and porch paint?
    Thanks

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Laurie,

      Definitely use something formulated for a deck & porch so it can withstand foot traffic (it also might be oil-based for maximum exterior protection). You can certainly roll it but you might want to use a paint brush to get into those cracks between the slats that the roller might miss. Feel free to ask the paint people at Lowe’s or Home Depot for help if you arrive and get stumped looking at all the options. Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

  5. Emily H says

    We actually did the exact same thing to our deck this weekend – it looks so good that we are thinking about duplicating it on our back deck! Thanks for the great idea!

  6. Emily H says

    Sherry –

    Quick question, as I posted on Aug 4th, we did almost the exact same color scheme on our porch and it does look great, but we’ve noticed it gets dirty really quickly (and the light colors really seem to attract bugs) Any thoughts on how to keep it clean and/or keep the bugs away? Thanks for the advice!

    Emily

    • says

      Hey Emily,

      We have a hose nearby that we use to water our plants so I usually give the deck a quick spray-down from time to time to get it looking like new again. Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

  7. Sarah S says

    Hey Youngsters,

    I was just searching through your site to find your floor paintings tips and came across this post again. I noticed that the links at the end of the post both go to the staining tutorial (since I was looking for the painting tutorial!).

    Thanks for all the work you showcase on the blog. I’m painting my porch floor and railing this week – here’s hoping it looks as good as your projects!

  8. Lindsay says

    Hi guys,

    I’ve been stressing over the worn look of our deck and I’m starting to think maybe painting it would be the way to go. The deck was already there when we bought the house, but unfortunately, the previous owners didn’t feel the need to ever stain it, so you can imagine what it looks like now. It’s still structurally sound and of course it would cost big bucks to rip up all the wood and start over, but most of the planks have some cracks. I’ve considered sanding it down and slapping some stain on it, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t camouflage the imperfections as well as paint. So what do you think, is painting a go?

    IF you do think painting might be worth a try, I’ll need some help with colors. I love the colors you guys picked, put we have white siding so I think such a light color would look a little too washed out. We have a red roof and red shutters, but red is a strong color and I don’t want the house looking too monocromatic. I love blues and greys, so I was thinking something along those lines. Whatcha think?

    You can see our house and deck on our blog: http://www.redshuttercottage.blogspot.com. Thanks in advance!!

    • says

      I think painting it a nice blue-gray color is a great idea! Just visit your local home improvement store to look at colors (you might want to bring back the leaflet of swatches to hold them up against your house). Paint definitely hides flaws in wood more than stain would, but they also make some pretty saturated blue-gray stain that also might look weathered and lovely so you should definitely look at those swatches too and see what you think. Either way I’m sure it’ll turn out great. Good luck!

      xo,
      s

  9. Blair says

    Hi guys- I just stumbled upon your brilliant blog last week as I was Googling how-to information on painting furniture. I was immediately addicted and shocked to find out you are located here in Richmond! How fun! Anyway, I have been truly inspired by your home improvements. My husband and I are getting ready to put our house on the market, but want to make some inexpensive improvements before doing so. One thing we are considering is painting the front porch, but I am terrified I will pick the wrong color. I would love to do a tan color, but am concerned that it will not look good with the white trim and columns. I love the colors you used for your front porch, but we have these three wide columns that are white and I am having a really hard time visualizing what the tan or cream would look like against them. The house is brick, the shutters and door are black and the trim is white. Do you have any suggestions on how to pick the best color? Or do you have any favorites that you think would work? I read the tutorial on Foolproof Paint and Color Scheme Suggestions, but am thinking the rules may be different for outside jobs. Congratulations on your two years! I wish I had discovered you back then! -Blair

    • says

      Hey Blair,

      I’m thinking go a bit deeper than cream for a more cohesive look with those pillars and trim. The perfect color? Mocha! It’s sort of a mid brown tone that will hide dirt and it won’t look like a mismatched off-white (which is a risk you run with cream). Try Ben Moore’s Ashen Tan or Baja Dunes for an example. Oh and it will still look great with the black shutters and door- especially if you bring in black planters and things so you have pops of black worked in with the mocha for a cohesive look. Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

  10. SHIRLEY says

    I’M GETTING READY TO PAINT MY WOOD DECK. SINCE I HAVE A ROOF OVER IT, DO I NEED TO USE OIL-BASED PAINT? I NEED A PAINT THAT WILL DRY QUICKLY; I HAVE A DOG THAT IS ALWAYS ON THE DECK. ANY SUGGESTIONS AS TO HOW TO KEEP HIM OFF AND ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR A QUICK DRYING PAINT?

    • says

      You’ll definitely have to use deck and porch paint that will hold up to outside temps and foot traffic so I would suggest asking the paint pro at your local home improvement store what will work outside but dry the fastest. Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

  11. R Raymond says

    I loved loved loved your idea on the striping! So we did that with our backyard deck! I also had tons of red exterior paint leftover from painting our doors, so I used that to paint over our white planters! It looks AWESOME, if I do say so myself! Although at first I was a little wary. We chose colors that looked good on swatches, but a little brighter than we thought. It isn’t as subtle as yours is. But I still love it! I have a picture if you want to see!!
    Thanks for the great ideas,
    Sincerely,
    R Raymond

  12. Mel says

    Any suggestions on what color would work best on our very tiny concrete porch? Our house is white with black shutters and has a red door.

    Thanks!

    • says

      How about a classic tan tone? We don’t have a specific color in mind because we’re not as familiar with the porch and floor paint varieties, but anything that’s a medium sandy tan tone should look great. Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

  13. Mel says

    Thank you! :) I am all about classic tan tones! LOVE this site by the way. We have already found some great ideas for our first house on Lakeside!!!

  14. Kristen says

    Hey,
    I recently stumbled across your website and love it! I have been thinking of painting our back deck for a couple years now but was never quite sure. After seeing what your porch looked like I’m going for it! I love it! The only question now is what color to go with. Our house has light tan siding, white trim, burgundy shutters & front door, and a brownish shingles. What would you suggest? And may I ask one really random question? I want to do some lanscaping around our deck and would really like to have some flowering plants, which color flowers would look best with the our house. I feel like pink would clash with the burgundy and yellow would be too bold. Any help would be awesome!