How Many Coats of Paint Should be Applied to the Exterior of Your Home?

As I work meeting with folks throughout the year planning exterior painting projects, one of the more intense parts of our discussions can often be the conversation revolving around how many coats of paint should be applied to their home’s exterior.

I often have to re-wire in people’s minds what seems to have become a rather conventional approach towards this question.

When we begin talking about the subject of how many coats should be applied, it is not unusual for someone to ‘demand’ that they get two coats of finish on the exterior of their home…that is, until I ask them, “Why?”

When posed with this question, they usually have either no answer at all or respond with something along the lines of “Because that is what you are supposed to do, no?”

Whether it is from people working to educate themselves by searching near and far on the Internet or relying on their brother-in-law ‘the painter’ or basing their feelings on a young sales rep from a national company who told them that is what they are “supposed to do”, I tend to gently push back and enter into a further conversation as to why just slapping two coats of paint on your home every time it gets painted can do WAY MORE harm than good.

The reason for this, is the answer to the question of how many coats of paint should be put on the home is more of a situational endeavor as each side of your home weathers differently than others.

Assuming all of the surface preparation is done correctly and that the finish being used is a GOOD quality finish (although exaggerating, if you are using a lesser quality finish, 5 coats might not be enough!!!), my thoughts on this subject in terms of providing guidance, are influenced by several factors including if there is a color change involved and how the finish coat is going to be applied.

If there is a color change involved, with few exceptions, you definitely would need (minimally) two coats of finish.

Our finishes are generally applied by brush & roller (vs. spraying) and I make this clear to the Client when having these types of conversations; applying the finishes by brush & roller allows better control of the evenness of mil thickness (millimeter thickness, the measure by which paint film thicknesses are evaluated) distribution.

Again, not to be underemphasized, each side of your home weathers differently.

If you were keeping the same color and approaching it with a blanket “two coats on everything” wave of paint, it is quite possible that you may be prematurely building up the mil thickness of the paint coating on your home, well beyond what is necessary, to the point that premature failure could come into play because of the weight of the paint coating on the home’s exterior (if you have ever seen a really thick, old paint chip, this would be the case in point).

This all being said, normally the North Side of your home would have the least amount of wear, assuming proper prep and going with the same color as last time, this side would usually only need one ‘maintenance’ coat.

Compare this to the South Side of your home, which typically wears the heaviest, and this side may or may not need two coats (again, assuming proper prep and the same color being used), depending on a variety of environmental factors.

The East Side and the West Side wear in varying degrees (in comparison to the sides facing the other directions) and the number of coats I would recommend really depends on what else may be going on (number of trees/amount of shade, proximity to neighbors, etc.).

I am a firm believer in if your exterior absolutely needs two coats, be it in its entirety or solely certain sections, then it should surely receive them.

However, if you only need one coat to properly protect your home while avoiding unnecessary mil thickness buildup, then that is exactly what I am going to recommend.

My goal when I have these types of conversations with people is to lead them down the path toward what I truly believe is in the best interest of their home, even if it conflicts with widely held opinions that attempt to dictate the opposite.

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