Painting Exterior Wood

What solid-color paint will hold up on an outdoor porch swing? Finishers kick around the choices. May 11, 2006

I have been building custom, hardwood porch swings for a little over a year now. Most of my swings are made from red or white oak and finished with 3 coats of Sikkens Cetol 1. After many failures with other products, the Cetol 1 is proving to be far superior! My current dilemma is finding a durable and lasting painted finish for the models built from poplar. I had been using Ben Moore DTM (Direct to Metal) over Zinzeer primer, at the suggestion of a retailer. But I'm experiencing peeling and blistering after six months' exposure to the North Carolina weather.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor L:
Stay with Sikkens, and use their solid stain.

From contributor C:
Fine Paints Of Europe has some awesome exterior products - they are a little pricey but excellent. If you stick with Sikkens, try 2 coats of Rubbol-dek (spelling might be wrong) - it's an oil base deck enamel that holds up fine in the Northeast.

From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:
The key to a long lasting exterior painted finish is based on your choice of wood, primer, and paint. Poplar rates a 3 on a scale of 1-5 for exterior paint holding characteristics (1 is best). Cypress, cedar, and redwood all rate a 1.

Oil-base primer and paint has the best moisture excluding effectiveness. Six coats of primer/paint will give you a moisture excluding effectiveness of 89%. Three coats provides 80%. It also seals in the water soluble extractives in some wood species that can bleed through the primer/paint and cause discoloration. The three woods listed above contain water soluble extractives.

An oil-base enamel paint rated for exterior use on wood will give you the best service life on furniture. It contains additives to promote flexibility and protect the binder from UV as well as mildewcides.

Before assembling the furniture, seal the end grain very well with the paint. If the wood absorbs moisture, the paint will fail prematurely. If you use screws to assemble the piece, it's best to pre-drill the holes and squeeze in some epoxy just before you screw it together. The epoxy will keep moisture out of the openings the screws create.

Also, make sure the moisture content of the wood is low before painting. If it's too high, the paint will peel. Sand just before painting to give the primer/paint a fresh wood surface to adhere to. Oxidized/weathered wood doesn't hold paint as well. If you skip the primer, thin the first coat of paint to promote penetration and adhesion.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the replies. Paul, I did try using an oil-based primer before, but the darn stuff stayed soft and would not sand well. Perhaps someone can recommend a specific brand or type that has a rapid cure time and good sand-ability?

Also, all of the wood I use is new stock, 5/4 planed to thickness. I could use woods other than poplar for my painted units, but cost is higher and availability is an issue, here in North Carolina. Most of the peeling is happening at edges, like the bottom of the vertical back slats on the piece pictured.

A large, white swing frame that I built to display these was painted with latex primer and Muralo Exterior Mid-Gloss, and it has weathered well so far. And just to clarify for the first two responses, I use the Sikkens Cetol for my oak, stained models, and that is working very well. It's just the painted models that I'm having problems with.

From the original questioner:
Contributor C, you mentioned the Sikkens Rubbol Dek, which is a solid color stain. Then the "duh factor" kicked in! I had coated my deck with Cabots solid color stain about 3 years ago, which gets heavy foot traffic, and is showing no signs of wear whatsoever! So, why would this product not work well on the porch swings? Presuming that adhering to the poplar I'm using will not be an issue. If anyone reading this thinks that I'm heading in the wrong direction, please let me know.

From contributor C:
Try using Cabots quick dry oil, Ben Moore quick dry oil or Californias quick dry oil primer. Then coat with Rubbol Dek, which is a solid oil based finish with a satin finish. This stuff is slow drying but is absolutely unbelievable at how well it wears! Many decks coated on the water in New England. This product is actually self priming, but you can cheat with a first coat of one of the above mentioned quick drying products!