How to Paint a Wooden Shed

How do you keep your wooden shed looking its best after going through constant throes of British weather every year?

The scorching heat, heavy rainfall, strong winds, and even snowfall. Day in, day out. Like any other building structure, garden sheds go through a lot battling the UK’s weather events.

The outcome? Constant wear and tear. And what better way to refresh a timber shed than applying a quick coat of paint?

Giving your outdoor building a face lift with a coat of paint can bring it back to life. At the same time, it adds an extra layer of protection from the elements.

The painting process doesn’t take much, either. Simply follow these helpful tips and you’ll have your shed spruced up, weather-resistant, and ready for the seasons ahead.

Let’s get started!

Why Should You Paint Your Shed?

There are two possible answers to this question. One, for aesthetic reasons. Two, maintenance purposes. Painting your shed can help you reap the benefits either way. 

So what’s taking you so long?

A splash of paint refreshes and revitalises the exterior of a shed. It protects the structure against harsh weather conditions, too. These can include UV rays (causing wood to grey over time) and rainwater (inducing splits and cracks.)

Unless your wooden shed is pressure-treated, it needs regular treatment. On the other hand, pressure-treated timber guarantees a longer-lasting outdoor structure. It’ll simply withstand the harsh elements better. This choice of treatment is always better than an untreated shed.

Still, there’s a simple solution for any humble shed to prolong its lifespan. Treating the exterior with a good quality wood stain or preserver will do the trick.

Now, you might be confused about paint and stain/preserver. Questions like, ‘can I apply stain over a painted wood?’ may keep you up at night.

The answer is yes. When applied, both materials help to seal and protect the natural grain. This also helps prevent damage or fading from occurring. But to understand the difference between the two, I’ll go into detail below.

vertical wooden panels with chipped and flaking paint

Paint vs Wood Stain

Paints can add a bold and more dramatic look, whereas stains provide a complimentary warm, rustic and natural finish. Both can give you great results, but they have their own unique properties and differences.

The main distinction between the two is that paint sits on top of the surface, while stain seeps into the surface. Paint also needs to be painted onto a primed surface first, while stain doesn’t.

Additionally, paint takes more time to apply and usually needs several coats. Unlike stains, which are easier to apply and often don’t need more than one coat.

Paints do the cover-up while stains do the enhancing part. If both are applied as a finish, you can expect a shed with an increased aesthetic value and a stronger surface that can withstand the test of time.

Top tip: Most wooden paint colours and stains have been developed to brighten up and protect garden buildings. Opt for high-quality ones with last up to five years.

wooden panels with bottom half painted black and splotches of paint on them

Things to Consider Before Painting Your Shed

Before you spruce up your shed with a lick of paint, there are a few things you need to consider. We’ve curated some advice from the experts below, so make sure to bear it in mind.

Prepare the shed

If you’re painting an old building, cleaning it is a must – both interior and exterior. Wipe off any debris, spider webs, mould, and other grime from floor to ceiling.

You can use a mixture of dish soap and water to scrub off dirt and grime. Or you can use a power washer, if you have one, to speed up the cleaning process.

Other liquid cleaning solutions for washing the exterior of your shed include:

  • White vinegar (30% white vinegar/70% water)
  • Laundry detergent (⅓ cup of laundry detergent/6 gallons of water)
  • Bicarbonate of soda (1 ½ cups to ½ cup of soap, with a splash of essential oil for fragrance)

You’ll also want to make sure that the surface has been smoothed down. Check for any loose or rusted nails. Seal or change them immediately.

If there are any holes or cracks, fill them up. You can use an elastomeric, paintable caulk for a long-lasting option. Lastly, allow the surface to set over for more than a day before painting.

For more shed maintenance and cleaning tips, check out our ultimate yearly maintenance checklist.

wood panels painted with cracking green paint

Check the weather

Let’s say your shed is all dry and clean and ready for painting. But it starts to rain out of nowhere! You weren’t expecting it, or maybe you didn’t double-check the weather forecast. Well, now you’ve got an unpainted, wet shed.

Since the process sort of has to be done outdoors, it’s important to consider the weather. Otherwise, your hard work will all be for nothing.

Try to plan for the best day for painting. Temperatures below 10°C can impact the paint performance and the drying process. Likewise, if the weather is too hot, paint might flake. Additionally, choose a day that isn’t too windy to allow your newly painted shed to dry.

Top tip: Be sure the walls are completely dry after painting. Water droplets, high humidity, and leaks can cause water-filled bubbles on it.

sun shining white and bright in a cloud-flecked blue sky

Protect the garden

You don’t want your vegetation or ornamental plants to be covered in bright paint, do you? Your neighbours won’t be pleased for painting theirs either!

To protect the surroundings, including the fences, walls, and ground, use dust sheets in case of any drips. This is especially important if you plan on using a paint sprayer or an air compressor.

It would also be great if you could cover the shed’s door handles, locks, and windows. You can use a newspaper and masking tape. With this done, you’ll only paint the building in the desired areas. 

Consider unscrewing any handles or fittings so you can paint underneath and achieve a neat finish.

If you’re using paintbrushes, make sure to equip yourself with smaller ones to cover these details. Keeping a supply of rags or towels on hand is also a good idea. When there’s a spill, you can clean it right away.

Painting Your Shed

Once you’re done with the preparation, you can start applying an oil-based primer. As well as providing an extra layer of protection against the harsh elements, applying a primer makes it easier for you to spread the paint.

When the primer is completely dry, apply the first coat of paint. You can use a long-nap roller to spread the paint with the grain of the wood. Move around the shed covering the whole building.

After this, it’ll probably be ready for the second and final coat. Apply it in the same way as the first, making sure the paint is distributed well.

Your brush strokes should be in the same direction as the grain. Be careful not to spread the paint too far and avoid runs or drips as much as possible.

Another thing, don’t let the paint collect in crevices as it will create runs! For any ends that jut out, experts recommend dabbing the brush on the areas. Just like you would with the tops of posts. This will ensure the product soaks into the wood.

When the paint has completely dried, it’s time to remove the covers and screw back in your handles and fixings. Your new and improved garden shed is now ready for the season (and unpredictable weather) year-round!

Top tip: If you want to use multiple colours on the exterior, apply wood treatment and primer. Wait for them to dry, then paint the colour you want. Wait for it to dry, then paint the other colours!

blue timber shed in a clearing on a wooden pallet with a bench on the porch

That’s a Wrap!

In a day, you’ve managed to give your shed a makeover. Pat yourself on the back for your hard labour. And more importantly, take a look at the final outcome. Sit back and enjoy the view.

Hiring a professional can be your other option if you think you can’t do it yourself. Either way, we hope this guide will help you give your garden a facelift and breathe life into your old wooden shed.

Who knows? Your neighbours might ask for your help to paint their shed someday.

And for more shed treatment tips, check out this guide.

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